The adoption of building integrated solar PV (BIPV) has been hindered by the complexity of fire safety standards, which has created challenges for manufacturers and suppliers. However, activities such as the IEA’s PVPS Task 15 report and collaborative research have shed light on the importance of comprehensive guidelines, reliable testing laboratories and international cooperation.
Versatile fire safety standards
One of the key obstacles in the BIPV industry is the wide range of fire safety standards that exist in different countries and regions. On the other hand, BIPV installations must comply with specific fire safety regulations, which vary greatly depending on the location and the local building tradition, which has often developed there over centuries. On the other hand, there are certain classification requirements that apply worldwide. This creates a complex landscape where it is vital for manufacturers and suppliers of BIPV products to understand and comply with the numerous standards in different markets and recognize that the fire safety testing of conventional PV products is already lacking in BAPV applications and applications. certainly not enough for BIPV products.
Movement in testing laboratories
To ensure compliance with building fire safety standards, BIPV products must be rigorously tested. Testing laboratories located in different countries play a key role in assessing compliance with regional standards. However, identifying suitable testing laboratories for suppliers of BIPV products can be a daunting task. The global nature of their operations further exacerbates this challenge, as they manufacture products in one country and install them in several other countries. Streamlining the process of locating accredited testing laboratories could help ease this burden.
IEA’s PVPS Task 15 report includes an international survey of testing laboratories
Mission 15 recently published a report: “BIPV Fire Safety: International Survey of Accredited and R&D Institutions in the Context of Codes and Standards, 2023”. The report provides a concise overview of the standards currently in use around the world, as well as a description of fire safety regulations in several important markets. It also presents more than forty testing laboratories around the world where the fire safety of construction products and materials is tested. These laboratories have been confirmed to have a common interest in evaluating BIPV products and systems, although not all of them may have experience with it so far.
The report is a valuable resource for BIPV suppliers, architects and project managers, providing guidance on meeting fire safety standards and identifying reliable testing laboratories. However, it is important to note that while the report does map testing labs, many of them focus on products and materials, and less often assess the additional risks that arise from combining products with larger structures within buildings.
Complexity of BIPV fire safety
The core issue is the complexity of BIPV fire safety, which requires industry guidelines from the construction authorities. To solve this problem, cooperation between building control bodies, building inspectors, fire engineers, facade engineers, fire rescue commissions and testing laboratories is essential. By bringing these stakeholders together, comprehensive guidelines can be developed to address the complexities of BIPV fire safety.
Recommendations for test configurations
The paper “Fire Safety Regulations for Building-integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV): A cross country-vertail”(1), co-authored by the experts of Task 15, offers valuable insights into the multifaceted nature of fire safety requirements and emphasizes the need to meet both electrical and building-related aspects. It includes specific recommendations for test setups to test BIPV components or to assess the hazard of the system if the system remains operational in the event of a fire. Also, further research should be done on the effects of toxic smoke from BIPV modules based on tests or a comparison based on the composition of existing building components.
Participation in the future of BIPV
The integration of photovoltaic technology into building facades and roofs must not jeopardize the safety of building products, residents and firefighters. Prioritizing comprehensive fire safety guidelines, promoting collaboration between industry stakeholders and adhering to international standards will ensure that the BIPV market can flourish while ensuring the utmost safety in the built environment. As a valuable side effect, traditional (BA)PV installations also enjoy higher fire safety, as many of the same fire safety challenges apply to both BIPV and BAPV.
The third phase of Task 15, which extends international cooperation on BIPV topics by four years, is currently in the planning phase. Conducting pre-normative collaborative research within the scope of task 15 can be one way to influence BIPV standardization, as cooperation with official standardization bodies is well established. If you are a potential participant in Phase 3 of Task 15, please contact the task co-leaders. Phase 3 deals with the topics “BIPV challenges and opportunities in a carbon-free and circular economy”, “BIPV in a digital environment”, “BIPV products, projects and demos: innovations and long-term behavior”, “BIPV training”. , dissemination and stakeholder collaboration”, “Characterization and performance of BIPV: a prenormative international study” and “BIPV’s operation dedicated to fire safety.”
Author: Bettina Sauer
Contact persons: Veronika Shabunko, Veronika.Shabunko@envelon.com
Reidar Stølen, firstname.lastname@example.org
This article is part of the IEA’s PVPS program monthly column. It contributed IEA PVPS Task 15 – Enabling the framework for the development of BIPV.