Wind Power: An Urban Wind Turbine
Apart from the materials used in construction, another major pollution-related problem of our time is that of excessive energy consumption. It’s a difficult challenge to address because the introduction of clean energy implies gradually replacing a whole series of large-scale infrastructures, not to mention massive investment. On the other hand, the urgent action needed will have an immediate impact on our environment. In search of a solution to this situation, our studio has been working in collaboration with an engineering entity (ITE – Instituto Tecnológico para la Energía) to conduct research into wind energy, a field which has gained momentum in recent years in comparison with other alternative energies and may offer the answer.
One of the main disadvantages of wind energy is its impact on the landscape, so our work needs to take into account both function and form. The main focus is on designing the necessary infrastructure, the objective being to “style” the machinery involved in such a manner as to reduce its visual impact. The idea is to generate energy using vertical axis wind turbines (VAWTs) deployed in series and housed in a structure designed to allow maximum height and surface perimeter with minimum volume. This makes it possible to integrate the wind turbines in urban environments, a great advantage insofar that it obviates the need to transport energy from environmentally unfriendly wind farms located far from cities. Unlike turbines with horizontal axes, VAWTs require no wind direction tracking and their rotor blades will start to rotate at lower wind speeds.
From an architecturally aesthetic point of view, the resulting structure is an element in a constant state of evolution, varying in size depending on the angle from which it is viewed and illuminated by sunlight. A tower sculpted by and for the wind, it brings to mind the vertical structures with which some traditional architectural designs used to exploit the wind to cool buildings. The proposed system of VAWTs would make the building function as one big wind turbine, exploiting bright light and strong wind as a means of vindicating a positive vision of a society seeking to harness the natural elements around it, while successfully integrating those elements into the contemporary city. An updated version of the city envisaged for the Futurama exhibit at the New York World’s Fair of 1939 would probably include the integration of alternative energies.
The layout of the vertical channels of communication and the fact they are linked together ensure good structural behaviour. The force of the wind is always offset by a rigid core, while the building’s orientation and geometric form allow prevailing winds to be transformed into energy. The VAWTs are positioned in the curved zones connecting the communication hubs. Both the wind turbines and the panoramic elevators are covered with perforated (deployé) metal cladding which gives the structure a monolithic appearance while remaining permeable to wind and views. Construction is straightforward and easy thanks to rapid jump forming which makes it possible to erect this iconic structure in an urban environment.