'Energy Tower' Combines the Old with the New

When innovative buildings pop up in the news, no one is ever surprised to hear that the next architectural wonder will be built in the UAE. Dubai, Bahrain, and Abu Dhabi all seem to be competing in the green building department.

The eventual goal is for buildings to generate much of their own energy. Burj-al-Taqa (translated to mean energy tower), which will hopefully break ground in Dubai soon, follows this principle and will supposedly be completely self-sufficient.

Plans for its creation began in 2007 when the German architect Eckhard Gerber, dreamt up the design. Virtual images of the building popped up in hundreds of articles and we all wondered if this candle-shaped building would revolutionize the green building industry.
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The proposed Burj-al-Taqa zero-energy skyscraper.

A couple of interesting differences between this burj and all the rest, is its cyclindrical shape and the building materials used-both meant to help dissipate the heat. The tubular design is meant to minimize the surface area exposed to the sun while the special vacuum glazing used on the glass covering the entire structure will also help keep the heat out. This type of glass was only recently made available.

Burj-al-Taqa’s architects are also learning from history: Ancient Arabian houses used energy efficient technologies at a time when there were no other alternatives. (It is ironic how many buildings are reverting back to older technologies these days.) These old homes used a natural air conditioning system that sucked cold air into the living space via lateral vents which in turn forced the hot air out into the 120 degree summer heat.

The Spiegel describes how Burj al-Taqa hopes to use a similar process with their in-depth article: “The negative pressure created by winds breaking along the tower will suck the spent air from the rooms out of the building via air slits in the fa├žade. The plan is for fresh air to be pumped into the interior of the building by means of a duct system at the same time.”

It doesn’t stop there. Seawater running through the cellar and under each floor will cool the air, while a large wind turbine on the roof of the 322 meter building will help generate enough electricity to power the skyscraper. Massive photovoltaic facilities will help charge the rest of the power grid.

After construction, burj-al-Taqa will be the 22nd tallest building in the world, but if all goes well, it will tower above the rest when it comes to energy efficiency.

Editor’s Note: For more on buildings like the burj-al-Taqa, a very interesting website we have uncovered is the skyscraper category of “Jetson Green,” dedicated reporting on innovative green building design.

2 Responses to “'Energy Tower' Combines the Old with the New”
  1. John Galt says:

    This sort of thing sounds like a great improvement. I do wonder about the cooling system. I notice that right now in Dubai it’s 63 F and 77% humidity. Even if they never need heating, they might still need to control humidity.

  2. Cyril R. says:

    That vertical axis wind turbine design isn’t very efficient, but was no doubt chosen for aesthetics purposes, as a large horizontal axis three bladed variant would harvest a lot more kWhs anually.

    Seawater cooling is one of the most efficient cooling systems available for hot places near relatively deep (cold) seas and oceans. There is some infrastructure cost but it’s very low for large cooling demands like entire skyscrapers.

    Regarding humidity. In places with very high humidity, a similar seawater cooling system could be used to harvest water from the air with very low electric imput (pumps) compared to reverse osmosis desalination. The moisture condenses from the air because of cold seawater flowing through eg a pipe system exposed to ambient moist air, creating very high purity water for potable water use (add some minerals and stir!). Combining potable water delivery with dehumidification could be a win-win in a cleverly designed system.


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