The term ‘Building Integrated Photovoltaics’ or BIPV, refers to modern materials that replace conventional materials on a building’s structure with integrated photovoltaic components used to generate electricity or heat. BIPV materials have become quite popular in recent years, and are commonly used in sections of the building envelope such as the roof, skylights or facades. 

The global solar industry has been experiencing significant growth for over a decade, with the photovoltaic (PV) production capacity rising 40-fold in the 10 years to 2014 – a trend that’s expected to continue for the next 20-plus years.

Trac Group specialises in the design, supply and distribution of BIPV products. Tractile products address the Roof Integrated Photovoltaic (RIPV) and the Roof Integrated Photovoltaic and Thermal (RIPV-T) sector. Designed to integrate solar power into multifunctional building components to enhance the structure’s functionality without impacting its aesthetics, Tractile’s RIPV-T products generate electricity and produce hot water using solar energy.

The performance of Tractile’s products is superior to concrete tiles and metal sheet roofing. The “Composites: Calculating their Embodied Study” led by Queensland’s Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI), found that:

  • A square metre of roofing made from Tractile roof tile consumes 92% less energy than a concrete tile and 99.5% less energy than a coated steel sheeting during their lifecycle if they are maintained;
  • A square metre of roofing made from Tractile roof tiles emits 90% less greenhouse gases than a concrete tile during their lifecycles and 99.2% less greenhouse gases than coated steel sheeting during their lifecycles if they are maintained;
  • A square metre of roofing made from Tractile roof tile has an environmental impact, which is 89% less than that of a concrete tile and 99.2% less than that of a coated steel sheeting if they are maintained.

Additionally, a roof fitted with Tractile solar tiles generates solar power and solar heated hot water. Tractile tiles are engineered from composite materials with superior performance attributes.

Tractile tiles can withstand live loads between battens in excess of 250kg. Other roofing materials break or deform at 60kg - 100kg.

The lightweight construction of Tractile tiles is another advantage: One Tractile roof tile is six times larger than a concrete tile, and weighs 8kg versus 4kg - 5kg for a single concrete tile. This equates to a weight of 12kg per square metre for Tractile versus 40kg - 50kg per square metre for concrete roof tiles.

Tractile tiles have high impact resistance. All Tractile tile products (excluding solar tiles) are rated for impacts of 100 Joules, which is equivalent to being hit with 68-millimetre hailstones (a tennis ball has a diameter of 67mm), or hitting the tile with a 1kg hammer at 14 metres per second (normal speed for a 1kg hammer to hit objects is 8 to 12 metres per second).

Tractile tiles are engineered to withstand wind speeds of over 300km per hour (Category 5 Tropical Cyclones are 280 km/h) but is rated C4 (the highest rating possible) as a standalone product. C5 rating is only possible for entire roof structures.

Tractile products are manufactured from a composite material, which is non-electrically conducting to minimise the risk of electrical hazards. Key benefits also include fire retardant qualities; greater design freedom thanks to materials and the manufacturing process; and non-rusting attributes.

While Tractile products can be more expensive than traditional products since the composite materials used in the manufacturing are more expensive, the benefits far outweigh the costs for the company’s target market, which is not price sensitive.