Why Solar PV Shouldn’t be Pidgeon Holed into M&E Packages

The inclusion of renewable energy solutions in building specifications and designs has been on the rise in recent years, largely driven by sustainable construction targets and the zero-carbon agenda. Solar PV is a highly energy efficient option for powering modern buildings, but the design and installation of these systems is not without challenge. There are common complexities in solar PV integration to commercial properties that can be alleviated by managing these specialist systems outside of traditional M&E packages.

Challenges to design

As a result of increased focuses on renewable energy solutions for new and existing commercial buildings, there is likely to be more demand for solar PV – requiring the construction industry to tighten its approach to the inclusion of solar PV systems in the design and build process.

The electrical nature of solar PV means it is frequently categorised in the commercial electrical package, leading to it being attached to general M&E packages. Though solar PV is naturally aligned with M&E and requires integration with M&E programmes, there are common challenges that arise when it is compartmentalised in this area.

  • Potential for specialist design guidance is limited – the energy efficiency performance of a system can be hindered through ineffective design or conversely, systems can be overengineered adding unnecessary cost.
  • Valuable interfacing of trades can be stifled – where flat roof designs incorporate a range of systems such as solar, HVAC and sky lighting, communication is key. If solar PV partners are not involved in working with other trades from the outset, designs can be more challenging.

Obstacles to installation

It is important to follow through careful consideration of solar PV from the design stages through to installation to ensure the system is not compromised and achieves the specified performance. Frequent challenges when communications and consideration for solar PV partners have fallen short include:

  • Changes to designs – there are instances where installers arrive on site to find a roof design has changed and the solar PV system has to be redesigned to avoid obstructions, inflating cost and adding time to already tight build schedules.
  • Access and safety issues – if interfacing trades are not properly sequenced, solar PV installers can miss the period where scaffolding is still in place for roof access, again adding time and cost to projects. 

Exploring more effective ways of working

By considering the wider picture, challenge areas can be identified and addressed before they arise. There is substantial value in managing solar PV outside of traditional M&E packages and involving a specialist partner throughout the construction programme. Solar PV can often be both one of the first and last elements addressed during a build schedule – acting as a consultant, solar PV partners can assist with initial design expertise, coordinate installation and commission the solar PV system when the building is fully operational.

With the commercial solar PV market set to expand, working with solar PV specialists like Square 4 Services to streamline solar PV projects can champion best practice, improve quality and help to control budgets. To find out more about our offering, email enquires@square4services.co.uk.