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Consulting Engineers

Goodbye ugly, hello beautiful…

Sustainability is a noble aim, but there are almost always limitations such as cost and practicality, especially when adding eco-friendly features to an existing building.

So what struck me about Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s solar roof tiles launch, was that this is something that could gradually become a normal part of our urban landscape, assuming the costs aren’t too exorbitant.

I’m sure we’re all in agreement that standard solar panels are ugly. They may cut down on burning fossil fuels, but they don’t improve the look of a building.

Musk’s glass tiles are different, and if I were building a new house I would definitely look at them. Launched late last year, on the Hollywood set of Desperate Housewives, the tiles are attractive enough to blend in in this perfect (fictional) suburban enclave.

Estimated to have 98% of the efficiency of a standard solar roof, the tiles turn sunlight into electricity to be used immediately or stored in a Powerwall battery.

Prices aren’t available yet, and it’s not thought that it would be cost effective to replace a perfectly good roof with these tiles. But they are likely to cost less than a new roof plus solar panels, and Musk has said that four to five million homes in the US (and twenty times that worldwide) will need new roofs each year, and he suggests that if everyone used Tesla tiles “over time, every house would become a solar house”.

From an environmental point of view, the tiles have better insulation qualities than standard roofing. I do think renewables are the way forward and even China is pushing ahead with them. Wouldn’t it be great to drive your electric car into your garage, where you can charge it up from a battery powered by your own roof? Hopefully that’s where we’re heading.

If you’re interested in Elon Musk and what he’s up to, then I recommend his biography, Elon Musk: How the Billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla is Shaping our Future by Ashlee Vance.

I’m a big fan of Musk, and not just because he’s a fellow South African, but he’s not the kind of person you’d want to cross (as you’ll find out if you read the book). I got through almost all of it on a flight, and it’s a fascinating read.

The tiles should be available at some point this year, so potentially something to consider for future projects.

In the meantime, if there’s anything we can help you with, please do get in touch.

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