ONLY A MINISCULE FRACTION
Each day, the sun we orbit around in space sends us up to 89,000,000,000,000,000 watts of free energy. If we were able to collect and store all of that power, it would take just one sunny day to cover our needs for the next 27 years!
Yet, despite a comparatively small population and abundant natural resources, New Zealand is still a net importer of energy. While our importation is mostly in the form of oil products, approximately 35% of primary energy is genera-ted from renewable energy sources – primarily hydropower and geothermal power. This is expected to increase over the next 20 years, with wind energy making up much of that increase.
Considering it does not operate nuclear power stations, the trend in energy use in New Zealand (since 1995) has slightly decoupled from GDP. This indicates an increasing efficiency or a shift towards eco-nomic activities that have a lower dependence on energy supplies and makes New Zealand one of the most sustainable countries in terms of energy generation.
Now, you might think that 35% is a large slice of the energy generation pie. Compared to other coun-tries, it certainly is. But what about using our sun to power most, if not all, of our energy needs in the future? As it stands today, only a minuscule fraction of available solar power from our sun is actually collected for good use in buildings and homes.
MAKING THE MOST OF IT
Sunlight has influenced building design since the beginning of architectural history. In the northern hemisphere, both the Greeks and Chinese were first to employ it by orienting their buildings toward the south to provide them light and warmth.
These days, solar technologies are broadly characterized as either passive or active depending on the way we capture, convert and distribute solar energy. Active solar techniques include the use of photovoltaic panels and solar thermal collectors to harness store and consume energy from the sun.
Other passive solar techniques include compact proportion (a low surface area to volume ratio), select-ive shading (overhangs, for cooling), selecting materials with favorable thermal mass or light dispersing properties, and designing spaces that naturally circulate air. When these features are tailored to the local climate and environment they can produce well-lit spaces that stay in a comfortable temperature range in all seasons.
The most recent approaches to solar design use computer modeling tying together solar lighting, heat-ing and ventilation systems in an integrated solar design package. Active solar equipment such as pumps, fans, double glazing and switchable windows can complement passive design and improve over-all system performance.
In planning the design for the Centre, the Foundation will make use of most of these energy-gathering and –saving features.
UNIFYING SPIRIT OF ENTERPRISE
New Zealand is the first to see the light of day. It shapes who we are – a people who are welcoming, friendly and relaxed. We have a deep relationship with the natural environment. The land gives us a fresh perspective as it does an innovative spirit that compels us to create living spaces that nurture our way of life and for the environment we live in. It is cen-tral to how we live, work, play and relate to each other.
The Bulwagan Foundation Trust’s design for a cultural and community centre places interactions bet-ween people and the outdoors at its heart. In that respect, the Centre being planned at present will give emphasis on clean, free energy from the sun because it embodies the spirit of being a New Zealander. It also reflects a belief that technology and sustainability should not only be affordable but should also meld around how we live and express ourselves as a people.
While designs for the entire roof span for the planned Centre is still much a work-in-progress as are its other parts as a whole buiding in need of serious funding support, the Foundation imagines that the shape it eventually may take will resemble the prows (the forward most part of a ship’s bow) of both the waka (Māori canoe) and the balangay (ancient Filipino sailboats) – symbols that allude to the unifying spirit of enterprise and cooperation of sea-faring peoples in the Pacific. It is also an architectural state-ment meant to honour and rekindle the dormant maritime consciousness among our young people in New Zealand and reconnect them to their seafaring past.
Socialisation and cultural expressions will be the beats of the heart of this proposed Centre in Welling-ton. It will provide functional, flexible social spaces which open up to allow the important things in life in.
The warmth from the sun that lands first each day in Aotearoa will be collected and employed to ensure the comfort and convenience of users at any time of the day. It will be a place of light, enlightenment and delight. The objective is to achieve a comfortable environment which is reliable and efficiently maintained at lower costs while activities inside the Centre are carried on.
This Article is the 3rd Part of a 5-Part Series