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VBA funds solar panel fire risk research

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The Victorian Building Authority (VBA) is supporting research by RMIT University into fire safety and solar panels installed on multi-storey building facades to harvest energy without extensive roof space.

Known as Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV), the solar panels attach to vertical structures and help achieve net-zero emission energy buildings. The research aims to help BIPV performance in fire conditions and identify fire performance and testing requirements for acceptable levels of safety for use in building facades.

That will lead to proposed test standards and compliance guidelines under the National Construction Code.

VBA Chief Operations Officer Jocelyn Crawford says fire safety is of vital concern in the use of BIPV and it is essential that its use on building facades and roofs to replace conventional building materials does not adversely affect the safety of occupants and firefighters, or the structural performance of buildings.

“The research to be undertaken at RMIT stood out among a variety of strong proposals,” she said.

The study is funded through the state building regulator’s research grant program, and further successful recipients will be announced in coming weeks. A project led by Deakin University into passive safety elements including fire isolated stairways, fire-rated walls and appropriate exit widths was the first recipient.

The VBA’s research program helps the authority better understand emerging regulatory issues and consumer needs, and how regulations can be shaped to improve public safety.