Case 2: Photovoltaic planter, Barcelona


Case parameters:

Type of construction: Renovation
Typology: Office and showroom
Owner: private company
Construction systems: based on steel frame
Location: Barcelona, Spain

The challenge we faced

In the Spanish case, the main driver has been the opaque boundary walls that are ever-present in the landscape of the dense urban cores of the cities. There are programs by local administrations to take advantage of their potential to increase the quality of the urban environment. With the climate crisis, these interventions are even more justified, given that they improve the energy independence of the area, as well as decrease the heat island effect. During our development of solutions for this kind of intervention, we have faced multiple challenges, that caused that multiple pilot projects were identified, analysed and eventually discarded.

Each of them thought the team a lesson, that in overall lead to the idea of developing the photovoltaic planter as a product. The main challenges identified are the complex urban development regulations and laws, the decision-making process between multiple property owners, difficult accessibility of the boundary walls, which in combination with the high maintenance needs of photovoltaic and green facades caused high installation and maintenance costs, and the lower energy production of the photovoltaic panels on the façade compared to roof and related business models.

What we did

The photovoltaic planter idea is a response to these challenges, providing a simple way to introduce vegetation to the façade, by giving a base to climbing plants that can efficiently cover the façade area. The planter provides an inclination to the photovoltaic panel closer to the optimal one, compared to vertical placement. Also, the planter is designed as an industrialized, modular product, with the aim to decrease the overall cost. And finally, it can be implemented also for individual use, at a terrace or a balcony of the user.

Finally, we are implementing the photovoltaic planters in 2 pilot cases. One is in the office and event space Eco Hub, where our production partner Verdtical installed the photovoltaic planters to the south wall of the building. The façade will include a poster explaining the functions of the planter, its possible applications and the concepts of the Drive 0 project. This implementation will serve to the exploitation and dissemination of the project, possibly finding potential clients for this product to be replicated in residential projects and on boundary walls.

The other implementation project is located on the roof of an office building, and demonstrates the capacity of the planter to be used instead of a railing as well. The maintenance of the PV installation and the vegetation is easier in this case, thanks to the accessibility of such installation. The system was especially designed to resolve the structural integrity of the installation without the need to penetrate the waterproofing layer of the roof.   


Find schemes and renders here.

The results we met

Case-specific outcomes:

  • Integration of local renewable energy production for individual users
  • Introduction of vegetation to the façade or urban landscape both to improve the energy efficiency of buildings and the urban environment in terms of heat island and aesthetics
  • Implementation of factory mining (as a variation of urban mining) for ceramic tiles implemented in the non-photovoltaic planter option
  • Reduction of the embodied energy (in % compared to current deep renovation) triggered by the project; focused on materials with high durability, reusable and recyclable
  • Detailed LCA and LCC control of the applied materials and technologies; life cycle cost in Euro/sqm
  • Raising the awareness of the public by showing off the result of the renovation process with the minimized impact, visual impact by applying green elements and energy production elements to the medianera façade + workshops and conferences
  • Quantified environmental impact
  • Installation time reduction in % compared to traditional construction process

Case-specific indicators:

  • Development of a multi-application product, allowing for industrialization
  • Cost-effective solution to implement vegetation to boundary walls
  • Implementation of circular economy strategies- factory mining
  • Possibility for individual users to produce renewable energy