Guangdong Green Skyscaper

By Sarah Rich
April 20, 2006

There’s a new contender vying for the title of World’s Most Sustainable
Skyscraper: The new headquarters for the CNTC Guangdong Company, a large tobacco
company in China, will be a zero-energy building.

The company held an international design competition, and the winning design of
the 69-story Pearl River Tower comes from Chicago’s Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
(SOM). According to project architect Gordon Gill, this isn’t just a building,
it’s a high performance instrument shaped by the sun and the wind.”

SOM employed nearly every trick in the zero-energy book: the main face is
south-facing, the windows are made of double-glazed glass, the building is
outfitted with wind turbines and solar panels to provide electricity and power
the heating and cooling systems, and rainwater collection and grey-water
recycling systems reduce water consumption.

The tower also has a unique system of louvers on the south side that help keep
the building cool and the air inside it fresh; the louvers not only act as
vents, but also adjust automatically as the sun moves across the sky to keep
temperatures stable.

Cooling the building provided one of the biggest challenges, as CNTC is located
in the subtropical city of Guangzhou. SOM came up with several strategies to
combat the hot, humid climate while maintaining a zero-energy profile: as air is
drawn through the vents on the south-facing side, a passive dehumidification
system removes the moisture from it. Heat sinks, radiant slab cooling on each
floor, and underfloor displacement ventilation further help to cool the building.

The Pearl River Tower’s pretty attractive, too. It’s not quite biomorphic, but
its rounded roof and rounded, segmented south side do remind us a little of a pea pod.

The groundbreaking begins this summer and the tower should be finished by 2009.


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