Los Angeles goes green
Growing algae for energy efficiency reasons: this and other exceptional solutions are part of the renovation concept that US design team HOK and Vanderweil used to win the competition “Next Generation Design 2011”for Metropolis magazine.
In contrast to a lot of other innovation competitions, the requirements for “Next Generation Design” are very concrete: the task is to give new life to a 46-year-old public administration building in the centre of Los Angeles. While the old building (which can be viewed at http://www.metropolismag.com/nextgen/) has certain architectural qualities, it also has a high energy consumption level for modern times.
The project “Process Zero: Retrofit Resolution”, from HOK/Vanderweil, has the goal of reducing this consumption by 84%, with the remaining 16% covered by renewable energy.
The largest part of the building’s energy consumption – according to the energy planner’s analysis – is the electricity used for the IT equipment (40% of the total consumption) and the electrical lighting. Consequently, the concept has introduced the idea of migrating all the administration employees to “cloud computing”. Through the elimination of computer processors at work stations, the IT-specific electricity usage should sink by 80%.
For the lighting, the designers have concentrated on daylight. Three large, new atria and eight small light wells should bring natural light into 100% of all the office areas. In order to accomplish this, it was important to get rid of the room piders. The typical American “cubicles” shall mostly be replaced with large office spaces in order to ensure better light distribution.
For heating and cooling, the new concept concentrates on more natural ventilation as well as additional storage options in the ceiling panels with the help of Phase Change Materials (PCMs).
Solar energy will be supplied mostly by the 3,500sq m of thin photovoltaic layers on the facades as well as by the solar thermal collectors on the roof. And a third, still relatively unknown way for energy creation will be tried out on the building: large parts of the facade will be fitted with glass piping, where algae will grow in fertiliser. These plants use the energy of the sun in order to produce fatty acids that can be burned. It is hoped they will contribute 9% of the remaining energy needs for the building, as well as provide shade for the office spaces.
For their design, HOK/Vanderweil received US$ 10,000 that they would like to invest in further research and development activities.