Why Is The Building Sector Shunning Glasses & Adopting Solar? Know The Benefits

Highlights :

  • Under the Building Integrated Photovoltaic (BPIV) technology, installation of solar panels on the building surfaces are planned mostly during the construction phase itself.
Why Is The Building Sector Shunning Glasses & Adopting Solar? Know The Benefits aerial view of circular village surrounded by diverse solar power system apartment

Several industrial high-rise buildings in the last decade have undergone a construction-related transition. Against the earlier popular and conventional practice of using concrete surfaces, many modern buildings now flaunt flashing glass shields. 

Under the BPIV Technology, solar panels are installed on the building surfaces. Credit-PonyWang/iStock


Not only did the new practice help in making those buildings more eye-catching, but it also aided in increasing the energy efficiency of these buildings. The use of glass as a building surface increased the penetration of daylight, reducing the need for artificial lighting inside office premises during the day. 

However, unscientifically planned glass-covered buildings and other design issues created other problems too. Nevertheless, the last few years also witnessed a rise of a new group of energy-efficient buildings where the buildings use solar panels as the surface envelope of such buildings. This technology is called BIPV (Building Integrated Photovoltaic). But why the Indian building sector is transitioning to the BPIV regime, and what are the pros and cons? We tried to explain. 

Glass Buildings

In India, glass buildings are popular when it comes to the aesthetics of a building in an urban area. However, it comes with a cost and leads to environmental damage, too. Glass buildings have both positive and negative impacts on the environment. It is gaining traction in the real estate sector due to its virtue of it being a light construction material. 

However, energy conservationists warn against glass buildings in India. They claim that they are not suitable for India’s tropical climate and are the biggest culprit when it comes to energy consumption. 

  • Natural light
  • Aesthetics
  • Poor heat insulator
  • Energy consumption for air conditioning

Buildings made up of glasses frequently experience ‘glare’ problems. Blinding reflections can result from sunlight reflecting off a glass surface, which is not only bothersome but also risky for cars and pedestrians. People working inside the building may experience pain and eye strain from the extreme glare, which can have a negative impact on their productivity and health. Countries like India, where sunshine can be strong and constant throughout the year, are particularly affected by the problem of glare.

Glass buildings cause many problems on the environmental front too. The building sector is considered one of the major contributors to global carbon emissions. This is because of the construction of inefficient buildings which heavily rely on non-renewable sources of energy. These buildings add hazards that can impact the climate. It is also likely to increase strain on the energy infrastructures of the country. The problems caused by glass buildings are evident, and the government is trying to solve them through adequate corrective policies. 

Government policies to promote sustainability

BPIV technology offers new hope to the industry and seems to be able to counter some of the problems created by the use of glasses in building construction. 

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has decided to invite bids for 50 GW (Gigawatt) of renewable energy capacity annually for the next five years, i.e., from Financial Year 2023-24 till Financial Year 2027-28.

Considering the fact that Renewable Energy (RE) projects take around 18-24 months for commissioning, the bid plan will add 250 GW of renewable energy and ensure 500 GW of installed capacity by 2030. The Ministry of Power is already working on upgrading and adding the transmission system capacity for evacuating 500 GW of electricity from non-fossil fuel.


                                                 Energy used for heating, cooling, and lighting

Figure 1: Percentage distribution of global carbon emission by building
This problem needs to be addressed with a sustainable solution that is reliable and cost-effective.

BIPV (Building Integrated Photovoltaic) Technology

BIPV stands for Building Integrated Photovoltaic, which are photovoltaic materials used as dual-purpose construction materials replacing conventional building materials such as roofs, skylights, or facades. BIPV systems produce clean electricity and serve as the building envelope (surface). 

They are increasingly incorporated into the construction of new buildings or retrofit projects. Unlike solar panels attached to a building, these BIPV panels replace conventional building materials. BIPV systems use PV modules as the facing material of the building, making the activation of the PV system more efficient.

BIPV can help overcome some of the drawbacks of glass buildings. By integrating solar panels into building materials, BIPV can improve energy efficiency, reduce reliance on fossil fuels, and help to mitigate the impact of climate change. Additionally, BIPV can enhance the visual appeal of buildings while providing clean energy.

  • Energy Generation
  • Cost Saving
  • Aesthetic Appeal
  • Durability
  • Noise reduction
  • Reducing urban heat island effective
  • Improved indoor environment quality
  • Initial investment and maintenance
  • Limited design options

More advantages give a green check to the BIPV technology for sustainable building construction.

Application areas of BIPV technology
  1. Roof (e.g. shingles, tiles, skylights)
  2. Façades (e.g. cladding, curtain walls, windows)
  3. Externally integrated systems (e.g. balcony railings, shading systems)

Significant Projects

Across the globe

CIS Tower, Manchester: The CIS Tower in Manchester is an iconic building that has undergone a retrofit to become one of the largest BIPV installations in Europe. The building now generates electricity from the 7,244 solar panels installed on its façade and roof.


Beddington Zero Energy Development (BedZED), London: BedZED is a sustainable housing development in London that uses BIPV technology to generate electricity for development. The building also incorporates other sustainable features, such as rainwater harvesting and a biomass boiler.


Projects in India

Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT), Gujarat: GIFT is a sustainable city development in Gujarat that uses BIPV technology in its buildings. The city has been designed to reduce its carbon footprint and be self-sufficient in terms of energy.


Net Zero Energy Building (NZEB), IIT Bombay: NZEB is a research facility at IIT Bombay that uses BIPV technology to generate electricity for the building. The building is designed to be energy-efficient and has achieved net-zero energy status, meaning it produces as much energy as it consumes.

In conclusion, The Indian construction industry is also becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of BIPV, and more and more buildings are being designed and constructed with BIPV systems.

India’s commitment to sustainability and renewable energy is evident from its policies and initiatives aimed at promoting renewable energy adoption.

It is important to note that the successful adoption of BIPV technology in India requires collaboration between various stakeholders, including policymakers, building owners, architects, and manufacturers. This collaboration can help overcome the challenges associated with BIPV technology adoption, such as high initial costs and lack of awareness.

In conclusion, BIPV technology can play a crucial role in India’s sustainable development journey, and its adoption can lead to a cleaner, greener, and more sustainable future for the country.

(This piece is written by Neha Inayatullah)

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