South facade at Lu building "At the new Sidney Lu Mechanical Engineering Building at the northwest corner of Green and Goodwin, Urbana, the south façade has an intriguing glass — perhaps with embedded solar panels or something like that? What is the product, and what is it's purpose?"
Your answer comes from engineer Damon McFall, director of facilities and operations in Mechanical Science & Enegineering.
"The embedded solar panels are referred to as building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) panels. This approach utilized on a larger scale can help contribute to the societal goal of achieving net-positive facilities or buildings that produce more energy than they consume," said McFall. "The use of BIPV panels on the Sidney Lu Mechanical Engineering Building will serve as an educational tool for students and faculty to understand the benefits and challenges of integrating solar into the façade of a facility.
"A core imperative for the building was to be a leader in innovation. Thus, the idea to include BIPV was supported by Mechanical Science and Engineering Professor Ty Newell. The project is a first on campus and possibly the only installation of its kind nationally. The state-of-the-art panels have already provided research opportunities to designers, builders, and others.
"The goal is for students, community members, and guests to learn more about BIPV in campus, commercial, and government facilities and pursue building design and construction that meets the International Living Future Institute’s Living Building and Community Challenges (Living-Future.org). Once the facility opens this summer, tours will be offered where the public can learn more about the technology."