by Sunena V MajuAug 29, 2022
The world at present shares a collective problem, of alarmingly rising sea levels and warming temperatures caused by climate change, most of which have been worryingly termed irreversible by experts. From young adults and social media influencers calling out and urging political world leaders and capitalist billionaires to undo their ways and help heal the planet, other industries are visibly weighing in on the issue, from construction to fashion and agriculture, working towards finding pragmatic solutions that can be implemented forthwith. The architectural and design community has also witnessed growth in terms of welcoming itself to multiple possibilities of sustainability. While every attempt towards a hopeful and green future counts, is the creative community just following sustainability trends for clout, or actually approaching interpolations by first, raising introspective questions, of long-term impacts and a comprehensive perspective, instead of a selfish, myopic one?
Amid efforts to mitigate the climate crisis and global warming, Taiwan is aiming towards a planned transition to green energy. Building on the East Asian country’s ambitious aim for a clean energy spree through 2030, Rotterdam-based architecture firm MVRDV shapes a built manifesto for the government-owned power company, Taipower. The Sun Rock will represent in fullness, the company’s aim for a carbon-free future by focusing on generating clean solar energy, as efficiently as possible. A literal translation of its moniker, Sun Rock is imagined as a smooth, boulder-like form wrapped almost entirely in photovoltaic panels. The sustainable architecture is aptly described as 'a manifesto in a building', and will house an operation facility containing offices, a maintenance workshop, storage spaces, and a public gallery.
The site situated at the Changhua Coastal Industrial Park, near Taichung, receives a substantial amount of solar exposure throughout the year. Designed to maximise the absorption of sunlight, the structure slopes gently on its southern side, with a visibly bulbous dome rising towards the north. The resulting form facilitates the maximum possible area to harness solar energy throughout the day, according to the Dutch architects. Layering on the efficient form of the building (estimated to reach completion by 2024) is the innovative façade design dressed almost entirely with solar panels. “We cladded the entire façade with photovoltaics, maximising the energy gains to make it not only self-sustainable, for its own usage, but also allowing the building to become a tool of energy production, exporting electricity to the rest of the grid. This is achieved through a maximally efficient positioning of the panels,” elaborates Winy Maas, founding partner, MVRDV.
The primary purpose of the 12,900 sqm building is the storage and maintenance of sustainable energy equipment, with the Data Room forming the heart of the planning. The atrium in the Data Room will be integrated with real-time displays of data showcasing Taipower’s operations, and the amount of renewable energy it generates. Allowing the public an intimate and educative look at the machines that make sustainable energy possible, a gallery space on the first floor frames views of the maintenance workshop and another for exhibitions on the second floor. Sheltered under the dome of solar panels on the rooftop is a green terrace, blooming with trees, designed as a space for both visitors and employees to unwind.
Enhancing Taipower’s initiative for a greener future, Sun Rock is planned to support at least 4,000 sqm of PV panels that can generate almost one million kWh of clean energy per year – a truly considerable amount equivalent to burning 85 tonnes of crude oil. Though the current sustainable design makes the building completely self-sufficient, further design iterations are under consideration that would make possible an even larger area to fit more PV panels, with calculations showing the building generating up to 1.7 million kWh annually to contribute surplus energy to the grid.
Addressing MVRDV's approach toward the cohesive design, Maas added, "We aim to make all of our projects as sustainable as possible. Yet we see that projects can go beyond just being sustainable in themselves. This project has unique and fascinating potential. The user is an energy company, which has allowed us to do more than usual. As a result, our design is completely data-driven. It’s always fun to see the results when you let analysis be the determining part of the design." Though the research-oriented Dutch architectural firm seemed to have dealt with the most common complications associated with a solar skin façade, the practicality and functionality of the spaces and its users create much anticipation and raise some well-intended questions.
(Text by Sunena V Maju, intern at STIRworld)
Name: Sun Rock
Location: Changhua County, Taiwan
Typology: Maintenance workshop, warehouse and office
Area: 12,900 sqm
Client: Taipower Company
Founding Partner in charge: Winy Maas
Partner: Wenchian Shi
Design Team: Hui-Hsin Liao, Daniel Diez, Mirco Facchinelli, Carolina Martin Peñuela, Chi-Yi Liao, Tseng-Hsuan Wei
MVRDV NEXT: Yayun Liu
Co-architect: Y.C. Hsu Architect & Associates
Contractor: Reiju Construction Co., Ltd.
Structural engineer: Chih-Hung Kao Structural Engineer & Associates
MEP: Chia Feng Mechanical & Electrical Corp.