The dark side of power woes

An interesting article about power cuts from the New York Times:

Look up at the tops of buildings, and on any given day, you are likely to find three, four or six smokestacks poking out of each, blowing gray-black plumes into the clouds. If the smokestacks are being used, it means the power is off and the building — whether bright new mall, condominium or office — is probably being powered by diesel-fed generators.

This being India, a country of more than one billion people, the scale is staggering. In just one case, Tata Consultancy Services, a technology company, maintains five giant generators, along with a nearly 5,300-gallon tank of diesel fuel underground, as if it were a gasoline station.

The reserve fuel can power the lights, computers and air-conditioners for up to 15 days to keep Tata’s six-story building humming during these hot, dry summer months, when temperatures routinely soar above 100 degrees and power cuts can average eight hours a day.

It’s the same old story–construct buildings which are power guzzlers and then find that the power supplied is not enough, so buy a generator and burn diesel.

Still, construction here surges ahead. With few exceptions, there is little effort to reduce power consumption, beyond the use of low-energy light bulbs. Gurgaon is dotted with buildings that are effectively curtains of glass, soaking up the searing summer heat.

“It’s good for New York, not Gurgaon,” was the verdict of Niranjan Khatri, a general manager with ITC, an Indian conglomerate whose office tower here is one of the few to comply with so-called green building codes.

If India, or any other country for that matter, is interested in combating the effects of global warming, then it requires a re-think of the way things are done. You can’t tackle problems like these in isolation; you have to look at a broader view, the big picture so to speak.

Read this article to get an idea of how the European Union is changing the way they design buildings.

The headquarters of the federal environment agency in Dessau, Germany, occupies a low-slung building on the edge of an abandoned gasworks. Dessau, a center for munitions production during the war, was virtually obliterated by Allied bombs. Over the next 50 years, East German factories saturated the soil with chemical and industrial waste. Yet both the agency building and its location might be said to embody a new, ecologically sensitive Europe.

Designed by a young Berlin-based firm, Sauerbruch Hutton, the building is touted as one of the most efficient in the world, but it doesn’t wear its sustainability on its sleeve. Four stories high, it wraps around a vast interior courtyard that is cooled and heated by a system of underground pipes. Vents in the glass roof allow hot air to escape, and an occasional breeze passes through the courtyard’s gardens. The sinuous wood structure is clad in horizontal bands of candy-colored, enameled glass panels, in shades of green, red and blue. The pattern, it turns out, is carefully tuned to the surrounding environment: the green reflects a nearby park; the red, the brick facades of an industrial shed; and the blue, the sky.

To quote Albert Einstein: The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.

PS: Check out BoGo Light, a cool flashlight/torch.

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