You'd expect, or at least hope, that members of the solar industry walk the walk when it comes to designing environmentally friendly offices and factories of their own. And though we don't know much about Sputnik Engineering's office and production building at Biel, Switzerland, its designer, Burckhardt+Partner, claims the building's electricity is provided entirely by renewable energy.
It's not remotely surprising to learn that Sputnik Engineering, which trades under the brand name SolarMax and which is in the business of making photovoltaic inverters (which convert the DC current produced by PV cells to AC required for certain uses, such as being fed into the grid), should turn to solar power for its new building. A rooftop solar array accounts for a "significant proportion" of the electrical demand, according to Burckhardt+Partner.
If the claim is accurate, it's an impressive achievement. It's one thing to build a house with all-renewable electric supplies. Offices and factories are much more intensive energy consumers, due to the equipment and machinery packed densely into the floor area – in this case, all 11,800 sq m (127,000 sq ft) of it .
An all-renewable approach tends to mean stringent control of energy use at the best of times, and it appears that efforts have been made to keep consumption down. The factory floor is bathed in daylight from the rows of skylights overhead, which will greatly reduce the need for electric lighting.
A word or two must be put aside for the aesthetics of the design. Thanks to the wood-panel facades the building would pass for a contemporary office complex or corporate HQ. The sleek rows of windows in the building's recessed oblong front combine with the wood finish to create the impression of a piece of 1970s consumer electronics.
Burckhardt+Partner's design won the competition to design the building in 2009. Construction was completed in 2012. We've asked for more detail on the technology behind this design, and will update this page if we hear more.