Ms Ester Coma Bassas MArch (Hons), MSc (Hons)

Researcher Associate

Email:
comae@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone:
+44 (0)29 2087 0463
Location:
3.11, Bute Building
Research group:
Architectural Science Group

Responsibilities

Architect and researcher for the SOLCER Project, part of the WEFO funded LCRI Convergence Programme. Previously, researcher for BAPS Project (Buildings as Power Stations) within the WSA and working together with SPECIFIC (Sustainable Product Engineering Centre for Innovative Functional Industrial Coatings) at Swansea University and Tata Steel.

As the architect of the SOLCER house (@LowCarbon_house), Ester designed and constructed a near-zero carbon house. The emphasis of the Solcer House is on affordability and replicability within the social housing sector. The house combines emerging technologies that reduce energy demand, integrate renewable energy supply and energy storage for both thermal and electrical energy. Therefore the building was designed to use very low amounts of energy to provide a comfortable environment for its occupants. It is being monitored to assess its performance in use.

The demonstration building was completed on schedule, over a 16 week on-site programme. This compares with a normal programme of greater than 20 weeks. The process is replicable within the market aimed for, which includes registered social landlords and the ’mass house builder’. Welsh SMEs Registered Social Landlords and architectural practices are already expressing an interest in replicating the building at other locations in Wales. Ester’s work has involved collaboration between many different organisations, from international large-scale companies such as BASF, Tata Steel and Pilkington, together with many SMEs from Wales who have been involved in manufacture, supply and installation of technologies. This has enabled the transfer of knowledge and skills to, and between, local industries.

As a researcher for the BAPS project, Ester developed the new BAPS tool. This assesses if a building has the potential to become a ‘Power Station’ by analyzing the energy generated from building-integrated renewables (including, solar and wind), the effect of using electrical energy storage systems and the impact of introducing demand reduction technologies. The BAPS tool enables an architect, via an easy to understand user interface, to assess the potential for renewable energies and battery storage and provides guidance on the selection of the battery system for a range of residential applications.

BAPS was developed as a quick and easy to understand tool, which can be used in the early stages of the project, to design or even refurbish dwellings through a legible ‘performance-driven’ approach. The tool was used and tested during the design of the prototype ‘near zero’ carbon SOLCER House to evaluate the building energy system, including the sizing of solar PV panels and the li-ion battery storage, in the context of the buildings reduced demand for electricity, through the use of LED lighting and high efficiency appliances.

External activities

I am a registered architect with ARB, registration number 080367G. I have 4 years of experience as architect in the UK doing project design of mainly residential buildings for Housing Associations around Wales such as United Welsh Housing Association, Cadwyn and Taff to name a few. I have worked in all the stages of the projects from designing site layouts and houses plans for planning application drawings and design access statement; to details and working drawings for Building Regulation.

Research interests

My research focuses on the concept of ’Buildings as Power Stations’, thus on the integration and implementation of an energy systems based approach into buildings to optimise energy self sufficiency. This concept not only represents a major shift in the way that electricity is generated, stored and used; but it also presents a challenge for architects, who now have a decisive role to move forward the ’Low Carbon Housing’ agenda if they are to play a leadership role on a building project team.

My current work proposes a ’performance-driven’ architectural design, which takes a holistic approach towards energy and thermal performances of buildings while ensuring that the use and aesthetic of the design are not dismissed. In recent years mathematical models, energy performance simulation techniques, as well as computer-aided design and drafting systems have been used. However, architects often find them impractical and incompatible with their knowledge base and design approach. Therefore, it is necessary to develop an effective method to conduct ’performance-driven’ design and systems optimisation from the perspective of architects. Hence, the SOLCER house prototype that I have designed as the architect of the SOLCER project, together with the BAPS tool that I developed as a researcher of the BAPS Project; are currently the main focus of my work.

The SOLCER house consists on a ’near zero’ carbon house prototype designed to a Passivhaus level of energy demand, incorporating fully integrated renewable thermal and electrical energy supply, and thermal and electrical energy storage. This house is currently under construction in Wales and is due to be completed in February 2015. My overall research programme includes both the development of the BAPS tool and the design and construction of the prototype SOLCER House. This combines a theoretical approach in terms of design and modeling of the building and its systems, with more practice based research of implementing the BAPS tool to size the energy system for a house in the real world. Characteristics such as flexibility, affordability, viability or replicability, and demonstrating performance in use, are essential in order to ensure that the designed prototype SOLCER House can become a real alternative in the UK housing market and attract the interest of the public (builders, local authorities, RSL, individual users, etc.).

My research activities include: net-zero buildings design and construction, low carbon materials, integration of systems, energy modelling, thermal modelling, systems performance assessment, etc.


Research projects

Teaching profile

Lectures and dissertation supervision on subjects related to my research on the following postgraduate courses:

MSc in Environmental Design of Buildings
MSc Theory & Practice of Sustainable Design