Posts tagged with "Solar Panels":

French law mandates green roofs or solar panels on all new buildings in commercial zones

It’s serious crunch time in France for environmental policymaking as regulations tighten in deference to the 2020 goal of reducing carbon emissions by 25 percent. Paris is also scrambling for brownie points as it prepares to host the UN Conference on Climate Change this November. Lawmakers in France recently decreed that all rooftops of new commercial buildings must be covered in either plants or solar panels. Other major cities have gone to similarly stringent lengths, with the city of Toronto, Canada, mandating green roofs on all new buildings in 2009—whether residential, industrial or commercial. Expected foliage cover ranges from 20 to 60 percent depending on the size and type of building, with residential dwellings less than six stories high exempt from the mandate. Green roofs are an apt counterweight to the urban island phenomenon, in which urban zones are found to be several degrees hotter than surrounding rural areas because of their concrete density relative to moist, permeable land and vegetation. On the other hand, green roofs create an “isolating effect” that cools the building, reducing energy needs for heating and cooling in winter and summer, and retain rainwater to reduce excess runoff and flood likelihood. A green roof also bodes $200,000 in savings over its lifetime, according to researchers at Michigan State University. French environmental activists had initially lobbied for far less leniency, calling for every roof on every new building to be entirely covered by plants, without the option of installing solar panels instead. The Socialist government sought a middle-ground appeasement, convincing activists to limit the law to commercial buildings. France still lags behind other European countries in terms of solar deployment, installing just 613 megawatts of solar photovoltaics in 2013, falling behind countries that had installed at least 1 gigawatt in previous years, according to a 2014 report by the European Photovoltaic Industry Association.

This solar-power generating bike lane in the Netherlands wows engineers by producing more juice than expected

Performance-wise, the Dutch power-generating bike path, SolaRoad, has overshot expectations, generating upwards of 3,000 kilowatts of power in the six months since its launch. The 230-foot concrete strip is located in Krommenie, a village northwest of Amsterdam, and is undergoing a three-year pilot test for material feasibility. The wattage generated in the first six months, according to SolaRoad, suffices to power a one-person household for a whole year. Based on this track record, the bike path is expected to generate 70 kilowatt hours per square meter per year (approximately 22,189 kilowatt hours per square meter per year), close to the upper limit predicted in lab tests. “We did not expect a yield as high as this so quickly,” Sten De Wit, spokesman for SolaRoad, said in a statement. The surprisingly inconspicuous solar panels are embedded into the concrete paving like ceramic tiling. Each panel is protected by an 0.4-inch layer of transparent, skid-resistant tempered safety glass designed to withstand the weight of passing vehicles. The pilot test itself will gauge the skid resistance of the solar panel path as compared to asphalt, and to ensure that it does not create any distracting reflections. Over 150,000 cyclists have reportedly traversed the solar-generating part of the path. According to SolaRoad, they “hardly notice it is a special path.” However, tests have shown that significant temperature fluctuations cause the glass coating to shrink, so that parts of it peel away in the winter and early spring. The coating has since been repaired, and engineers are in the “advanced stage” of developing an improved top layer. The 3-year pilot project, costing around $3.8 million, is a public-private partnership between the Dutch province of Noord Hoolland and engineering firms TNO, Ooms Civiel, and Imtech. Closer to home, Idaho inventors Scott and Julie Brusaw have their own iteration of power-generating roads, called Solar Roadways. The Brusaws are building a prototype parking lot in their headquarters featuring 108 panels to test their efficacy in the face of vehicle-imposed wear-and-tear. The hexagonal panels are designed for roads, driveways, parking lots, bike trails, and eventually, highways, and have already courted $850,000 in seed funding from the federal government and an additional $2 million from crowdfunding website Indiegogo.

Overland Unclogs Historic Plumbing Warehouse

San Antonio firm transforms vacant industrial building into sunlit workspace.

Dissatisfied with their two-story office, San Antonio architecture practice Overland Partners recently went looking for a new home. They found it in an unexpected place: a long-vacant plumbing supply warehouse within the city's burgeoning arts district. The 1918 Hughes Plumbing Warehouse offered the firm exactly what they wanted—a large open floor plan—in an architecturally refined package. The timber-framed, brick-clad building "is simple," said project architect Patrick Winn, "but it's really elegant and beautiful when you're able to look at it." The problem was that years of disuse had left their mark. "When we first viewed it, it was really far gone," recalled Winn. The original windows had been broken up, and the roof had flooded. Undaunted, the architects took on an extensive renovation project, with the result that today the former plumbing distribution center is a boon not just to Overland, but to the neighborhood as a whole. Prior to renovation, Hughes Warehouse was entirely encased in a double-width brick wall, except for a few garage door openings and two levels of clerestory windows. While the clerestories, approximately 16-20 inches and 20-25 inches in width, provided a good dose of daylight to the interior, they did not provide views out, nor did they facilitate the transition from parking lot to studio. "At Overland we really enjoy blurring the line between the outdoor, natural realm and the indoor, built realm," said Winn. "Right from the get-go we said: we have to cut a courtyard into the building and elongate that entry sequence." Overland carved out approximately 2,000 square feet of space for the new courtyard, which is faced with a custom glass and steel curtain wall. The transparent opening floods the office interior with light and frames views for the occupants. It has also become a de facto community space. "What's been nice is that runners' groups and cycling groups are starting to use our courtyard as a hub for activity," said Winn, who notes that live music and other events at a neighboring coffee shop are an additional draw. "It's brought a lot of life and energy into our space from the courtyard." To secure the courtyard after hours, the architects designed custom steel gates to replace the original, graffiti-covered garage doors. To tie-in to the warehouse's arts-district location, and to pay homage to the graffiti, Overland looked to Jackson Pollock for inspiration. They pixelated photographs on Photoshop before transferring the file to AutoCAD and sending the pattern on to Rivercity Industries, who laser-cut the design into the doors. The doors themselves were fabricated by Overland Workshop. "From the exterior, especially when the lights are on, when you drive by, there's almost a twinkling effect," said Winn of the perforated gates. "They're really neat."
  • Facade Manufacturer Overland Workshop, The Beck Group, Sharp Glass, Tower Steel
  • Architects Overland
  • Facade Installer The Beck Group
  • Location San Antonio, Texas
  • Date of Completion December 2012
  • System Existing brick facade with custom steel and glass curtain wall, glass and steel punch windows, clerestories
  • Products custom steel and glass curtain wall, high-performance windows, Lutron automatic shades, custom gates by Overland Workshop
The architects punched additional windows into the remaining brick facade. "We decided to honor the old brick building," said Winn. "Any new insertion is done with steel and glass." To mitigate solar gain, the new windows are extruded about a foot on the east side of the building, and about two feet on the west. The clerestories and courtyard curtain wall are equipped with automated shades. Though the original steel frames around the clerestory windows would only accept 1/4-inch laminated safety glass, the new windows feature one-inch-thick high performance glass. Additional sustainability measures include a complete board insulation system over the roof. "We loved having brick on the interior, so what we couldn't do there in terms of insulation, we made up for on the roof," explained Winn. "We over-insulated it." A rooftop solar setup offsets about 60 percent of the office's energy consumption. In addition, the architects re-used original materials wherever possible. They built the interior stairs out of old joists, and the contractor saw-cut discarded concrete into pavers for the abutting alley. Even the brittle roof decking found a second life as board forms for the building's cast-in-place concrete elements. The Hughes Warehouse building has exceeded the architects' expectations in terms of bringing the office back together, said Winn. "It's done wonders for us from the standpoint of office culture. People seem to really love working here—it's not a place that's a drag to work in, it's very comfortable." He noted that in less than two years the firm has grown from just over 40 members to about 70, and recalled several recent events, including art shows and a courtyard holiday party, held in the renovated space. "I have to say that Overland's been elevated to a whole other level."

World’s largest solar bridge completed in London

Work was just finished on the Blackfriars Bridge in London, which is now the largest solar bridge in the world. The renovation of the Victorian-era bridge was part of the larger modernization project for the adjoining Blackfriar’s railway station. The station has been fitted with 4,400 photovoltaic panels, which are expected to reduce the station's CO2 emissions by an estimated 511 tons (563 tons) per year. Work began in spring 2009 and the station was operationally complete in time for the 2012 Olympics, with the solar array installation complete in March 2013. The full refurbishment of the station is now also complete. The nearly 20,000-square-feet of new panels are intended to offset about 50% of the station’s energy costs. The adding of solar panels was part of a redesign for the Southfriars Station which includes a new entrance on the south bank of the River Thames, four new platforms and a improved Underground station. The station is a key part of the £6.5 billion (US$10.72 billion) Thameslink Programme, which aims to increase train capacity on one of Europe's busiest stretches of railway running from north to south through central London. "Our work at Blackfriars demonstrates two key benefits of solar," says Frans van den Heuvel, CEO of Solarcentury told Gizmag. "First, it can be integrated into the architecture to create a stunning addition to London’s skyline. Second, it can be integrated into the most complex of engineering projects; in this case being built above a construction site, over a rail track over a river."

New York’s Green Zone Goes For Code

City Planning hasn’t missed a beat since celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1961 Zoning Amendment with a conference in November that brought together zoning czars from academia, business, and government to discuss challenges ahead for planning in New York City. On Monday, Amanda Burden of the City Planning Commission (CPC) announced a new Zone Green initiative making it easier —at least zoning-wise—for sustainable upgrades of residential and commercial buildings across the city. Zone Green focuses on retrofitting existing buildings to high performance standards. To that end and as part of the mayor’s efforts to green NYC’s one million buildings (and lower the $15 billion per year it takes to power and heat them), the new zoning text allows for the addition of external insulation within property lines while exempting insulation from floor area requirements; permits solar panels on roofs to exceed maximum building height limits; allows window shades and screens, whether vertical or horizontal, to project from building facades. The new code is more flexible about rooftop bulkhead regulations in order to encourage and allow cogeneration facilities, skylights, storm water management tanks, as well as—with CPC certification—greenhouses as long as they are not residential in any way. Small wind turbines would be allowable on buildings taller than 100 feet and those under 100 feet that are near the waterfront (except in low-density residential neighborhoods). The new proposal continues the department’s innovative approach that has wielded zoning to applications well beyond building mass and height in order, among other things, to encourage fresh food sources in neighborhoods with heavy concentrations of obesity; mandate access to stairs as an alternative to elevators and escalators also for healthier urban living; and even acknowledge that some New Yorkers just want to be alone by including single seats in parks and on the waterfront. Green Zone will be backed by new amendments to the City’s energy code; it has been submitted to public review by all community boards, borough boards and presidents for 60 days as of Dec 12 through approximately med-February when all comments will be reviewed by CPC and the City Council.

Going Green in Ghana: Mario Cucinella’s One Airport Square

Of Sand and Stone. On September 8th, Milan-based architect Mario Cucinella will break ground on his One Airport Square project in Accra, Ghana's capital city. The 230,000 square foot structure of irregular cantilevered floor plates embraced by a web of diagonal concrete supports meant to evoke traditional African patterns. Plans call for a dynamic pedestrian plaza with shops and cafes topped with commercial space. Solar panels are integrated among cantilevered terraces with indigenous fauna to protect the building from the scorching sun.

Quick Clicks> Archi-Photos, Julius Shulman, Birds, and Solar Trash

Don't Shoot! The New Republic's Sarah Goldhagen takes on architectural photography. Her piece doesn't exactly add much new material to a debate that's as old as photography itself. Much of the piece reads like sage advice from the art history professor who tells students to get their butts down to The Met because the slides don't come close to the real thing. Still, she's no-holds-barred on much maligned medium: "They lie" and  "photographs and the photographers who take them unwittingly and willfully misrepresent", etc. Shoot! Once you get through Goldhagen's piece, then segue on to Architect for advice from PR maven Elizabeth Kubany on how to hire an architectural photographer. Mixed in with standard practice procedures (have a preproduction meeting) Kubany dips into current trends, which she refers to as "point of view" photography, i.e.-"chilly modernist perfection" is out "less tidy perspective" is in. Even Goldhagen will love it. Shulman! Enough talking about architectural photography, it's time to take a look at some classics. AN's own Sam Lubell just published a book with Douglas Woods, Julius Shulman Los Angeles: Birth of a Modern Metropolis. (If you're in New York this evening, stop by the Rizzoli Bookstore -- 31 W 57th St. -- at 5:30 for a book signing with Sam!) Architizer has a preview. Killer buildings. LEED certification may have to go the way of the birds. At least that's the way some conservation groups see it. With millions of migrating birds crashing into tall buildings, The Chicago Tribune reports that an extra layer of netting may help LEED buildings stay sensitive to their environmental mission. Solar Heap. The ever morphing PlaNYC has realized yet another initiative. Mayor Bloomberg announced the latest version today (the law requires the plan be updated every four years) and old city landfills get slated for new use. Not another park, not new bike lanes---we're talking solar panel fields. DNA's got the details.