Solar systems

Solar systems

Housebuilders have used natural slate as a roofing material for centuries, but recent innovations now means it can incorporate solar collectors and help supply heating and hot water to a home, as Nigel Tozer, UK Sales Manager at CUPA PIZARRAS, explained

The advantages of natural slate as a roofing or cladding material are multifold, and it has thus proved a popular choice for housebuilders and property developers over the years. The dependability and beauty of slate makes it an ideal solution for housebuilding purposes; and with research and development on going, natural slate’s full potential is still being untapped.

For housebuilders and developers every component of a building project must be carefully planned and thought through, striking a careful balance between quality and longevity of the building materials used, but remaining within the confines of the budgets set. As a roofing material, it is true to say that slate is still dearer than most prefabricated options, but the long-term benefits are sufficiently strong to guarantee return on investment.

For example, slate’s high density makes it naturally waterproof – a vital consideration when developing property – while also enhancing its resistance to temperature fluctuations and adverse weather conditions, suiting it to areas vulnerable to the elements. With slate being non-conducive to fungus and mold growth it also reduces the need for expensive repairs, making it a low-maintenance option. Furthermore, its non-combustibility helps protect a building from the spread of fire.

The practical applications of natural slate in housebuilding are pertinent as they prioritise the upkeep of the property with the aim of making financial savings over the lifespan of the building. However, with sustainability in building under increased scrutiny within the wider construction industry, being able to demonstrate a component’s positive contribution to the environment is also important.

Sustainable solution

In the case of housebuilding, solar panels are seen as a desirable investment, in terms of creating a greener, more sustainable building. However, as a solution, they are not without their limitations and have been subject to criticism, especially from a visual perspective due to the panels appearing incongruous with some structures. For the housebuilder this method can also present timing issues, with the installation of the panels needing to be factored into the build plan.

With this in mind, what if it was possible for natural slate, as a sustainable house building material, to take a giant leap ahead? Natural slate tiles have always had significant sustainability properties – according to the Inventory of Carbon and Energy (ICE, University of Bath), natural slate products have the least negative effects on the environment. For example, unlike other roofing and cladding materials natural slate uses only water in the production process to make it easier to cut.


Energy creation

Now, CUPA PIZARRAS has also recognised that the solar diffusion and absorption properties of natural slate, make it an ideal means of capturing and storing solar power. Following an extensive research and development period into renewable energy, CUPA PIZARRAS has introduced Thermoslate. The flat natural slates are highly effective because, with slate being a darker type of rock, sunlight makes its temperature rise several degrees above the temperature of the air. An invisible solar collector can then be integrated into any natural slate roof or cladding and as such, the ability to provide an energy efficient solution, whilst also fulfilling specific design aspirations, is now a real possibility.

Thermoslate’s main component is natural slate sourced from a number of quarries throughout Northwest Spain and does not need additional treatments, keeping the use of chemicals to an absolute minimum.

What’s more, there are already some encouraging results to draw from. Previous installations have resulted in a family home having 76% of their heating and hot water needs covered by the collectors alone. These systems start paying for themselves from day one.

The versatility of natural slate in housebuilding has been substantiated time and again throughout the ages, both in its application and its appearance. However, its true value is still being uncovered with the potential for recognition as a sustainable solution within the housebuilding and property development market, standing slate in good stead for the future.

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