Perhaps one of the largest obstacles to expanding the production of clean energy is the amount of land required. Solar energy farms must be located in large areas of open land, free from any kind of shading obstructions, while photovoltaic panels placed on the roofs of buildings are rarely able to generate enough energy to meet full demand. Meanwhile, wind turbines can reach as high as 700 feet tall, which can face serious opposition from local residents if wind farms are proposed for areas with high scenic value — such as near the coast.
Rather than turning to the land, two architects recently unveiled designs that integrate energy harvesting systems into their designs. By utilizing the available space on building facades, these two designs maximize their potential energy output, while decreasing their reliance on the power grid. Check out these innovative concepts, which create habitable clean energy harvesting structures and further blur the boundaries between buildings and their environments.
Murtada Alkaabi, an architecture student at TU Delft, sought to resolve the vision obstruction issues related to wind turbines by designing an innovative building that doubles as a wind farm. The entire facade of Alkaabi's modular building design is clad in a striking system of rippling thin panels, which function like horizontal wind turbines.
The buildings, which are intended to be constructed in coastal areas, can be configured in a variety of shapes for different functions, such as housing or an event space. As wind passes by, the bright green panels echo a field of beach grass fluttering in the breeze, capturing the energy to help the building reduce electricity costs. Any leftover energy will be plugged back into the grid.
Alkaabi compared the potential energy generated by his design to that of a wind farm in Belgium to estimate its feasibility. The wind panels could generate the same amount of energy as the farm's 11 turbines, in just 1.3 square miles of land rather than the farm's 3 square miles.
Instead of tearing down a tower in the middle of Seoul, UNStudio was commissioned to transform the Hanwa Headquarters into a sustainable building capable of generating its own clean energy. The renovation will boast one of the world's largest solar-powered facades — cladding the entire tower in photovoltaic cells and an illuminated LED system that will become an eye-catching animated display at night.
The Hanwa Group manufactures solar panels and other sustainable technologies, and wanted their headquarters to more accurately reflect their mission. The tower's tall facade provides a greater amount of square footage to provide electricity to the building, and allows the building to function more self-sufficiently than relying solely on the power grid. In addition to the solar array and LEDs, the headquarters will receive a new system of windows, shading, and lighting to increase natural daylight inside the building and reduce energy costs.
The LEDs will flash through scenes found in nature to emphasize its environmental-friendliness. Throughout the building, sky and winter gardens will further merge the boundaries of nature and structure, creating a welcoming entrance lobby for employees and visitors.