A research project which aims to harness the wasted solar energy absorbed by buildings has been launched by a consortium of 13 partners, including AkzoNobel.
The ENVISION initiative is going beyond the solar panels found on roofs in an attempt to harvest energy from all building surfaces (both transparent and opaque), without having to compromise on aesthetics.
A solution for absorbing near-infrared light (NIR) via special panels already exists, but these panels are only available in one colour - black.
So, AkzoNobel's coatings experts got to work and are developing technology that can capture heat using lighter and brighter colours.
Dutch company BAM and research organisation TNO are also partners in the project.
"Black facades aren't attractive to most people, so we've come up with an innovative solution that allows heat to be captured by colours that traditionally reflect NIR," explained Anthonie Stuiver, the AkzoNobel Senior Scientist who is working on the project.
He added that the company is also looking to create different pigment effects, as well as the more familiar brick and wood patterns found on most houses.
"It's a practical and sustainable solution for making buildings energy positive - and existing houses more climate-friendly - that also gives consumers freedom of colour choice," Stuiver continued.
The ENVISION project is part of Horizon 2020, the biggest ever EU research and innovation programme.
The project aims to demonstrate a full renovation concept that invisibly harvests energy from all available surfaces.
The potential is huge, with an estimated 60 billion square metres of facade surface available to use throughout the EU.
"This is the first time that a concept of this kind has been developed," said Bart Erich, researcher and project coordinator from partner TNO.
"Theoretically the concept is very simple. The challenge has been how to convert and store the energy so that it can be used efficiently."
AkzoNobel's focus on sustainable innovation has already produced several products that make buildings more climate-friendly.
Many of these include KeepCool technology (used in exterior paints), which can reflect up to 85% more infrared radiation than comparable products - leading to significant energy savings related to air conditioning.
The ENVISION project is designed to do exactly the opposite - absorb energy.
"Innovation is part of our DNA," added Stuiver.
"Projects such as ENVISION enable us to demonstrate our passion for paint and prove the depth of our expertise. We're proud to be involved."
Stuiver will reveal more about AkzoNobel's involvement at the Building Holland trade show - being staged in Amsterdam from April 9 to 11 - when he will take part in an interactive knowledge session organised by BAM Wonen.