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Sustainability Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai produces its own water and energy


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(CNN) – As the green hub of Expo 2020 Dubai, the Sustainable Pavilion features a 440-foot steel roof housing over 1,000 solar panels, making it one of the event’s most prominent architectural designs. It is also one of the most technologically impressive devices, capable of producing its own power, cooling and water.

“We felt that if you could operate a completely grid-free building in one of the world’s most challenging climates, it could obviously be done anywhere in the world. “, said Andrew Whalley, president of British studio Grimshaw, the firm that designed the booth. “This is a real opportunity for Dubai to use this global stage and hopefully inspire millions of visitors.”

The building can generate up to 4 gigawatt hours of electricity per year – enough to power about 370 average homes – from photovoltaic panels on the tree canopy and from hundreds of others mounted on 18″ Energy Trees. ” are scattered around the booth. “They are made of carbon fiber composite, a material commonly used in the aerospace and high-performance yachting industries,” says Whalley. “To optimize efficiency, each tree has a motorized gimbal that allows it to track the sun throughout the day.”

"Energy Tree" surrounding the Sustainability Pavilion.

The “Energy Tree” surrounds the Sustainability Pavilion.

KARIM SAHIB / AFP / AFP via Getty Images

The energy generated is used to power cooling systems, as well as harvest and recycle water. Rainwater and dew are collected through the main canopy and an array of “Water Trees”, which provide shade during the day and collect water at night by taking advantage of the sharp temperature drop and consequent condensation. On site, gray water is filtered and recycled, while black water (from wastewater) is purified using reed beds, which are natural filtration systems based on aquatic plants.

To keep the exhibition space cool, the building is partially buried. “We used our venue as a natural insulator, by submerging most of the exhibition space below ground level,” says Whalley. “The remaining space is under a heavily insulated landscape canopy, which in turn is enclosed by heavy masonry walls built from reclaimed rock. All of this provides a solid shield from the sun. the external factors.”

Inspired by trees

The striking canopy is inspired by the desert tree, the national tree of the United Arab Emirates. “It harvests sunlight with its photovoltaic skin and obscures everything below, blowing the breeze into the sunken courtyard,” explains Whalley. “To allow the canopy to extend across the pavilion, it spans 70 meters, but the lightweight mesh construction ensures the structure is extremely efficient and it uses a very high percentage of recycled steel.”

The energy and water plants are also inspired by nature, and are modeled after the Socotra dragon tree, which is native to Yemen and known for its canopy that prevents evaporation – a natural adaptation to the weather. arid conditions of the region.

The Dragon's Blood Tree on the Yemeni island of Socotra.

The Dragon’s Blood Tree on the Yemeni island of Socotra.

KHALED FAZAA / AFP / AFP via Getty Images

The building itself is named Terra – after our planet – and like the other Expo buildings, it will be permanently replaced after the event ends. “The pavilion was really designed with its long-term function in mind – a public science center dedicated to a sustainable and restorative future for our planet,” Whalley said. “We then adapted it for a six-month Expo experience, to deal with the very high temperatures of the summer.”

Inside, the 64,000-square-foot gallery and exhibition space offers visitors a journey through the forests and oceans of the Earth, while pitting them against symbols of their obsessions. people with consumerism, framed as a contributing cause of the climate crisis. Created in partnership by New York-based Thinc Design and UK educational charity Eden Project, the gallery aims to turn visitors into agents of change. Highlights include a giant fishing fish choked by plastic pollution and an interactive experience that asks visitors what wealth they would save from a flood or house fire, to underline the importance of families and communities for consumer goods.

Inside, the Sustainability Pavilion aims to make visitors think about our impact on the planet.

Inside, the Sustainability Pavilion aims to make visitors think about our impact on the planet.

KARIM SAHIB / AFP / AFP via Getty Images

Whalley described it as “a challenging experience” but well-regarded by visitors. “The response from the visitors has been very positive, but more importantly, I hope it makes them question the world around them – and the immediate challenges we face.”

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