UK’s first energy-positive office opens in Swansea University

The first UK office that net produces energy for the grid, rather than consumes it, is opening today at Swansea University.

Buildings currently account for around 40 per cent of UK energy consumption, developers Specific said.

This new building, known as the ‘Active Office’, points the way to a new generation of low-carbon offices which produce their own supply of clean energy. 

The building has been designed to generate energy in a number of ways. It has a curved roof with flexible, integrated solar cells and a photovoltaic thermal system on the south facing wall which is capable of generating both heat and electricity from the sun in one system.

Lithium-ion batteries have also been installed to store the electricity generated and a 2,000-litre water tank to store solar heat is also part of the design.

An ‘Active Classroom’ was installed in the building next door last year and has already generated “more than one and half times the energy it consumed”. 

The Active Office and Classroom will be linked together and able to share energy with each other and electric vehicles, demonstrating how the concept could be applied in an energy-resilient, solar-powered community. 

The Active Office has been designed to be easy to reproduce and quick to build, taking one week to assemble, with much of the construction taking place off site.

It also uses only technologies that are commercially available now, which means there is no reason why they could not be used on any new building.

“Offices are enormous consumers of energy, so turning them energy-positive has the potential to slash fuel bills and dramatically reduce their carbon emissions,” said Kevin Bygate, chief operating officer of Specific.

Ian Campbell, executive chair of Innovate UK, said: “It’s difficult to overstate the potential of developing a building that powers itself. The concept could genuinely revolutionise not only the construction sector but completely change how we create and use energy, so the opening of the Active Office in Swansea is an exciting step forward.”

In 2016, what was then dubbed “the most sustainable office building in the world” was constructed in the Netherlands, receiving a 99.94 per cent score from the BREEAM certification system. 

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