At the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, a prototype of a smart and sustainable home is being developed, which will have a concrete roof that absorbs solar energy and turns it into electricity.

Flexible, light and eco-sustainable. This is how the houses of the future will be, or at least that should be the direction to go. This is why the research is carried out at ETH Zurich, Switzerland’s most prestigious university institute of technology and one of the most important research centers in the world. It is here that they have been studying materials and construction systems for several years to fit out buildings with a view to lower environmental impact and greater energy efficiency. The house of the future, developed by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, is called HiLo and will be tested next year at the NEST laboratories in Dübendorf. The final piece of the prototype is a concrete roof that absorbs solar energy and turns it into electricity.

Multilayer concrete roof that absorbs solar energy.

The concrete roof prototype is an ultra-thin, self-supporting, curved structure. How can a concrete roof generate energy? Thanks to a double layer: the first houses an insulation system and heating and cooling units, while the second, the exterior, was installed with thin-film photovoltaic cells.

The result should be a house that produces a lot more energy than it consumes. Sin embargo, hablar de sostenibilidad en los edificios no se trata sólo de desarrollar soluciones que utilicen energías renovables para la producción de energía, sino también de sistemas flexibles y ligeros, para que podamos reducir todos los costes, incluidos los costes de transporte the work.

The prototype sun-absorbing concrete roof, built in six months in the ETH robotic laboratory and already dismantled for future experiments, was 7.5 m high and had a total area of ​​160 m². Concrete has an average thickness of 5 cm, which is reduced to 3 cm at the edges of the ceiling, while on the supporting surfaces it reaches 12 cm.

Cement that absorbs solar energy.

To obtain this particular shape, it would have been necessary, according to the usual practice, to use a wooden structure or a non-reusable fresh and foamed wood, while the researchers chose to install a network of steel cables that stretched over a structure. reusable shelf. This network of cables is used to support a polymer fabric which also serves as a fastener for concrete.

Reduction in the amount of building materials.

This new method has saved a lot of money in building materials and resulted in a much more flexible solution that can be adapted to different types of design. And not only: by leaving the area under the roof completely free, you also have the possibility of carrying out work inside the rooms.

The network has been designed to take the desired shape under the weight of concrete, thanks to a calculation method developed by the team of Professor Blocks Research in collaboration with experts in Digital Manufacturing from the Swiss National Center of Competence (NCCR). The algorithms ensure that the forces are properly distributed among the individual SWRs and that the cover can be of the desired design. The electrical network weighs only 500 kg and the fabric 300 kg, for a total of only 800 kg of material.

Not just theory …

It has been shown that it is possible to build a thin and complex concrete structure with light and flexible formwork – explained Block – which avoids unnecessary waste of material. Having worked with industry partners, we are confident that our method will work to achieve what will be our prototype sustainable housing.

Here is the video presentation of the prototype of an ultralight concrete roof that absorbs solar energy:


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