Work on coatings for low-carbon buildings gets underway

01 Dec 2011

Coatings and other materials-based technologies for creating low-carbon buildings will be produced for testing from mid-2012.

The Specific project seeks to integrate energy generation and storage technology into the building envelope. Image: KonarkaThe focus of the cross-disciplinary Specific (Sustainable Product Engineering Centre for Innovative Functional Industrial Coatings) project, which will run for five years, is to develop commercial products for integration into buildings to generate and store energy, to help the UK meet its 2020 carbon reduction targets.

The vision of Specific, according to Eifion Jewell at project coordinator Swansea University, is to transform buildings into power stations, using solar photovoltaic (PV), solar thermal and other energy generation technologies.

An essential component of the £20 million (€23.3 million) initiative is developing energy storage technologies. Products will be designed to integrate into the building envelope, or fabric, to establish a supply chain for delivering energy-generating, low-carbon buildings cost-effectively.

Energy storage

To achieve this aim the technologies with Specific will be developed as functional coatings - for example phase-change materials designed to store charge or heat and release energy when required.

The project also looks at how buildings can be designed so they are able to operate on DC voltage, to maximise energy deployment. Losses occur when DC voltage, produced by solar panels, is converted to AC voltage.

Renewable energy technologies, such as solar PV, which are intended to achieve grid parity, require integration into building components to absorb the cost of their installation. After buying a conventional solar panel, a substantial portion of its overall cost goes on installing the panel.

Partners on Specific include the UK's National Grid; Pilkington, a manufacturer of glazing; and chemicals firms BASF and Akzo Nobel.

UK universities and R&D centres partnering in Specific include Imperial College London, Bath, Bangor, Cardiff, Glyndwr and Strathclyde.


Specific is working closely with PV Accelerator, a project within Tata Steel developing solar cells fabricated onto coated steel for industrial shed roofing.

All materials technologies developed under Specific must be scalable, and produced by printing and coating tools without the need for vacuum coating chamber equipment.

A pilot line will be built by June 2012, and any products produced will be demonstrated and tested by the Sustainable Building Envelope Centre (SBEC), funded by the Welsh government, and based at Tata's site in Shotton, Wales.

Between June and August 2012 pilot production of technologies and coatings in development within Specific should begin.

Jewell recently presented on the Specific project at the UK Plastic Electronics Show in Birmingham on 9 November 2011.

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