Theme II - 2.3

Development, integration and optimization of active (BIPV/T) and passive systems as enabling technologies for NZEBs

Project Leader

  • A. Athienitis


The importance of passive solar design and active solar systems such as BIPV/T systems are widely recognized as effective means of achieving net-zero energy performance by converting the building envelope into a energy positive system that will not only collect more useful heat than it loses or gains, but also generate electricity to cover the building’s needs (IEA 2008) Substantial progress has been achieved under the SBRN research program in the development of BIPV/T systems and their integration into facades (Athienitis et al., 2011) and roof systems (Chen et al., 2010). The main approach employed in a demonstration project – the EcoTerra house built by SBRN partner Alouette Homes - was a combination of passive solar design with a novel modular roof BIPV/T system based on SBRN research. 

The Passivhaus standard is a 20-year-old performance-based standard for low-energy buildings. It encourages super- insulation and requires that the building use no more than 15 kWh/m2/year of heating energy (Parker, 2009). A newer concept is the Active House, which combines the concept of the Passivhaus with renewable energy technologies. The standard, which is still under development, was recently accepted as part of the European Union’s building energy legislation such that all new buildings built beyond 2020 must meet it (Active House 2010). The current documentation on the Active House standard suggests that it is very similar to the EQuilibrium Initiative (CMHC, 2009) and several of the net-zero energy d efinitions (Torcellini et al., 2006). In general, the international trends are to optimize combinations of passive and active systems to reach net-zero energy performance. 

The project aims to enhance and optimize combinations of active (BIPV/T) and passive (direct gain systems, attached solarium) to facilitate reaching the net-zero energy target for residential and commercial buildings while meeting comfort requirements. Specific objectives include:

1. Improvement of the thermal efficiency and reduction of pressure drops in BIPV/T systems using different PV technologies and manifold designs for modular roof systems; improvement of the thermal performance of façade-integrated BIPV/T systems for commercial buildings, including windy conditions.

2. Integration of passive design with active technologies in the Canadian context.

3. Study of an attached solarium/greenhouse as a retrofit option for existing houses and flat roof buildings (urban areas), including optimized glazing systems and BIPV/T options.

Three sub-projects have been defined based on the aforementioned objectives as follows.


  • 2.3a  Study and optimization of BIPV/T air system options for facades and roofs (includes wind effects)
  • 2.3b  Design and optimization of building-integrated active systems plus passive systems (including attached solarium/greenhouse and daylighting aspects)
  • 2.3c  Study of solaria retrofits for flat roofs in urban areas or attached to existing homes


Back to Theme II : Dynamic Building Envelope Systems and Passive Solar Concepts