Global Warming Solution
The only solar energy process that can produce hydrocarbon and thus directly remove CO 2 from the atmosphere is photosynthesis. The Sola Roof solution is an innovative adaptation of for using the roofs of buildings everywhere for intensive growth of plants within a controlled environment at roof level for production of food, water and energy from biomass culture. We urgently need to move on from the idea of low energy (green) buildings to the breakthrough of achieving significant net energy production from our investment in “Blue Green” buildings. Roofs are available and underutilized and if Blue Green concepts are exploited no additional land area is needed; and best of all, the Sola Roof method for constructing transparent roofs is less costly than conventional roof construction and will reduce operating costs of buildings by a factor of more than 10 times.
With the vast spending on buildings already budgeted, the social cost of this program can be very attractive. Sola Roof is a construction technology that can enable the application Blue Green solutions in both urban and rural development in both rich and poor communities. All of the technology, including the biomass culture (within CO 2 enriched, controlled environment systems) called “Phyto Tech”, is all available on an Open Source bases, thus making the best practices of a global development community accessible, affordable and adaptable locally - for all climates, cultures and circumstances.
Sola Roof - Using Buildings to Mitigate the CO 2 Problem
Many of us will have quite extensive knowledge of green building design, which like other “green” developments has grown out of increasing environmental awareness and consciousness and now includes many green social, political and even business developments. I would like to suggest that we are ready for a further leap in our collective consciousness that will embrace idea of ecological design of buildings, for the purpose of creating living structures. We have many green products today that emphasize the minimum impact these products have on the environment, during manufacture, use, reuse and disposal through recycling. Green products are also associated with use of non toxic materials and this has been important in reducing the occurrence of the “sick building” syndrome. This syndrome made us more conscious of the internal building environment, which like the external environment, can become polluted. This understanding emerged and caused great concern once builders began to use good vapor barriers as an energy conservation measure. Conservation, reuse and recycling are also green strategies that apply to the construction of green buildings.
Green Buildings have high energy conservation standards. Buildings are a good focus for energy conservation because the manufacture, construction and operation of buildings are far and away the largest consumers of energy – significantly greater than the transportation sector and dwarfing the balance of the manufacturing sector. Our built environment seeks to provide secure, comfortable and productive working, recreational and living spaces but at present this is achieved with a very large penalty to the environment. After improved infiltration control the next important transformation of our building stock was achieved through construction codes calling for high insulation standards for walls and roofs. The next priority area for significant savings is in the development of energy efficient windows that incorporate improved “glazing systems” technology. Glazing systems and roofs present the greatest source of thermal gain and thermal loss and therefore energy standards have placed severe restrictions on the area of glazing to be used in buildings – even when very expensive windows of the highest technical specifications are used.
In this context, Sola Roof is a very radical concept that proposes that substantially the entire envelope of our buildings should be a transparent glazing system. Further, this innovation will support and enable a number of other technology innovations called the Blue Green solutions. I use this new term to trigger in people’s mind the image of a transparent living structures using “water working” (the Blue) and living plants (the Green) to provide an integral low-energy climate control process to regulate the building environment. If we say Green roof this term will not bring to mind an extensive plant leaf canopy sheltered within a liquid-cooled, transparent building envelope. Thus I felt that the term “Blue Green” would be distinctive and cause people to look beyond what we know as green and strive to make a creative leap to the living structures that is the new, breakthrough pattern which we are seeking. The breakthrough is that these buildings will continuously remove CO 2 from the atmosphere (using liquefied CO 2 for enriching the closed atmosphere Phyto Technology? systems) and sequester the CO 2 in stable reserves of Bio Fuel. Thus the Sola Roof construction enables buildings to be net energy producers and thereby support a vast action plan to stabilize atmospheric CO 2 and mitigate the effects of Global Warming. Finally, the Sola Roof CO 2 solution will begin to create a net extraction of CO 2 which would be used to rebuild reserves of renewable oil resources.
Blue Green Systems are the Answer to Global CO 2 Stabilization The distinctive aspect of our Blue Green concept is a transparent building, having an extremely light cladding consisting of two or three layers of transparent, flexible, structural laminate beneath which is structural netting designed to physically support the growing of plants. But unlike conventional roof gardens, Sola Roof also provides an enclosed, ideal, controlled environment for the plants which are integrated into the control of the interior comfort conditions within the building. The plants are not an “external” old fashioned “sod roof” that is outdoors, but rather, the plants are grown within and the leaf canopy spreads beneath the transparent envelope where the plants are established as an integral component of the building’s operations.
The Sola Roof is not covered by soil beds, but rather suspends the plants at the roof level with the roots of the plants are confined to Grow Channels where an aeroponic cultivation technique feeds and waters the roots with Bio Nutrient liquid. Thus the weight of soil is avoided and we obtain a very low system weight for the Sola Roof structure. The Grow Channels are opaque (to protect the roots) but they occupy less then 10 percent the roof area and thus the shading by the growing system and structural system is minimal. Thus the majority of the shading produced by the Blue Green concept is provided by the living leaf canopy that will spread under the transparent Sola Roof and through which daylight may enter and reach the interior of the building.
A conventional “green” roof garden can be converted into a Blue Green concept by means of building a transparent Sola Roof superstructure over the existing roof so that the roof would become the top floor level of the building and the plants would be sheltered by the Sola Roof. The roof garden plants could be elevated to the Sola Roof level so that the original roof area can be freed as floor space for use by people. However it is important to note that if a conventional greenhouse enclosure is used to cover a roof, then such a conversion will have none of the efficiency of the Sola Roof construction; since conventional greenhouses have no active solar functions and have no capability to control the environment within the greenhouse or the building without excessive energy consumption. In fact there are limited advantages or benefits to building conventional greenhouses on roofs or otherwise when one considers how simple it is to build a Sola Roof enclosure instead.
Since Sola Roof technology is Open Source and it is based on plants, this makes the Blue Green solution affordable and accessible – it is a concept for the new millennium. I believe that Blue Green (using photosynthesis in contrast to photovoltaic technology) technology will be important for sustainable development in both rich and poor communities. Blue Green solutions are similar in results delivered to the NASA life-science based technologies of Closed Ecological Life Support Systems (google: CELSS) for long term space missions, but is more low tech. What has become clear from the NASA research is the power of plants to “process” radiative energy and utilizes an enriched CO 2 atmosphere to enhance plant growth.
The most unrecognized aspect of this CELSS process is the capability of plants to transform the heat radiation of the sun into pure “transpired moisture” while remaining at a leaf temperature of about 72 to 78F degrees. This capability to generate pure water is five times more powerful per area than the best available “solar thermal distillation process” and can create an abundance of clean, pure water if, in a closed climate controlled process, the transpired moisture is condensed by the interior layer of the building envelope – and this is the advantage of the Sola Roof method - our transparent inner skin is chilled by the liquid solar process. No purely mechanical process can perform with such efficiency as the “living process” of plant transpiration in the production pure water while providing cooling. Evaporative cooling does not come close to the degree of control provided by our method and air-conditioning is an order of magnitude less efficient. Therefore there are several benefits that the Sola Roof, as a Blue Green technology can achieve: 1) food and biomass production for conversion to Bio Fuel; 2) water collection, purification and production; 3) a controlled temperature building envelope that is cooled or warmed as required; 4) control of the building environment including temperature and humidity, and 5) modulated, cool, daylight reaching the building interior.