By:  | May - 15 - 2020

Editors’ Choice
2020 Skyscraper Competition

Walter R. Hughes
United States

We are faced with a need to implement adequate strategies along the architectural-technological process that include precepts of sustainability to reverse damages infringed upon the environment. In addition to energy performance, the reduction of energy requirements and the introduction of renewable energy, it’s extremely important to reach a zero-energy level.

This proposal is located within a strategic area of the City of Chicago, the birthplace of skyscrapers. At the entrance of the Chicago River and at the head of the Outer Driver Bridge, three mixed-use glass towers, a vertical village of sorts, face Lake Michigan and offer outstanding downtown views. They integrate into the current skyline linking itself to a continuous linear park along Chicago’s waterfront. A pedestrian-friendly promenade at its base with shops, retail, and marina play into Chicago’s dynamic downtown. Its main components are a hotel, office space and residential units served by a multimodal transportation system anchored by a futuristic landing port for autonomous electric flying vehicles, Evtols, which will serve the project and areas nearby. This skyport can handle over 150 landings and take-offs per hour.

These buildings generate a new model of self-generated energy and material degradability through the use of innovative technologies such as its Algae Bio-Reactor and Bio Façade. We call them BioScrapers.

Algae are the fastest growing organic material on the planet, ten times faster than trees, and the most efficient species double their volume every 6 hours. Microscopic microalgae float freely in the water inside glass panels – photobioreactors – and capture the energy of light through photosynthesis, using it to convert inorganic substances into organic matter.

The biomass and heat generated by these panels strategically installed on the facade are transported by a closed-loop system to an energy management center. Biomass is then collected by flotation, and generate heat by a heat exchanger. These Bio facades have the potential to purify the atmosphere, create an energy resource and generate much-demanded biomass while providing a non- contaminant thermal insulation layer to a building. Particularly, algae bioreactors are extremely efficient CO2 sequesters and generators of O2 which turns them into a climate-neutral energy source that could lower the ecological and carbon footprints of buildings and their fuel depletion.  Moreover, the biomass generated by these bio façade reactors can also be converted into electricity and heat decreasing the buildings’ energy demands. Algae are also effective energy factories as they can store solar energy in forms of oils and carbohydrate with such high production yields that qualifies them to be one of the most promising sustainable sources of third-generation bio-fuel.

Biomass can be easily stored without any loss of energy and is also used as a biofertilizer both on the vertical farming component of the project and our multilevel tree planted vertical gardens, as it is well proven that it improves the quality of soils. These areas located vertically through the buildings, within a controlled environment, further increase biodiversity. They help establish an urban ecosystem where a different type of vegetation creates a vertical environment that can also be colonized by birds and insects. Thus it becomes a magnet and a symbol of the spontaneous recolonization of the city for vegetation and animal life. It helps build a microclimate and filter dust particles that are present in the urban environment. The diversity of plants helps create moisture and another element that absorbs both CO2 and dust, produces oxygen, protects people and homes from harmful sun rays and noise pollution.

The glazing system generates electricity, working similarly to conventional photovoltaic panels. Transparent solar panels take advantage of solar radiation to transform it into energy, allowing natural lighting without neglecting UV protection, improving thermal/ acoustic insulation and reducing CO2 emissions.

Bioscrapers also make use of AI to manage these highly sophisticated systems, IoT and overall project management in order to provide a full Net Zero Carbon Energy building that produces more than it consumes.

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