With solar skin, Sydney's ugliest tower becomes an energy-efficient attraction

A proposed solar skin concept could transform Sydney's ugliest building into an energy-efficient attraction.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor on

A proposed solar skin concept could transform Sydney's ugliest building into an energy-efficient attraction.

UTS Tower (Building 1) is considered the ugliest tower in the Australian city, according to a 2006 poll of readers of The Sydney Morning Herald. While that could be a problem for the tower's namesake, the University of Technology, Sydney, the 1960 Brutalist building has provided the school with the opportunity to turn it into an eco beacon.

Fueled by the university's sustainability drive, an upgrade has been proposed by Facilities Management Unit project manager Jafar Madadnia: turn the building into a "landmark environmental tower" by wrapping it in a photovoltaic skin.

The sustainable energy system, devised by postgraduate students in 2008, has been funded to allow students to build and test the project.

In all, the students came up with five proposals:

  • Solar-cells, passive ventilation and façade characteristics
  • Feasibility study of hydro turbine
  • Ducted wind turbine
  • Feasibility study of cogeneration
  • Feasibility study of an efficient boiler heat recovery system.

Of these, the boiler heat recovery system, which will recover excess heat from the city campus boiler system normally vented into the atmosphere, will be the first to be implemented. Wasted energy will instead be put through a heat exchanger that will use exhaust gases to pre-heat cold water that enters the boilers, reducing the overall energy needed to heat the water.

But the most visible suggestion is the work suggested for the tower. The architectural firm LAVA, for "Laboratory for Visionary Architecture,"has proposed a solar skin concept that stretches around walls and roof elements.

In the design, the building is covered in a lightweight composite mesh textile that can collect rain water, generate electricity and complement the plan's passive ventilation system that uses natural convection.

Energy peaks are removed thanks to a "microclimate" in the tower envelope, and computer-designed and generated components made off-site allow for cost-effective implementation.

According to Architecture & Design, the skin also serves as a glowing "intelligent media surface" that can communicate information in real-time.

Here's a look in a video:

Not a bad way to give a brute a facelift.

[via Inhabitat]

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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