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The ‘Active Office’

The UK’s first energy-positive office has opened in Swansea – next door to the the UK’s first energy-positive classroom
The Active Office, Swansea

The UK’s first energy-positive office, which generates more solar energy than it consumes, opened at Swansea University on the longest day of the year – 21 June.

Buildings currently account for around 40% of UK energy consumption. This new building, known as the Active Office, points the way to a new generation of low-carbon offices that produce their own supply of clean energy.

The office was opened by Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns. It was designed by SPECIFIC, a UK Innovation and Knowledge Centre led by Swansea University.

‘It’s difficult to overstate the potential of developing a building that powers itself. The concept could genuinely revolutionise not only the construction sector but completely change how we create and use energy, so the opening of the Active Office in Swansea is an exciting step forward.’

Executive chair of Innovate UK

The technology

The Active Office combines a range of innovative technologies that will enable it to generate, store and release solar energy in one integrated system.

It has a curved roof with integrated solar cells – showing the flexible nature of the laminated photovoltaic panel. A Photovoltaic Thermal system on the south-facing wall is capable of generating both heat and electricity from the sun in one system.

The electricity generated is stored in lithium ion batteries, and a 2,000 litre water tank stores solar heat.

The Active Office has been designed to be easy to reproduce. It is quick to build, taking only one week to assemble, with much of the construction taking place off site. It also uses only technologies that are commercially available now, which means there is no reason why they could not be used on any new building.

Buildings as power stations

The ‘buildings as power stations’ concept has already been shown to work. Right next to the Active Office is the Active Classroom, the UK’s first energy-positive classroom.

Also built by SPECIFIC, this was recently named Project of the Year by the RICS Wales. In its first year of operation, the Active Classroom generated more than one and half times the energy it consumed.

The Active Office and Classroom will be linked together and able to share energy with each other and electric vehicles, demonstrating how the concept could be applied in an energy-resilient solar-powered community.

They will provide functional teaching and office spaces, as well as building-scale development facilities for SPECIFIC and its industry partners.

Benefits to bill payers

Energy positive buildings could benefit the UK significantly. A 2017 analysis showed that it would mean lower energy costs for the consumer as well as reduced carbon emissions.

There’d also be less need for peak central power generating capacity and associated reduction in stress on the National Grid, leading to improved energy security.

Kevin Bygate, chief operating officer of SPECIFIC, said offices ‘are enormous consumers of energy, so turning them energy-positive has the potential to slash fuel bills and dramatically reduce their carbon emissions.’

Click here to find out how battery-powered homes can be managed as virtual power plants

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