Solar architecture is defined as “the integration of passive solar or solar panel technology with modern building techniques. The use of flexible thin-film photovoltaic modules provides seamless integration with steel roofing profiles, enhancing the building’s design.”
Of course solar architecture is nothing new, as we have explored in previous blogs, buildings have been built by inspiration from the sun’s rays for thousands of years. But in modern days, innovators and architects have found solutions to problems that were common in the past. Whereas energy storage and usage was somewhat limited to small structures in previous centuries, now we can incorporate the use of photovoltaic cells to contribute to a much higher use of electricity in larger buildings and on grand scales.
Let’s look at some examples around the world.
- One of the first large-scale buildings to use solar architecture is the Condé Nast Building, also known as the 4 Times Square building in New York City. This 48-story building is the 12th tallest building in New York City, and it contains 1,600,000 square feet of floor space. The Condé Nast Building, featuring solar panels on the 37th through 43rd floors, was built with high-performance insulation in its walls and heavy-duty wall shading. Its gas-powered absorption refrigerator produces hot water and air conditioning, providing the building with 50% more fresh air than is required by city building codes. Fun fact: this building has been featured in Battlestar Galactica, The Devil Wears Prada, The Amazing Spiderman, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
- The Sundial Building in Shandong, China was named the “World’s Largest Solar Powered Office Building” in 2009, and it was designed to not only prove the necessity of moving away from fossil fuels but also the possibility of it. The building’s sundial shaped exterior features 50,000 square feet of solar panels and is 30% more energy efficient than the country of China requires.
- The Taiwan Solar Stadium in Kaohsiung, Taiwan was designed by architect Toyo Ito who enjoys creating buildings that merge physical and virtual worlds. This stadium boasts 40,000 seats, and its 14,155 square foot solar roof powers the entire structure 100%. Home to the World Games, when this stunning dragon-shaped structure is not in use during game season, the surplus energy will be fed into surrounding local communities, providing 80% of their energy needs. Plants and vegetation were not destroyed during this project’s construction, but were instead temporarily transplanted and re-planted later. All raw materials used are 100% recyclable and produced locally in Taiwan. Even more impressive, the stadium reduces their carbon footprint by incredible strides- preventing the use of 660 tons of carbon dioxide each year.
- Dubai is home of some pretty incredible architecture, and the Vertical Village is no exception. Combining residential, hotel, and entertainment facilities, this multi-use complex offers brilliant sustainability solutions. The Vertical Village features a massive solar array on its southern side, a solar roof to provide hot water, and self-shading structures that eliminate direct sun exposure from permeating into the building, thus cutting down on unnecessary air conditioning.
- The Solar Ark in Japan is an ark-shaped solar-power generation facility with 5,046 panels that produce approximately 530,000 kilowatt-hours annually. Constructed from structural steel, the Solar Ark is twice as strong as normal steel, which means the building can withstand level 7 earthquakes on the Japanese seismic scale. One of the most exciting parts of this design is the Solar Energy Museum, referred to as the solar lab, which offers exhibits, classes, workshops, and activities for visitors and children.
Innovation on implementing solar power is on the rise- the sky is the limit, so to speak. Isn’t it interesting how one star can inspire such a variety of designs and innovations from designers, architects, and visionaries from all over the world?