March 2, 2009 Traditional architecture has been swept away and replaced by skyscrapers in China’s bid to modernize its cities and house its huge population and thriving business interests. Shenzhen in southern China’s Guangdong province has grown from a fishing village in the 1970s to a vibrant economic and financial centre - one of China’s most successful special economic zones. Now its skyline will be graced with a 49-storey solar-and-wind-powered tower.

Austrian architecture firm Coop Himmelb(l)au won the ‘Shenzhen 4 Tower in 1’ competition to design the new headquarters of the China Insurance Group. Their 200 meter building has a footprint area of 40 x 40 meters and is divided into clearly separated functions, with business offices at the top, meeting rooms, a conference center, recreation areas and gardens in the center, and public housing in the lower levels.

The facade's design is driven by solar and wind powered energy generation. The second skin of the building will be lined with photovoltaic cells and will feature mechanisms to provide natural ventilation, reduce wind pressure, shade the interior from sun and display multimedia banners. The use of sun and wind as renewable energy sources will increase energy efficiency and reduce reliance on fossil fuel energy.

Solar power has long been available for housing but is now increasingly being used in commercial design as we strive to reconcile growing demands for energy, dwindling natural resources and global warming.

Karen Sprey

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