Renewable energy experts from the University of Exeter in England have developed a glass block with built-in solar cells. The idea is that with the spread of technology, it is possible to build a house or a whole building's facade using blocks that generate energy.
The product has been named Solar Squared, tests done at the university have shown that they guarantee thermal insulation and allow natural light to enter the building.
Architects play a crucial role in addressing both the causes and effects of climate change through the design of the built environment. Innovative design thinking is key to producing architecture that meets human needs for both function and delight, adapts to climate change projections, continues to support the health and well being of inhabitants despite natural and human-caused disasters, and minimizes contributions to further climate change through greenhouse gas emissions.
Professor Alan Short of the University of Cambridge has published a book advocating for the revival of 19th-century architectural ideas to address the crippling energy use of modern skyscrapers. The Recovery of Natural Environments in Architecture proposes an end to the architectural fetish for glass, steel, and air conditioning, instead drawing inspiration from forgotten techniques in naturally ventilated buildings of the 1800s. The book is a culmination of 30 years’ research and design by Prof. Short and his colleagues at the University of Cambridge.
A country known for economic dependency on its rich oil deposits, Norway is now looking toward the future of energy production: net-positive architecture. Taking the lead in this initiative, developer Emil Eriksrød has commissioned American-Norwegian firm Snøhetta to design Norway’s first energy positive building, Powerhouse Telemark, a 6,500 square meter (70,000 square foot) office building located in the tiny Norwegian town of Porsgrunn, home to just 35,000 people. When completed, it will be the world’s northernmost plus-energy building.
Pritzker Prize winner Thom Mayne has completed a three-semester–long study of Houston’s future, given its current sprawling urban conditions and rapid growth. The project, conducted alongside 21 University of Houston students and faculty members Matt Johnson, Peter Zweig, and Jason Logan, focused on ways of addressing the problems that arise from Houston’s historical lack of zoning in conjunction with the largely unregulated growth of industry and capitalism. These approaches include reinventing the current energy infrastructure, changing real estate and density, and leveraging the lack of zoning to generate new ideas.
California is suffering through its 5th year of severe water shortage. Aquifers and rivers continue to dry out as the water provided by melting snowpacks is reduced, and even the heavy rain brought by El Niño this year could not relieve the drought. Authorities are wary of the long-term consequences for California and neighboring areas of the Colorado River, and Santa Monica is now seeing a growing number of initiatives to control the use of potable water and find sustainable solutions.
Most recently, a competition asked architects, artists and scientists to conceive sustainable infrastructure projects to improve Santa Monica’s water supply. Bart//Bratke and studioDE developed a raft structure named “Foram” that illustrates the future of floating platforms in sustainable development.
This week, Museum Gardens became the host to the annual Triumph Pavilion, this year focusing on the concept of "energy." Five Line Projects' aptly titled "Energy Pavilion" takes a multi-faceted approach to the theme, addressing social sustainability, movement and the power of community. The pavilion presents a playful meeting place, designed to explore the impact of a single positive action on its surroundings.
The Land Art Generator Initiative is delighted to announce that LAGI 2016 will be held in Southern California, with the City of Santa Monica as site partner. This free and open call ideas competition invites individuals or interdisciplinary teams to design a large-scale site-specific work of public art that also serves as clean energy and/or drinking water infrastructure for the City of Santa Monica.
The Passive House is now 25 years old; to celebrate this, the International Passive House Conference is returning to Darmstadt – the city in Germany, in which this success story began. On 22 and 23 April 2016, over a hundred speakers from all over the world will report on the latest projects relating to highly energy efficient construction and retrofits. But the anniversary will also serve as an occasion for a review, with the presentation of results relating to the durability of the individual building components of the first Passive House. The complete Conference programme is now available online. In
The 2015 Architecture at ZeroCompetition has launched, challenging students and designers to develop 'family-style residential units' for the Mission Bay Campus of the University of CaliforniaSan Francisco. Now in its fifth year, the competition calls for designs that produce "at least as much energy as [they] use over a year," excluding the embodied energy of building materials and transportation of people and materials to and from the site. Entrants must be able to demonstrate that their designs can be reasonably expected to meet a zero net energy goal over a prolonged period of time. The competition is open to student and professional individuals and teams, with up to $25,000 in prize money to be won. Interested parties have until August 28 to register and submissions are due September 25 at 1PM PST. Read more about the competition at Architecture at Zero's website and check out the winners from last year here.
The world's energy infrastructure may soon undergo significant change; Tesla Motors recently unveiled the Powerwall, a compact, lithium-ion battery pack that will allow residents to autonomously consume energy by drawing from their own sun-powered reserve. For just $3,500, you can purchase an attractive, wall-mounted battery capable of storing up to 10 kilowatt-hours of energy - about a third of what the average US household uses daily. Beyond this, the company will also be offering scalable Powerpacks to businesses and utility companies that will allow limitless storage. Powerwalls will go out for delivery this summer.
Winners have been announced for the 2014 Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI). The competition, this year sited in Copenhagen, calls on interdisciplinary teams to design large scale site-specific artworks that provide renewable electricity to the city at a utility-scale (equivalent to the demand of hundreds or even thousands of homes). Once constructed, these public infrastructure artworks have the potential to offset thousands of tons of CO2 and provide iconic amenities that will serve to educate and inspire the communities in which they are built.
Check out the winning energy-generating sculptures, after the break.
International architecture firm NBBJ has created Sunbreak, a new prototype for user-controlled sunshades that will not only lower energy costs, but also give buildings a dynamic appearance throughout the day.
Technology currently exists for automatically regulating solar gains in buildings, but the downside to these systems is that they often lack manual controls, and one of the most common complaints heard from workers in modern office buildings is that they do not have enough control over their environment. Automatic sunshades go up or down based on the time of day but if it happens to be cloudy outside or if users want natural light in a room when the shades are down there may be nothing they can do.
The largest private project New York City has seen in over 100 years may also be the smartest. In a recent article on Engadget, Joseph Volpe explores the resilience of high-tech ideas such as clean energy and power during Sandy-style storms. With construction on the platform started, the Culture Shed awaiting approval, and Thomas Heatherwick designing a 75-Million dollar art piece and park – the private project is making incredible headway. But with the technology rapidly evolving, how do investors know the technology won't become obsolete before its even built?
Have you ever wondered where your information goes when you save it to "The Cloud"? The answer is within giant data centers. According to reports, Facebook and Google's data centers resemble something from Science Fiction, while some could come straight from a Bond flick. In a new short film named Internet Machine, Filmmaker and Visual artist Timo Arnall takes us where few have been granted access, showing the world what "The Cloud" really is - a massive architectural space with extreme energy demands. To experience the power surging and hear the deafening hum of a data center, check out the trailer above.
While zero net energy is easily achieved in smaller buildings, it's a challenge in larger structures - and the competition challenged entrants to think big. With the aim of being as close to zero net energy as possible, competition entries had to be a mix of affordable and market rate housing units and include a full neighborhood-serving grocery store on the ground level.
Read more for the winners...
The potential to generate energy is hidden in many places, from skyscrapers to ski-slopes. But new research is showing that a potent source of energy is hiding right beneath our noses, or feet to be more specific.
This past Monday, President Obama made climate change and sustainable energy the focal points of his Inaugural Address when he declared that choosing to ignore these key environmental issues "would betray our children and future generations." This is the first time in the last few months that the President has taken a firm stand for the future of our Earth, a direct result of Super Storm Sandy and a smart choice to reveal controversial policies only after re-election. Although Monday morning was not the time to outline a specific political strategy, President Obama made it very clear that this time around, denial of scientific judgment and Congressional opposition would not be reasons for failure to act.
While this is a sentiment easier said than done and there is doubtlessly a long and difficult road ahead for the President and his administration. The White House has revealed that it plans to focus on what it can do to capitalize on natural gas production as an alternative to coal, on "reducing emissions from power plants, [increasing] the efficiency of home appliances and [on having] the federal government itself produce less carbon pollution" (NYTimes). According to the New York Times, they aim to adopt new energy efficiency standards for not only home appliances but for buildings as well, something that should spark the interests of architects and urban planners already committed to designing with climate change and sustainable energy in mind.