Tata Steel engages in green project with Welsh govt, research institute

Vidya Ram London | Updated on April 01, 2011 Published on April 01, 2011

The bright green blocks that cover part of a large hanger-like building on Tata Steel's Shotton site in Wales certainly make the building stand out, even on the vast acreage.

However, the panels, as we soon learnt, aren't simply there to catch the eye but are at the heart of a new project the firm is embarking on, in partnership with the Welsh Assembly Government, and the UK's Low Carbon Research Institute.

The building, the Sustainable Building Envelope Centre (SBEC), which was unveiled on Thursday, will be used to develop and demonstrate low-carbon, low-energy construction technologies, which will turn buildings and their walls, roofs and floors into structures capable of capturing, storing and transmitting energy.

“We can change buildings from passive energy consumers to energy generators,” says Mr Uday Chaturvedi, CTO of Tata Steel Europe, at the launch event.

The green steel blocks, transpired solar collectors dotted with micro perforations, absorb the sun's radiant energy, heating a layer of air, which is then drawn in to heat the building. The firm estimates that this technology alone can capture around half the energy falling on its surface, delivering around 250 KWH/meter square a year. However, many other technologies will be tested over the life of the project, into which Tata Steel has committed around £6.5 million. In one meeting room, for example, they are testing a paraffin wax material in the ceiling that stores and releases energy as it changes between solid and liquid states, while another room tests the floor as a radiator, using water at temperatures well below regular radiator systems.

“We want to provide complete solutions,” says Mr Daniel Pillai, Director and General Manager of SBEC. “Some of it is new technology, some of it is old technology. We want to give our clients entire systems that are tried and tested for proof of performance for a building as a whole.”

While much of the work is currently focused on technology suitable for climates similar to Wales, some of the technology will, with some adaptations, be suitable for warmer climates, says Mr Pillai.

The work is interlinked with the other sustainability projects that Tata Steel is involved in the area, including the affordable coatings project SPECIFIC being unveiled later this year.

Earlier this year, Business Line spoke to Mr Kevin Bygate, the director of SPECIFIC, based at Baglan in South Wales, who is developing coatings for steel and glass capable of generating and storing energy. “The aim is to produce this on a very large-scale and very low cost,” he said at the time. The work at SPECIFIC will be fed into the SBEC project.

Affordability will also be a key part of the SBEC project. The building envelopes will have a pay-back period of between three to six years, depending on the type of building and its location, says Tata Steel, ensuring its wide-scale applicability. “We are talking about micro-generation on a macro level,” says Mr Pillai.

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Published on April 01, 2011
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