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Solar Buildings Research Network (Canada)

Development of the solar-optimized building as an integrated advanced technological system

SBRN is currently the major Canadian research effort in solar energy utilization in buildings. It brings together 24 Canadian researchers from ten universities to develop the solar-optimized homes and commercial buildings of the future. The Network also includes researchers and experts from Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), the Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation (CMHC) and Hydro-Québec. Industrial partners from the energy and construction sectors are involved in most projects, developing the know-how that will help them compete in the global market. The budget of the Network over five years is about $6 million, with $4,724,000 from NSERC, $430,000 from NRCan, $250,000 from CMHC, $75,000 from Hydro-Québec and more than $1,000,000 in-kind support from more than 20 industrial partners.

The vision of the Solar Buildings Research Network (SBRN) is the development of the solar-optimized building as an integrated advanced technological system that approaches net-zero energy consumption while being cost effective and comfortable. Both houses and commercial buildings are included in this vision. An added benefit of optimal solar energy usage is an improved indoor environment due to higher daylighting levels that improve well-being and productivity. Integration implies an innovative approach to building design in which building envelope components perform several controlled functions such as generating solar heat and electricity in photovoltaic-thermal (PV/T) systems or transmitting daylight and producing electricity in semitransparent photovoltaic systems. For both of these examples, there is a need for efficient design and control techniques to utilize effectively the energy produced or the transmitted daylight. The design of the building envelope as a solar energy conversion device will have profound implications on how HVAC systems are designed and controlled since the building itself will be part of the HVAC system. Integration reduces the cost of solar systems and makes them more affordable.

Research Objectives
1.Development of effective methods for integration of solar collection, storage and utilization systems into the building envelope. New concepts and designs that optimize solar energy utilization in combination with lighting and heating/cooling systems will be developed.
2.Development and improvement of solar energy utilization technologies so as to reduce cost and raise overall efficiency. Component level research aimed at supporting objective 1 and improving solar energy collection and conversion to electricity and/or heat, as well as enhancing daylight utilization will be performed.
3.Development of cost effective, innovative and efficient solar-based power generation systems for buildings.
4.Development of simulation design tools and methodologies to be used throughout the solar building design process, especially at the high impact early stages. Development of simulation tools to assist in policy planning.