McKenna is based in the San Francisco office, consulting on integrated PV projects across North America, producing a wide range of options that maximize energy efficiency in a building, from “daylighting” strategies that reduce daytime electricity use, to full-scope photovoltaic design.
“When we can determine early in the design process how much energy will be produced when solar is interrelated with the building design, it creates a lot more opportunities for the end owner or developer,” she said. “If they wait until the building is completed, options are limited and integration is more difficult and costly.”
One of the challenges with integrated PV is working against preconceived notions regarding solar panels—the cost, the capability, and the appearance. “It can be like swimming upstream to convince an architect to push the envelope for high-performance design elements that are a little bit out of the ordinary,” McKenna said. “One of my responsibilities is to share facts and information with architects about where solar has come from and where it is now.”
When applied to meet this potential, McKenna said a building integrated PV system provides a distinctive aesthetic while meeting high-performance energy goals.
“Architects are the stewards of the design,” she added. “So it is important to get them thinking of solar in a new way; as a more affordable, cost-competitive, efficient solution.”
WSP has the capability to design and build many different integrated systems to suit clients’ needs.
“We have the ability to work with our own MEP [mechanical, electrical, plumbing] engineers on a project and get the most out of a system,” she said. “We are plugged in with our electrical team, and it certainly helps when you work in the same office of those MEP engineers. It enables us to offer a seamless design for a building.”