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‘Active buildings’: The £36m Swansea clean energy project that aims to revolutionise construction

A consortium led by Swansea University has received £36m in funding from the UK government for its "active buildings" project, which uses new building materials to generate clean electricity that powers homes, hospitals and schools

Making construction greener will be the goal for a new clean energy innovation scheme in Wales that generates electricity from “active buildings”.

A consortium led by Swansea University will receive £36m in funding from the UK government for the project, which uses new building materials that create renewable energy from heat and light.

Conventional walls, roofs and windows can be replaced with these materials and the clean energy can be used to power homes, hospitals and schools, or be sold back to the national grid.

 

The consortium, known as SPECIFIC, will carry out research and development (R&D) at the planned national Active Building Centre, which will attempt to remove the barriers and accelerate market adoption of new solar-powered building designs.

 

Kevin Bygate, CEO of SPECIFIC, said: “The Active Building Centre gives us the opportunity to demonstrate the real benefits of active buildings and to address the challenges posed for mass adoption.

“Working collaboratively across energy and construction supply chains, the centre will be the convening point for industry and academia supported by government in providing solutions to help solve the significant decarbonisation challenges we face.”

clean energy innovation in construction
Swansea university’s Active Office

Swansea University vice-chancellor Professor Richard Davies added: “It’s wonderful that the work of SPECIFIC and expertise at Swansea University has been recognised by the UK government, in choosing Swansea as the location for the national Active Building Centre.

“It will be located next to our Bay Campus, where recently we opened the Active Office, the UK’s first energy-positive office, and where the Active Classroom has now been working successfully for 18 months, generating more than one and a half times the energy it has consumed.

“The Active Building Centre acknowledges those efforts and takes them to the next level, on a UK platform to deliver national impact.”

 

 

Active buildings: What is SPECIFIC?

The consortium working on the active buildings project combines a wide range of expertise, including engineering, energy systems integration, social science.

Companies within SPECIFIC include metal producer Tata Steel UK and Swansea-based non-profit Coastal Housing Group, which aims provide good quality affordable homes.

Dr Martin Brunnock, head of R&D Tata Steel UK, said: “Our long-term relationship with Swansea University, successful collaboration with Specific and ongoing role with this new flagship national centre enables Tata to showcase its construction technologies and related products from its portfolio along with that of other large, small, medium and micro industrial partners.”

Coastal Housing Group development director Gareth Davies added: “Active buildings enables our tenants to have better quality homes with lower energy bills, which allows a better quality of life.”

 

Active buildings funding to build on UK R&D investment

This new funding for the clean energy innovation in construction is part of the biggest increase in R&D investment for 40 years.

Since late 2016, the UK government has invested an additional £7bn in R&D, with the ultimate ambition of raising investment in R&D across the entire UK economy to 2.4% of GDP by 2027.

clean energy innovation in construction
Chancellor Phillip Hammond (Credit: Flickr)

On a visit to Swansea University, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said: “Swansea University and the innovative companies working with it are world leaders in clean energy.

“The UK government is backing the industries of the future that will deliver jobs and opportunities across Wales.

“This £36m in new funding will support exciting green technology that could cut energy bills, reduce carbon emissions and create better homes and workspaces.”

Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Greg Clark added: “The Active Building Centre has the potential to transform how buildings use energy, turning them from energy consumers into power stations.”