Thursday, March 11, 2010

An Impossible City: Discovery Channel showcases Dubai's development, including green technologies

I feel like I've seen this documentary before, but perhaps I'm imagining things. In any case, the other day I watched the Discovery Channel documentary Impossible City, which demonstrates Dubai's tremendous growth.

The first building showcased was the Burj Khalifa, a.k.a the Burj Dubai. It's currently the worlds tallest building. It's about 1,000 feet taller than the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower). It's nearly twice as tall as the Empire State Building. It towers over everything around it. It's intense.

Just about everything in Dubai is over the top. One of the experts in the documentary described it as Las Vegas on steroids. The prime minister has the final say, and he wants impressive buildings, and so architects flock to the city.

Part of what I saw made me cringe. Really, any kind of "I must expand" mentality makes me cringe. But, the buildings in this documentary did command respect. And really, if more people were living in 3,000 foot towers. In fact, if the Burj Khalifa had been built horizontally instead of vertically, it would cover nearly 115 acres. The foundation is 80,000 sq. ft. according to So, they've gained nearly 60 vertical acres per horizontal acre. Impressive.

But, of course, all of this building means they have to be resourceful. How do you supply water and electricity to this massive skyscrapers (at this point I think they're skypiercers more than they're skyscrapers)?

The Dynamic Tower is an interesting way to deal with these problems and it's another proposed building project in Dubai. Each of its 80 floors can move independently of the others and the bottommost floors are pre-programmed to to move such that they harness the maximum amount of sun possible.

Also, between each floor is a horizontal wind turbine. The building will literally produce all of its own electricity using renewable sources. And, just imagine if your indoor garden to move to harness the maximum amount of sun. This thing could be a vertical farm on steroids.

Additionally Dubai, being in the desert, has to concern itself with cooling these skypiercers.

This tower, the O-14, has the answer. The strange, holey, structure forces hot air to move quickly up the sides of the tower, cooling the interior passively.

Well, I suppose if we're going to build this is a way to do it. Better up than out. And, if buildings can provide all of their own electricity and provide passive heating and cooling, that's a step in the right direction. Hey, the Burj Khalifa tower even collects its own water (a "significant amount") by condensing it from the hot and humid air. We'll just have to see how the human race does over the next decade or so...

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