Try to imagine the perfect wall system — it would be durable, super-efficient, thin and simple to install. Researchers at HTWK Leipzig, a German university of allied sciences, are currently working on such a system that promises to revolutionize building efficency by combining the best of all building components into a single, lightweight panel. The panel is composed of a concrete face, vacuum insulation core and phase change interior. The system is designed to be simple to install, fully customizable, and paired with the proper structure, architects will more easily be able to design carbon negative buildings– the holy grail of green design.
The panel’s design is a systematic approach to creating walls system that are made from many components separately fastened together. Since a wall must do several things at once — often in conflict with each other — the panel’s focus on energy efficiency is notable. Inserted at the core are vacuum insulated panels that are a mere 3 centimeters thick providing an astounding R-35; doubling up the panels increases the R-value to 70. But the researchers did not stop there. By adding an interior sheet of phase change material, or PCM, to store heat and regulate the indoor temperatures the walls adapt to varying conditions.
Durability comes from a thin, customizable sheet of concrete panel on the exterior, and a glass reinforced plastic panel inside. The total wall is 11 cm thick or 1/5 of typical built up walls with the same performance but much lighter, meaning smaller sized structural framing will be needed. The researchers are now looking at developing a fastening system that will make installation simple and reduce air infiltration and thermal bridging.
Using the system in a Passivhaus project with a timber structure would make the building close to carbon positive due to the low-embodied energy in transportation for the lightweight panels and the sequestered carbon in the wood. The developers are looking to build a new pilot building project with the panels, but the retrofit market looks just as promising.