Archive for the ‘wind power’ Category


An Attempt At Architecture

December 13, 2007

I was asked recently by Geoff to describe my thesis, as I had mentioned it earlier. I’ll admit it’s a little hard to write about, as it forces me to try and define something that is still very fluid, even though I currently have what looks more or less like a building.


My site is in Chicago on the north side near Lake Michigan. The neighborhood is mostly 2-4 story residential, commercial, and mixed use construction, and many of the buildings are 100+ years old. I’m creating a series of apartment row houses to study the dwelling needs of the modern family and how solutions to those needs can be carbon neutral. While these structures will sit next to each other on site and interact as an apartment community, they are also an iterative process of discrete attempts to create spaces based on different familial conditions. Basically I’m designing them one at a time, each as it’s own study. The point is not to approach architectural perfection, but to examine the continuities and differences within a body of my own work. In each iteration I have been attempting to make private spaces and gathering places (not sure I like the rhyme) and exhibit qualities of simplicity and warmth and sustainability. Here are two of my sketch studies :



While making the structures carbon neutral can influence the architectural language, it often also carries its own set of requirements and research. I’ve accessed local wind data and taken a site model into my university’s wind tunnel to assess the viability of using wind turbines on rooftops. Aerotecture is a Chicago company building turbines for commercial and residential use and has test locations in the same area as my site, so I’m theoretically using their 510V model in an array linked to the main electric grid. I’m planning on linking solar hot water heating to a geo-exchange system to provide radiant floor heating and perhaps even radiant ceiling cooling. 2 foot wide core walls between each design unit will help moderate solar gains, especially those from the non-conditioned access stairwells, which will rely solely on passive ventilation and shading for cooling and the sun for warmth.  Here’s one of my wind studies:


There’s a lot left to do before graduation, as I still have a few iterations to go, plus several decisions about shared spaces, not to mention energy modeling so I can “prove” my carbon neutrality.  I’d welcome any input, so feel free to comment with questions or opinions!


Tacoma Narrows…Turbine?

November 10, 2007

After reading Dave K’s post on a new type of wind power generator I have to admit I’m pretty excited. It uses the vacillation of a thin strip of material resonating in the wind to produce electricity. A video can be seen here. The movement is similar to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge disaster, where a bridge fluctuated wildly in high winds before collapsing, only here the movement is intentional. We’ll have to see if they can scale up to compete with conventional turbines.

Dave K sees this as a solution to landscapes marred by existing turbines. Although I’ve never seen a wind turbine farm I have a hard time believing the visual change completely voids the energy gain. There are plenty of unsightly cell towers in my area, and I would much rather see turbines in their place. But Dave K is not the first person I’ve heard express this sentiment. I listened to Robert Kennedy Jr. speak a few years ago, and he has been an outspoken opponent of a proposed wind turbine farm six miles off the coast of Nantucket. Part of the complaint is that the turbines will destroy the historic views, even though they will barely appear on the horizon.

What is the balance between visual aesthetics and renewable energy? There seems to be a “not in my backyard” sentiment with sustainable power plants just as there is with their fossil fuel counterparts. If we claim to support clean energy, don’t we need to be prepared to see the required infrastructure in our neighborhoods, alongside our highways, and perhaps even in a natural preserve? Or are there areas too sacred to touch?