The Pearl River Tower

While many buildings flaunt their green credentials by incorporating a single piece of in-your-face, eco-friendly technology into their design, the Pearl River Tower in Guangzhou City, China, goes much further, drawing together a bevy of cutting-edge systems to jump closer to an almost zero-energy building (ZEB) – the holy grail for today’s architects.

This is achieved first and foremost through its 309-metre (1,014-foot)-high sculpted faces, which redirect wind to four openings at its mechanical floors. Here, the wind is drawn through the building’s body and into a series of turbines, which combined generate electricity for the offices within. In addition to driving turbines, the wind that is pulled in is also rerouted throughout the tower’s ventilation system, with the air being filtered through the building’s floor and ceiling spaces.

AlamyCFRAE5This ambient cooling of the offices negates the need for energy-hungry air-conditioning units in hot weather, which saves a considerable amount of electricity. The entire building is also fitted with an advanced, double-glazed skin. The outer layer of this can be penetrated by heat from sunlight, however the inner layer cannot, causing the rays’ heat to become trapped and not enter the interior. This trapped heat therefore rises through the skin’s cavity to heat exchangers where it is absorbed and stored for reuse in both energy generation and heating processes.

Lastly, large solar panels are installed on the building’s exterior roof, which directly absorb sunlight for generating energy. This energy is used to provide power for the skyscraper’s perforated metal window blinds, which automatically track the Sun and open/ close to minimise heat loss or to moderate ambient office temperature. The blinds themselves are also equipped with photovoltaic cells, so even when they are closed, the Sun’s energy is still being efficiently harvested.