The great gearshift

Design is all about solving problems and creating energy efficient buildings and communities, which will drive us towards a better and greener future.

Bhushan Avsatthi is a sustainable building advisor at Hi-Tech iSolutions.
Bhushan Avsatthi is a sustainable building advisor at Hi-Tech iSolutions.

Earlier in May, the Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (DEWA) collected bids for the development of the third phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum solar park. At $0.03 per kilowatt-hour, solar power will be cheaper than coal in Dubai. GCC countries are investing in a range of solar, thermal, photovoltaic, wind, and waste-to-energy projects of varying scale for power generation, with a few of them already functional, and a lot of them in planning and bidding stages.

From 7-11 May, 2016, Portugal ran entirely on sustainable energy. Using a mix of hydropower, biofuels, wind, and solar energy, the country put forward impressive statistics in energy use. This is not surprising considering by end of 2015, over 50% of Portugal’s energy was derived from renewable sources. Denmark’s wind turbines routinely produce surplus power, which the country is able to capitalise on, selling to its neighbors.

And a Norwegian company — Statoil — is in the process of building the world’s largest offshore wind farm near Scotland. A former oil company, Statoil is now pioneering technology that enables it to place wind turbines that will remain steady even in stormy oceans, taking inspiration for the turbine design from oil rigs.

These very encouraging statistics are proof, and a reminder, that most countries, when they implement effective policies, will be able to achieve 100% clean energy. It is certainly a step in the right direction, hopefully not too late, as the consensus grows about the need to reduce harmful carbon emissions, globally. The buck doesn’t stop at producing clean energy.

The change lies in how effectively we use the energy. Globally respected green building agencies such as LEED, ESTIDAMA, BREEAM, and Green Star, give out credits and ratings based on the energy efficiency of a building’s design and its post-construction performance. LEED awarded a Platinum rating to UCLA’s renovated student residences for implementing upgrades that are in sync with the university’s sustainability initiative, focused on getting Los Angeles to 100% sustainability in energy, water, and biodiversity by 2050.

With developments in technology that support building information modeling (BIM) workflows better than before, there are examples of ground-breaking projects in construction and infrastructure that have optimised energy use, using efficient and reliable analyses based on real building data — the most remarkable in recent times is the Shanghai Tower.

Building owners are certainly interested in saving costs, and that can also come in the form of earning ratings and credits under ESTIDAMA, LEED, and similar such agencies. Using BIM workflows, designers and contractors can both achieve higher energy efficiency for their buildings. At a basic level, designers can begin with just the building concept and dropping it on its prospective location can generate several iterations that can determine baseline energy efficiency data.

With BIM, it is possible to model the daylight that illuminates a building during the course of a day, at different times of the year. This can determine design choices that will reduce the need for artificial lighting, such as windows and skylights placed strategically.

Airflow modeling based on computational fluid dynamics (CFD)is a decisive factor in determining the thermal comfort of a building. It can be simulated and analysed using CFD. The HVAC systems of the building can then be optimised based on the reports generated.

For building owners who want to use solar photovoltaic panels, it is important to model the building and its environment for analysis of the possibility for solar power generation.

Energy efficiency is not just the state’s prerogative, it is a collective responsibility of the citizens and policy-makers. Where the state sets up policies and projects that cut down on carbon emissions, and the urban architecture and infrastructure follows with responsible design, that will pave a way forward to answer the environmental challenge we face.

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Construction Week - Issue 767
Sep 01, 2020