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Sanjay Gangal
Sanjay Gangal
Sanjay Gangal is the President of IBSystems, the parent company of, MCADCafe, EDACafe.Com, GISCafe.Com, and ShareCG.Com.

The Solar Tower in Chicago, Illinois by Zoka Zola architecture + urban design

June 3rd, 2011 by Sanjay Gangal

Article source: Zoka Zola architecture + urban design

A concept for a tower that captures maximum amount of solar power

The Towers Of The Future

Majority of the towers designed these days are extravagant formal propositions. Towers are in vogue but most of them are unconcerned with the issues of today or the future. In this way, the flood of towers designed these days is outdated. Architects must seize this time of the greatest responsibility and develop sustainable strategies for towers to use all the physical and social energies of their sites; especially, because towers sustain the environment maybe better than any other building type.

Exterior View

Without active involvement of architects in vibrant explorations of sustainable strategies and discussions about the potential of their findings, architects will respond too slowly to the multitude of demands of our time, and will be bound to apply dulling prescriptive concepts of “the best practices”.

Exterior View

The Solar Tower

It is undeniable that the large exterior surface of a tower’s body must be used if maximum amount of renewable energy is to be produced, because the exterior wall of a tower is a much larger surface than a tower’s roof and most towers’ sites. With this understanding, our project looks into potentially optimizing the way a tower captures solar energy. Our Solar tower has sun-tracking solar panels attached to the tower’s exterior wall. The solar panels are mounted on horizontal poles with a mechanism (of weighted pulleys) that rotates the panels throughout the day and year to face the sun at an angle of 90.

Exterior View

There is some consensus that “sun-tracking” solar PV panels capture 30% – 40% or more solar energy then fixed panels at an optimal angle. Since the solar panels are not at an optimal angle when attached to the wall surface of the tower, the sun-tracking panels’ efficiency is much grater.

Lambert Cosine Law describes how much radiation energy is lost when the radiation hits the surface at an oblique angle. See diagram describing this relationship. A feasibility study of this proposal would be of great interest, because such a study could point to the optimal way of capturing solar energy by a tower.

Interior View

Besides capturing solar power, the potential to convert the wind power is of extreme interest to us. The wind exerts pressure on the holding mechanism that can theoretically become usable energy. The sun-tracking panels’ function is extended to a “passive” solar benefit. The panels shade the interior of the building, while the daylight and views nevertheless penetrate the interior. This is hard or impossible to achieve with other shading systems.

Exterior View

The Solar Tower allows its inhabitants to not only view the scenery in front of them, but also the sky and the ground below. We think such views are “good” views. The view also includes the backs of the panels and their machinery that rotates them continuously but unperceivable. Finally, the city gains a view of this tower’s cosmo-bio-logical looking skin. Thus, maybe, I must write maybe, this tower produces new and intensified experiences and awareness.



1) Both, the internal development and external formal development are not objectives of this research project. Nevertheless, the solar tower can accommodate any internal organization including atriums and sky gardens, as well as different shapes and footprints without consequence to the functionality and effects of its skin.

2) We project that each panel position can be easily overridden in order to adjust to individual thermal and psychological optimal needs.

Contact Zoka Zola architecture + urban design

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Category: Tower

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