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Architecture at Zero Competition Challenges Teams to Design Zero Net Site Energy Housing for UCSF

The 2015 Architecture at Zero Competition has launched, challenging students and designers to develop 'family-style residential units' for the Mission Bay Campus of the University of California San 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.

Video: How Tesla's Powerwall Will Provide Energy to the World

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.

Winning Proposals Transform Power Plants into Public Art

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.

NBBJ Creates High Tech Shading System for Buildings

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 Hudson Yards - New Development, "Smart" Development

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?

VIDEO: Inside A Data Center, The Architecture Of The Cloud

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.

Winners of 2013 Architecture at Zero Competition Announced

Industry leaders recently came together to announce the winners of the 2013 Architecture at Zero competition, which included five professional and one student awardee. The competition, which is co-sponsored by AIA San Francisco and Pacific Gas & Electric, focuses specifically on the design of zero-net energy structures. 

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...

Could A Sustainable Source of Energy Be Right Beneath Our Feet?

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.

The Design Implications of President Obama's Commitment to Climate Change and Sustainable Energy

January 21, 2013, Inaugural Speech; Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson
January 21, 2013, Inaugural Speech; Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson

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.

More after the break...

Roadmap 2050: A Practical Guide to a Prosperous, Low-Carbon Europe.

AMO is a design and research studio inside OMA, a think tank operating on the boundaries of architecture: media, politics, sociology, sustainability, technology, fashion, curating, publishing and graphic design. Some of their works include the barcode flag for the EU and a study for Wired magazine.

And while OMA covers sustainable strategies on a building or master plan scale, AMO is approaching it on en European scale as one of the five consultants conducting technical, economic and policy analyses for Roadmap 2050, an initiative by the European Climate Foundation which looks to chart a policy roadmap for the next 5-10 years based on the European leaders’ commitment to an 80-95% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050. You can download a brief of Roadmap 2050 in PDF.

Roadmap 2050 © AMO
Roadmap 2050 © AMO

The goal is to achieve a 2% energy efficiency saving per year in order to meet this goal, with power and vehicle transportation being the most important areas.

Through the complete integration and synchronization of the EU’s energy infrastructure, Europe can take maximum advantage of its geographical diversity. The report’s findings show that by 2050, the simultaneous presence of various renewable energy sources within the EU can create a complementary system of energy provision ensuring energy security for future generations.

AMO’s work focuses on the production of a graphic narrative which conceptualizes and visualizes the geographic, political, and cultural implications of the integrated, decarbonized European power sector.

On their study you can find an interesting approach to a diverse european energy grid, including energy trade and the use of new non-traditional sources.

Eneropa © AMO
Eneropa © AMO

The image of “Eneropa” appears as a new continent based on its energy production: Biomassburg, Geothermalia, Solaria, the Tidal States… are part of this new territory. Other branding concepts are introduced on the study, creating a tangible image of this ambitious plan, which reminds the powerful (yet simple) idea behind the barcode flag.

You can download the full study in PDF format at the Roadmap 2050 website.

More after the break: