Buildings account for roughly 40% of the world’s energy consumption. But is it possible to build a structure that is energy-neutral? Here’s a look at how architects and engineers imagine we’ll live and work in the skyscrapers of the not-so-distant future
You pull into the parking lot at work and plug in your electric car. Above you, walls covered with solar panels soak up the sunshine, and turbines built into the structure spin in the light breeze; the building’s shape helps to funnel the wind over the blades at greatly increased speed, feeding electricity into generators. Your office is sunny and cool, since the insulated windows let in sunlight but filter out excessive heat; besides, the place is cooled using water drawn from the nearby lake. (In winter, heat exchangers collect and concentrate the heat generated by sunlight, machinery and people.) In the bathroom, you wash your hands with rainwater collected on the roof and heated by geothermal energy drawn from the Earth’s core. (The, uh, waste you’ve just flushed away will be converted into electricity by methane digesters.) At lunchtime, most of the ingredients on the cafeteria’s menu come from the rooftop farm. As you head home at day’s end, the automatic LED lights in your office switch off behind you.