The UK’s first energy positive classroom is switched on in Swansea

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Built by Swansea University’s SPECIFIC Innovation and Knowledge Centre, the Active Classroom generates, stores and releases its own solar energy. It is a building for learning from, not just in.

Electricity is generated by a steel roof with integrated solar cells, supplied by SPECIFIC spin out company BIPVco. It is connected to two Aquion Energy saltwater batteries, which are being used in the UK for the first time and are capable of storing enough energy to power the building for two days.

The building also uses Tata Steel’s perforated steel cladding for generation of solar heat energy, which can be stored in a water-based system, and an electrically-heated floor coating that has been developed by SPECIFIC researchers.

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Picture:  the plant room with its two saltwater batteries, being used in the UK for the first time.  More pictures

Architect Jo Morgan said:

“Some of the technology is new, but most is already available on the market and affordable. Whilst each product is in itself important, the real innovation is in the way they work together to generate, store and release energy.”

The Active Classroom’s clever control system combines technical performance data from each component with occupancy and seasonal weather variations to manage the building’s energy use and provide a comfortable environment for students.

Jo continued:

“For us this project wasn’t just about showing that it works technically: it was also about working closely with our construction industry partners on a real project, developing skills and helping to bring low carbon buildings like this closer to market.”

WATCH: architect Jo Morgan describes the project, with time-lapse video of construction

Solar Plants is one of many partners on the project. The Port Talbot-based company is assisting the SPECIFIC team with the design and installation of the solar-to-storage connectivity.

Ian Hewson, Off-grid Engineer for Solar Plants, said:

“We are proud to be involved with this game-changing project. This classroom challenges commercial property design norms, and if successful will help shape the way buildings are designed going forward.

Working with engineering giants Tata Steel and innovators SPECIFIC has been an incredible experience and has helped Solar Plants develop market leading knowledge in this new technology."

The Active Classroom provides teaching space and a laboratory for Swansea University students, as well as a building-scale development facility for SPECIFIC and its industry partners.

SPECIFIC is led by Swansea University and working with more than 50 partners from academia, industry and government to deliver its vision for buildings as power stations. Its Strategic Partners are Tata Steel, BASF, NSG Pilkington Glass and Cardiff University, and it is part-funded by Innovate UK, EPSRC, and the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government.

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Pictures:  the completed classroom, clad in a product from Tata steel that draws in air to heat the building

More pictures of the classroom and technologies in it

WATCH:  BBC Newsround report on local school pupils visiting the classroom to plant its living wall

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