By Alex Cakkos
Electricity will be as important to the buildings of the future as steel girders are today. Sure electricity is important today, without it corporate and retail spaces would near cease to function, however our increasing dependence on sensors and cables will elevate energy to a new level of importance.
Smart buildings will operate in a sort of paradox, more cables and computers will require more energy (allowing for efficiencies) but they will also possess the potential to make buildings less reliant on external electrical grids. Buildings will cease to become sole consumers of energy and start to produce energy as well.
Buildings making this transition towards becoming mini power stations will be essential if they are to become the green bastions of businesses many envision and demand. Tried and tested renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power will be incorporated into designs, but less conventional technologies will as well- one of the most exciting being kinetic energy.
Kinetic energy is essentially the energy generated by motion. Whilst buildings tend not to move, people do. Harnessing the energy people generate through their footsteps is one way property will generate power. A company called Pavegen has developed the technology to do just this, through flooring which harnesses kinetic energy and turns it into electricity. Whilst this sort of technology will not be a complete substitution for conventionally sourced energy, it can be used to power off grid applications like lighting, advert boards or sensory systems. Electricity “harvested” in this way will most likely be stored in batteries, supplemented by mains electricity the batteries’ power falls below a certain level.
Will footfall energy technology actually be viable or just a novelty? Well according to Pavegen’s website, their pioneering tech has already been installed in over 100 projects in more than 30 countries- everything from shopping centres to airports. Given such technology is more productive in areas of higher footfall, it is feasible to see it deployed in busy retail locations, streets, stadiums and even office blocks.
A secondary benefit of footfall technology will be the real time data it could help collect, monitor and communicate. Sticking with Pavegen, the company have developed “The Pavegen Application Programming Interface” or API; that can be used for footfall analytics, data visualisations or social media. Offering the added bonus therefore of helping facilitate the integration of buildings with their environments.
Ultimately, footfall energy technology is one example of how buildings can make the transition solely from energy consumers to energy producers. What is remarkable about the technology however, is how its application can be used to highlight the integrated and complimentary nature between technology, buildings and users.