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UB architect’s design for Seoul hospital recognized with international award

Rendering of a hospital in Seoul designed by UB architect.

Jin Young Song's award-winning facade design features BIPV — building-integrated photovoltaic panels — that are built into the structure as systems of a building. In addition to their high efficiency, BIPV panels also add to the architectural appeal of buildings due to their variability in color and patterning.


Published October 9, 2023

Jin Young Song.
“Renovating (an) old building is better than reconstruction. Using renewable energy sources is another critical path to the new standard of carbon footprint. ”
Jin Young Song, associate professor
Department of Architecture

UB faculty member Jin Young Song is the recipient of a 2023 Design Educates Award for his façade retrofit of a major hospital in Seoul, converting a deteriorating, 10-story, concrete structure into a colorful model for design with building-integrated photovoltaic panels.

Transformation of the GS Medical Center, a regional emergency center in Seoul, received the Design Educates Award “Selected” in the Architectural Design category. It was completed by Song, associate professor of architecture, through his practice, Dioinno Architecture PLLC, with JHKA (a local architecture firm), headquartered in Buffalo and Seoul.

The project uses BIPV — building-integrated photovoltaic panels — which are built into the structure as systems of a building, making them more efficient in urban environments using the existing built environment compared to traditional rooftop or large-scale solar arrays. BIPV panels also add to the architectural appeal of buildings due to their variability in color and patterning.

“Our design not only renovates the facade of the old building, but also produces energy for the building’s operation,” says Song. “We combined gray, dark gray and satin gray BIPV panels with green aluminum support panels and LED strips to create a patterned façade for a 21st-century hospital. The façade pattern transforms itself depending in the orientation, time of day and weather, reflecting a constantly changing image of the city.”

The project also made a significant structural gesture by turning the rounded corners of the concrete façade into a 90-degree edge, giving the building greater vertical legibility from the street and maximizing space for the BIPV arrangement.

Cultivating CO2-neutral energy system

According to Song — whose research at UB advances more responsive, sustainable and place-based architecture through the contemporary façade — the hospital project demonstrates that technical and aesthetic innovation go hand in hand as solar technology increasingly makes its way into the built environment, particularly in the dense urban environment.

“Building-integrated photovoltaics are one of the most direct and efficient solutions for transforming the present energy system into a CO2-neutral energy system,” says Song, noting that buildings account for 40% of global CO2 emissions. “It is the designer’s role to determine how to integrate the photovoltaics technology into the building envelope.”

The renovated façade provides 139.48kW capacity from a 1,022 square meter photovoltaic area, estimated to produce 101,330 kWh/year, cutting CO2 emissions by 43 tons per year and providing approximately 7% of the total energy usage in the hospital.

“Renovating (an) old building is better than reconstruction. Using renewable energy sources is another critical path to the new standard of carbon footprint,” Song explains. “In this context, South Korea is radically pushing the energy-system transformation using renewable energy technology.”

Indeed, Song’s modular design for the BIPV panels won over not only the hospital administration, but also officials in the Seoul metropolitan government. “After several important presentations and reviews, not only did the clients love the transformation of the hospital for the 21st-century medical environment, but Seoul’s municipal government decided to support the project’s solar panel production by KOES (a PV manufacturer),” as a part of the Renewable Energy Program.

Enriching the urban environment

With the cost efficiency of Silicon-based technologies almost maximized, cities like Seoul are looking for added value to its densifying urban environment, Song says.

“Projects must contribute not only in the area of promised energy production, but also by enhancing buildings and streetscapes, and supporting sustainable construction methods like retrofits and renovations,” he says. “Policy makers, designers, PV manufacturers and clients should be working together to uncover the value of renewable energy applications.

“In the unknown challenges and changing dynamics of technology and markets, only when we can see the ‘value’ of the design will PV products be integrated into the fabric of the city, rather than just as added equipment.”

Song says the role of the designer in the project dynamic is fragile, as unstable supply chains in PV and cost pressures around standardization and construction challenges can subjugate design in the process. “Having a design intent allowed my partner and I to advocate for and complete the project.

Design Educates Awards (DEAwards) is an annual awards program recognizing projects worldwide across the categories of architectural design, product design, responsive design and universal design. The 2023 awards were presented at the annual DEAwards ceremony in Melle, Germany, in September.