Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The False Illusion Of Safety: The Need For New Architecture 3

Should buildings become self-sufficient in regards to power and other areas?
So far we have spoken about storm barriers to control water levels and flooding.  But what about the other disaster that can happen when power is lost for days or weeks?  How can this problem be overcome?

The common reason why power is lost is because of downed power lines.  This is true mostly in suburban areas.  In major cities this is less of a problem due to buried power lines.  Right now for example, generators and electrical equipment is found at the basement of buildings.  This means that they are the first thing to go when flooding occurs.

Buried Power Lines vs. Above Ground
There are several reasons why some believe that buried power lines are not an improvement over buried ones.  First of all the cost of burying them.  Scott Sklar of the Stella Group, Ltd., a Washington DC lobbying group states,
...the real limiting factor is that the cost of ditching and burying lines can be more than US $10 per foot. In fact, the state Public Service Commission staff found that burying Louisiana's utility lines to protect them from hurricane-force winds could cost $70 billion — far too much for the state's 2 million electricity customers to pay. Plans to go underground often hit a brick wall nationally, because burying existing overhead power lines costs about 10-15 times more than stringing them from poles.
"I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that." Thomas Edison, 1931
In Florida and North Carolina, burying power lines would have prompted a rate increase of from 80-125%.  Thus the costs of burying lines costs more than 10-15 times more than putting them above ground in poles.  The upkeep of these underground cables would also be more expensive.  Digging would have to be done carefully and it is still a guessing game.  There would also be problems in older neighborhoods with rights of way issues that need to share space with water and sewer lines, cable television and fiber optic cables.1  The question is would these buried power lines survive better than above ground ones during a hurricane? In an interview on NPR on August 29, 2011, Ted Kury, director of energy studies at the University of Florida's Public Utility Research Center about the survivability of buried power lines.  In Florida, Kury stated, the cost of a buried line is approximately $1 million a mile.  In answer to the question as to whether underground power lines would experience problems, Kury stated,
...you're not really eliminating risk completely when you underground the power lines. You're simply trading off one type of risk for another. Yes, you've mitigated the risk of losing power because of a failure in the pole or a tree getting blown into the lines. But you've traded that risk off for outages due to storm surge or to flooding.
Issues of het building up underground were discussed.  These heat issues were dissipated above ground because of the lines being cooled by the air.   It a underground line does go out, it could take 5-7 hours to repair as opposed to an hour with overhead lines.  And although, new buildings are increasingly burying their power lines, they are often fed by overhead lines that com from the outside traffic arteries.  If these overhead lines go out, the reliability of the underground lines is jeopardized.2 Hurricane Katrina demonstrated the vulnerability of underground power lines.  Katrina flooded its buried lines.  In 2004, Hurricane Ivan uncovered and destroyed power lines.3

A possible solution will come with the coming implementation of the "smart grid."
“An intelligent grid can’t clear a fallen tree or pick up a pole, but it can identify and isolate problems, allowing a serviceman to pinpoint exact problems or letting the grid automatically reroute power and ‘self heal.’”4
So since flooding is a serious problem in many areas of NYC underground cables without serious reinforcement and insulation would not be a viable solution.5

Green Skyscrapers
Solaris Building (Singapore)
In megacities like New York, building codes like its new Green Code will have to be enforced and there will have to be a massive restructuring of the present architecture.  In the United States there is a standard called the U.S. Green Building Council.  Within these standards is their LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).  This is a much sought after acronym which measures the building in the following ways: sustainable site, water efficiency, energy & atmosphere, materials & resources, indoor environmental quality, locations & linkages, awareness & education, and innovation in design.
USGBC Green Buildings

Although there are building in the United States like the one we will present to you, we have more information on the Pearl River Tower in Guangzhou, China.  It is the largest radiant-cooled office building in the world.  It is as of the present, the most energy efficient super-tall building in the world.
Pearl River Tower China

Pearl River Tower Radiant Cooling System

Pearl River Tower

The 71 story building containing 2.3 million square feet of space combines solar and wind energy, using turbines and photovoltaic batteries in the facade of the building.  The only feature we see missing is the food producing gardens which are the latest trend in these monoliths.

The Solaris building in Singapore does take advantage of plants.  Called Solaris Fusionopolis is the Research & Development hub for Infocomm Technology Media.  It was built by Zaha Hadid Architects.  It features a continuos 1.5 kilometer long ecological armature.  The design allows for "...fluid movement of organisms and plant species between all vegetated areas within the building."  It collects rainwater and recycles it through the gardens which provides 700 million gallons of storage, enough for five days of irrigation via recycled water between rainfalls.
Solaris Fusionopolis, Singapore

This architectural firms is very creative as can be judged from the private residence they are constructing in Russia, expected to be completed this year.
private residence, Russia: Zaha Hadid Architects

We include a host of videos of what the future might look like and what the present already does look like for your perusal.  If you cannot see the embedded video here is the link: http://bit.ly/osdsZ8.

In our next installment in this series we shall cover more exciting green skyscrapers.

1 comment:

Chris said...

A really great post. Makes you think a little!