Solar-powered modular facade capable of cooling and heating a building

In Germany, researchers are testing a modular solar-powered facade that includes a mini heat pump for heating and cooling, and a decentralised ventilation unit with heat recovery.

Improving the energy efficiency of the building sector is crucial to achieve the EU’s energy and environmental goals. It is therefore imperative to accelerate the renovation pace of older buildings.


In Germany, researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics (IBP) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Energy Economics and Energy System Technology (IEE) are developing a facade module that integrates the technical building equipment and supplies it with renewable energy to heat, cool and ventilate adjoining rooms. A photovoltaic (PV) system is integrated into the modular facade to supply energy.  It is combined with a heat pump that can provide cooling and heating, as well as a decentralised ventilation unit with heat recovery. All the required technical components are housed in the modular facade, allowing for a high degree of prefabrication. Using a fan coil located in an air gap behind the PV element, the pump extracts heat from the outside air and releases it, also via a fan coil, into the adjoining (office) space to provide heating. To provide cooling, the heat pump extracts heat from the indoor air and discharges it to the outside.


The research project aims to develop a cost-effective modular facade that can be used in renovation projects in a minimally invasive way. Instead of having to renovate the entire building, it will be possible to simply replace the old facade with this new modular facade in a matter of hours. Indeed, with this fully integrated heating, cooling and ventilation technology, there will be no need to lay any new pipes within the building. The facade will simply need a power connection to continue conditioning the air and ventilating the rooms during periods when no PV electricity is available. This will reduce the amount of work required for installation and adjustment on site. Ideally, users in the adjoining rooms will not need to relocate during the renovation work.


This modular facade is designed to be retrofitted onto public buildings and offices, particularly those built between the 1950s and 1970s. The system can also be used as a sustainable, energy-efficient solution in new builds. The project partners are currently testing the modular renewable energy facade in a test facility for Energy and Indoor Environments (VERU) at Fraunhofer IBP in Holzkirchen, Germany.


Details of the research project are available here.


(source image: Fraunhofer. Exterior view of the modular facade.)