Powering the City

The objective of this module is to efficiently reduce energy consumption and to increase solar energy production in cities while minimizing total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The research includes the development of holistic, multi-scale and interdisciplinary approaches for assessing large scale deployment of (building integrated) photovoltaic in realistic urban contexts under different climatic, socio-economic and architectural conditions. Zurich and Singapore are used as complementary case studies and we are interacting with public stakeholders and agencies to directly apply research into practice by receiving feedback and providing training on toolboxes developed.

Urban Building Integrated Photovoltaics

Globally, urban areas account for 80% of primary energy consumption and 60% of greenhouse gas emissions [UN-Habitat]. The transition towards renewable energy systems to power future low-carbon cities is crucial in reducing negative environmental externalities, mitigating global warming, as well as increasing liveability in cities. Photovoltaics (PV), including Building Integrated PV (BIPV), are an effective way of solar energy utilization and allow renewable energy to be generated directly on-​site, where demands also occur. Furthermore, by integrating such technologies into the building fabric, additional surface sealing can be prevented and the overall utility of buildings increased. BIPV already now is a feasible design option for new constructions, as well as for existing buildings subject to be retrofitted, as they can replace traditional building envelope elements.

Switching from centralised, fossil-​fuelled to decentralised and renewable electricity generation, however, also redefines the relation of cities to their hinterland with respect to energy. Current technological developments leading to higher conversion efficiencies, a wide range of design aesthetics, as well as decreasing monetary costs provide the grounds for a large scale deployment of PV and BIPV in urban settings. 

The overall objective of the "Powering the City" module is to optimise solar energy utilization in urban areas. As part of the module research, we develop a holistic, multi-​scale and interdisciplinary approach for assessing large scale deployment of PV and BIPV in urban contexts under different climatic, socio-​economic and architectural / urban conditions. Methods and models are applied to Zurich and Singapore as exemplary and complementary case studies.

Research questions:

Module deliverables:

Data-​driven, contextual models for demand assessment (including occupant and mobility behavior),Engineering models for BIPV integration and assessment (LCA, cost, architectural/urban design),Studies on social acceptance and the impact of energy policies (e.g., nudges) on user behavior,Models to study the impact of energy policies (e.g., solar mandates) on PV investment decisions in the private sector,Toolboxes for the generation and assessment of BIPV systems (including sector coupling: thermal, electricity and mobility) of urban blocks and districts, andApplication of the toolboxes and models to case studies (retrofitting and brown field).

The team is interacting with public stakeholders and agencies to provide feedback and to be trained on the toolboxes. Results will be published in peer-​reviewed scientific journal publications in leading journals in the different fields and international conferences. The results and learnings of the project will be synthesized in a book publication to address a broader audience. They will contribute to reducing CO2 emission in urban realms by providing a holistic understanding of impacts of large-​scale BIPV deployment.

Furthermore, the results will support improving the resilience of cities towards economic shocks such as pandemics and energy supply shortages, stressing the relevance of a localized energy infrastructure, energy self-​sufficiency and autarky. Within the cluster, our work particularly links to the modules of A1: Circular Future Cities (LCA perspective) and A3: Dense and Green Cities (building / urban typologies and envelope).

Outputs & Media

Research Team

Future Cities Laboratory Global

Welcome to FCL Global, an interdisciplinary research programme that seeks to address the worldwide circumstances of rapid urbanisation. Our ultimate goal is to promote more equitable and livable urban futures, by bringing together Science, Design, Engineering and Governance.

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