10 features of future buildings

By The Helpful Engineer / On / In New Building Issues

Predictions of the future are usually completely wrong, apart from it seems when shown on Star Trek. But it may be easier to predict what our future green buildings will look like if energy prices continue to rise. As energy becomes more expensive, future buildings will incorporate features which will allow them to be as energy efficient as possible. As these features maximise solar light and heat gain while minimising heat loss, we can predict what future buildings will look like and the features they will include, for example:

  1. Shape. A long thin high building. This is to maximise the natural air, heat and light from the windows and allow it to penetrate the floor plan without the need of fans and artificial lighting (during the day).
  2. Orientation. The wide glazed part of the building will face Southwards, with the thin sides facing East and West.
  3. Cladding. A maximum amount of windows would be positioned on the South facing elevation, with little or no windows on the North facing side. The North facing side would have maximum insulation covering its walls, possible building it into a hill, to reduce heat loss. It could also be covered with a planted green wall to avoid a bland look and maximise biodiversity. As the cost and output of photoelectric cells is falling ever year, I would expect the roof and side walls to be covered in these to generate enough electricity for the building users. Sun shades above the windows would extend and retract to reduce the solar gain and window technology will be sufficiently advanced to do this via the glass, while generating electricity at the same time.
  4. Roof. The rain water collected from the roof and paved areas would be collected in a pond adjacent to the building, which would than be filtered and reused in the building.
  5. Heat sink. A heat sink will be necessary to hold the heat from the sun and building users during the day and use it to heat the building at night. The water pond referred too above could have a duel use for this reason. During the day the building would use the pond to cool the building and during the night the pond would be used to warm the building. This can also be done within the building structure itself by using bulky building materials like concrete and blockwork, which absorb the heat during the day and release it slowly at night.
  6. Chimneys. There would be ventilation shafts located at the top of the building with air intakes at the base of the building; this is to allow natural ventilation to occur without fans and ductwork being necessary.
  7. Windmills. Perhaps wind mills could be added to the buildings roof to generate additional power.
  8. Power points. Power points for charging electric cars would be available, with some of the power coming from the buildings own solar cells. The car battery will be recharged wirelessly using electromagnetic fields.
  9. Lighting. LED lighting will predominate inside and outside the building as it is much more energy efficient and less maintenance is required.
  10. Fuel Cells. There will times when the building is producing surplus energy and it will either sell it back to the grid or another option will be to use a fuel cell to produce hydrogen from water, and then later use the hydrogen to produce electricity.

5 thoughts on “10 features of future buildings

  1. Interesting post! You are definitely right about all the details. I am thinking if it would stand on ground or would it be floating in the air. I don’t know if I have too much of imagination but that’s how I picture future. Thanks for the interesting post…it made me put my comment about.

    1. Not really. I did a bit of earthquake design in Australia using computer modeling but not enough to consider myself an expert. There is not much need for earthquake design in the UK or Ireland. When designing for earthquakes I would keep things simple no cantilevers, no transfer floors improve connections. What about you, any radical ideas?

  2. Many modern innovations are really immitations of nature, medicine, navigation, sanitation, so, will future buildings mimick Magnetic Termite Mounds? Makes logical sense. In hot climates, why not orientate buildings such that a large fan shape running north south, maximising the potential cooling normal to the axis most prominent to the exposure to solar gain, i.e., North and South Elevations. There are numerous theories as to why Magnetic Termite Mounds line in the north-south direction. The Earth’s magnetic field is one theory, while the orientation minimising exposure to the sun is another.
    In hot third world countries, should be not embrace local traditions going back thousands of years utilizing cheap recycleable and sustainable materials, such as reinforced rammed earth construction of small dwellings, instead of bricks and mortar?

    1. What about installing KERS into lifts? Any benefits there?
    2. Earthquake proofing.
    Although there are no requirement for Seismic Design in structures other than those buildings of structural importance or having long design life >150 years such as nuclear power stations, bridges, tunnels, dams, does. Prior to the introduction of Eurocode 8, UK Engineers had to consult with American, Japanese, New Zealand Standards for Earthquake Design.
    2.1 Motorised Hydraulic Dampers, which are already used in high rise buildings,
    2.2 Elastic Sway Frames with high energy absorption and dissipation, normally include excessively high deflections and slender members.
    2.3 Suspension, adopting same principles as say a car suspension allowing building to absorb energy and movement but may cause unacceptable damage to interior and occupants.
    2.4 Seismic Isolation Pads. Te Papa in Wellington is a world first structure sitting on elastomeric isolation pads, which allows the entire building to slide horizontally.
    2.5 If buildings had legs, and can get up and walk away…If we can build structures such as launch pads for the space shuttle, why not build mobile structures of such magnitude so that suspension and hydraulics can be build in to absorb seismic loads and deformation?
    2.6 many Seismic resistant buildings in Christchurch, NZ, despite surviving the 7.8 EQ, the fact that the land surrounding it liquified and subsideded by as much as 1-2m left the main entrance of many buildings elevated above the ground, inaccessible.
    2.7 Drainage and services need to be connected via flexible sleeves rather than rigid joints. Many services in Christchurch NZ were severed following the EQ. But that can’t be helped if the earth splits over up to 1.0m horizontally and vertically.
    2.8 http://www.istructe.org/resources-centre/webinars
    watch the webinar on Christchurch NZ Earthquake.

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