Building a net-zero home: How the eco-material industry might fare


Some initiatives offer amazing models. The ” Solar Brick Light ” are tiled bricks that light up at night when recharged with solar energy. Therefore, they can be very useful for paving roads in gardens or entrances in homes. Its price, about 32 euros, is somewhat high, but they can contribute to energy savings in an interesting way and help decorate with style.

On the other hand, the ” Newspaper Brick Maker ” is a compactor that transforms newspaper into bricks. After adding water and the paper in strips in its container, its user will obtain a small module that can be used to feed a stove or a barbecue, or as a decorative element.

Solar photovoltaic and thermal energy at the same time

A hybrid system that achieves electricity and heat from the Sun more efficiently than separately or, although its generalization is still very limited Among the spectacular and colorful buildings of the Beijing Olympic Village there is one that particularly attracts attention, at least since the point of view of environmental technologies: it is a service center for athletes that combines photovoltaic and thermal solar energy. Several companies around the world test several models of this hybrid concept to try to be more efficient in the use of this renewable energy.

The system installed in Beijing, called ” SolarDuct PV / T “, takes advantage of the excess heat of any photovoltaic roof panel by means of a thermal installation. Most solar cells, depending on the day, have an efficiency of between 10% and 15%, since much of the energy is lost in the form of heat. Its managers, the Canadian company Conserval Engineering, ensure that with this technology a solar efficiency of over 50% is achieved.

Other photovoltaic / thermal systems

The possibilities of this hybrid technology have led other companies and institutions to experiment with various systems. For example, the International Energy Agency has a program to encourage the commercial development of these devices. In this sense, several models of photovoltaic / thermal solar collectors can be found in the market, although their number is still limited and require further development for generalization.

With an air collector technology similar to that of Conserval Engineering, companies such as the German Grammer Solar or the Danish SolarVenti have interesting products. On the other hand, some others have focused on the so-called “photovoltaic / thermal liquid collectors”, such as the Dutch PVTWINS or the Israeli Millenium Electric TOU Companies such as the Canadian Menova Energy, the Swedish Arontis Solar Solutions or the British Helio Dynamics use solar concentrators.

Solar windows

Thanks to technological advances, solar energy can be used in homes in various ways, in some cases very curious. A Japanese company, Nihon Telecommunication System, offers windows with photovoltaic cells that can produce, on sunny days, up to 70 watts per square meter of glass. With the electricity achieved, they say, and via USB port, they can power a PC or recharge a mobile phone.

According to those responsible, the solar cells they incorporate have an efficiency of between 7% and 8%. As an additional advantage, the Japanese manufacturer ensures that they prevent the entry of up to 90% of the sun’s rays, so that costs are reduced in air conditioning. Its great drawback, the price: each square meter is worth about 1,200 euros, although they believe they will be able to sell 10,000 of these solar windows annually.

Landscaped roofs against climate change. More and more cities cover the roofs of their buildings with vegetation to improve the urban environment and reduce CO2 emissions and energy expenditure Imagine living in a building whose roof, instead of the typical tile, brick or cement, is covered with grass, flowers and plants. In countries such as Germany, Great Britain or the United States are increasingly numerous and even have subsidies for its construction. In addition to transforming the gray appearance of large cities, these tall green spaces help control CO2 emissions and electricity expenditure.

The future of cities passes through them more comfortable, sustainable and environmentally friendly for its inhabitants. The “green roofs” can contribute to this. Its strict purpose is to take advantage of the ecological properties of introducing vegetation at the top of any urban building, although the latest avant-garde designs go further with various landscaped, decorative and recreational spaces.

In this sense, the Augustenborgs Botanical Garden in Malmö (Sweden), the Public Library of Vancouver (Canada), or the Millennium Park in Chicago are some of the increasingly numerous spectacular examples of public buildings with ecological roofs, although there are no shortage proposals for private real estate.


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