Innovation: Solar Panel Industry Development
By: United States/Germany
Photovoltaic cells convert sunlight into electric energy through a series of steps:
Photons in the sunlight are absorbed by a semiconducting material on the solar cell such as silicon. Electrons are knocked loose from atoms, which causes an electric potential difference. Electric current then flows through the material to make up for the electric potential-this electricity is captured. The atoms in the conducting materials only flow in one direction, thus the photovoltaic cells produce direct current electricity.
Solar technology development began in the 1860’s, driven by the notion of coal becoming scarce. However, solar technology development stagnated in the early 20th century when oil and petroleum became more widely available. In 1974 only 6 private homes in North America were entirely heated/cooled by solar power systems. The 1973 oil embargo and 1979 energy crisis put new emphasis on solar technology development. PV installations grew rapidly between 1970 and 1983. But installations began falling in the 1980’s due to lower oil prices. Since 1997, photovoltaic development has grown rapidly due to oil/natural gas supply, global warming, and the improving economic position of PV technology. PV production growth has averaged 40% per year since 2000- installed capacity reached 39.8 GW at the end of 2010. The recent growth of the solar panel industry has played a significant role in the advancement of green building. The incorporation of PV cells in building design promotes efficient environmentally-conscious alternatives to provide a building’s energy.
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Innovation: International Building Code
Location: United States
By: International Code Council
Throughout the 20th century, the east coast, west coast, and southeast each had their own regional building codes that specified building regulations. By the early nineties, it became evident that the nation needed a uniform standard for building regulations; the International Code Council was established in 1994, and after years of research, developed the International Building Code in 1997, which provided the first set of building regulations that had no regional limitations. The development of the IBC provided uniformity to the design and construction processes of buildings, which ultimately ensured a greater sense of safety for buildings’ occupants. `
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Innovation: 3D Structural Modeling
Location: Bilbao, Spain
Architect: Frank Gehry
Structural Engineer: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Completed in 1997, Gehry’s design is considered one of the most iconic structures in the world. Gehry is known for his use of complex geometry and unorthodox materials. In order to construct the building while preserving its aesthetic integrity, Gehry worked in conjunction with structural engineers at Skidmore Owings and Merrill, who used advanced 3D structural modeling software to carry out analyses. In the 1970’s and 80’s, SOM developed an innovative software called AES, which was a significant forerunner to Building Information Modeling (BIM). In addition to AES, Gehry and SOM used CATIA, a software originally intended for structural analysis of aerospace and shipbuilding designs. SOM modified CATIA so it could be used to translate Gehry’s complex curvilinear forms from design into construction. The use of these revolutionary programs marked the beginning of integrating 3D modeling software into the design process, which allowed for extremely complicated structures such as Gehry’s Guggenheim to be constructed.
Innovation: L’Oceanografic/thin-shell concrete structure
Location: Valencia, Spain
By: Felix Candela
Spanish born architect Felix Candela used thin-shell reinforced concrete to create his signature hyperbolic parabola structures. L’Oceanographic in Valencia, Spain was his final project, which was completed posthumously (1997). The hyperbolic parabola shape of the roof was inspired by the Los Manantiales Restaurant in Mexico City, which Candela designed in 1958. In this building, Candela integrated design and sound structure. In his time, most shell-like structures had to be reinforced with ribs, which added to the structures thickness, and took away from its simplicity. Candela accepted the challenge of developing a design that did not rely on these ribs and that could fully display the aesthetics of a thin concrete shell. Candela’s design expanded the role of reinforced concrete in buildings by integrating its structural properties with complex geometric forms to create elegant structures.