In a 2016 broadcast of NPR’s Fresh Air, author and cultural anthropologist Gretchen Bakke characterized America’s energy grid as “increasingly unstable, underfunded, and incapable of taking us to a new energy future.” Nevertheless, the steady march toward progress continues, and the threat of obsolescence is driving many cities, urban planners, developers, and businesses to invest in the future. “We happen to be at a moment in time where people are starting to fear that technological obsolescence in the workplace and in cities is a pretty tough place to be and has some real consequences economically for the buildings and the cities that don’t have high-speed networking or don’t have modern energy,” observed Brian Lakamp, founder and CEO of Totem Power. “That’s why you’re seeing city planners, mayors, and businesses get more aggressive about deploying built environment technology than they ever have been, as far as I can tell.” (Note: Some states, such as California, have already passed legislation requiring new buildings to be outfitted with electric vehicle charging ports.) Identifying significant shifts in transportation, communication, and energy, Lakamp saw an opportunity to solve a problem that innovation imposes on our aging buildings. For example, as millions of electric vehicles begin to flood the market in the years ahead, a major investment in infrastructure will be required to support them. Similarly, as buildings are rewired with higher-gauge electrical cabling to accommodate new energy and communications networks, it’s clear that smarter, more flexible solutions are required to meet these ever-increasing demands. “With the coming of 5G and some of the IoT technologies, electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles, there’s a lot that is emerging that needs to change in terms of the way communications networks work and new technology is presented that gets really exciting,” Lakamp said. “We’re here as a way to deploy that infrastructure in the built environment in a way that can be made beautiful and impactful.” To that end, Lakamp launched Totem, a groundbreaking energy solution that reimagines and redesigns smart utility. The Totem platform combines solar energy and energy storage, WiFi and 4G communications, electric vehicle charging, and smart lighting into a single, powerful product that weaves these capabilities directly into the built environment.
Posts tagged with "energy":
March 11 marks the five-year anniversary at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan. After the disaster, officials have been on the hunt for alternative energy solutions. Now, Japanese electronics firm Kyocera has begun construction on what will be the world's largest floating solar farm, just outside Tokyo. The Yamakura dam power plant will use more than 50,000 solar photovoltaic panels covering nearly 2 million square feet. Japan is a country short on space, so energy solutions that aren't built on land are a welcome sight to many. As the Guardian recently reported, the country is increasingly dependant on imported fossil fuels, to the detriment of its carbon footprint goals. The solar array is being constructed upon a reservoir with hopes of providing enough energy for roughly 5,000 homes when finished in 2018. Despite its size, the plant is comparatively small to land-based solar farms. Expected to produce 13.7MW when complete, this more than 28 times smaller than the 392 Ivanpah Solar Power Facility in San Bernardino, CA. According to Kyocera TLC Solar, "the project will generate an estimated 16,170 megawatt hours (MWh) per year — enough electricity to power approximately 4,970 typical households — while offsetting about 8,170 tons of CO2 emissions annually. This is equal to 19,000 barrels of oil consumed." "With the decrease in tracts of land suitable for utility-scale solar power plants in Japan due to the rapid implementation of solar power, Kyocera TCL Solar has been developing floating solar power plants since 2014, which utilize Japan’s abundant water surfaces of reservoirs for agricultural and flood-control purposes," the firm added.
Tonight, Monday, November 9, at New York's AIANY/Center for Architecture, AN Senior Editor Matt Shaw will be moderating a book talk between Janette Kim and Erik Carver, the authors of The Underdome Guide to Energy Reform, a new book released by Princeton Architectural Press. Stop by at 6:00p.m. tonight for light refreshments and beautiful drawings alongside a discussion about the future of ecologically minded architecture and urbanism. The Underdome Guide to Energy Reform is equal parts architect's handbook and toolbox for effecting environmental change with the built environment. The book maps different approaches to energy management and performance to examine their implications for collective life. Underdome catalogs a spectrum of positions argued for by a diverse cast including economists, environmentalists, community advocates, political scientists, and designers. In turn, it highlights in architecture questions of professional agency, the contemporary city, and collective priorities in the face of uncertain energy futures. Check it out on our events page here.
Fossil fuel dependency is now a thing of the past for this municipality on Colorado's Western Slope. Aspen has just announced that it's only the third city to kick the habit and is fully reliant on renewable energy sources. Earlier this month, the Aspen Times reported that the city had reached the landmark after it signed a contract with electrical energy provider Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska. As part of this process Aspen swapped coal for wind power to make up for the non-renewable energy deficit with its energy also coming from hydroelectric, solar, and geothermal. Prior to this, Aspen had been running on an estimated 75 to 80 percent renewables. The feat was also able to be realized due to the recent drop in solar energy prices. In fact, the cost of solar energy is predicted to fall further still, dropping below $0.50 per watt in the next few years. Solar energy is not alone in this trend. In what's a good economic indicator of renewable energy's growing popularity, wind power is also much cheaper than it was just a decade ago. This trend toward renewables was likely aided by Obama's carbon regulations which made renewable energy alternatives increasingly competitive against fossil fuel sources such as coal. According to ThinkProgress, "already, more than one-third of American coal plants have been shuttered in the past six years, and the new carbon rules make it quite possible that no new coal plants will ever be built in the United States." “It was a very forward-thinking goal and truly remarkable achievement,” Aspen's Utilities & Environmental Initiatives Director David Hornbacher said. “This means we are powered by the forces of nature, predominately water and wind with a touch of solar and landfill gas. We’ve demonstrated that it is possible. Realistically, we hope we can inspire others to achieve these higher goals” Renewable energy has long since been on Aspen's agenda going back to the 1980s with the Reudi and Maroon Creek hydroelectric projects. Highlighting the accomplishment, former Project Coordinator Will Dolan said Aspen only began working toward its goal of 100 percent renewable energy about a decade ago. Beating Aspen to the 100 percent renewable landmark were Burlington, Vermont and Greensburg, Kansas.
In 2011 SWA built the nation's largest planned Zero-Net Energy (ZNE) community. Working in collaboration with the University of California Davis and developer West Village Community Partnership (WVCP), the project houses over 2,000 students and 500 staff and faculty families. When UC Davis started the West Village Energy Initiative (WVEI) in cooperation with WVCP in 2003, the university initially only aimed for a 50percent reduction in energy consumption (compared to the California Energy Efficiency Building Code). However, in 2008 the initiative proposed that without losing quality and at no extra cost to the developer, West Village could become a ZNE community. A public-private partnership with the developer and UC Davis has been able make WVEI's 2008 proposal a reality. SWA master planned the 225-acre neighborhood and prepared landscape strategies for its development. Included in the housing scheme is a network of parks, storm water ponds and corridors, bicycle and pedestrian trails, a community college, and retail and recreational services. These areas incorporate on-site energy generation which are aesthetically designed and in harmony with local environmental conditions. In preparation, SWA conducted analyses at regional, site, and building/garden scales in order to maximize opportunities for passive cooling. Designers arranged buildings in loose clusters that allow breezes from the Bay Delta to filter through the site. SWA also proposed the planting of deciduous shade trees, reducing the need for air conditioning. In a bid to promote zero-energy methods of transportation, SWA integrated an extensive cycling network into the scheme making it the primary way of getting around the neighborhood. Davis is, after all, home to the first bike lane in the United States. SWA integrated drainage into the site's system of parks, sports fields, trails, and gardens. Storm water drains to the site's large northern ponds, where it is purified by native wetland planting in a series of basins. The slopes of the site's ponds incorporate native shrubs and trees, selected in cooperation with UC Davis' horticulturists, botanical garden curators, and ground and maintenance personnel, to provide a sustainable habitat for migratory birds, while also providing a visually appealing natural landscape for residents year-round. UC Davis' internal monitoring shows that the West Village ZNE community achieved an exceptional 87 percent of initial ZNE goals in its first year. In 2013, West Village received the ULI Global Award of Excellence, which honors outstanding development in both the private and public sectors, with an emphasis on responsible land use.
Chicago's biggest buildings cut their energy use 13 to 23 percent since a new city program to publicize consumption data went into effect, according to a city report released Tuesday. That translates into an average savings of up to $200,000 per building per year, the report said. You can read the full report on the City of Chicago's website. In 2013 City Council passed a Building Energy Use Benchmarking ordinance requiring non-industrial buildings larger than 50,000 square feet to report their energy usage. That's less than one percent of Chicago’s buildings—about 3,500 in all—but an energy-hungry cohort that the city said accounts for 22 percent of all energy use by buildings. The move was praised by sustainability advocates but criticized by the Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago, which doesn't want such data made public. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has called the program an important of the city's wider sustainability initiative. Buildings account for 71 percent of the city's greenhouse gas emissions, according to 2010 data. In 2014, 348 buildings spanning 260 million square feet reported data to the city. “Building size or age appears to have little effect on energy intensity,” reads the report, “but building space use is a primary driver of energy intensity,” or energy use per square foot. Office space made up 60 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. As the program moves forward, more buildings fall under its reporting requirements. Commercial and municipal buildings larger than 50,000 square feet and residential buildings larger than 250,000 square feet must report their data by June 1. Buildings that joined the program last year need only benchmark and report in 2015. Every third year they need to have the city verify that data. Deadlines for additional buildings covered by the ordinance will phase in through 2016.
The Vancouver-based New Buildings Institute (NBI) tracks energy efficient built work, and their 2014 update, “Getting to Zero”, provides a snapshot of the emerging U.S. market for net-zero buildings—those are structures that use no more energy than they can gather on site. In the United States, California leads in the number of low and zero energy projects with 58, followed by Oregon (18), Colorado (17), Washington (16), Virginia (12), Massachusetts (11), Florida (10), Pennsylvania (10), Illinois (8), North Carolina (8), and New York (8). NBI also compiled a database of all their buildings. They say architects and developers interested in pursuing net-zero design could find inspiration there, searching according to their local climate and/or building characteristics. The database includes energy-efficient and high-performance buildings that are not net-zero, as well. Though the trend has succeeded in garnering attention and excitement among many designers, true net-zero buildings remain elusive in the built environment. So far NBI has only certified 37 buildings as net-zero. That ranking is based on performance—each building underwent a review of at least 12 months of measured energy use data. If piece-meal projects aren't yet adding up to a groundswell of net-zero design, NBI is also pushing systemic change—rigorous energy efficiency standards recently adopted in Illinois took cues from the group's Core Performance Guide.
The members of Chicago's Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) control nearly 80 percent of downtown Chicago's rentable building area. That makes them critical to local energy efficiency initiatives that aim to reduce the nearly 40 percent of U.S. energy that is consumed by buildings. At a trade show Wednesday entitled "Building Chicago: Greening the Heartland," BOMA officials reported on progress from their smart grid initiative first announced in 2012. The plan, now wrapping up its test phase, would share energy data among BOMA members for the purpose of cutting energy use in many large buildings. BOMA initially fought—and still opposes—the city's energy benchmarking and disclosure ordinance that requires non-industrial buildings larger than 50,000 square feet to report their energy usage publicly. A BOMA spokeswoman said after the event that the group only opposes mandatory public disclosure of energy data, not its collection. Using smart meters from Chicago-based Automated Logic, BOMA has completed pilot testing on several downtown buildings. The “smart grid” refers to a responsive system for distributing and using electricity (and eventually other resources like gas and water) wherein utilities and consumers automatically share data that can be used to reduce the overall demand for power. Meters designed for BOMA measure energy data second-by-second and can be reviewed in real time, said Mike Munson of smart grid technology firm Metropolitan Energy, as opposed to typical meters from ComEd that usually measure at 30 minute intervals and whose reports can only be viewed monthly. For the owners and managers of buildings over one million square feet, utility bills can top $800,000 per year—often among the owner's highest expenses along with labor costs and property taxes. Still, said BOMA's T.J. Brookover, they are accepted as a fixed cost. "Very few times are we dissecting those bills, looking at them, and understanding how we're using energy,” said Brookover. BOMA is trying to encourage more of its members to sign up for the program, but officials admitted it “has been slow” to bring skeptical building owners and managers on board. Under the terms of the plan, they said, individual buildings only see their own data, but only BOMA sees all of it. "The city hopes to shame owners into investing in energy efficiency,” Brookover said of Chicago's benchmarking ordinance. On the contrary, he said, BOMA's plan emphasizes cost savings. Whether you pursue energy efficiency because you hope to slash hefty bills or limit the rising tide of climate change-causing greenhouse gas emissions, said BOMA Executive Vice President Michael Cornicelli, smart grid technology has a role to play. "We can all get what we want from a well-designed smart grid infrastructure and strategy,” he said.
A team of mayors and nonprofit foundations said Wednesday that they’ll spend enough retrofitting major U.S. cities to save more than $1 billion per year in energy costs. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s philanthropy, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and the Kresge Foundation pledged $3 million each year for three years to provide technical advisers for 10 cities across the country: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Orlando, Philadelphia and Salt Lake City. The City Energy Project, as it’s called, is intended to cut 5 to 7 million tons of carbon emissions annually, or roughly the amount of electricity used by 700,000 to 1 million U.S. homes each year. The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Institute for Market Transformation will help the cities draft plans to reduce waste and improve energy efficiency—a process the group said should not take more than one year. Chicago’s participation could lower energy bills by as much as $134 million annually and could cut about 1.3 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually, according to the mayor’s office. In a prepared statement, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the investment would create jobs: “More energy efficiency means new jobs and continued economic growth, and a more sustainable City,” Emanuel said, “which will lead to a further increase in the quality of life for the people of Chicago.” Last year Illinois tightened its building code and Chicago ordered large buildings to disclose their energy use. In Chicago, like many of the nation’s older cities, large buildings eat up much of the city’s energy—together the buildings sector accounts for 40 percent of primary energy consumption in the U.S. While energy efficiency has long been recognized for its financial opportunity, major banks have only recently begun to invest. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said he hopes City Energy Project will connect building owners and private financiers, bringing more money to large-scale efficiency initiatives.
In crafting a building whose main goal is to make the study of natural resources accessible, architects from HOK and GSG did just that: they brought the outside in. Its purpose is to study what’s buried beneath the earth’s surface, but the University of Wyoming’s Energy Innovation Center isn’t an underground bunker. At the $25.4 million center, 3D visualizations illuminate three walls of a research lab so students can plumb the earth’s subsurface for valuable minerals and fossil fuels. The three-story, 56,941-square-foot EIC contains 12,000 square feet of flexible research lab space. A massive supercomputing system runs the 3D visualization rooms, which include a 1,296-square foot drilling simulator. “Rather than viewing a 3-D screen, the center resembles a cavern with three vertical walls and a floor,” said UW’s School of Energy Resources Director Mark Northam, “that makes researchers feel as if they are physically immersed in the image.” GSG Architecture of Casper, Wyo. is the architect of record. The general contractor was GE Johnson Construction Co. of Jackson, Wyo.
One of the most curious artifacts in the current exhibition, Energy: Oil and Post-Oil Architecture and Grids, currently running through November 10, is the one you run into just outside the entrance doors to Rome's MAXXI museum. It’s one of those ubiquitous mini AGIP filling stations, of the kind you normally would find curbside in any one of Italy’s many town centers. The look is ultra modern, with a cantilevered steel structure sheltering a smartly-constructed metal-and-glass shed designed for the gas station attendant and his stock of replacement windshield wipers and engine oils. Next to one of the pumps is AGIP’s bright yellow icon featuring a black, six-legged, fire-breathing dog. The filling station wouldn’t seem so odd if it were not for where it sits: on the pavement just under one of Zaha Hadid’s flying concrete viaducts. The architecture of Hadid's MAXXI suggests a series of highway overpasses crashing into one of the remaining buildings preserved on the former barracks site. The miniature service station with all its loaded petro-symbolism seems to fit perfectly under the shadows of this massive Ballardian road wreck. Inside, the exhibit offers an eclectic collection of road-related projects tied together by the medium of energy—petroleum in the immediate postwar era and proposals for projects fueled by alternative energy now that we are experiencing the fallout from post-peak production. The exhibition is divided into 3 distinct sections—“Stories,” the historical section; “Visions,” the section interrogating new energy possibilities; and “Frames,” a set of commissioned photographs. These are loosely tied to the Italian landscape, mainly by association to “Stories,” the core collection on display that features an impressive archive of visual documents on the beginnings of Italy’s Autostrada—the toll road that now extends over some 6,000 linear kilometers. Each of these sections has it’s own curatorial team and particular approach. MAXXI’s chief architectural curator Pippo Ciorra masterminded the exhibit and curated the section “Visions.” Just how does this exhibit fit into the broader global debate on sustainability, resources, waste, and climate change? What kind of critical contribution does it make to today’s energy forecast? Energy is not a high powered show. There is no pretense to comprehensiveness. If anything, there is a prevailing sense of arbitrariness not only in how things fit together but also to how much weight one section is given in relation to another. Yet in this age of data overload, a lot can be said about presenting a subjective assembly of issues held together by not quite much more then osmosis. Energy is an opportunity to focus in a couple very significant investigations and see how these issues stand up to the current debate. In this regard, the show, the second in the MAXXI series that began in 2011 with Re Cycle, is worth probing deeper into. To begin with, there is the “Stories” section curated by Margherita Guccione with its rich collection of archival drawings, renderings, photographs, and tourist postcards. While the United States looms large in Italy’s early postwar imagination, these documents provide an interesting view of how the architects involved in this first wave of transport innovation locked in to some of the key architectural typologies of the time. Specifically, the Pavesi and Motta Autogrill restaurants, the AGIP stations, and ancillary infrastructure that supported the growing highway network, including the ENI headquarters known as Metanopoli just outside Milan, and a score of worker leisure facilities that were then considered obligatory for a company of such national scope. And while most of the architects names are not that well known to the general public, contributions by Luigi Nervi and Mario Ridolfi accentuate the significance of this push towards Italy’s second wave of modernization. Anyone who is interested in Italy’s historical postwar design and manufacturing boom will find this section of the exhibit particularly rewarding. “Visions,” on the other hand, steers through a much more complex and, at times, more difficult terrain. Ciorra handpicks seven architectural groups who, he notes in the catalog, are “part of a generation that are ‘naturally sensitive’ to environmental issues” and who come from a range of countries as diverse as South Africa, Australia, Japan, Korea, Great Britain, and, of course, Italy. The road matters everywhere, though this is most eloquently taken up in the work of the Australian-based group, Terroir, whose manifesto begins and ends with the bleak landscapes of Mad Max. According to Terroir, the continent’s highways can be harnessed to generate non-expendable energy, but just in case, the architecture Terroir projects is intended to outlast civilization as we know it. In keeping with Ciorra’s initial premise, the group of protagonists in “Visions” are not bent on presenting the latest energy related gizmos, but rather to engender a set of solutions that make us want to “crave” leaving our wasteful consumption habits behind. MoDus Architects from Italy, present their “Heads Up Highway,” a sort of elevated power ribbon providing 160 million square meters of energy generating rooftop. For the most part, however, the “Visions” section remains utopian. One example is by Noero Architects of South Africa, who present the small fishing village of Hangberg outside of Capetown that explores the possibility of a localized energy infrastructure woven into the informal residential fabric. Open Building Research’s “Right to Energy,” picking up on the increasingly popular Commons movement, advocates multiple intermodal means of transportation to cut down on energy waste. Or in other words, get off the train and hop on a bike. There are two in the gallery connected to a looped video going through the streets of Milan. The photographic section, “Frames,” curated by Francesca Fabiani, could have had a much greater impact on the show if only it were given more space to breathe. Italians are incredibly sanguine in their photographic mastery of contemporary landscapes, and here too contributions by Paolo Pelligrin, Alessandro Cimmino, and Paola Di Bello give lucid portraits of the big and the small of the petrol industry. Perhaps this section could have easily eclipsed the other two. Which brings us back to just how much can a show like this matter, when the world is so hopelessly beholden to fossil fuel. Countries are plundered and peoples are massacred to ply this profitable trade. Nothing—thousands in highway dead, oil spills, not even biblical droughts and out of season hurricanes—serves to dampen the appetite for limitless oil. Ciorra in the accompanying catalog brings up Pier Paolo Pasolini’s 1972 book, Petrolio, published posthumously. The architecture curator recalls the renowned film director’s concern with Italy’s moral decline. Pasolini’s lead character is Carlo, an engineer who works for ENI, Italy’s main energy powerhouses and one of “Visions” main sponsoring partners. Carlo succumbs to a deep crisis of identity that runs in step with the postwar mood of the country. Yet Pasolini in this exhibition remains an illusive ghost. Yes, Ciorra and his curatorial team have done well to find a simpler kinder approach to the energy controversy, perhaps in keeping with the notion that anything much harder will turn the general public off altogether. This lightness is what makes the show worth the immersion, precisely because it starts the process that greases our sense of collective responsibility. For those who continue to guzzle, there is the real the risk of getting burned by the six-legged black dog. There can be no doubt that this dog is from Hades. Energy: Oil and Post-Oil Architecture and Grids runs through November 10 at the MAXXI museum in Rome. Peter Lang is currently Professor in History Theory at the KKH Royal Institute of Art and Architecture in Stockholm, Sweden.
Big Ass Fans are, as their name suggests, a producer of very large fans. They're used everywhere from dairy barns to art galleries to outdoor public installations like Wendy, HWKN's star-shaped pavilion for MoMA PS1's summer Warm Up series. They also make residential models, like Haiku, the latest product in their line up. Once you get over the eye roll-inducing slogan—Haiku: Poetry in Motion—it's a really incredible product. According to Energy Star it's the world's most efficient residential ceiling fan, and even exceeds their efficiency requirements by 450 to 750 percent. Whereas most fans use 90 to 100 watts, the Haiku uses just two to 30 watts, costing an average of $5 per year. The fan blades are made from Moso bamboo, a super-strong, fast-renewing material that's harvested sustainably in China and handcrafted in Kentucky. Before the bamboo is dried and finished, each individual stalk is inspected for imperfections. Haiku also comes in a glass-infused matrix composite in black or white. Either way, black, white, or bamboo, the cool-running motor is completely silent, even on the highest setting (there are ten in all). There's also a brand new mode called the Whoosh, which pulses to simulate natural variations in air flow. "Human thermal receptors have peak sensitivity to wind gusts that vary by 0.47 Hz; Providing air movement with this variation can increase perceived cooling by up to 40 percent." So far Haiku has won a handful of awards, including a red dot design award for product and bronze in the International Design Excellence Awards (IDEA) in the living room and bedroom category. Haiku in bamboo retails for $995.