Chartreuse Blog

Building Integrated Photovoltaics
October 8, 2009, 9:22 pm
Filed under: Green Products | Tags: ,

Building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) are photovoltaic materials used in place of typical construction materials within the building envelop including facades and rain screens, roof surfaces, PV tiles, and solar shingles, and skylights and solar shades incorporating transparent or semi transparent photovoltaics.  Designing with BIPV, as opposed to non-integrated photovoltaics, can offset the high initial cost usually associated with renewable energy by reducing the cost of building materials and labor during construction.

Replacing heat reflective glass or tinted glass with transparent PV glass is a new and popular option and a great way to incorporate PVs into a building, though they are often less efficient than typical PV modules.  Transparent PV glass, where you cannot see the PV film, uses photovoltaic thin film which is the least efficient of all PV technology, approx. 9%, so far.  With that being said, that doesn’t mean that it is not a good system.  PV glass systems provide other benefits compared to heat reflective glass: PV glass cuts heat, visible light transmittance, and cuts UV, meaning that it will reduce energy costs besides generating electricity. 

More efficient transparent PV options are modules where  polycrystalline cells (more efficient than thin film, approx 12-14% efficiency) or monocrystalline cells (most efficient PV technology and most expensive, approx 14-18% efficiency) are sandwiched between layers of tempered glass.  The result is more like a screen than glazing but still transmits light between cells. 

Suntech Power, founded in 2001, is an international manufacturer of photovoltaic modules with sales offices and installation partners in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.  Suntech’s America is located in San Francisco, CA and their corporate headquarters is located in China. 

Suntech has developed a range of photovoltaic options including their monocrystalline solar panels, polycrystalline solar panels, semi-transparent modules, and building integrated photovoltaic panels.  Their MSK Solar Design Line includes a few BIPV options such as the Just Roof Building Integrated Roofing System, See Thru Building Integrated Glazing System, and Light Thru Building Integrated Glazing System.

The See Thru system is a semitransparent photovoltaic glazing that looks like tinted glass (an example of the less efficient option) and is used for curtain walls, skylights, canopies, and other glazed surfaces.  See thru comes in 1%, 5%, and 10% transparencies.  The Light Thru system is an example of the more efficient transparent PV option.  It can be manufactured with monocrystalline or polycrystalline cells with varying cell to cell spacing.

To contact a local dealer for Suntech Power, email Suntech America at

To learn more, visit Suntech Power’s website at

Chicago Center for Green Technology

CCGT, located west of Chicago’s Loop, acts as a model for green construction, houses green businesses and organizations, and provides a place to learn about sustainability.  It is only the third building in the United States to be designed with the highest standards of green technology, LEED Platinum, though it is the first LEED Platinum building to reuse an existing structure and provide public transportation.

The building that houses CCGT was built in 1952 and was most recently owned by Sacramento Crushing, a collector of construction and demolition waste.  The Chicago Department of Environment became involved when it discovered the company was violating its permit by filling its 17 acre site with illegal debris.  The Campus was filled with 70 foot piles of rubble, some so dense they were sinking as deep as 15 feet into the ground.  The DOE closed down the site and became responsible for cleaning it up.  Local architects, led by Farr Associates, designed the facility.

45% of CCGT’s electrical needs are covered by three solar arrays located on the campus:  a 28.2 kW roof array, a 10.8 kW building integrated window awning array, and a 32.4 kW solar berm.  The center also decreases its need for electricity by incorporating passive solar strategies including natural lighting and a tromme wall used to heat the on-site greenhouse.

CCGT manages its water usage and runoff though its extensive green roof, four 12,000 gallon cisterns, disconnected downspouts, and bioswales and wetland.  They retain over half of their rainwater onsite for watering the landscape.

Other sustainable features include the campus being heated and cooled using a ground source heat pump, use of local materials (over 40% within 300 miles), use of only non-toxic and/or low VOC products, and the use of recycled materials (over 40%).

To learn more about sustainability at Chicago Center for Green Technology, to schedule a tour, or to attend a seminar visit the CCGT website.











McDonald’s Cycle Center
August 6, 2009, 2:14 pm
Filed under: Green Projects | Tags: , , , ,

The cycle center is located in downtown Chicago’s Millennium Park and “is another step toward Mayor Daley’s goal to make Chicago the most bicycle-friendly city in the country.”

The center provides 300 secure, heated, indoor bike parking spaces, showers and lockers, bike rentals, and a repair shop.  The center is also partially powered by the photovoltaic system on the roof including 80 75-watt modules and 40 37-watt modules.  The system is rated at 7.48 kW, will generate 8,815 kilowatt-hours per year, and meet 6.5% of the center’s electrical requirements.

To learn more about the cycle center visit








Exelon Pavilions

Located in downtown Chicago, IL, the four Exelon Pavilions are an integral part of Millennium Park, with two located on the south side of the park and two on the north.  The south side pavilions, designed by Renzo Piano, provide access to the parking garage below while incorporating solar technology: twenty-four PV modules are located on the roof of the southeast pavilion and 16 PV modules are located on the roof of the southwest pavilion.  Together they generate 3,840 kilowatt hours of electricity annually.

The north pavilions, designed by Hammond Beeby Rupert Ainge Architects, are the first instance of façade-integrated photovoltaics in Chicago and together are one of the largest PV-integrated projects in the United States.  Each pavilion incorporates 460 photovoltaic modules, and together, they generate 16,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually. The northwest pavilion is a 6,100 sq ft park welcome center featuring an interactive display that educates visitor on renewable energy and the northeast pavilion provides access to the parking garage below.  The pavilions have a LEED silver rating.