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Specific active buildings classroom and office

SPECIFIC: turning buildings into power stations

The Challenge: 

The world faces an energy challenge: how do we meet growing demand for electricity and heat in a way that is low carbon, affordable and reliable?

Buildings account for about 40% of the UK’s energy consumption and 40% of our greenhouse gas emissions. To solve the energy crisis and tackle climate change, radical change in building design is needed.

Steel is one material that is widely used in construction. The UK steel industry’s fluctuating fortunes have been widely reported in recent years. 

The development of efficient, low cost solar technologies could help to reduce emissions, reduce energy cost and provide new business opportunities for the materials and construction industries.

The Method

Swansea University and its partners, including Tata Steel, have played a crucial role over the past 20 years as part of the research infrastructure supporting the steel industry across South Wales. Steel is at the heart of the Swansea University-led SPECIFIC Innovation and Knowledge Centre project, pioneers of Active Buildings.

Researchers on the project, including Professor Dave Worsley are behind the UK’s first energy positive classroom, which generates, stores and releases its own solar energy. 

The Active Classroom showcases the work being undertaken at SPECIFIC and has been used to demonstrate Swansea University’s solar research capabilities, in terms of up-scaling research from laboratories into the construction industry.

The Impact

  • The Active Classroom was constructed in 2016 and became the UK’s first energy positive classroom. In 2018 a technologically refined Active Office was constructed, using only commercially available technologies.
  • Electricity supply for the building is generated by a steel roof with integrated solar cells, supplied by SPECIFIC spin out company BIPVco. It is connected to two batteries, which are capable of storing enough energy to power the building for two days.
  • The building also uses perforated steel cladding for generation of solar heat energy, and an electrically-heated floor coating that has been developed by SPECIFIC researchers.
  • Data collected from the classroom has proved that the building can generate more energy than it consumes, through its novel generate, store, release technologies.
  • The Active buildings concept puts Swansea at the forefront of world-leading innovation in South Wales.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Swansea University Research Themes