Adaptive Solar Facade – solar tracking on the building envelope

In response to the variable nature of weather conditions and different comfort needs in interior spaces, the A/S Group at ETH Zurich, partner of the SCCER FEEB&D, has developed a novel solar tracking building component – the Adaptive Solar Facade (ASF). The facade’s delicate, movable photovoltaic modules can be mounted onto a lightweight structure on the building envelope, offering energy production, shading and daylight control for the interior as well as individual adjustments to the view by the occupant. Due to the ASF’s reduced weight, the system is suited for both restoration and new construction projects, in particular in places not suited for conventional solar systems.

The PV modules can be individually controlled with the help of SoRo-Track, a soft robotic actuator made of a two-component silicon rubber, and an orientation control algorithm developed by the project team. Experimental efficiency comparisons on a sunny day demonstrated a measured power gain from solar tracking of 36% compared to a static module at the reference position.

The ASF is not considered as an isolated element, but rather as an integral part of the overall building system. The efficiency of the system depends on the interplay of the facade with other building technologies such as lighting, heating, and ventilation. In order to study the system under real-life conditions, a first prototype was implemented on the facade of the House of Natural Resources, ETH Zurich campus. A second implementation will be realized as part of the NEST HiLo Project in Dübendorf, Switzerland.

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