Terraform Earth

What do you get when you cross Skyscrapers with Parks?

Fora.tv recently posted a speech by Dan Winey, the Managing Principal for the Asia Pacific Region with Gensler, about another sustainable building design for a tower in Singapore. It uses an outer skin to relieve wind load and house 14 story atriums at multiple levels. It captures rainwater, graywater, and possibly blackwater for a water demand reduction of 40%. Wind turbines at the top and geothermal at the bottom. And a greatly reduced need for structural materials with less wind load.

I expect that this kind of design will happily accommodate the new materials technologies like fullerenes and carbon nanotubes, which have been tested at 60 to 100 time stronger than steel. [e.g. nanotube reinforced plastics, carbon nanotube reinforced aerospace materials]

One potential I don’t see discussed very much is that these stronger, lighter materials could also become smarter. CNTs (Carbon NanoTubes) and nanotubes of various other compositions have shown remarkable versatility. I am reading articles about nanotubes conducting electricity, acting as solar PV cells, photoreceptors, LEDs, peizeoelectrics, etc. So a CNT toughened plexiglass might also serve as a display, inform a building monitoring system of structural stress, and collect some electricity from sunlight.

Larry Niven long ago suggested the notion that our buildings might approach space ships in some design aspects. Right now we would like to see a building that can capture energy from its surroundings, operate a nearly closed environment within the building, and withstand the scale of threats on faces in space. The same way we want a shuttle to hold up against a micro-meteorite impact, we would also like our buildings to be less threatened by truck bombs, suicide planes, anthrax envelopes and food poisoning scares.

When I read articles about recycling greywater, I never read about water’s potential for slowing bullets & shrapnel. A biological waste water remediation system could also make the occupants safer from terrorist attacks. I think I would really appreciate an algal farm in between me and an explosion. How much is that worth in the ROI planning? Civil engineering and architecture need to adopt Amory Lovins’ approach of making the design challenges more inclusive, less myopic.

– ecogeekdan