Workflow for integration of BIPV in historical buildings


Researchers from the Polytechnic University of Milan and the Polytechnic University of Marche in Italy have developed a workflow for the incorporation of BIPV into historical buildings.

Their approach combines architectural research practices with software object rendering and a choice protocol that involves different stakeholders. It also involves different fields of knowledge and the participation of heritage authorities, designers, and PV companies.

“The approach we have outlined is a technical workflow, making it applicable in all contexts, as it lacks references to specific countries,” researcher Rosa Agliata told pv magazine. “To apply this workflow in other locations than Italy, it is only necessary to refer to local regulations when establishing heritage-compatibility criteria.”

The research group described its findings in “HBIM-based workflow for the integration of advanced photovoltaic systems in historical buildings,” which was recently published in the Journal of Cultural Heritage. They outlined a new method based on Heritage Building Information Modelling (HBIM), which is the process of creating digital representations of the building.

Historical research and on-site surveys form the initial step, exploring the building's concept and cultural significance, while field investigations gather contemporary data and precise measurements through methods like laser scans and visual analyses.

The next stage involves implementing the HBIM model using Building Information Modeling (BIM) software, adhering to Italy's regulations requiring a Level of Development (LOD) not lower than F, representing an “as-built” model.

The third and most extensive step involves selecting heritage-compatible PV interventions and components. The building is classified into elements, and potential PV interventions are categorized for evaluation: specifically considered, not allowed, and technically unfeasible.

As part of the third step, the evaluation of different commercial products for each intervention involves considering risks and benefits. Information on risks and benefits, among other sources, should stem from discussions with the energy and electrical engineers of the PV producers.

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Finally, in the last step, the workflow selects PV components and integrates them into the computer model. The academics say they should be modeled with LOD E – the highest possible level in the design phase.

“For an improved accuracy, in addition to datasheets, consultation with the PV producers can be exploited to create the layouts specific for the PV interventions,” the researchers said. “The incorporation of realistic visualization allows for a pre-emptive evaluation of the aesthetic impact of the BIPV intervention. This enables early assessment and adjustment to maintain the building’s original values and appearances while minimizing any visual disruptions.”

Applying the designed workflow, academics conducted a case study on “Palazzo della Cultura,” a 16th-century courtyard building in the historic Italian town of Marcianise.

“The selection of the case study aims at having a typical and replicable example of a historical European building, which is located within an old town center and characterized by architectural elements and heritage values,” said the scientists.

Demonstrating the novel workflow in this case study, the research group highlighted its “positive implications in various aspects, including decision-making (e.g., promoting collaboration and interoperability), modeling (e.g., preemptive evaluation and reduction of impacts, PV component customization, and optimization), and data and process management (e.g., creating an all-in-one model for future assessments and operations).”

“Our  next research might focus on the reversibility and disassembly aspects of flexible PV components,” said Agliata.

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