Skyscraper Creates All Its Own Energy

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This skyscraper, to be built in Dubai, is called the Burj al-Taqa (‘Energy Tower’), and it will produce 100% of its own power. The tower will have a huge (197 foot diameter) wind turbine on its roof, and arrays of solar cells that will total 161,459 square feet in size. Additional energy is provided by an island of solar panels, which drifts in the sea within viewing distance of the tower.


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Burj al-Taqa’s cylindrical shape is designed to expose as little surface area to the sun as possible. A protective solar shield reaches from the ground to the roof, covering 60 degrees of the giant circular building. It protects the side most affected from the sun’s glaring rays, making sure that none of the rooms are exposed to direct sunlight. The diffuse light on the other sides of the building is tempered by a mineral coating on the windows.

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The tower’s façade is to be built from a new generation of vacuum glazing that will only come on the market in 2008. The new top-quality windows are meant to largely shield the interior of the tower from outside heat — indispensable in a region where outside temperatures can reach 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) in the summer. This is made possible by a new breakthrough in the quality of the materials used: the new vacuum glazing windows transmit as much as two thirds less heat compared to today’s products.

The architects chose an ancient Persian architectural feature as their model. Hundreds of years ago, wealthy merchants erected wind towers on the roofs of their houses, an idea which was eventually exported to the Arab world. The buildings, which have now become tourist attractions, have a natural air conditioning system. Lateral openings in the towers suck in cool air like a chimney. The heavier cool air sinks down and displaces the lighter hot air, creating a comfortable temperature inside the living space despite the scorching sun.

Gerbers’s design is designed to function in a similar way: The negative pressure created by winds breaking along the tower will suck the spent air from the rooms out of the building via air slits in the façade. The plan is for fresh air to be pumped into the interior of the building by means of a duct system at the same time.

Seawater will be used to pre-cool the air. Three large cooling units in the giant building’s cellar will eventually lower the temperature to a comfortable 18 degrees Celsius (64.4 degrees Fahrenheit). Transparent ducts will channel the fresh air into spacious atriums and from there into the corridors and offices. The building’s designers want to use steel ropes to suspend hanging gardens inside the air ducts, transforming a feature which is often regarded as an architectural blemish and hidden behind sheet metal in other buildings.

At the same time, the underground cooling center also cools the water in the pipelines running through the underside of each floor’s ceiling. The system of tubes is designed to be a modern air-conditioning system which cools gently without unpleasant air currents.

The Burj al-Taqa seems like the most recent example of a trend that has been observable for some time. In large cities such as Chicago, New York or Paris, environmentally friendly skyscrapers are being built that win ecological awards and apparently herald a new green wave in the construction of tall buildings.

Via Spielgel Online

Comments

  1. says

    One efficient skyscraper in a city of wasteful buildings is only a drop in the ocean. They are just models and only good for whoring awards.

    It would take a century to replace enough buildings in any city to make a huge difference. By that time the tech will be old. And how feasible is this tech in a real city where these must be placed next to each other, each requiring their own floating island of solar panels in the ocean?

  2. Ernie Orporto Idioto says

    What a wonderful sentiment, Ernie. Since this one building can’t solve the problems of every building in the rest of the world, we should just say “forget it” and keep building wasteful, inefficient buildings that continue to suck down resources, eh?

    People like you are the reason we’re in the trouble we’re in now. Every little bit helps, and if we don’t have front-running leading edge buildings like this, the technology will never progress.

    No matter how advanced technology is today, in 20 years it will ALL be “old tech”. If we just sit around with our heads in the sand though, we won’t ever get “new” technology to replace that constantly aging “old” technology.

  3. John says

    So no one should take a first step? We won’t solve the problems of the world with a single mega-event. Only with millions of small ones. One building at a time is actually a bigger step than most. If you’re waiting for a solution to fall out of a lab somewhere, but not doing anything yourself, then you are just part of the problem.

  4. says

    It’s a great step toward an essential solution. Hopefully we take this idea to the suburbs which are much less efficient than cities and have a greater per-person impact on the environment.

  5. says

    The question is more like, will the designers turn towards doing something more with this design, or is it only for show? Who is dedicated to making a large scale change?

  6. says

    Ernie, it’s a question of technology and economy. The front-runners get the benefits of the media and awards to produce economical buildings at the cost of the time and money it takes to innovate.

    Once the innovation has been done, and proven economical, other builders will start adapting it and creating more efficient and econom/logically sound buildings.

  7. Yeah says

    What a wonderful sentiment, Ernie. Since this one building can’t solve the problems of every building in the rest of the world, we should just say “forget it” and keep building wasteful, inefficient buildings that continue to suck down resources, eh?

    Why don’t we do something that actually helps, like getting rid of coal power plants?

    Solar panels aren’t the answer. Think about it. If a building needs an island of solar panels to power it, how are you going to power an entire city? I guess the ocean life can just go without sunlight?

    Solar panels currently produce 0.04% of the world’s electricity. Wind produces a whopping 0.3%. Why do you think those numbers are so small?

    • Michael says

      Current PV technology has led planners to speculate that, were we to currently power all of Earth’s electricity needs through solar alone, we would need an array about the size of Australia. That sounds large, but that’s with today’s technology (not including nano-solar), and only using solar alone. Even an array the size of Australia floating around the Pacific would have a negligible impact on the primary producers at the ocean’s surface (i.e. plankton). One step at a time.

  8. Simon says

    This building is absolutely gorgeous. It’s a great example of how any sort of building should be designed: with complete awareness of its environment and an eye towards maximum efficiency. I can’t get over the idea that outside air from the roof is pumped through suspended gardens before being used to cool the building.

    And to the person who thought that the solar panels wouldn’t work well in a crowded city, take a look at how large the roof is. I don’t have any actual measurements, but if the building were a reasonable 100 metres in diameter, then the roof would measure roughly 166,000 square feet… and since the article says that the solar cells take up 161,459 square feet of the building, I’m guessing they’re right up there on the roof, making the issue of nearby buildings irrelevant. Beautiful.

  9. Aaron says

    Ernie – try reading the article again, and this time pay attention. It answers both of your questions.

  10. sean says

    to ‘Ernie’—It’s a step. The building is going to be built. No one is touting it as a cure for all of our energy woes…. But it moves us incrementally closer to a common goal.A journey of a thousand miles begins with a first step.

    to ‘Yeah’— I am confused about your comment? Solar power is bad?… Robs the sea of sunlight? But get rid of coal plants? Guess you will be powering your computer with a stationary bike in the future.

  11. says

    There was a man named frank.
    Every nice sunny day, Frank went to the beach.
    One day frank came a across a beach dotted everywhere with starfish. Hundreds, even thousands of them. Frank noticed a little boy of in the distance scooping up the starfish one by one and tossing them back into the ocean.
    Frank asked:
    “little boy, there are maybe thousands of these things out here, will throwing back a few really matter?”

    The boy picked up one more an tossed it into the surf.

    “It mattered to him.”

    Maybe not applicable here, but this is hte movement that needs to be made to cause change and prehaps cause a movement in the archtectural/civil engineering, social, and political world towards better design.

    This isnt a one way street. They didnt just build an environmentally freindly buiding they made an economical investment.

  12. says

    This isn’t a good idea at all. I have read up on buildings that provide more than it’s own power, and aren’t desperately trying to woo the audience with glass. Not to mention the whole island of solar panels… that’s probably the stupidest idea because first off, you have to cable the ‘island’ back to mainland, second, salt water naturally breaks down or at least builds up on anything we throw out into the ocean, which creates maintenance problems.

  13. Jim says

    Tell me, Chad, why is wooing the audience with glass a bad idea? Is it wasting resources. Glass is sand. Sand is abundant. Sand is rock. Rock is not exactly scarce. By using glass we don’t need to use as much electricity for lighting. And technically, wherever we are, something will build up, be it soot, salt, or snow. Based on the amount of salt that will be deposited every month or so, I don’t think that much of a problem will be caused by going out and hosing it down every once in a while. You could use the sea right next to it, for a start. Or, this salt could be purified and used in the building instead of buying from elsewhere, and some could be electrolysed and the chlorine used to purify he drinking water, with the electrolysis being done using some of the electricity created by the island. And so what if technology will become obsolete in five years. If you wait five years you’ve got another object that will last five years. With regular updating, it might still be useful for ten. Embrace now, because in the future, the same old sentiments will still be stopping us from moving forwards.

  14. Jim says

    Tell me, Chad, why is wooing the audience with glass a bad idea? Is it wasting resources. Glass is sand. Sand is abundant. Sand is rock. Rock is not exactly scarce. By using glass we don’t need to use as much electricity for lighting. And technically, wherever we are, something will build up, be it soot, salt, or snow. Based on the amount of salt that will be deposited every month or so, I don’t think that much of a problem will be caused by going out and hosing it down every once in a while. You could use the sea right next to it, for a start. Or, this salt could be purified and used in the building instead of buying from elsewhere, and some could be electrolysed and the chlorine used to purify he drinking water, with the electrolysis being done using some of the electricity created by the island. And so what if technology will become obsolete in five years. If you wait five years you’ve got another object that will last five years. With regular updating, it might still be useful for ten. Embrace now, because in the future, the same old sentiments will still be stopping us from moving forwards.

  15. says

    This is a great step forward, and I am actually amazed at such a beuaty. Once the world sees that this is possible, others will start following suit. And that is the ultimate goal. Hooray :)

  16. DD says

    I like casper’s little parable.

    As for the rest of the Negative Nellies who’ve been posting…

    You naysayers about green building technology need to look up LEED certification. The US lags in many environmental ways, but even in this bastion of big business, the government is working to act as a catalyst for greener building technologies and practices. In New Mexico, all new federal buildings built by 2020 (IIRC) will be required to be LEED certified.

    Anyone who has actually done some reading on recent trends in sustainable business and practices knows that A) innovators and early adopters must first break trail in using new (and more efficient / clean) technologies to demonstrate demand and B) with that demand help inspire manufacturers to implement increasing efficiencies of scale, which C) leads to more investment, marketing and consumption of these “better” technologies by the mainstream population. Who remembers when Seinfeld first made fun of the Honda Insight? Seven years later, how many hybrids are on the road? It’s not a joke anymore.

    Sure, they’re not fuel cell cars, but we’ll get there with hard work and thousands of individual choices to avoid SUVs.

    This is happening. Now. Where you live. Large companies are seeing the profit to be made from conserving resources and being more efficient. Communities of people are pitching in with ever more practical and *easy* ways to conserve and clean up. Any Google search on this topic will turn up many tips to live an environmentally sound lifestyle.

    The only question is: Will you do your 1/6,000,000,000th share of the work, or will you sit and whinge about how it won’t work?

    As one of the blogs on teslamotors . com (and John at 5/14/07 above) mentions, the perfect is the enemy of the practical. Revolutionary change on a large scale happens through a million incremental improvements, not sitting around and dreaming of a final solution that never comes.

  17. says

    You naysayers about green building technology need to look up LEED certification. The US lags in many environmental ways, but even in this bastion of big business, the government is working to act as a catalyst for greener building technologies and practices. In New Mexico, all new federal buildings built by 2020 (IIRC) will be required to be LEED certified.

    Anyone who has actually done some reading on recent trends in sustainable business and practices knows that A) innovators and early adopters must first break trail in using new (and more efficient / clean) technologies to demonstrate demand and B) with that demand help inspire manufacturers to implement increasing efficiencies of scale, which C) leads to more investment, marketing and consumption of these “better” technologies by the mainstream population. Who remembers when Seinfeld first made fun of the Honda Insight? Seven years later, how many hybrids are on the road? It’s not a joke anymore.

    Sure, they’re not fuel cell cars, but we’ll get there with hard work and thousands of individual choices to avoid SUVs.

    This is happening. Now. Where you live. Large companies are seeing the profit to be made from conserving resources and being more efficient. Communities of people are pitching in with ever more practical and *easy* ways to conserve and clean up. Any Google search on this topic will turn up many tips to live an environmentally sound lifestyle.

    The only question is: Will you do your 1/6,000,000,000th share of the work, or will you sit and whinge about how it won’t work?

    As one of the blogs on teslamotors . com (and John at 5/14/07 above) mentions, the perfect is the enemy of the practical. Revolutionary change on a large scale happens through a million incremental improvements, not sitting around and dreaming of a final solution that never comes.

  18. Tom says

    I hate to say it but that’s the coolest and stupidest thing I’ve ever seen. Energy is the future, so if you erect a massive sky scraper, upgrading will be a never ending job, it’ll either go down with the pyramids, or make us hate how rich those people are.

  19. says

    I find this idea stunningly awesome. I know it doesn’t speak too well for our western world that Dubai is building all those amazing buildings, but so what, the advance for the science and technology will benefit us all so I can only applaud those ideas.

  20. Noneyaz says

    I find it funny people are mad all this great development is going on in Dubai and they are too stupid to realize that we are funding it at the gas station every week.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsyTsQhvvC0

    ^ I worked on this project as an E.Engineer..what a long 2 years..Just another example of their great developments.

  21. says

    This looks like an interesting project. Unfortunately, I don’t think it will be able to generate 100% of its own power. There are too many variables. What happens if it isn’t windy or sunny?

  22. says

    If this truly works, it is an impressive building. The combination of a wind turbine and solar panels, is pretty amazing. If we really want to become energy independent and a more clean society, this is proof that we could really do it if the desire is really there. As solar efficiency improves and becomes more cost-efficient, more and more buildings will incorporate the technology.

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