By Cameron Chai
Dow Corning, a global silicone and silicon-based technology company, has completed a new, advanced research and development center in Seneffe, Belgium. A Silicone Synthesis Technology Center and a Solar Application Center form part of the new Solar Energy Exploration and Development (SEED) research center.
Solar Energy Exploration and Development research center
The company has invested €9 million for advancing research in solar cell efficiency and new silicon-based materials. Locating the facility in Belgium has given the company access to skilled scientific workforce in Europe.
The SEED research center demonstrates the immense possibilities of implementing energy-efficient architecture. Novel Dow Corning technologies were utilized in the design of the green building for optimizing energy efficiency. Utilization of clean energy sources and sustainability were a critical consideration in designing and building the SEED center.
For heating and cooling purposes, the SEED research center utilizes geothermal energy in combination with a heat pump. New vacuum insulation panels manufactured by Dow Corning provide high insulation. These help save space as they are five times thinner than other insulation products. These panels have been used for covering the complete construction of the facility.
The company’s structural glazed facade technology allows the large windows of the SEED research center to retain the insulation efficiency, while allowing more natural daylight into the facility. The center also features building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV), which are mounted before the front of the windows. These act as sunscreens and reduce the cooling required for the office areas. BIPVs also function as power generators.
The environmental footprint of the SEED facility has been significantly reduced by the utilization of various technologies. When compared to a normal construction, the electricity and heating costs are expected to be lower by 70% and 75%, respectively. The SEED facility features an air-recycling system that will help the lab gain 65% in energy when compared to other conventionally designed laboratories. The energy gained is equivalent to CO2 savings of 290 t annually.
The SEED facility is expected to commence operations before July 2012.