Articles With "alternative energy" Tag

Skyscraper Sunday: SOM, Green Skycraper Firm of the Year

Jinao_tower_nanjing_1There’s just no stopping Skidmore, Owings + Merrill.  They are the (as nominated by Jetson Green) Green Skyscraper Firm of the Year.  I blogged about them in regards to the zero energy Pearl River Tower, which absolutely blows me away.  Have you seen the thing?  I also blogged about them on 9/11 because they designed the green Freedom Tower, which is going to be an architectural beacon of freedom and innovation for decades in the future.  When it comes to sustainability and architectural excellence in skyscapers, SOM is the number one firm.  That’s hands down. 

SOM has an enormous portfolio of work in China and they are working on over 15 skyscraper projects there right now.  Interestingly, it’s easier to be innovative in China because the climate lends itself to such behavior.  Firms in the US are reluctant to take on commercial/security risk.  They don’t want to tick off neighbors or trade unions either.  China on the other hand wants to push the envelope.  They have cheap materials and a desire to build green structures.  They are a command economy, so there’s not much public outcry, even if the building is outlandish.  Plus, global recognition helps their situation.  I get heaps of search queries on my blog everyday for a post I did on the Pearl River Tower–that’s global recognition.   

Nanjing_jinling_hotel_1 Nanjing_greenland Shenzhen_avic_plaza

I’ve included some pictures of buildings that SOM has designed for construction in China.  There’s too much to say about each, but one thing should be noted, however:  these buildings are all going to be done in 2007-2008.  There’s a quick turnaround time in China–they have the attitude to get things done.  Notice the delay for buildings like this in the United States and query whether that has anything to do with (in comparison) innovation, politics, determination, or drive.

Nanjing Greenland will have irregularly-spaced slots for green space that "march vertically up the facade."  Jinao Tower will be built with less steel than a traditional skyscraper.  It will be built around a diagonal grid bracing system (similar to the one used for Hearst Tower of New York).  Jinao Tower also features a double-skinned surface for solar shading and insulation.  Each SOM buildling is chock full of innovation. 

Extra Links:
SOM Company Site
Not Innovative?  SOM’s Skyscraper Projects in China Tell a Different Story [Architectural Record]

Skyscraper Sunday: Green Landmark Building For Sale (30 St Mary Axe)

Swiss_re_tower_london_2 Call it what you want:  "Gherkin," "The Cigar," "The Towering Innuendo," "30 St Mary Axe," or "Swiss Re Tower;" it looks like the insurance company, Swiss Re, has retained an agent to sell the place.  The 40-story building is one of the most recognizable shapes in London’s financial district.  Wanna guess the price?  600 million pounds ($1.1 billion dollars).  Now, I don’t know real estate values in London, but even for New York or San Francisco office building real estate, I think that’s a high price.  It’s worth it. 

30 St. Mary Axe:
London_swiss_re_tower_long The building was designed by Norman Foster (also architect of WTC 200 Greenwich – the "four diamonds" building) and completed in 2004.  It received the 2004 RIBA Stirling Price for Architecture and was nominated for a Bentley Award of Excellence.  It was the first skyscraper to be built in The City for 25 years and stands tall at 590 feet.  Known for its cylindrical facade and phallic shape, the building is even more revered for its state-of-the-art design features. 

State-of-the-Art Design:
Advanced parametric modeling was used to reduce wind loads + turbulence and maximize natural light + ventilation exposure.  Comparatively speaking, 30 St Mary Axe consumes 50% less energy than a traditional large office building.  The building design allows for natural ventilation (a feature that can be used about 40% of the year). 

Swiss_re_wind_model Swiss_re_color_wind_model Swiss_re_model

Interesting Fact: 
Swiss_re_dome There’s only one piece of curved glass in 30 St Mary Axe…guess where?  The lens at the pinnacle of the structure.  One could go on and on about the various technologies used in this building, but my post would get too long.  For those interested, I’ve attached a list of some sources with more information. 

Extra Links:
30 St Mary Axe [Official Website]
Modeling the Swiss Re Tower [ArchitectureWeek]
London’s ‘Gherkin’ for Sale [Yahoo]
30 St Mary Axe – Norman Foster [GreatBuildings]

September Scientific American: All About Green, Sustainability, Energy + Carbon

Scientific_american_september_2006_1 The September edition of Scientific American went completely environmental with topics ranging from nuclear power to renewable energy, from hydrogen transportation to sustainable building, from climate repair to carbon emissions, and from coal to advanced technology.  This issue really covered the important topics in a smart, sophistocated, and thoughtful way.  I wanted to relate some of the concepts that the magazine mentioned in its article by Eberhard K. Jochem, "An Efficient Solution."  Generally speaking, the crux of the article is that wasting less energy is the quickest, cheapest way to curb carbon emissions. 

Need for Green Building:
Swiss_re_tower_london Nearly 35% of greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings, and 66% of all energy converted into a form usuable for human consumption is lost in conversion.  By improving the process whereby energy becomes usuable for human consumption, it is possible to reduce carbon emissions.  And more efficient buildings will play a role in this process.  If we assume that energy prices will continue to rise, every piece of technology that saves energy is an economic, business opportunity to be captured. 

Building Construction:
Many buildings are constructed with only the first costs in mind.  Maybe this is attributable to the process of bidding for projects, which seems to only include an analysis of the total build cost.  The life-cycle costs of a building, which would consider the operating costs, never enters into the calculation (unless developers request bids for products with green features and the life-cycle cost is implicit in the construction). 

Example – Green Renovated Apartments:
Edificio_malecon_hok_1The article mentions a project in Ludwigshafen, Germany, with 500 living spaces.  These places were difficult to rent.  So the apartments were renovated to adhere to low-energy consumption standards, which required about 30 kilowatt-hours per square meter per year.  Subsequently, rental demand for the apartments soared to 3 x capacity.  As a business person, this should ring a bell:  an automatic waiting list, pent up demand, nominal advertising as word-of-mouth grows legs, and a healthy business conscience.  Not a bad strategy. 

If you’re thinking about renovating, building, or replacing something, you should know about energy-efficient, green products before making the decision to purchase.  Here are some practical tips from the article for using less energy. 

  • Stove – Convection ovens can cut energy by roughly 20%.
  • Walls – thick cellulose insulation can prevent heat loss (winter) and heat gain (summer).
  • Refrigerator – new refrigerators use 25% of the energy required for a 1974 model (just buy all energy star electronics + appliances).
  • Compact fluorescent bulbs – uses 25% of the energy required for incandescents and last 8-10 times longer.Menara_mesiniaga_ken_yeang_1
  • Computers – LCD screens use 60% less energy than conventional CRTs.
  • Windows – Double panes filled with low-conductivity gas (w/ edge seals made of silicone foam) reduce heat flow by 50%+ . 

Overall, the entire magazine was pretty amazing and offered examples of how different buildings are saving money and energy.  Buildings mentioned include the Swiss Re Tower (London), Menara Mesiniaga (Malaysia), Edificio Malecon (Buenos Aires), ABN-AMRO Headquarters (Amsterdam), Szencorp Building (Melbourne), Genzyme Corporation headquarters (Cambridge, Mass.), and Procter + Gamble’s factory (Germany).  Go out, get a copy, and read it…you’ll be smarter for doing it.   

October 7, 2006: National Tour of Solar Homes Day

Asestourlogo119 To kick off the Natural Energy Awareness Month of October, the American Solar Energy Society (www.ases.org) will be sponsoring the National Tour of Solar Homes on October 7, 2006.  A solar home tour will happen in most states on or near this date.  Depending on the state, the tour may (or may not) have modern homes, but this will be an excellent opportunity to get first-hand information on solar energy:  information relevant to the particularities of the state YOU live in. 

Del_junco_solar_residence To find a list of links relevant to the state you live in, click here.  The tour in Texas will be in Houston and costs a nominal $10.  This looks to be an awesome tour, and as of today, there will be 8 homes with various green features.  Here’s a link to the list of homes with pictures and a description of each sustainable home. 

This is an awesome opportunity for anyone thinking about retrofitting their house or building a new sustainable house.  Why not learn from the experiences of others that have already taken the green plunge?  They will be able to talk about solar power, solar heating, cooling, passive cooling, wind power, day lighting, and other various green building technologies.  The Texas tour includes access to all 8 homes, a guide book, and a free energy efficient light bulb.  I’m thinking of taking the 5-hour drive (from Dallas to Houston) just to see some of these places and learn about the tax incentives specific to my state. 

For my Colorado readers (and there’s a lot of you), my friend in the blogosphere, Tom Konrad, Ph.d., has some good info on what’s going on in that state.  Just an FYI…

2006 National Solar Tour Sponsor Links:
U.S. Department of Energy EE/RE
Sunplan.com
Solar Today Magazine
Find Solar
Renewable Energy Access
Fronius

miniHome: Modern + Green Urban RV

Minihome

Introducing the miniHome.  Technically, it’s an RV, but it’s also designed for year-round living in extreme climates.  Ask the company, and they’ll tell you it’s perfect as a ski chalet, vacation retreat, cottage, guest cabin, or simple + luxurious home-away-from-home.  The base price is about $107,000 USD (max price $167,000), and if you’re thinking of hauling it around, you’ll need a vehicle that can handle a 14,000 pound haul.

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Bush Library Candidate SMU Takes LEED with Embrey Engineering Building

Embry_engineering_building The official opening for the J. Lindsay Embrey Engineering Building is set for September 8, 2006. This event marks the beginning of an explosion of green building projects slated for the Dallas area. Sustainable construction is here to stay, but this project could be a precursor to greater things at SMU…namely, the Green Presidential Library!

Green President Bush Library:
There’s a heated race for the Bush Library, and SMU is one of the finalists. The Embrey Building embodies SMU’s commitment to responsible, efficient building practices. It’s not that big of a stretch to think that if SMU were to receive the nod for Bush’s Library, it would build the library in a sustainable manner. Understanding there are a myriad of intricacies before that process works out, let me just put this into the blogosphere: Bush should pick SMU and top off his presidential legacy by building the first green presidential library in the country.

I should add, in full disclosure, that SMU is my school of choice for two graduate degrees (JD & MBA), so I have a modicum of bias. But all partisan allegiance aside, I hope SMU can continue its green building legacy with future sustainable building. Now that I’ve got that out of the way, let me talk about the building. I know, it’s not really modern, it’s Collegiate Georgian architecture, but the LEED stuff is what I’m going to hammer away.

Turner Construction:
Recently, I blogged about Turner being #7 in large design and construction firms for having LEED Accredited Professionals (LAP). This Embrey Building isn’t the only green building in the Turner Portfolio.  Purely in the Dallas metroplex, Turner is renovating Haworth‘s two floor furniture showroom (LEED), constructing the new LEED Corgan Associates offices in the West End, and completed Wal-mart‘s green prototype store.  Not bad Turner!

Embrey Building Features:
There’s a rather detailed article about many of the things SMU did to receive LEED points, but I want to talk about just a few: 

  • A three story light column funnels natural light into the interior
  • The lighting system is run by motion detectors
  • High reflective pavers (with marble chips) reflect heat from the building for cooling
  • Rainwater is captured and held in a tank across the street
  • Gray water is used for drought tolerant landscaping
  • Landscaping will use natural pesticides rather than poisons
  • An information kiosk will provide information on sustainable building and real-time building stats on building temperature and power usage
  • All lumber has chain of custody certificates from certified forests

To quote the SMU Dean of Engineering, Dean Geoffrey Orsak said, "A decade from now, I can’t imagine constructing a building that doesn’t include at least some aspects of LEED…once you’ve built one, you will want all of your buildings to be LEED certified." Yes, indeed. Ladies and gentlemen, green building is the trend.

Extra Links:
SMU Website
SMU Dedman School of Law
SMU Cox School of Business
U.S. Green Building Council

UPDATE: 12/15/2006 – I need to correct this.  President Clinton’s library received two globes from the GBI Green Globes, certifying it as green.  Here’s a PDF of the specifics.

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