BiPV and architectural quality

Beside to functional/technological criteria, it is important to encourage project developers (primarily the architects) to take care both of technical aspects as well as of aesthetic and architectural ones, to increase the acceptation of the decentralized energy production systems. By now, thanks to research in aesthetic and technology, PV has become one of the  characterising factor of contemporary architecture, overcoming the main barriers and entering the whole design process with its new symbolic meanings within a new “aesthetic of sustainability”. The building, urban and landscaping qualities are closely related to the “architectural integration quality” of PV, that is the result of a complex combination of functional, constructive, energetic and expressive aspects.

It is more and more necessary that PV innovation (in technologies or in performances) matches the innovative design concept of the building, as always happened in the technological transfer of new materials in the history of architecture. But is not an easy task to define a general “architectural integration quality” and  it is probably impossible, depending on several and complex factors variable in each single context. So far, guide-lines concerning BiPV have been very often characterized by the explanation of “design rules” concerning formal/visual integration of PV modules within the building surfaces, collecting some usual “rules of good design/mounting” for the common building practice. The typically involved features are position, size and shape of modules, the geometric/morphological criteria of their aggregation within roof/façade surfaces, as well as other principles of homogeneity, planarity, symmetry, etc, normally referred to traditional building typologies. In many cases  it can’t be ignored that these advices helped in reducing low quality installations as well as some blatant mistakes especially in that cases where, without a specific design phase, the PV implementation on buildings was directly demanded to the mounting phase (sometimes made by developers, not always skilled about architecture or building technology).

In the present-day context, nevertheless,  a PV system has to be considered as an inseparable part of the building technology and of its architectural image according to a new approach. International examples have already shown plenty of interesting possibilities of conceptual, typological, constructive and aesthetical integration of PV in contemporary architecture as well as in existing built heritage, defining reference paradigms of design innovation concerning BiPV.

Monte Rosa Hut, Zermatt (Switzerland), ETH Studio, 2009