Researchers at RMIT are studying the fire safety risks associated with the installation of solar panels on the façades of multi-storey buildings.
Solar building envelopes, also known as building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV), help buildings reach net zero, and do so without the need for vast roof space. Solar envelope technology has the potential to meet the future energy needs of buildings, says project leader, RMIT Associate Professor Rebecca Yang.
However, says Yang, “Limited studies exist for the building industry to fully understand the fire risk of BIPV.”
The research seeks new information to help understand the performance of BIPV in fire conditions, and identify any fire performance requirements and the testing required to demonstrate acceptable levels of safety for its use in façades.
The study is funded through the Victorian Building Authority’s (VBA) inaugural research grant program. VBA chief operations officer Jocelyn Crawford says the study aligns strongly with the regulator’s research priorities. “Fire safety is of vital concern in the use of BIPV in buildings. It is essential that its use on building façades and roofs to replace conventional building materials does not adversely affect the safety of building occupants and fire-fighters, or the structural performance of buildings,” she says.
The VBA’s research program aims to help the regulator identify and understand emerging regulatory issues and consumer needs, and how regulations can be shaped in turn to improve public safety.