Category 18 April 2019

Energy efficient skyscraper as an element of sustainable urban development

Called the world’s most energy efficient skyscraper at the time of its preparation, the Pearl City Tower has taken the novel approach of producing electricity for its own use from renewable energy sources. Many other characteristics of the building help to lower its energy consumption.

The challenge

China’s growing economy has led to increased energy consumption, which in turn has increased emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. Developing countries are now facing a challenge of realizing sustainable growth, where higher living standards can be combined with lower emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. In Europe, the challenge is rather to renovate the existing building stock and improve its energy-efficiency. Thus, energy efficient skyscrapers can be a solution for both regions.

The innovation

The introduction of energy efficient designs in the building stock can contribute to improved air quality and to the strategic planning and realization of a sustainable and low carbon urban environment. A stand-out example of integrating energy production and energy efficiency in buildings can be seen in the 309 meter high skyscraper Pearl River Tower in the Chinese city of Guangzhou.

The 71-story building is integrating solar power and wind power in the tower façade, allowing an optimization of the solar path and wind flows. The sculpted building body directs wind to four openings at its mechanical floors, where turbines are producing energy for the building, and the wind flowing through the tower is also used for ventilating purposes.

The building structure is designed to keep heat out to reduce cooling requirements. There are double walls with mechanized blinds on the northern and southern facades, and triply glazed facades to the east and west. The building makes full use of natural light via a system of automated blinds with light-sensitive controls. In addition, the blinds are equipped with photovoltaic cells to make the most of the sunshine that reaches the building. Inside, a ceiling cooling system regulates the temperature through radiation heat transfer. Collectively, these building characteristics will contribute to significant energy savings of nearly 60% less than a traditional building of similar size. The construction reduces the tower's dependency on the city's infrastructure and provides a good example of sustainable construction and design (level 9 on the TRL scale).

Why did it work?

The idea for this innovative building was born in 2005, when the Chicago-based company Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) was hired to design a headquarters building for the Chinese National Tobacco Company (CNTC).

Further deployment

The development of even more energy efficient and sustainable skyscrapers continues the world over, as cities continue to find ways to significantly reduce their carbon footprint and air pollution.