SPECIFIC Innovation and Knowledge Centre is an academic and industrial consortium led by Swansea University, focused on developing and evaluating solar energy technologies for buildings that generate both heat and electricity; electrical storage and thermal storage devices; and ways to distribute the energy generated within a building. Such buildings are referred to as ‘Active Buildings’ and SPECIFIC have constructed two buildings on Swansea University’s Bay Campus to demonstrate this concept – the Active Classroom and Active Office – both designed to be net energy generators, generating more energy than they consume over an annual period.
The building demonstrators integrate innovative technologies developed by industry partners, as well as technologies under investigation at SPECIFIC. This allows them to be tested and evaluated on buildings rather than in laboratories – which adds valuable data insight to enable commercialisation / further sales. Some of the new technologies showcased on the buildings include SPECIFIC’s novel resistive heating system, BIPVCo’s first building integrated photovoltaic (PV) roof covering, NSG’s first PV window, and Naked Energy’s novel combined solar thermal and PV (PV-T) tubes, amongst others.
The buildings interact with the electricity grid to export and import energy at optimum times, helping to support the grid at times of stress and taking from the grid at times of low energy demand, such as overnight. The battery storage and thermal stores within the buildings enable this demand-shifting to take place, optimising the building’s overall energy performance without adversely impacting the electricity grid. Combining electric vehicles with these buildings further enhances their flexibility and enables the showcasing of strategies to mitigate the potential electrical grid challenges that decarbonising heat and transport will present.
SPECIFIC works with many industry partners in a wide range of activities, from acting as energy/technology advisors on projects such as Active Homes Neath with Pobl, to testing and evaluating products or technologies, or advising on renewable energy generation potential on existing or new buildings under development.
The success of SPECIFIC and its building demonstration programme led to the UK government awarding £36 million of funding for clean energy innovation in the construction sector, through the ‘Transforming Construction’ challenge within the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) and delivered by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) in September 2018. This was awarded to an academic, industry and government consortium led by Swansea University, to prove scalable solutions to enable the construction industry to deploy the Active Building concept developed by SPECIFIC Innovation and Knowledge Centre, Swansea University, through a National Centre of Excellence, known as the Active Building Centre.