Energy consumption in buildings accounts for over one third of final energy consumption globally. The OECD estimates that buildings account for more than 40% of energy consumption in developed countries, largely through electricity use.
Fortunately, buildings have the capacity to make a significant contribution to a more sustainable future, if energy-saving methods are integrated into their design. An early example of sustainable construction was showcased at Expo 1992 Seville, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. The United Kingdom’s pavilion at Expo 1992 embodied the concept of energy self-sufficiency by combining avant-garde architecture with the capacity to generate renewable energy such as solar power.
The Expo’s ‘Age of Discoveries’ theme was embraced by Nicholas Grimshaw in his design for the UK’s stylish, eco-friendly pavilion, which used advanced environmentally friendly technology to alleviate Seville’s summer weather conditions. Its striking rectilinear structure, capable of moderating the Andalusian heat, reflected an integrated design that was highly attuned to the challenges of the environment and thus, transformed them into architectural qualities.
The pavilion’s entrance boasted a 65-metre water wall, which was used to provide passive cooling to the site, while 1,760 strategically placed south-facing photovoltaic cells on the roof powered the building and supplied the electricity that drove the submersible water pumps. Although the pavilion was built as a temporary structure, sustainability was clearly at the core of its design, which combined the concept of natural cooling and renewable energy in a unique and beautiful way, while reducing overall energy consumption.
Almost 30 years after the UK pavilion impressed visitors in Seville, Nicholas Grimshaw will once again push the boundaries of innovative design at Expo 2020 Dubai through the Sustainability Pavilion. As one of three theme pavilions at the next World Expo, Grimshaw’s Sustainability Pavilion will utilise and showcase the latest advancements in solar and hydropower technology and design. The underlying concept is to make use of the surrounding environment to create an adaptable and durable structure with an immense capacity for insulation.
The pavilion’s high-performance satellite-disk roof will allow the effective collection and storage of solar energy, which will generate power for the entire building, while ‘energy-trees’ around the pavilion will harvest sunlight during the day and moisture from the air at night, providing energy and water. Thus, the Sustainability Pavilion will demonstrate, as the UK pavilion did in 1992, that sustainable “autonomous” construction is progressing, achievable and constitutes a major part of the solution in reducing energy consumption.