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Solar-Panel Expert from UW Is Focus of Article

February 17, 2017
Jon Gardzelewski examines building plans.
Associate Lecturer Jon Gardzelewski says solar panels typically aren’t included in building design, which becomes a barrier to integrating them into the ultimate product.

Jon Gardzelewski believes solar panels should become a bigger part of the design of buildings and housing in the future.
 
Gardzelewski, an architect and associate lecturer at the University of Wyoming in the Building Energy Research Group (UW-BERG), says that solar panels typically aren’t included in building design, which becomes a barrier to integrating them into the ultimate product. BERG uses faculty expertise and advanced students to improve Wyoming buildings in terms of design and energy performance. This service is aligned with UW’s mission as a land-grant institution, emphasizing research, public service, and practical education.
 
Recently, an interview with Gardzelewski was published by ArchDaily, touted as “The World’s Most Visited Architecture Website.” The article, “5 Techniques to Incorporate Solar Panels into Your Architecture Beautifully (Not as an Ugly Afterthought),” was released Feb. 8.
 
There are factors that make solar-panel integration a tough sell for architects and homeowners. Gardzelewski says market trends show people will pay a premium for solar-powered homes, but one appraiser told Gardzelewski the appraisal likely would be the same regardless. The initial cost of installing solar panels can be high, despite the actual price of the panels decreasing. One reason is that builders aren’t quite sold on the concept.
 
“Once solar integrates into the home-building industry, the price of labor will go down because the contractor is going to manage that pretty tightly,” Gardzelewski says in the article.
 
Another factor is a fear that solar energy will hurt fossil-fuel economies and take away jobs. But Gardzelewski believes that established blue-collar jobs of the industry could become green-collar jobs.
 
Gardzelewski outlined five strategies for integrating solar panels into building design using BERG’s philosophy.

Legibility: Revealing the building systems to see how they work, similar to an industrial look with the “guts” of the building exposed.
 
Material Planes: Structures like Gerrit Rietveld’s Schroder House and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion highlight design focused on planar composition. The Barcelona Pavilion features planar composition to show off the richness of materials such as glass, marble, onyx, and travertine. With this strategy, the material aspect of a solar panel is celebrated is highlighted.
 
Form Follows: From the principle “form follows function,” this design features a building that adapts its shape to the path of the sun. This strategy works well when a design provides optimal orientation for a large number of solar panels.
 
Shading: Solar panels can provide shade for the building itself or adjacent outdoor space, which is a good method for an existing roof.
 
Disguise: Solar panels are hidden through either compositional strategy or design innovation. This strategy is best used in conjunction with “form follows,” as architecture designed around the panel is suited to disguise it.


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