Industry oriented projects

Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV) Enabler (2019-2021)

We aim to develop a packaged, user friendly platform that integrates product, regulation, technical, economic and construction data to create the best BIPV solution. BIPV adoption has been slow in Australia. It is not only a solar product affected by the PV and energy sectors, but also a building product which affects the working process of all building professionals from design, to construction and operation stages, and is restricted by building and construction standards. There is a lack of BIPV product and standards awareness and cost-effective project solutions because of information gaps within and across the PV and building sectors. It is difficult to develop a business case for a BIPV project without accessible information and value-for-money solutions. The focus of the proposed tool in this project will be BIPV product database, with standard guidelines and light-weight, user-friendly interfaces to facilitate decision making at the conceptual building design stage. Our platform will provide an optimized BIPV product which complies with construction codes, design, installation and maintenance options and configures easy-to-use interfaces for different stakeholders. This one-stop solution delivers value as a commercialised handy tool and professional services for users such as PV manufacturers in product promotion and building professionals in BIPV design, construction and facility management. This project will provide the facility required to move BIVP from Commercial Readiness Index 2 to Commercial Readiness Index 3 in Australia and should accelerate market adoption of BIPV that unifies precast PV modules with the overall building outer surface, including every wall and window in both residential and commercial buildings. The project will enable all BIPV products and studies to be applied in the real building market as easy as possible. Industry workshops will be organised in capital cities for the participants from the building and PV sectors to run through the entire BIPV design process and discuss the scope for future investment. The platform will also be exhibited in industry conferences and exhibitions. (Supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, RMIT ECP, and a group of industry partners)

BIPV Status quo evaluation: Workflows (2020-2021)

This project is a collaborative work under the International Energy Agency (IEA) PVPS Task 15 Subtask D BIPV Digitalisation. Our lab is leading this work in collaboration with nine experts from five countries. Project background and aim: BIPV design and management is a complex process which spans the interests of multidisciplinary stakeholders and different phases of the BIPV project life cycle. Therefore, the design and development of a BIPV system cannot be done in isolation. A cross-functional inter-phase approach should be adopted. The BIPV system is considered as an ecosystem consisting of many networked and interconnected elements of different life cycles, from raw materials to end user consumption, and from physical and technical systems to environmental and economic systems. There are four domains under BIPV designing and integration: geophysical, technical, economic and environmental. Sub-factors are found under each domain. These factors can directly impact the successful implementation of the BIPV system. Therefore, operative approaches, methods and workflows relevant to each domain of BIPV design and integration will be investigated and collected. Further, limitations and potential improvements   under the existing operative approaches, methods and workflows will be explored. (Supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, and Australian PV Institute)

BIPV Data management: Digital product data models (2021-2022)

This project is a collaborative work under the International Energy Agency (IEA) PVPS Task 15 Subtask D BIPV Digitalisation. Our lab is a participant in this work to bring in Australian context. Project background and aim: Currently, there is a dynamic development of using digital methods in planning, construction and maintenance processes in the construction industry of many countries. However, under the title “Building Information Modelling (BIM)” manifold approaches are subsumed. Digital product data models with different formats (open and proprietary), different levels of detail and based on static or parametric descriptions are developed and used. Interoperability and usability of the models in different tools and phases is often not ensured. The full potential of digital product data models throughout the whole value chain, however, can only be harvested, if the chosen approaches fulfil the requirements of many stakeholders and not only are designed for “digital islands”. Therefore, existing approaches for digital product data models of BIPV components will be investigated and collected. In parallel, requirements for different phases of BIPV projects and different stakeholders are collected and compared to the already existing approaches. Based on this analysis and the different research projects and daily work of the experts involved in this activity, we want to point out the way towards most beneficial, open and long-term usable digital product data models and jointly contribute to the next steps on this way.  (Supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, and Australian PV Institute)  

Digital BIM-based process for BIPV (2020-2022)

This project is a collaborative work under the International Energy Agency (IEA) PVPS Task 15 Subtask D BIPV Digitalisation. Our lab is leading this work in collaboration with eleven experts from seven countries. Project background and aim: BIPV stakeholders currently dealing with PV design, manufacturing and installation, invest a significant amount of resources and time (with an impact on the final cost) to translate potential clients’ requests into a convincing BIPV project proposal with a technical layout, economic offer and feasibility analysis for production and installation. Typically, the process is highly fragmented so that the information flow is not linear therefore, there is a large room for process optimization. An integrated and collaborative digital process where information is defined, stored and shared between stakeholders through a digital model and a common environment, would reduce efforts, time, repetitive work, risk of mistakes, information losses, etc., transforming an almost “manual” and fragmented work into an interoperable workflow along the value chain. Overcoming these challenges to support architects and planners in using BIPV into building projects can be achieved by BIM (Building information modelling/management) from the construction sector into the BIPV value-chain, in order to introduce a digital and holistic process ensuring higher quality across the entire lifecycle. (Supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, and Australian PV Institute)

Data mining for BIPV decision-making (2020-2023)

This project is a collaborative work under the International Energy Agency (IEA) PVPS Task 15 Subtask D BIPV Digitalisation. Our lab is leading this work in collaboration with eight experts from six countries. Project background and aim: Currently, a handful of buildings has applied this multifunctional technology. Lack of awareness and knowledge, inadequate number of products available in the market, technical complexity and cost may hinder the BIPV deployment. Moreover, the decision to uptake the system is based on a number of factors including financial benefits, sustainability or aesthetic appearance. Adopters have heterogeneous background and motivation, and BIPV needs a unique design for every building where many factors can influence the system adoption. Without understanding the market dynamics and adopters’ behaviours, the successful deployment is compromised. Learning from the existing project profiles led to initiate future projects fruitfully. Therefore, we intend to evaluate the current BIPV project profiles using data mining techniques to unravel BIPV project performance and to predict market dynamic. A BIPV decision-making process will be built in a virtual platform and simulate the model from the data of multiple BIPV project profiles in different counties. Based on the analysis, we need to find out (i) existing performance of BIPV projects and (ii) predict market dynamics. The outcome will guide on potential adopters to implement BIPV project and policymakers to accelerate the deployment successfully. (Supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, and Australian PV Institute)

BIPV guidebook (2020-2023)

This project is a collaborative work under the International Energy Agency (IEA) PVPS Task 15 Subtask C BIPV Guidelines. Our lab is a participant in this work to bring in Australian context. Project background: The lack of knowledge and guidelines on how to design BIPV systems is one of the barriers to the adoption of BIPV technologies from the building industry. The development of a BIPV guidebook could fulfil this gap. Considering the BIPV experience and expertise shared by the Task 15 participants, the working group is well positioned to undertake this task. Such a guidebook could prevent repeating “bad examples” and ensure that the industry has the fundamental knowledge to develop, apply and advance the implementation of BIPV technologies in the built environment. The aims are to: (1) Develop a comprehensive understanding of BIPV applications; (2) Develop technical solutions for effectively designing, implementing, operating and maintaining BIPV systems; (3) Provide a technical reference and guidance to policy makers and regulators for the effective adoption of BIPV technologies in the built environment.  (Supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, and Australian PV Institute).

Fire safety of BIPV modules and installations (2020-2023)

This project is a collaborative work under the International Energy Agency (IEA) PVPS Task 15 Subtask E Pre-normative international research on BIPV characterisation methods. Our lab is a participant in this work to bring in Australian context.

Safety and Reliability of BIPV (2020-2023)

This project is a collaborative work under the International Energy Agency (IEA) PVPS Task 15 Subtask E Pre-normative international research on BIPV characterisation methods. Our lab is a participant in this work to bring in Australian context.

Research projects

Deployment of grid connected building integrated Photovoltaic (GBIPV): A data driven Agent based modelling (2017-2021)

The research aim is to develop a decision supportive model for BIPV deployment.  This study designs an application of agent-based modelling and simulation as an approach to understanding decision-making of system adoption. The decisions are complex due to the diversified stakeholders’ interests and multifunctionality of the technology. The model is then presented with the machine learning technique (support vector machine) to predict the adopters’ behaviours and external forces that influence the deployment. Interviews, webinars and workshops were assisted in demarcating the decision support model and 50 global BIPV case studies particular in non-domestic buildings in 12 counties were adopted to implement the model. The model is built in the MATLAB programming. The model will assist informing decision-makers and policymakers to develop strategies to accelerate the penetration of BIPV in the market.  (HDR student: Nilmini Weerasinghe)

An integrated framework for design and management of building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) projects (2017-2021)

BIPV design and management is a complex process which involves requirements geophysical, technical, economical and environment factors throughout the life cycle of the system. The aim of this study is to develop an integrated framework for BIPV design and management in Australia. Through literature review, 15 key factors influencing design and management of BIPV projects were identified. 27 PV tool were analyzed which helped to identify 14 application problems and 23 potential improvements in BIPV design and management. This study uses qualitative research method. Semi-structured interviews were conducted as an exploratory study of the area. Based on the qualitative and literature findings an integrated framework for BIPV design and management is developed using Python programming and evolutionary multi-objective algorithms. (HDR student: Pabasara Wijeratne Mudiyanselage)

Distributed Renewable Energy Applications for a Sustainable Urban Future: A Lifecycle Perspective Enabled by Blockchain (2018-2022)

The adoption of decentralised renewable energy (DRE) technologies and applications in the large-scale urban development projects is difficult due to the trust issues, information gaps and exploitations along the supply chain. This project aims at exploring the potentials to integrate the DRE supply chain using blockchain technology as the backbone to eliminate the trust issues, exploitation and communication gaps. The researchers have selected the Bendigo city of Australia to conduct data collection due to the significant availability of DRE technologies. Semi structured interviews and a questionnaire survey will be used to collect data from a selected sample from utility providers, government and different consumers groups in Bendigo. Potential outcomes include a blockchain-based platform that connects all stakeholders along the supply chain, providing full accessibility to DRE product and services information and transactions. This research will enable large-scale adoption of DRE as an urban infrastructure to assure a sustainable urban future. (HDR Student: Chathuri Gunarathna)

Improving Distributed Renewable Energy Performance and Urban Sustainability with Virtual Power Plant (2018-2022)

This research aims to establish a VPP platform that can improve urban sustainability by optimising the performance of distributed renewable energy. With a combined methodology of both qualitative and quantitative including stakeholder interview, GIS mapping, mathematical modelling and optimisation, this study will establish a VPP framework in the context of an Australian city that can provide optimisation for both existing and potential distributed renewable resources. Currently, a case study is being carried out in cooperation with Bendigo City Council and Bendigo Sustainable Group. The outcome of this research will develop a better understanding on VPP’s potential in improving urban sustainability. It may also provide guidance for local distributed renewable resources management and VPP development. (HDR Student: Chengyang Liu)

Investigate the building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) development potential in the urban context via deep learning technology (2020-2024)

In this research, a novel and cost-effective approach using advanced computer technology will be developed, which can identify the available area and architectural characteristics of building facades. Then, the most suitable building facades can be selected for BIPV façade installation based on the solar irradiation condition. The main outcomes of this research are (1) identifying BIPV products available for building facades; (2) analysing solar irradiation condition in the urban areas;(3) establishing a program to obtain total available area of building facades in the urban environment; (4) evaluating BIPV facades potential at the urban scale from the technical, economic and environmental perspectives. This research can improve the understanding of BIPV façade application in the urban environment and facilitate urban planning in relation to renewable energy scheme.  (HDR Student: Hongying Zhao)

Distributed Solar Energy Applications in Commercial Buildings across China: Value Comparison and Policy Implication (2017-2019)

This research aims to improve the understanding of financial implications for different building PV systems in commercial buildings across China with policy changes, including building-attached PV (BAPV) and building-integrated PV (BIPV). Given the diverse geographic conditions and complicated policy conditions in China, 12 typical cities are selected for the research. A MATLAB program is established to calculate energy generation and evaluate the economic performance of the building PV applications in the 12 cities. The impact of national subsidy policy and electricity price policy have been analysed. The contributions of this research are to (1) improve investors’ and policy-makers’ understanding of the value of PV buildings across China; (2) provide policy implications to encourage the healthy growth of the building PV applications in China; and (3) demonstrate feasibility of building PV systems for other cities in similar climates and/or for cities in developing countries like China. (HDR Student: Hongying Zhao)

An ontology-based holistic approach for building-integrated photovoltaic(BIPV) design (2019-2023)

BIPV system is complex to design because it has a large number of design elements across industries. This research aims to improve the design process of the BIPV system by building up an ontology-based BIPV product database, which can share a common understanding of the structure of BIPV information. The ontology-based BIPV database could match BIPV products with local standards automatically, and its intelligent reasoning mechanism can match product attributes with required design criteria. An ontology software Protégé would be used to create the BIPV ontology. The significant contribution of this reason would be (1) facilitate the design process of BIPV system; (2) clarify local industry standards to BIPV manufacturers; (3) provide a central reasoning system for BIPV database; (4) match the most suitable BIPV products to the design criteria. (HDR Student: Chaoxiang Zhang)

Optimizing the integration of photovoltaic cells to buildings through the use of computer science-based solutions (2020-2021)

Energy planning needs to be tackled as a multi-objective, multi-stakeholder, and multi-period problem during the project planning stage. Building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) cells have gained popularity as a viable solution to reduce the energy demand of buildings. Therefore, the aim of this study is to optimize the PV cell integration process through the use of computer science (CS) based solutions. Literature findings and data collected through a qualitative study will be used to develop an optimization tool to integrate PV cells to a building by considering geophysical, technical, economic and environmental factors. CS approaches such as Comprehensive Object-Oriented analysis and design techniques based on the Unified Process (UP), C++ programming and multi-objective optimization algorithms will be used to achieve the above aim. (HDR Student: Tharushi Samarasinghe)

Optimizing solar photovoltaic yields in urban environments (2020-2022)

The aim of this research is to investigate the BIPV potential in urban environments and determine the best BIPV setup for buildings to maximize photovoltaic efficiency. 3D models of buildings in urban areas can be generated from street and satellite images and convolutional neural networks such as Faster R-CNN can be used to identify building facades ideal for BIPV. By conducting solar irradiation simulation on these 3D models, we can determine which building facades have the highest level of solar radiation. Suitable photovoltaic appliances can be installed on these building facades to ensure maximum solar energy generation. The outcome of this research is to reveal the hidden potential of BIPV in urban environments. (HDR Student: Gregory Kong)

Augmented Reality (AR) to Support BIPV Design Process (2020-2022)

This research aims to determine the optimal design method of BIPV, by comparing the traditional BIPV design method with AR-BIPV design application. A BIPV design is to array numbers of panels over the building surface to convert solar energy to electricity. An optimal BIPV design can increase the energy generated by the BIPV panels. Each building may have various BIPV designs, therefore, to determine the optimal BIPV design with be time consuming. Thus, the integration of BIPV design with AR application can shorten the time and reduce the workload to design BIPV combination. Furthermore, it enhances the communication between stakeholders as it allows the stakeholders to visualise the BIPV design. In this research, an AR application will be developed for BIPV design purpose. The application with include the data base of BIPV panels and solar information of Melbourne. One of the features of the application can immediately calculate the energy convert by the solar power. After the application completed, two BIPV design teams will be formed to provide an optimal BIPV design for a building. One of the team will be using the traditional design method, and the other will use the AR application to design a BIPV solution. Both teams’ designs will be compared by the factors of such the total energy can be created per day, the appearance, etc. (HDR Student: Zikai Zhao).

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Acknowledgement of country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business.