Energy Positive Buildings: The Future of Construction

Is it possible to create a fully self-reliant building that generates and stores its own energy?

The short answer…yes. Swansea University is home to the UK’s first energy positive classroom which produces more energy that it requires to function.

A new active building centre is currently being set up to develop ‘active’ technology to be used in construction throughout the UK. Driving innovation, improving sustainability and, ultimately, scaling up the technology.

Here’s a closer look at energy positive buildings and the aims of the centre.

Energy Positive Buildings
Energy positive buildings, or active buildings, are structures that can produce, store and release their own energy through solar technology. This has significant implications on the efficiency and green credentials of a building.

Swansea University’s active classroom was part of a project lead by the SPECIFIC Innovation and Knowledge Centre at the University. This academic and industrial consortium designed and built the classroom with funding from Innovate UK.

Active Technology
The steel roof of the active class room contains integrated photovoltaic (solar) cells which are connected to batteries. These batteries have the capacity to provide the class room with power for several days. Steel cladding and an electrically heated floor coating holds in heat to maximise energy efficiency.

This intelligent technology means that last year, the building generated over one and a half times the amount of energy it consumed.

Building an Active Building Centre
£36 million of funding is being used to launch a new centre for research and the development of clean energy innovation at Swansea University.

With UK buildings consuming 40% of all of the energy producing carbon emissions, there is a pressing need to find innovative solutions for construction. Energy positive buildings have the potential not only to help achieve decarbonisation targets but also to decrease energy bills by up to 60%.

Working in collaboration with supply chains from the fields of energy and construction, alongside ten leading universities, the aims of the new active building centre are:

  • To showcase the solar technology utilised in active buildings and demonstrate potential scalability
  • To undertake research on how people use and interact with active buildings, develop supply chain processes, find skills gaps and inform policy
  • To develop technologies and toolkits for building professionals such as designers, engineers and architects to get to grips with the technology
  • To construct 300 buildings around the UK to showcase the technology and provide solutions for various industry sectors

The centre will be based out of a ‘living lab’ at the Swansea University Campus.

Funding the Future of Construction
Part of the funding for the centre has come from Innovate UK as part of the Transforming Construction Challenge. This initiative is part of the UK government’s plan to improve the design and construction of UK buildings to make them more energy efficient, quicker and cheaper to build.

UK businesses and academic groups are being offered grants to develop new, digital manufacturing processes and research ways of making this technology widely available and commercially viable.

To see more projects Innovate UK have helped to get off the ground, subscribe to the Innovate UK YouTube channel.