Will Tesla solar roof tiles be an industry game changer?

Elon Musk in a quest to make solar as attractive as electric vehicles may have leap-frogged many solar building innovations and prototypes in revealing a range of solar tiles (to be in mass production soon) at a show case event at Universal Studios yesterday.

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It is not often, or at all, that building products are launched with the degree of secrecy and flair that is the domain of new cars or smart phones. But that’s what Tesla did yesterday, revealing new solar tiles and power packs on a completed detached home, to invited guests. The event was reportedly powered by the energy from the display home, and then as the sun sank, powered by the battery Powerpack energy stored from the roof tiles.

Being able to generate more energy than required, and store that energy within the building for when it is not being generated, is key to sustainable buildings.  Such breakthroughs will enable both new build and refurbished buildings to move closer to the Living Building Challenge Energy petal imperative. Generating 105% of a building’s energy from the sun. And with roof tiles rather than panels, start to address the challenges Beauty petal, removing the all-too-often unsightly post construction solar panels

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The tiles price point is still be announced, yet whilst reported to be more expensive than standard tiles, they will be cheaper than the cost of tiles and equivalent cost of energy  over the life of the tiles or building. And far cheaper than the cost of post-roof or post-construction solar panels.  The tiles will also have a longer life time than more traditional US roof tiles. (US domestic buildings have a roof replacement cycle of 20 years or so)

References:

BBC: Tesla shows off solar roof tiles

Tesla: Sustainably Power your Home or Business

Mashable: Elon Musk tied together some of the disparate threads of his company’s various grand ambitions in a product launch event here at Universal Studios Friday night.

iSite Related: at last … low cost solar power that works in the (Welsh) rain…

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We have no business applying the word sustainable to business activity until …

Much has been written and discussed around the use of the word ‘sustainability’ and indeed, within the built environment has become over an used term, we are seemingly littered with sustainable construction, design and fm, with sustainable products, techniques and technologies. It is as though the pre-fix ‘sustainable’ has become to mean little more than the way we now do things. Business as usual?

And yet in a world of transparency we increasingly run the risk of greenwash if we claim ‘sustainability status’ (or indeed ‘zero carbon’) for our activities and are really called to account.

I was reminded of this debate on reading the excellent The Responsible Business by Yvon Chouinard and Vincent Stanley

“A word about a word we have chosen to use as little as possible: Sustainability.  Its a legitimate term that calls us not to take more from nature than we can give back. But we do take more than we give, we do harm nature more than we help it.

We have no business applying the the word sustainable to business activity until we learn to house, feed, clothe and entertain ourselves – and fuel the effort – without interfering with natures capacity to regenerate itself and support a rich variety of life.

We are a long long way from doing business … and no human economic activity is yet sustainable”

What do you think? Let us know if you think the word sustainability has become over used and hence lost its meaning

Related Links:

Construction CSR Makeover: can construction learn from Patagonia?

Constructing CSR iTransparency

… on what makes a building green