Solar energy: a case for its applications in tropical domestic architecture
Olawo, Gideon G
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Solar energy: a case for its applications in the tropical domestic architecture research project has sought to explore how solar energy, which is considered renewable has been used in residential buildings. Their direct and main source of energy is the sun. However, indirect energy from the sun commonly reaches the residential buildings through the hydroelectric power transmitted through the national grid supply. Otherwise, they are (residential buildings) incomplete without supply of energy to them. This research project sought to emphasize the use of direct solar energy through the use of photovoltaic panels in the background of tropics. The sun's energy can be harnessed and transformed into a user-friendly energy that can be applied in any of the building function through the use of photovoltaic panels. However, the amount of energy required will depend on the nature of function and activities at hand, such as lighting, ventilation, water and space heating, cooking, security, entertainment amongst others. The report explores how solar light is used beyond daylighting in the built environment as a source of renewable energy. The study illustrates how solar is transformed into electrical and how the energy is used within the building. Over the years, solar energy has been harnessed for use through solar hot water systems and photovoltaic panels, commonly known as solar panels. This phenomenon requires an annual minimum of 1800 hours and daily minimum four hours of sunlight. This study is based in the tropical climate where these conditions are easy to achieve. The study attempts to ensure that as architects living within the tropics we are able to tap and incorporate what is naturally available to us into the design of the buildings. The research draws inspiration from architect Charles Correa's maxim of" ... to live in the tropics is to design with climate". Case studies used in this report include several domestic units where solar light has been transformed into solar energy. They have been used to illustrate actual situation on the ground and emphasize the efficacy of solar energy in architecture. The case studies illustrate how solar renewable energy has been applied in no less degree as the conventional energy. It is noticeable from the literature review that applications of photovoltaic panels are widely found in developed countries as opposed to Kenya and other less developed countries. The case studies reveal that applications of solar energy are limited to hot water heating, electrical lighting and powering of electrical appliances hence the need for professionals in the building industry to sensitize home owners on the many potential applications that solar photovoltaic panels could provide.