Optimizing Building Systems, Geometry, Renewable Technology and Structure

Timothy Kelly
Senior Vice President, Operations and General Manager
Kerzner International, Dubai

John Shamon
Chief Technical Services Officer
Kerzner International, Dubai

As the ever-changing skylines of cities across the world show, tall buildings are an increasingly important solution for accommodating sustainable growth in today’s urban areas. However, is the tall building truly a sustainable building type? There are studies that indicate onsite net-zero is difficult to achieve, if not impossible, once a building has more than a few floors. Can tall buildings really reduce carbon emissions, and harvest enough energy to become carbon-neutral? In addition, what is the full impact of developing skyward on the city and the lives of its inhabitants? Tall buildings have largely been considered as high-energy consumers, but the potentials of saving energy and using renewable energy have rarely been fully explored.

Partnered with the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) Chicago Office, a design research studio at the College of Architecture, Illinois Institute of Technology developed a typology of net-zero skyscrapers that integrate the maximum number of relevant sustainable design strategies and technologies. The project was based in an existing urban context in Shenzhen, China, so the culture, climatic, and the physical aspects of the location were considered. The studio explored the operational and embodied carbon performance of skyscrapers. Specifically, operational energy and carbon were simulated using an initial baseline model as well as an optimized, design model which incorporated building system improvements, optimized form, and renewable technology application. Several software tools, e.g., Urban Modeling Interface (UMI), DIVA for Rhino, Flow Design, Urban Daylight, etc., were used to model the environmental performance of buildings with respect to operational / embodied energy use, embodied carbon emission, solar radiation, and daylighting potential.

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