Static is not a word that describes the Sino-Italian Ecological and Energy-Efficient Building (SIEEB) at Tsinghua University in Beijing. Designed to maximize passive solar capabilities and fitted with state-of-the-art active solar elements, the SIEEB is a dynamic energy-efficient oasis that optimizes its urban location with ecological considerations. Architect Mario Cucinella and the Milan Polytechnic conceptualized the structure to educate and showcase possibilities for energy-efficient building, particularly in regard to CO2 emissions.
The project is a collaboration between the Ministry for Environment and Territory of the Republic of Italy and the Ministry of Science and Technology of the People’s Republic of China. The SIEEB takes on a symmetric layout that opens towards the south with stepped exposures and a central courtyard. Integrated photovoltaic arrays shade terraces while capturing solar energy. Double glass façades with horizontal sunshades create the building’s exposed exterior on the east and west. Pivoting glass louvers with reflective coating cover the exterior walls of the courtyard to regulate daylight and solar gain. The northern exposure is heavily insulated and mostly opaque to shield against cold winter winds.
Over 1000 square meters of photovoltaic panels supply primary energy needs. With a focus on minimum CO2 emissions, the architects opted for gas engines with electric generators for supplemental energy. Recaptured heat is used for hot water, winter heating and combined with absorption chillers for cooling in summer. Conditioned air is dispersed via displacement ventilation and a radiant ceiling system enhances thermal comfort. Room temperatures and lighting are sensor-controlled to minimize energy use when rooms are vacant.
The SIEEB houses the Sino-Italian Cooperation Program for Environmental Protection, a collaborative for education, training and research with a focus on energy conservation and emissions reduction. The structure and the program both stand as an example for future energy strategies – a welcome trend in the coal dependent nation.