UB architect’s energy-efficient façade design for Seoul hospital recognized with international design award

Rendering of renovated hospital at dusk, featuring the new BIPV panels, with a view from the street.

Jin Young Song's award-winning facade design features BIPV – Building-Integrated Photovoltaic Panels – which are built into the structure as systems of a building. In addition to their high efficiency, BIPV panels also add to the architectural appeal of buildings due to their variability in color and patterning.

Published July 19, 2023

Jin Young Song, UB associate professor of architecture, will be presented with a 2023 Design Educates Award for his façade retrofit of a major hospital in Seoul, converting a deteriorating 10-story concrete structure into a colorful model for design with building-integrated photovoltaic.

Award-winning solar design

The transformation of the GS Medical Center, a regional emergency center in Seoul, which received Design Educates Award “Selected” in the Architectural Design category, was completed by Song through his practice Dioinno Architecture PLLC with JHKA (a local architecture firm), headquartered in Buffalo and Seoul.

The project uses BIPV – Building-Integrated Photovoltaic Panels – which are built into the structure as systems of a building, making them more efficient in urban environments using the existing built environment compared to traditional rooftop or large-scale solar arrays. BIPV panels also add to the architectural appeal of buildings due to their variability in color and patterning.

“Our design not only renovates the facade of the old building, but also produces energy for the building’s operation,” says Song. “We combined gray, dark gray and satin gray BIPV panels with green aluminum support panels and LED strips to create a patterned façade for a 21st-century hospital. The façade pattern transforms itself depending in the orientation, time of day and weather, reflecting a constantly changing image of the city.”

The project also made a significant structural gesture by shifting the rounded turning the rounded corners of the concrete façade into a 90-degree edge, giving the building greater vertical legibility from the street and maximizing space for the BIPV arrangement.

Cultivating a CO2-neutral energy system

According to Song – whose research at UB advances more responsive, sustainable and place-based architecture through the contemporary façade – the hospital project demonstrates that technical and aesthetic innovation go hand in hand as solar technology increasingly makes its way into the built environment, particularly in the dense urban environment.

“Building-integrated photovoltaics are one of the most direct and efficient solutions for transforming the present energy system into a CO2-neutral energy system,” says Song, noting that buildings account for 40 percent of global CO2 emissions. “It is the designer’s role to determine how to integrate the photovoltaics technology into to the building envelope.”

The renovated facade provides 139.48kW capacity from a 1,022 square meter photovoltaic area, estimated to produce 101,330 kWh/year, cutting CO2 emissions by 43 tons per year and providing approximately 7 percent of the total energy usage in the hospital.

“Renovating (an) old building is better than reconstruction. Using renewable energy sources is another critical path to the new standard of carbon footprint,” says Song. “In this context, South Korea is radically pushing the energy-system transformation using renewable energy technology.”

Indeed, Song’s modular design for the BIPV panels won over not only the hospital administration, but also officials in the Seoul metropolitan government. “After several important presentations and reviews, not only did the clients love the transformation of the hospital for the 21st century medical environment, but Seoul’s municipal government decided to support project’s solar panel production by KOES (PV manufacturer),” as a part of Renewable Energy Program.

Enriching the urban environment

With the cost efficiency of Silicon-based technologies almost maximized, cities like Seoul are looking for added value to its densifying urban environment, according to Song.

“Projects must contribute not only in the area of promised energy production, but also by enhancing buildings and streetscapes and supporting sustainable construction methods like retrofits and renovations,” he says. “Policy makers, designers, PV manufacturers, and clients should be working together to uncover the value of renewable energy applications.

“In the unknown challenges and changing dynamics of technology and markets, only when we can see the ‘value’ of the design, will PV products be integrated into the fabric of the city, rather than just as added equipment.”

Song says the role of the designer in the project dynamic is fragile, as unstable supply chains in PV and cost pressures around standardization and construction challenges can subjugate design in the process. “Having a design intent allowed my partner and I to advocate for and complete the project.

Song presented the project recently at the Inaugural Conference of the University at Buffalo Asia Research Institute Program, titled: “From Joinery to Facade: Learning from Asia in Pursuit of a Carbon-Neutral Built Environment.”

Design Educates Awards (DEAwards) is an annual awards program recognizing projects worldwide across the categories of architectural design, product design, responsive design and universal design. The 2023 awards will be presented at the annual DEAwards ceremony in Melle, Germany in September.