Hairy skyscraper to collect energy through piezo-electric straws

Stockholm-based architecture firm Belatchew is proposing to retrofit a tower on one of the city's island neighborhoods with 14 new floors and millions of tiny piezo-electric 'straws'.

Calling the idea the Strawscraper, Belatchew said the retrofit of the landmark Söder Torn would result in the building being an urban power plant, with the millions of strands of piezo-electric straw collecting energy as they vibrated in the swirling wind. Is this even possible? Theoretically - Belatchew said research in what are called pizoelectric microcantilevers is ongoing.

Söder Torn is one of the tallest buildings on the Stockholm island of Södermalm, completed in 1997 but several stories shorter than its original architect Henning Larsen had planned.

© Belatchew

Belatchew said it introduced this concept design because it is looking for a better way for 'static' buildings to collect and generate power, but also for a way for those same monolithic structures to be more interactive with citizens. Belatchew said this form of electricity generation would be less harmful to birds, and pleasant to look at, especially if lit with changing colors. As one Twitter commenter opined: "The future of architecture is soft and hairy."

Belatchew isn't the first to think about a hairy building - the French architectural firm R&Sie of Paris put tiny thermal sensing units on the outside of a skyscraper designed it drew up for the French Public Electric Company.

But now for the downsides of reality - how do you clean all those piezo-strands? How much noise might they make on a windy day? In addition, most piezo-electric generators are sheets or plates installed where people move about, and underneath the collectors is wiring to bring the generated energy to where it can be used.

Last but not least, piezo-electricity isn't very efficient. Not yet, at least.

But at least Belatchew is seeking to make buildings make their own energy, in new and novel ways. And nanotechnology may just make it possible one day to have hairy buildings with thin, silent piezoelectric straw wigs covering them. If we want.

Tags: A Picture Is Worth | Buildings | Energy | Small Spaces

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