Composite Mesh Could House Solar Panels

Most major cities in the world are home to at least one high-rise building that makes you wonder, "Who did they get to design that monstrosity?"

Granted, design trends change and evolve over the years, as does the availability of innovative materials of construction, but you can't deny that some buildings just kind of naturally reach their "demolish by" date. Of course, this can be a complex and costly process, not to mention the cost of rebuilding, so why not try and cover over that blemish in your town while retaining the value of the existing structure?

That's exactly the solution being proposed by Australia's Laboratory for Visionary Architecture (LAVA). They've proposed a radical makeover for Sydney's most prominent eyesore: the University of Technology tower, Sydney's most prominent building, as reported by the Sydney Morning Herald. LAVA wants to envelop the building in a functional composite woven textile mesh that would transform it into a design masterpiece at a cost of around $16.5 million. The cost of installing the mesh is estimated at around 10 to 15 percent of a complete rebuild, and it could be carried out in approximately three months.

Besides aesthetic benefits, LAVA says various functionalities could be incorporated into the mesh, such as solar panels and LED lights for nighttime light shows and advertising. Rainwater could also be collected at the base, while air trapped between the building and the mesh has the potential to reduce energy consumption. Millions of tiny holes in the mesh would allow light in, and would also allow those on higher floors to continue to enjoy their views and open their windows.

In an interview in Singapore newspaper The Straits Times, LAVA director Chris Bosse noted that traditionally the facades of buildings do not react to the environment. "They are built to shut out the environment, for the worst case scenario -- rain or cold." LAVA wants to create concepts in which buildings breathe naturally and let sunlight in. Singapore could be a prime location for deploying this technology given the first high-rises there were built in a relatively simple fashion during its early years of rapid economic growth.

While some of you might think this approach sounds pie-in-the-sky, these guys are serious and respected in architectural and design circles. LAVA director Bosse headed up the design of Beijing's award-winning 2008 Olympics aquatics center, the Water Cube, and LAVA also designed the stage set for the 2010 Australian MTV Awards.

I'm hoping their concept will take off here in Singapore and make my daily cycle commute a more pleasing experience.

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