Tower blocks are usually regarded as the antithesis of green building. Bill Dunster Architects have tackled this perception head-on with the concept design for a zero energy tower. The argument is that urban densities will have to increase which will make some high-rise development inevitable, therefore the task is to exploit their height and floor plate to make them net sources of power. The tower could form the focal point of a larger low-rise housing complex on the lines of BedZED (see below) and could rise to 35 storeys.
The tower consists of four lobes or 'petals' which direct the wind into a central void containing wind turbines. Wind velocity tests indicate that air flow at the core of the building would be multiplied four-fold by the configuration of petal plan. This would be sufficient to power several vertical axis turbines which would be almost silent. At the same time the floor plates are designed to provide maximum views whilst optimizing daylight (see Fig. 15.11).
On every fourth floor there are triple glazed lobbies linking the petals and providing platforms for viewing the turbines. Additional electricity is provided by PVs on the south-facing façade and south sloping roofs. According to engineers Whitby Bird the combination of low- and high-rise housing would be self-sufficient in electricity (see Fig. 15.12).
To complete its sustainability credentials all grey and black water would be recycled via reed beds located in the shadow of the tower. Much of the construction would employ reclaimed materials: ground granulated blast-furnace slag (ggbs) would be a concrete aggregate whilst reclaimed timber would provide stressed-skin panels.
The commercial viability of the project would be enhanced by the inclusion of work and community spaces on the ground floor. The high density of 115 homes per hectare is the factor which does most for the marketability of the project. That should keep the accountants happy. What would keep the residents happy is the possibility of living and working within the locality of the site whilst enjoying the benefits of ultra-low energy construction.
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Renewable energy is energy that is generated from sunlight, rain, tides, geothermal heat and wind. These sources are naturally and constantly replenished, which is why they are deemed as renewable. The usage of renewable energy sources is very important when considering the sustainability of the existing energy usage of the world. While there is currently an abundance of non-renewable energy sources, such as nuclear fuels, these energy sources are depleting. In addition to being a non-renewable supply, the non-renewable energy sources release emissions into the air, which has an adverse effect on the environment.