Structuring innovative product data with the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts HSLU

The Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts HSLU was the first university to test out Cobuilder’s PDT solutions as part of Empa’s NEST technology transfer project. The product type at the spotlight of the project was an innovative multi-coloured building integrated photovoltaic panel, which was developed and manufactured between the Lucerne University, the ÜserHuus technology transfer non-profit, Glass Trösch and GES Gebäude-Energiesysteme GmbH. The innovative panels were attached to the HSLUS office façade in the NEST building.

Image: The NEST project building, source: Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts HSLU

Image: The NEST project building, source: Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts HSLU

The innovative product as a Revit object modelled in Inventor

What first meets the eye is how the unique aesthetic glass surface contributes significantly to the visual appearance of a PV module. The colouring of the PV panels is not the only innovation – the ornamented glass that is on top of the photovoltaic can be equipped with a rain screen cladding adding waterproofing properties to the product. In addition, the panels come in two notably different variations – they can be attached onto an existing structure and therefore are well ventilated or they can be integrated into the exterior cladding in which case it would be non-ventilated.

As the purpose of the NEST (Next Evolution in Sustainable Building Technologies) project is to provide a platform where cutting-edge technologies and innovative products are tested, improved and demonstrated under realistic conditions, the need for structuring the product data describing the innovative product became apparent to the researchers at the Lucerne University.

‘Data is obviously among the most important aspects of BIM. It was essential for us to find a way to document our innovative products so that they are compatible with not only 3D objects but also with the need for a seamless flow of information through different applications. When we learned about the current development of Product Data Templates and their connection to data dictionaries such as the bSDD, we were determined to get in touch with coBuilder. We worked closely with Cobuilder’s R&D experts in order to find a way to digitise a product that is not yet fully covered by standards, but is still subject to a common structure and a common technical language.’ –  says  Davis Loren Kantor, Research Associate at the Lucerne School of Engineering and Architecture.

Many clients and architects specify BIPV systems in commercial new builds to achieve a particular environmental performance requirement. In order to meet these requirements communication parameters such as the reduction of energy use and carbon emissions etc. should be communicated to different actors across the supply chain. This idea lies at the center of coBuilder’s PDT solutions – data is standardised using a common structure based on credible sources such as international, national (Swiss eco factors) or market standards (BREEAM), then it is made interoperable by mapping all variations of concepts to GUIDs (Global Unique Identifiers) in a single data dictionary. In this way, manufacturers take advantage of an easy to use Product Data Template, which they can fill in and create their fit-for-purpose Product Data Sheet. From then on, data flows seamlessly online, in various software and within different use cases.

‘Our mission is to fast-track the digital transition in the construction industry in order to achieve a better, safer and more sustainable built environment. Innovative products such as Building integrated photovoltaics enable the generation of renewable energy and are an integral part of low carbon designs. This is why our project with Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts has a special significance to us. Data is among the most important factors of showcasing product innovation and we are determined to provide the software infrastructure that helps these amazing characteristics find their way to all construction actors around the globe’ – says Lars Chr. Fredenlund, CEO of Cobuilder AS.

As the global market for BIPV is expected to grow by 12.2% from 2016-2021* projects like this – highlighting the value of sharing data about innovative BIPV will have an increasing importance for differentiation and market penetration.

*Building-Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV): Technologies and Global Markets (E Vickstrom, 2017)