Tag Archives: built environment

Solar Cities: A Vision Taking Shape

Solar cities is a term describing carbon neutral or sustainable cities such as Masdar, Abu Dhabi, a city of 7 sq.km. which has been designed to house 50,000 people.

Solar Cities Masdar

Masdar Institute

Using the sun’s energy to source power for solar cities is an idea growing in popularity on a daily basis. In order to harness the energy of the sun, photovoltaic (‘PV’) technology is used. There is a plethora of benefits from using PV, starting with costs and finishing with health benefits.

Powering Solar Cities

The main benefits of solar energy are environmental and cost savings. Using rooftop solar pv panels to supply homes, offices, factories and entire regions with power, at a fraction of the cost of fossil-fuel based electricity is the way to produce solar cities. When sufficiently large arrays of solar panels are installed for a city, the demand for grid-based power is vastly reduced or almost eliminated.

At householder levels, solar panels commonly used for a solar water heater have a lifespan of up to 25 years and at a rate of US$4.30 or even less for 1 Watt of output, for a 50 watts panel costs are as low as $220. Of course as technologies improve, prices will reduce rapidly.

Moving Away From Reliance on the Grid

The main source of electricity in the world today is fossil fuel based, which means that countries need to spend a lot of money on buying non-renewable resources. Running huge electric grids and power plants is costly, and these costs are passed on to the consumer.

As solar cities use renewable solar power as their main source of electricity there is no need for huge power plants, no need for fossil fuel and definitely no need for transporting oil, coal and gas. The savings to the consumer and governments can be appropriated for other important projects, such as healthcare, technology and education.

Solar cities are currently in development and when time has shown how effective they are, more nations will be inclined to follow their path.

Third World Benefits

In third world countries many accidents happen due to the spilling of kerosene lamps. Using open fires for cooking also creates serious respiratory and burn problems.

Breathe Easier

Solar cities which rely on solar energy rather than fossil fuels will have cleaner air. Burning fossil fuels produces toxic fumes and allergens which accounts for many people’s respiratory problems.

In comparison to kerosene, which produces fumes equivalent to inhaling the equivalent of 2 packs of cigarettes per day, solar energy has practically zero emissions and it doesn’t also have any impact on the greenhouse effect.

Solar Cities for the Future

Cities in USA and around the world are introducing solar panels to generate energy to their built environment. This has a positive effect on our world by slowing the greenhouse gas effect. Solar cities reduce the pollution created by the use of fossil fuel and they present a cost-effective and health-effective way of providing power to the population. I have previously written on the idea of a solar empire which envisages a growing number of nations creating solar cities.

Guest author: Living Quarters, India

Image Trevor Patt

Solar Empire

Solar Empire Powered By Solar Energy

A guest article written by: Living Quarters, India

A solar empire is something that eventually this planet could aspire to be  if the world will harness solar energy. People worldwide are coming to realize that fossil fuels must be replaced by cleaner energy to maintain a healthy living environment and also help the planet evolve.

This is why there are more and more industrialised nations which are considering the importance of adapting their built environment and introducing solar energy and other renewable energy sources as a way of saving money and also saving the environment. Refer: solar power by country

Solar Panels Bring Savings

Solar panels are very much accessible nowadays and people can purchase photovoltaics for domestic rooftop solar electricity installations.They generally have a lifespan of up to thirty years, which makes them very cost-effective in the long run.

Although reducing energy consumption is preferable, by introducing solar panels they reduce their dependence on the grid and should they produce a surplus of energy they can even sell the surplus to the local electricity companies. Householders who invest in solar panels may be able to get their money back after five years, which is a relatively short period of time. With savings like that, the Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineers (IEEE) projects that this world could be  a Solar Empire within 10 year.

Sustainable Cities


Solar Panel Roof MIST image

Sustainable City's MIST Rooftop

The use of solar is increasing all over the world. The first sustainable solar operational city in the world has emerged in Abu Dhabi. Sustainable city Masdar was designed to house fifty thousand people in an area of just seven square kilometers. When it is finished it will become the world’s first carbon neutral city. There are currently many other successful projects around the world aiming at this status and the good news is that the change has begun.

More and more cities in America and around the world are starting to use solar  panels as a way of generating energy. On a global scale this greatly affects the environment in a positive way, by reducing the greenhouse effect. The use of solar energy reduces fossil fuel pollutants in the atmosphere and overall, offers a new and more efficient way of powering up entire city structures.

Solar Empire – The Vision and Health Benefits

Solar Empire Sustainable City

Model by Aedas Int'l

The vision of  solar empire  sustained only by renewable sources and particularly using the sun’s free energy is indeed a utopian one at first hearing. Once the world’s governments begin to understand the benefits carbon-free cities could become the mainstream.

The idea of a world which relies only on renewable energy sources is indeed a beautiful one. The all too frequent image of pollution hazes in the atmosphere will become a memory. The air of the solar empire will be clean and clear.

Pollution free cities

Cities which will follow this path will literally look greener. There will be a significant reduction in respiratory diseases. All of these benefits and more are the positive result of using solar panels, which are cheap, easy to install and require little maintenance.

 Solar Empire Comprising Solar Powered Nations

When nations base their energy supply  on renewable energy sources they will save of hundreds of billions of dollars. Such wealth savings could  be redirected towards other sectors of the economy.  Let’s look forward more solar powered nations creating a virtual solar empire.


Greenhouse Gas | The Danger of Air Conditioners

Greenhouse Gas HFCs Produced by Air Conditioners

Air-conditioners while keeping us cool, release the potent Hydrofluorocarbons (‘HFCs’) greenhouse gas into the environment. Unfortunately HFC as a refrigerant replaced the ozone-damaging Chlorofluorocarbon (‘CFC’) greenhouse gas in the mid 1990s. At that time governments around the world acted stop the growth of the emerging holes in the ozone layer, the biggest hole being the hole over Antarctica. CFCs were not only damaging to the ozone layer, they were a potent greenhouse gas. Now we have to worry about HFCs.

Greenhouse gas from air conditioners

Greenhouse Gas Producers

photo credit :Flick’r  (c) by FLO

Unbridled Growth of Air-Conditioner Use

Flying in the face of Climate Change action and the quest to reduce greenhouse gas and carbon pollution in the environment, legislators are making it too easy for the average person to adopt air-conditioning.

Due to mass production in China air-conditioners are very cheap. In the last 30 years there has been an almost unhealthy alliance between air-conditioning manufacturers and governments throughout the western and developing worlds to promote the use of air conditioners.

The air-conditioning industry itself has mounted enormously successful advertising campaigns to convince people that their homes are somehow incomplete without an air-conditioner.

Even in Australia the energy efficiency measures in the Building Code of Australia and the rating tool ‘AccuRate’ assume that:

  • there is a heating and cooling device in the home
  • the efficiency of the structure is determined mainly by discomfort hours of the interior
  • how little the space heating/cooling equipment is used.

Achieving Natural Comfort Inside the Home

Any architect with experience of designing homes in temperate climates knows we simply do not need air conditioning when well-optimized passive solar principles are applied to the home design and the householder knows what to do to achieve natural comfort.

My wife and I are by no means economic battlers. Our home, the Housing Industry of Australia “GreenSmart Building of the Year” in 2005 in Western Australia, does not have air conditioning at all and only a small solid fuel fireplace that was used only on very cold winter nights. See pictures and details of  our solar passive home.

In 2006 our fireplace was not used at all.

Indoor temperatures stay comfortably between 18 degC (64.4F) and 28 degC (82.4F) at least 99% of the year.

When the temperature is 35 degC (95F) outside, we remain a comfortable 26 deg C (78.8F) in our living areas during the day and when the outside temperature goes up to +40 deg C (+104F) we still keep a bearable 28 deg C (82.4F).

Why are we, and many of my architectural and engineering colleagues, so passionate about having people in temperate climates experience the benefits of natural comfort by applying passive solar homes design principles and avoid air conditioning?

It is because we know what can be achieved by clever design and construction of a home and using simple centuries-old management practices. Also we are aware how damaging wholesale air conditioning  is on air pollution!

In the 1970s many of the world’s building science experts demonstrated very well that homes in temperate climates did not need air conditioning for cooling in summer. Even in sub-tropical and hot desert areas it can be greatly reduced.

However the ‘dumbing down’ of regulations to suit the ignorance of the average person and the builders supplying homes to them, as well as the large home-appliance stores making large profits from convincing people that they needed cheap air conditioners, really prevented any common sense and self-discipline from prevailing.

Of course bureaucrats and government authorities simply took the easy way out and avoided any backlash from the public.

Greenhouse Gas | 400,000 tons Released

In teaching the “MSc In Environmental Architecture” course since 2006, I emphasize this aspect in the hope that a new generation of scientifically-trained architects will bring some common sense to building regulations in the future. It simply has to happen, preferably earlier rather than later.

The Premier of Western Australia, Mr Colin Barnett, was unfairly attacked by many members of the public in 2010 for having the courage to suggest that in a temperate climate like Perth, Western Australia, there is no need for air conditioning. He stated he did not have air conditioning in his own house. Unfortunately the public has been brained-washed into believing they need to create comfort by flicking an electrical switch.

The consequence of taking this undisciplined approach is that 400,000 tons of greenhouse gas is now being released into the atmosphere each year and is growing by 10% annually.

In most affluent suburbs in Western Australia the peak load on power demand has grown at 10% each year. There is a double whammy of leaking HFC greenhouse gas from air-conditioners and the need for additional coal fired power stations to supply the electricity for their use.

Minimize Air-Conditioning

Air Conditioner Photo © by rockriver

Clearly a Plan B is needed. Intelligent people can avoid this “status symbol.” Nobody is suggesting that air conditioning is not a modern technological miracle of the 20th century. Over the last 20 years it has become twice as efficient as when it was first introduced.

By alleviating uncomfortable working conditions in the hot and tropical areas of the world, the use of air-conditioning has increased productivity and added economic prosperity to much of Asia.

In modern office environments and hotels in temperate climates the density of people and the heat loading from lights and appliances such as computers, makes it necessary to have some air conditioning. However, much can be done to reduce energy dependence and the leaking of HFC greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. To suggest that we all need air conditioning in the residential sector in temperate climates is nonsense. Obviously powerful lobby groups have created this illusion.

One would think that the engineering profession and academia would be leading the way in minimizing the use of air conditioning. Simple action like opening windows at night and closing them during the day, using natural heavy weight materials inside for thermal inertia, will do the job all but for 5 days a year in Perth.

Reduce Greenhouse Gas Reduce Energy Dependence

The reality is climate change and something needs to be done and fast!
I believe that we cannot allow laziness to undo much of the great work in reducing energy dependence in the built environment.

Refer to David Fogarty’s articles for Planet Ark on the effects of carbon pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Read more about solar energy homes and greenhouse gas reduction solutions.

To keep abreast of important changes in renewable energy please sign up to receive our newsletter on the  solar-e.com home page: Solar Energy Facts


Green Building Products

Green Building Supply

There’s no doubt that the sun is very powerful indeed – we’ve been using it for the drying of clothes and cooking of food for years. However, in recent years, new technology has allowed us to really harness the power of the sun and use it for the generation of domestic and non-domestic power. Although the sun is around 150 million kilometres away from the earth and just a small fraction of its energy actually reaches the earth, this amount alone is enough to meet all of the world’s power needs many times over.

Rebates and Government Grants

To encourage the use of solar power, there are a variety of government grants available, depending on your country of residence, to help you install solar power systems. Solar panels are not difficult to maintain and with the correct care, can last you a lifetime. Following the initial installation phase, you may look forward to receiving a healthy reduction in your energy costs in the years to come. Photovoltaic panels are usually installed to supply energy back to your local grid system. The energy you use during the hours of sunlight is deducted from that which you produce and the surplus fed into the grid and credited to your account.

Range of Green Building Products

Green Products Image Grey Water Filter

Grey Water Filter

The range of products now readily available in the market has grown tremendously in recent years but it will require a little extra research to find those that suit your project. A typical shopping list of green building products will include:

  • solar panels or components
  • photovoltaic panels
  • sun control shade systems
  • non-toxic building materials
  • smart-power meters
  • cabinet coatings and laminates without formaldehydes
  • low energy light fittings,
  • laundry and grey water recycling system
  • low odour eco-friendly oils and paints
  • eco-friendly termite control
  • rainwater tanks
Green Products Image Rainwater Tank

Rain Water Tank

Green architects specialising in energy efficient building design or simply offering green home plans, should be able to provide you with a list of green building supply companies offering a range of products suitable for installation into their building design. There are many websites offering green building products to cater for your needs.

Switch to Renewable Energy and Save Money

Across the globe, millions of homes and businesses are making plans to switch to renewable energy sources, such as solar panels and solar hot water systems. In doing so, they can harness the planet’s natural resources, reduce their dependence on expensive and depleting fossil fuels and save on running costs for their homes and businesses. In particular, solar energy is becoming a very popular option for the powering of homes and wind power is gaining in popularity for commercial or remote area sites where the wind is strong.

To meet this significant increase in worldwide demand, green building supply companies are proliferating – resulting in a larger selection of green building products, sustainable materials and environmentally friendly options. The majority of manufacturers or agents selling these products will be able to advise you on the best choice for your project, according to your budget and preferences. Your architect should also be able to advise you about green building certification once you have completed your building project.

Eco-Development Website

Image eco compound

Eco-compound Using Green Building Products

If you are looking for a green building supply company – take a look online, visit the many websites available and compare the choices, the range, guarantees offered and prices. Refer to this eco-development website for a suggested list of suppliers and products used in an award-winning eco-compound created for two families in Western Australia.

Ask For Recommendations

Ask for referrals: if you know someone who has recently undertaken a successful green project, for example installing photovoltaic panels or a solar hot water system, ask them who they used. With a little research, you could soon be on your way to reducing your carbon footprint and making a real difference to our planet by joining the worldwide trend to using green building supply products. In addition to restricting use of  toxic substances indoors, with attention to your outdoor landscape you can create a healthy eco-system for birds and frogs.

Image Green Building Products Eco System

Healthy Eco-System

For more information on energy efficient architecture and how to build a green building, check out the green home building books and dvds available in the solar-e shop.
The more you know about the principles of low energy building design, the more appreciative you will be of the design process. We highly recommend the user-friendly green building design guide “Low Energy Buildings in Australia”.