Let’s face it. Solar panels on buildings, though not a bad idea, energy-wise, are pretty hideous. Developers hate them, and cities like Santa Monica even try to keep them out of sight. Which is why this new design from CASE has architects excited.
Nice-looking solar panels are kind of a Holy Grail for architects, because it means green design can become part of the architecture, not just an add-on. Which means an opportunity for creativity, snazzier designs, development dollars, and blog posts. Flash sells, and if it happens to be green too, all the better.
CASE, an R&D colabo between Rensselaer, SOM, and other engineering firms, has developed what they call the Dynamic Solar Facade–a wall of lenses that focus sunlight onto tiny, high-powered solar cells. It’s also a multitasker: the lenses bring more light into the building and can help heat it up in the winter. It’s still in development, but the first full-scale model will be up and running at Syracuse in March.
It’s part of a trend: SMIT is working on a similar idea with their Solar Ivy, a net of solar panels that can be draped over an existing facade. The cool thing is, the panels can be made in any color, giving architects the chance to paint pixelated murals. One of the best buildings of 2008 was Enric Ruiz-Geli’s Villa Nurbs, with its solar-activated squinting roof that controlled light and temperature inside the house. It’s not a solar panel, exactly, but it’s green design as an architectural element, which is a step in the right direction.