Air conditioning uses a lot of energy, which is undoubtedly why your father was always yelling about somebody messing with the thermostat when you were younger. The problem is, though, that now that we have it and expect it in every building, we can’t live without it. One 80 year old designer and engineer believes he has solved the energy consumption problem and a hotel in Amsterdam will be using his design to create the World’s first Zero-Energy hotel.
The project, titled “Breeze,” will begin construction in 2016 and complete in 2017. The 64,000 gross square feet, 155 room hotel will use nothing but nature to cool and power its building and will be the first of it's kind in the World.
The video below is a quick look at how the building will be cooled and heated:
When Ben Bronsema first conceptualized his idea for the design, he looked to termites for inspiration. Termites, as he explains in his 2013 TED talk (video below), use natural cooling to maintain a constant temperature of their mounds, which grow the fungus they live on. To verify his design, Bronsema also enlisted the help of a couple universities: TU Delft (who are also working on that concrete that can heal its own cracks, read more here) and TU-Eindhoven.
So how does the building’s A/C work? The building uses an overhang above the roof, where wind flows through the overhang at the roof level. That same wind then enters building directly, through a vent. The air is used for not only air conditioning, but also energy production, with the use of wind turbines. Before the air enters the occupied spaces, water is sprayed on the air, which cools the air in the summer and warms the air in the winter. The soil below, says Ben Bronsema, is around 51-53 degrees Fahrenheit (11-12 degrees Celsius), so they’ll use the soil to control the temperature of the water.
The building will also employ a solar chimney, which uses the sun to heat the air up inside the chimney, which pressurizes the air inside the chimney and allows it to be exhausted. The heat the leaves the building then heats up water, which is stored in the soil beneath the building to be used for energy later or to be used in the winter to heat the building.
The only piece of mechanical equipment needed in this set up is one small pump, which will push the water from the soil up to the roof of the building. Other additions made to the building to make it zero energy include, roof mounted solar panels and the aforementioned wind turbines, as well a solar façade on the South side of the building
Bronsema explains a few more benefits to the natural air conditioning, besides the energy aspect, that he designed: there will be no noise, no draft, a lot of fresh air, and no dry air.
It’s certainly an interesting concept, but I can’t help but notice the lack of any detail regarding humidity control. The use of water cooling will certainly reduce the dry air effect, but it will be interesting to see how adding water to an already humid air will affect indoor air quality and conditions. High moisture content inside buildings accelerate the natural aging of materials, greatly increase risk of mold growth, and also corrode metal over time.
Nevertheless, we'll wait until we hear the actual results of the building, before we judge anymore. If this building ends up working as well as their tests have shown, however, it would certainly reduce overall maintenance costs for many new buildings.
What do you think? Would you stay in a hotel room without any mechanical HVAC?
As the world not only becomes more familiar with green products, but also starts demanding them, researchers and contractors alike need to be ready to embrace the ever-changing world and meet their customer’s demands. Each year, new products are released that hoping to reduce waste or harness renewable energy sources, but only some of them reach the mass market.
Below are 8 green products, processes, and stories that we found most interesting in 2017:
Wood construction has typically been used for purely residential products in the past few decades and especially after fire protection standards became more stringent. Besides fire rating, concrete and metal has several other benefits over wood, including overall strength, resistance to insects, and resistance to rot. Wood, however, does have some advantages over concrete and steel, like its relative light weight and it’s much less harmful to the environment.
The Netherlands has a ton of bridges, especially pedestrian and biking bridges, thanks to its abundant system of canals. Perhaps because of that, they have become a leader in 3D printing technology when it comes to bridges.
Concrete is an extremely strong building material, but has a notoriously weak tensile strength. In order to resist tension, bending, and shear forces, steel rebar or other reinforcement materials are added either prior to the placement or into the mix. Even with reinforcement, concrete is still extremely rigid and prone to cracking. In the event of a major earthquake, the uneven and horizontal forces can cause structures to crack and, in the worst case, cause failure.
Concrete can adapt to any shape its formwork calls for while it’s being placed. While it’s POSSIBLE to make intricate designs with the material, it’s not always easy or practical to do so. Researchers from ETH Zurich have designed a new method of forming and placing an ultra-thin, curved concrete roof system that they plan on installing on a construction project next year.
As electric vehicles are becoming more and more popular around the world, researchers are trying to find ways to adapt the technology to heavier duty applications. Due to the large size of projects and amount of money in the industry, the mining industry has seen its fair share of technological advancement. Several manufacturers, like Komatsu, have developed and released driverless dump trucks for mining operations in the past few years. A team of companies in Switzerland is now working on a gigantic battery powered dump truck that will be tested for 10 years.
Rapid growth and the industrialization are the major contributors to China’s noted air quality issues. 4 years ago, the Chinese government issued a “war on pollution” aiming to improve air quality and reduce other environmental hazards, such as land and water contamination. Air quality is at its worst in the winter months across the country, due to households relying more on coal power to heat residents’ homes.
Asphalt is one of the world’s most popular pavement materials. Because of that, researchers and scientists are constantly looking for ways to improve upon it. Additives have been included in some asphalt mixes for years to improve strength, but recently researchers have been getting pretty clever with the types of additives they’re testing.
As great as a product as asphalt is, there’s no doubt that there is room for improvement. Scientists all over the world are trying to solve its most common issues, such as potholes, cracking, ice build-up, and storm water drainage. Los Angeles is now tackling another issue with the material: heat island effect.
In March of this year, Elon Musk announced that Tesla would begin taking orders on their Solar Roof Shingle concept. Tesla Solar Roof is a solar power roof system that eliminates the need for bulky solar panels installed over top of traditional roof materials. Instead, the shingles themselves, which come in a variety of different styles, are the solar panels.
At the company’s second quarter earnings report, Tesla announced that the first solar roof installations have been completed.