Active buildings

Assuring affordable energy for heat and power whilst smoothing energy demand by load shifting and energy generation are the key challenges.

To protect our planet, we need to forge a new, zero-carbon future, where energy is generated from new and renewable sources. Our buildings need to switch to clean electricity for both power and heat; a seismic transformation, that completely alters the way we think about buildings and energy.

In the low-carbon future, buildings become part of the energy system. They will continue to demand heat and power, but they will do so when it is available and at the right price. They will generate and store energy to help smooth the demands on the grid, ensuring that the new energy system is clean, flexible and resilient.

Predicting electricity demand in UK homes

Renewable energy has the potential to provide heat and power to homes, but to mitigate unsustainable demand peaks it is important to capture the true half-hourly variations in demand.

Trent Basin low energy housing development
Trent Basin low energy housing development

Empirical modelling of energy demand

We have developed empirical models - built on monitored data collected in occupied homes - that predict the time variation of future electricity demands, and the peak demand and ramp rate that the energy system must provide. The estimates are substantially lower than those previously predicted. At the local, community level, empirical models help us understand how energy-efficient design and refurbishment affect heat and power demand profiles and the benefits of thermal storage and local energy generation.

Our impact in the UK solar power sector

Optimised photovoltaic systems

We are developing new, more efficient photovoltaic systems that can be integrated into buildings, focusing on the chemistry of surface coats, to improve durability and reduce maintenance for roof-top mounted systems.

Woman working with photovoltaic systems

Optimising cadmium telluride solar cells

Our research with international partners has shown how the addition of selenium helps increase the stability and efficiency of cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar cells. The work is hailed as an important step towards paving the way for improving the design of PV materials and devices. This work is part of the Active Building Centre, a national centre of excellence that brings together energy, construction, government and research to create a dynamic ecosystem that identifies barriers and creates solutions for scale up and deployment of buildings and communities that are active.

Published research Active Building Centre

Thermal energy recovery and storage

Mobilized thermal energy storage can be used to recover and store industry waste heat, reducing both CO2 emissions and energy costs, leading to more efficient industrial activities. It also increases the availability of low-carbon energy for heating the residential sector.

Domestic thermal energy storage

We are developing new thermal energy storage systems that can be deployed in homes, with a particular emphasis on reducing their size, using phase change materials.

Published research

Meet the experts

The experts below represent the broad interests of our researchers in active buildings. We look forward to hearing from you.

Professor Kevin Lomas - Academic Lead, Built Environment Beacon

Professor Kevin Lomas

Professor of Building Simulation

Photograph of Mike Walls

Professor Michael Walls

Professor of Photovoltaics for Power Systems

Stephen Watson - Research Associate in Modelling Active Buildings

Stephen Watson

Research Associate in Modelling Active Buildings

Centre of excellence