Monday, May 25, 2009

Madrid Distrito C Self Shading Solar Office

Distrito C is an ambitious project designed to consolidate 40,000 employees in Madrid from Spain’s largest company, Telefonica. The complex includes four phases of three buildings each, for a total of twelve structures. The design and materials for the buildings are identical so as to streamline the construction process and keep time and material waste to a minimum. And by keeping construction and production as simple as possible, Telefonica maintains the clean, unified look the company is after.

Local architect Rafael de La-Hoz designed Distrito C with the hot Spanish sun in mind. A special type of glass, designed specifically for this project, has been installed throughout as a means of reflecting the sun’s heat. Protruding panels act as sun visors and give the buildings a unique aesthetic character. Connecting each of the four phases is a covered walkway that shades people below. On top of the walkway is the world’s largest rooftop photovoltaic installation–15,300 solar panels capable of collecting 4 million kW hours annually.

Landscaping around the complex includes native plants that require very little water; the water that is needed comes from rainwater harvesting systems on top of each building. Since opening its Distrito C headquarters in 2007, Telefonica has been able to streamline and simplify its operating techniques and reduce local travel expenses.

Gordon Graff Skyfarm


"Gordon Graff's Skyfarm isn't intended as an out-there suggestion of what might be. He's convinced it would work, right now. In Graff's conception, Skyfarm is a self-sustaining system.

It almost has to be: With virtually no penetration of natural light, Skyfarm's demand for electric lighting comes in at an estimated 82 million kilowatt hours per year. The average household uses about 10,000 kwh annually.

Hooking Skyfarm into the grid would completely cancel out any of the energy-saving advantages gained by not having to truck its produce thousands of kilometres. And then there's all that water – 59 storeys of hydroponic plants, stacked half a dozen storeys deep.

But Graff thought of that. Skyfarm would be equipped with its own biogas plant, to produce methane from its own waste. When burned, methane produces less carbon dioxide than other hydrocarbon fuels. It would be used by Skyfarm to produce its own electricity.

When Skyfarm is unable to produce enough waste to power itself – Graff estimates that the farm's internal waste would generate enough methane to fulfill 50 per cent of its energy needs – he suggests a win-win partnership with the city. Waste that travels to civic composting facilities – with questionable renewability, by some accounts – could be diverted to Skyfarm's anaerobic digester to produce the methane it needs. Skyfarm could take on some other problems to its benefit, too: Sewage is a rich methane source.

And the water issue? Enter the Living Machine, a patented biological water-filtration system that would recover waste water from sewage and divert it to Skyfarm's hydroponic growing demands."- Murray Whyte