Contenders Aim for the World’s First Net Zero Energy Tower 1

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Tuesday, May 6th, 2014
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Pertamina Energy Tower by SOM: Aerodynamic modelling
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Described by SOM as a 99-storey “beacon of energy,” a new tower will aim for a net zero energy target and offer its inhabitants spaces to work and play.

Described by SOM as a 99-storey “beacon of energy” the building will target net zero energy and offer its inhabitants spaces to work and play.

The building’s aerodynamic aesthetic will see it become an iconic landmark for the country, while its green credentials will demonstrate Indonesia’s environmental commitment.

Energy Ribbon will provide accessible public space

Energy Ribbon will provide accessible public space

Slated for completion in 2020, the 530-metre sustainable development will be the headquarters of national energy and gas company Pertamina.

The Pertamina Energy Tower will be able to accommodate 20,000 people through a workspace, campus, mosque, sports centre and a 2,000-seat auditorium dedicated to the performing arts.

A covered walkway known as the Energy Ribbon will be clad in photovoltaic panels which will generate energy and provide protection from the rain and sun. The walkway will connect campuses, land bridges and gardens to provide accessible public space.

There will a geothermal-based central energy plant which “will serve as the energy production hub for the campus — a literal and figurative ‘heart’ from which energy and services will be distributed,” said SOM.

Geothermal is recognised as Indonesia’s primary renewable energy source with the country holding 40 per cent of the world’s potential geothermal resources thanks to its 400-plus volcanoes.

Masterplan for Pertamina's workspace and campus

Masterplan for Pertamina’s workspace and campus. Click to view full image.

The tower’s aesthetic reflects its sustainability, with the building tapering inward as it rises to an open and rounded top, which SOM calls a “wind tunnel.” The tunnel will utilise the prevailing winds to generate energy for the upper floors of the building.

The tower is also “precisely calibrated” for Jakarta’s proximity to the equator while its curved façade features brise soleil to absorb and mitigate solar gain throughout the year.

The tower’s curved façade is also energy efficient, featuring exterior sunshades to absorb natural light and illuminate the work spaces, thus reducing the need for artificial lighting.

Energy Efficient: Triple Glazed Facade

Energy efficient triple glazed facade

“It is extremely exciting for the architects and engineers at SOM to be working on a tower and campus for which energy is the primary design consideration,” Scott Duncan, the project’s lead designer told Fast Company. “Historically, super-tall buildings have focused on structural challenges: resisting gravity and lateral forces from seismic and wind. The rules have changed, and energy has become the defining problem for our generation.”

Currently, SOM’s 309-metre Pearl River Tower in Guangzhou City (completed in 2012) is currently widely considered the world’s most energy efficient skyscraper.

In addition to the Pertamina Energy Tower, SOM is now working on net zero energy tower, the Greenland Group Suzhou Centre in Wujiang China, which is expected to be completed by 2017.

The Suzhou Centre is expected to rise to 358 metres and will use 60 per cent less energy than a typical skyscraper, due largely to the building’s “digital aerodynamic modeling.”

The “lung” of the building – a 30 storey tall atrium and operable window – will draw in cool air flow during warmer months and flood the interior with natural light.

Pearl River Tower, Currently The World's Most Energy Efficient Skyscraper

Pearl River Tower, Currently The World’s Most Energy Efficient Skyscraper

Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill also have a net zero energy tower in the works – a 184-metre net zero energy skyscraper in Nashville, Tennessee which would be one of the most energy-efficient and highly sustainable mixed-use buildings in the world.

That skyscraper is aiming for a LEED Platinum rating while also meeting the “aggressive energy use intensity (EUI) goals of the 2030 Challenge, an internationally recognized challenge for architecture practices to design more energy efficient buildings and move energy consumption toward zero fossil fuel usage by the year 2030,” the architects said.

It will house a hotel, offices and residential apartments and, like Pertamina, its orientation will contribute greatly to its energy efficiency.

Greenland Group Suzhou Centre Will Use 60% Less Energy Than A Conventional Skyscraper

Greenland Group Suzhou Centre will use 60 per cent less energy than a conventional skyscraper

This includes a triple glazed curtain wall along the northeast wall and a self shading horizontally folding curtain wall on its south side. A double-skin façade, photovoltaic panels, solar shading, under-floor air distribution and skygardens will also help reduce energy consumption.

The Nashville building’s exterior wall system will be made up of approximately 60 per cent vision glass and 40 per cent solid wall, as opposed to the 40/60 vision/wall ratio normally required to achieve the energy goals of the 2030 Challenge.

Greenland Group Suzhou Centre's 30 Storey Light Filled Atrium

Greenland Group Suzhou Centre’s 30-storey light-filled atrium

“This will allow for spectacular views of downtown Nashville for building tenants while maximizing their human comfort levels and minimizing their energy costs,” said the architects.

Though these projects are all aiming to achieve net zero energy in super tall buildings, Daniel Safarik of the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat said measurable results have yet to be seen.

Net Zero Energy Contender: 505 Church Street, Nashville, Tennessee

Net zero energy contender: 505 Church Street, Nashville, Tennessee

“All of the early attempts at ‘net zero’ skyscrapers have fallen short of that goal, but we have seen attempts to harness the prevailing natural conditions as well as active technology to generate a substantial portion of their required energy,” he said. “Part of the issue is that, even if a tall building could generate all of its own energy, it is still a massive structure that contains a great deal of embodied energy in its creation. So there are many fronts on which to fight this war, and it’s far from over.”

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  1. Preston Walberg

    Architects and engineers employing more of nature's offerings to create buildings that push closer to net zero energy usage. Well worth the read, and hopefully it will help to inspire more.