A large portion of the potential for energy efficiency in existing buildings and the potential to utilize solar energy still remains unused. Globally, goals and specific targets are set up to reduce our environmental impact on climate and to secure future supply of energy. A combination of making buildings more energy-efficient – through refurbishment interventions and new developments – and increasing the use of renewable energy sources (RES) is therefore a key issue to reduce fossil energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, towards a low carbon energy transition. An increased use of solar energy is one of the important development paths, where the urban fabric needs to utilize passive solar gains and daylight to reduce the energy use in buildings, as well as to improve the inhabitants’ comfort in indoor and outdoor areas. In addition, active solar energy systems integrated in the urban context contribute to the production of renewable energy as heat and electricity. All these strategies help cities and citizens in reaching sustainable developments.
Solar neighborhoods are increasingly important to achieve net zero energy districts and low carbon cities. The planning of neighborhoods that address the generation of renewable energy on site will enable solar thermal technologies and photovoltaics to be implemented or prepared for, as well as creating daylight and sunlight access to achieve healthier urban environments. Solar neighborhoods also create environments which are energy (resource) self-sufficient and resilient to energy price fluctuations or reliance on energy imports – helping future-proof towns and cities.
In this Task, a neighborhood is defined as a group of buildings, a district/precinct. It is a spatially defined, specific geographic area, often including different types of buildings and functions, open space and infrastructure.
A neighborhood can be part of a larger city or a smaller village. It can be part of an urban area, a rural development, or represent an isolated community. Further, it can be connected to a district heating/cooling network or outside such, giving very different boundary condition challenges.
The scope of the Task includes solar energy issues related to
- New neighborhood development
- Existing neighborhood renovation and development
Solar energy aspects include active solar systems (solar thermal and photovoltaics) and passive strategies. Passive solar strategies include passive solar heating and cooling, daylighting, and thermal/visual comfort in indoor and outdoor environments.
Making smart use of building surfaces as well as of open public areas/surfaces within neighborhoods is an important challenge, which may rise conflicts between competing uses of solar energy (e.g. daylight versus energy production) but also conflicts in using other solutions such as green façades/roofs. In addition, synergies are important to identify, for instance, different building functions within the neighborhood with different energy load profiles. Although the focus of the Task will be on solar energy aspects, these need to be dealt with in relation to other competing or synergetic goals. The role of solar issues related to energy, environment, economy and inhabitants’ comfort and health is in focus.
Neighborhoods within district heating networks as well as outside will be considered. The deployment of district networks is becoming more frequent. A district heating network, supplying space heating and domestic hot water, gives rise to different barriers and energy strategies than in neighborhoods outside such networks. Therefore, concepts and strategies will be different and interesting to study.
Since renewable energy production often causes an uneven production over time, storages have become more important. Therefore, thermal and electrical storages as part of the energy system and of the concepts for solar neighborhoods will be considered in this Task. Task 63 will explore different energy and environmental concepts for neighborhoods.
The results from SHC Task 51 underlined the need of further work on a neighborhood scale, especially looking at solar planning strategies and concepts, economic strategies and stakeholder engagement. In addition, solar planning tools and their coupling in an efficient workflow (i.e. co-simulation approach) are becoming more and more important due to an increasing need of decision support tools in the early planning phases. Solar planning tools would be mainly implied for assessing active solar potential, daylighting, thermal and visual comfort, as well as other architectural issues.
The main objective of Task 63 is to support developers, property owners/associations, architects, urban planners, municipalities, institutions, and other key players to achieve solar neighborhoods that support long-term solar access for energy production and for daylighting buildings and outdoor environments – resulting in sustainable and healthy environments.
The types of support being developed in this Task include strategies for the design of new and existing communities with focus on solar energy, comprising methods to secure sunlight access (right to light). Furthermore, the Task aims to focus on economic strategies and business models for better use of passive and active solar energy. Apart from economic values, added values or co-benefits of solar energy are considered. Another objective is to study the workflow of tools needed to support decisions in all planning stages (tool chain). Finally, case studies in each participating country will be a central part to bind close ties to practice and implementation.
To achieve these objectives, work is needed on four main topics:
- Solar planning strategies and concepts for achieving net zero energy/emission neighborhoods.
- Economic strategies, including added values and stakeholder engagement.
- Solar planning tools for new and existing neighborhoods.
- Case studies and stories, to test Task developments in dialogue with key players, implement and disseminate.
Task 63 will require a dialogue and cooperation with key players in neighborhood planning in each participating country. These include developers, real estate owners, architects, consultants, urban planners, municipalities, and other institutions. This cooperation gives the possibility to identify barriers, and test strategies, methods and tools to get feedback on development needs. In addition, case studies and lessons learnt will be documented to show inspiring examples of solar neighborhoods. Local collaborations within municipalities are an important part that complements the international cooperation within the Task and links Task experts with the practice and implementation in each country.
The main objectives of the Task are subdivided into four key areas and involve:
A: Solar planning strategies and concepts
- Review existing concepts and targets that underlie neighborhood design, both new and existing.
- Develop (criteria for) the design of representative archetypes/prototypes in existing and new neighborhoods (e.g. spatial design and building design - types of buildings, mixes of buildings, density, open space -, passive solar design potential, various active solar strategies and technologies, synergies and conflicts with other potential usages – in connection with Subtask B).
- Develop and test planning strategies and concepts for increased solar energy capture and utilization in neighborhoods, in view of achieving net zero energy (NZE), net zero carbon (NZC) status or other goals in the era of low-carbon energy transition.
- Recommend strategies and concepts for conceptual design of new and existing neighborhoods.
- Give a common definition/concept of urban surface usages relating to functions (e.g. energy production, microclimate regulation, permeability of surface, etc.) and materials (e.g. solar thermal panels, PV panels, green areas/facades/roofs, water, cool/reflective materials, etc.).
B: Economic strategies and stakeholder engagement
- Identify and describe conflicts and synergies of the different and potential usages of urban surfaces, with specific relevance to solar energy harvest.
- Identify financial mechanisms and suggest ways to finance the transition, moving from energy market to added value services.
- Develop a method to propose and assess alternative scenarios for urban surface usages.
- Identify the potential co-benefits related to the hybrid or/and integrated usage of urban surface, apart from the solar energy production.
- Analyse the potential integration of the Task outputs for the New Urban Agenda implementation.
- Recommend suitable activities for stakeholder engagement/nudging strategies, and integrate the lessons learnt in the urban planning practice.
C: Solar planning tools
- Identify the current solar planning tool workflows and related tools used by key actors for planning solar neighborhoods. This could include tools from all platforms (GIS, CAD, or BIM). Analyse the strengths, weaknesses and development needs.
- Identify relevant common indicators synthetizing solar energy and daylight performance of neighborhoods, to be used in a summary dashboard for easy comparison.
- Develop a roadmap for improved workflows and solar planning tools needed in all planning stages (tool chain).
D: Case studies
- Coordinate and collect case studies across subtask topics.
- Serve as a platform for exchange of experiences from practice, including testing strategies and tools and interview stakeholders.
- Describe and disseminate case studies and stories of new and existing solar neighborhoods.