Electronically Controlled Exterior for Green Buildings

A sensor-tuned facade lets fresh air in without throwing energy out

3 min read

You don't need to seal yourself in to live green. That's the message from the engineers of the Westarkade, a colorful high-rise that officially opened in Frankfurt in July.

The 15-story glass tower glows with natural light and offers windows that open—a comfort that can wreak havoc with energy efficiency. But the Westarkade's first-of-a-kind "pressure ring" facade and sophisticated, sensor-rich control scheme promise to consume no more than 100 kilowatt-hours of energy per square meter per year. That would make it a world-class energy miser, using half as much energy as a conventional office building in Europe and as little as a third of the U.S. average.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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