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The Lighthouse, Glasgow

The Lighthouse, Glasgow

Refurbishment of historically important building in Glasgow’s city centre


The regeneration of the Lighthouse building designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh is the City of Glasgow's flagship project in response to being nominated as UK City of Architecture and Design 1999.  The attached case study describes the potential for sympathetic integration of passive and active renewable technologies in the refurbishment of this historically important building in the city centre and elaborates on plans to use the building as a live demonstration of urban scale renewable energy use and the wider implications in terms of integration of such technologies in cities.


The attached case study examines demand reduction and renewable energy opportunities at the Lighthouse.

A detailed analysis of the potential cumulative benefits of the following 3 passive and 2 active renewable technologies was undertaken using ESP-r and MERIT.

  • Advanced glazing (low emissivity, prismatic and switchable)
  • Daylight utilization and luminaire control
  • Transparent insulation with integral shading
  • Photovoltaic cells
  • Roof mounted ducted wind turbines


The investigation utilised the ESP-r building simulation system to explore the opportunities to use passive renewable technologies to minimize heat and power demand and active renewable technologies to meet residual requirements.

The Lighthouse renewable energy sources were installed to reduce energy demand from the national grid for heating and lighting in the Viewing Platform area on the sixth floor of the building. The Lighthouse has incorporated seven roof-mounted, ducted wind turbines with integral photovoltaic modules and nine wall-mounted photovoltaic modules on the exterior of the building. A summary of the key sustainability features are below:

  • South-facing photovoltaic façade to maximize solar-generated electricity during autumn, winter and spring, which is also used to power a gallery fan, lights and low-energy power requirements.
  • South and West Facing ducted wind turbines designed to produce electricity during autumn, winter and spring, and photovoltaics during spring, summer and autumn. Specially insulated and coated glass panels to reduce heat loss and maximize daylight.
  • South facing façade with transparent insulation and blind control to capture and store solar energy, providing heat as required.
  • Low energy lighting system combined with daylight-responsive control to reduce electricity consumption without reducing visual atmosphere.


In comparison with UK best practice:

Advanced glazing system: 59% heating energy reduction with no discernable impact on internal daylight.

Daylight-linked lighting controls: 90% reduction in electricity used for lighting.  

Integrated Passive Solar and low-energy technologies: 70% reduction in annual energy use.

Active renewables: these meet the spring, autumn, summer energy demands while matching 40% of winter demands.


The interventions on the Lighthouse demonstrated the theoretical benefits of new technologies in cities. Since the installation, which was monitored for 7 years a number of issues have emerged which remain as yet unresolved:

The glazing selected for the viewing platform windows was installed in bespoke frames and cold bridging has affected the energy saving potential.

The ducted wind turbines were of a prototype design and there have been ongoing problems with fans fouling casings which has affected performance. Repeated attempts to set up a Knowledge transfer Partnership (KTP), to take the technology forward, have as yet been unfruitful, but the concept is sound.

The efficiency of the attached hybrid photovoltaic system is affected by the ongoing fan problem.


On the positive side:

The LED lighting system works well and this technology which was highly innovative in its day has now been mainstreamed.

The Transparent Insulation Material and Photovoltaic walls work well- despite being connected to a little used fire escape.


Energy systems Research Unit, Strathclyde University

Urban Energy farm mini site

The Lighthouse

Sust Programme A+DS


Resource Efficient Scotland supported the preparation and presentation of this case study for the Retrofit Scotland website.

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