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What’s New in Energy Innovation?

by Eddy Santosa, AIA, CBCP, LEED AP BD+C, BEMP, Director of Sustainability

I had the opportunity back in August to attend the Swiss US Energy Innovation Days (SUEID) 2018 in Romandie, Switzerland. The SUEID Conference is an annual, invitation-only event designed to bring together professionals from economy, government and academics from both the U.S. and Switzerland, to foster collaboration and exchange, showcase promising energy innovations, and to accelerate market integration. I presented on Low Carbon Buildings, The Future of Energy Metrics in Buildings which highlighted the current progress in measuring buildings from cost-based metrics to newer metrics that include global warming potential or even the resiliency components of the buildings.

Current energy metrics using cost and EUI with focusing in site energy usage while the current development metrics using Global Warming Potential and considering source energy as well.

During the conference, other presenters showcased their innovative products, research, and strategies that will enhance energy efficiency in the future. There were 5 interesting presentations  related to building implementations and strategies.

The first one was Colite Technologies’ presentation, a light pole with solar and solar/wind hybrid configurations. It has a lot of potential, especially parking or street lighting applications. The battery storage allows the light pole to operate for about 3 days without any additional power source.

Lighting Poles from Colite Technologies

Another presentation by Alan Meier, from Berkeley Lab and UC Davis, discussed how to improve the efficiency of the building by adding “vacancy” mode. Using building data such as wifi, building sensors, and building scheduling, the research proposed a vacancy inference engine to make unoccupied buildings go to “sleep.”

Vacancy Inference Platform (credit: Alan Meier)
Kaleo (left/credit: Prof. Christophe Ballif ) and Solaxess (middle and right)

Two presentations about photovoltaics were very impressive, especially the ones by architects, Solaxess and Kaleo Project. Solaxess revealed how a solid white solar panel can be implemented like a metal panel system in a building façade, while Kaleo Project presented Photos-Voltaic Exhibition that is basically an exhibition poster or display that is also a photovoltaic panel.

We also had opportunity to see the winning scheme of solar decathlon from Swiss team. The net zero house proposed by the Swiss team is not only high efficiency but has unique interior and exterior. The exterior façade has folded doors with photovoltaics and the minimalist interior design has sustainable features including folded paper furniture design. The project received first place awards in the water management category, architecture category and engineering category.

Solar Decathlon House from Swiss Team (credit: Dr. Jean-Philippe Bacher and Dr. Marilyne Andersen)
Solar Decathlon House from Swiss Team (credit: Dr. Jean-Philippe Bacher and Dr. Marilyne Andersen)

On my side trip, I also visited Therme Vals designed by Peter Zumthor, the Prizker Prize winning architect. His philosophy and design were very inspirational to me while I was studying Architecture. Combining his technique in details and using nature as his design inspiration, Peter Zumthor designed many beautiful sustainable buildings.

Therme Vals Hotel & Spa in Vals, Switzerland

During the trip, I stayed in the hotel that has different rooms designed by star architects. I chose to stay in one designed by Peter Zumthor. The room had unique yellow glass bathroom with stone finishing materials. The spa design was also stunning. With similar stone finished materials as the hotel room and blueish color light in most bath parts.

Villa Vals by SeARCH and CMA

Additionally, near the complex is Villa Vals by SeARCH and CMA. The design integrated the building into the landscape and buried underground most of the portion of the building. It displayed a unique approach to sustainable design to reduce the disturbance in existing landscape.

As a conclusion, the trip gave me insight into the future of technology and design implementation for sustainable buildings. All presentations from The SUEID Conference are available to be download at the Energy Innovation Days website here.

Brian C. Uhlrich
Chief Executive Officer