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NSERC Solar Buildings Research Network (2005-2010)


Solar Buildings Research NetworkBuildings account for about 30 percent of Canada’s energy consumption, about 53 percent of its electricity consumption and roughly 28 percent of its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These energy flows and GHG emissions, which are associated with the heating, cooling and lighting of buildings, have the potential to be substantially reduced if the incident solar energy on the façades or roofs of buildings is utilized.

The solar energy incident on the envelope of a typical building far exceeds its energy consumption. There is, therefore, the potential for a building to achieve, on average, zero energy consumption if the utilization of solar energy for daylighting and to produce electricity and useful heat is optimized.

The vision of the Solar Buildings Research Network (SBRN) is the development of the solar-optimized building as an integrated advanced technological system that approaches zero average annual energy consumption while being cost-effective and comfortable.

Solar HomeEcoTerra Home, located in Eastman, Quebec – Prefabricated demonstration solar house constructed by Alouette Homes, with energy systems design by the Solar Buildings Research Network. The home includes passive solar design and optimized thermal storage, an innovative building-integrated photovoltaic-thermal system and a geothermal heat pump.

Network Structure

The Solar Buildings Research Network is currently the major Canadian research effort focused on solar energy and buildings. It brings together 26 Canadian researchers from 11 universities to develop the solar-optimized homes and commercial buildings of the future. The Network also includes researchers and experts from Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), the Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation (CMHC) and Hydro-Québec. Industrial partners from the energy and construction sectors are involved in most projects, developing the know-how that will help them compete in the global market.

The budget of the Network between 2005 and 2010 is about $7 million, with about $5.1 million from NSERC; $1.6 million from NRCan; $250,000 from CMHC; $75,000 from Hydro-Québec; and over $1.5 million in-kind support from more than 20 industrial partners.

Research Objectives

  • The development of effective methods for integrating solar collection, storage and utilization systems into the building envelope. New concepts and designs that optimize solar energy utilization in combination with lighting and heating/cooling systems will be developed.
  • The development and improvement of solar energy utilization technologies to reduce costs and raise the overall energy efficiency. Component level research aimed at supporting the first objective and improving solar-energy collection and conversion to electricity and/or heat, as well as enhancing daylight utilization, will be performed.
  • The development of cost-effective, innovative and efficient solar-based power generation systems for buildings.
  • The development of simulation design tools and methodologies to be used throughout the solar building design process, especially at the high-impact early stages.
  • The development of simulation tools to assist in policy planning.

The research is organized into the following four themes:

  1. Integration of solar energy systems into buildings;
  2. Solar thermal systems for heating and cooling;
  3. Solar electricity generation in buildings; and
  4. Simulation tools for solar building design.


  • The innovative integration of solar energy systems with the building envelope and with heating, cooling, ventilation and energy storage systems will contribute to gradually transforming the way we conceive, design and operate buildings, to achieve close to net-zero energy consumption. The resulting GHG emission reductions will be another benefit.
  • The SBRN has developed innovative building-integrated photovoltaic-thermal systems, improved solar-thermal systems and efficient power generation systems for solar buildings.
  • Design tools, operating strategies and control algorithms are being developed to enable the efficient design and operation of solar-optimized buildings. These tools and operating strategies take a holistic view of buildings, emphasizing the optimal combination of energy efficiency and solar energy utilization, solar heating of fresh air and abundant daylight. They contribute to enhancing our indoor environment.
  • The Network is committed to training over 100 graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and undergraduate research assistants, who will contribute to making its vision a reality.


Andreas K. Athienitis
Tel.: 514-848-2424, ext. 8791
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Contact us at 1-877-767-1767