This week it was my group’s turn to do the literature review. I did the review on the Dutch report about a self-sustaining energy plan for Texel in 2030. The report concluded that a fully self-sustaining energy system on Texel is not feasible in 2030 with the current state of technology unless 2/3 of the energy needs would be generated by windmills. I think this conclusion is a bit short-sighted because the research does not really talk about reducing energy demands and intelligent energy solutions on a smaller scale.
Nevertheless, the report provides some useful figures related to the energy use and demand of the island specified in different sectors, but above all it gives comprehensive data in how feasible different renewable energy production techniques really are in practice. Although the report is written in Dutch language, it can be very useful to every subsystem that relates to energy. A must read for the Dutch students among us I would suggest.
But let’s go back to this conclusion. This and some other facts in the report made me reflect on our own research. I know we are not aiming for just technical solutions, and the “socio-part” (referring to topic of week 1) of the design solution will be the real challenge in this case, but we still need a firm technical foundation. After having a closer look on the subsystems I began to wonder in which subsystem the built environment is addressed.
Because of my background in building technology I know that in the last few years a lot has been achieved in terms of reducing energy demands and intelligent small scale energy solutions. I think these can play a big role in at least the energy-part of our design solution, especially because the report states that a self-sustaining energy system is not feasible unless large scale windmill facilities would be used, while it neglects the developments I just mentioned. In my opinion these innovations can really contribute to a more feasible design and should be looked after. In my next column I will try to give some examples of how different subsystems could be related to the built environment to illustrate its potential for our final design.
Besides some “gaps” in the technical part of the research, the report also made me wonder about other non-physical topics related to the research and the design outcome. Splitting up the research in different subsystems towards a socio-technical system might work well as long as the subsystems cover everything. Let’s assume that our design will be technically feasible and finds a good balance between social and technical solutions or even combines them. That would be great, but it tells us nothing about financial and political feasibility nor about the timespan and phasing in which the design can be realised. A holistic design solution for Texel, also has to address these topics.
This again made me wonder to which extend a feasible design solution is going to be a physical entity like the designs I make in my architectural projects. A crucial part of the physical design solution is the process it takes to realise it, so this should also be part of the research we do and the final design we present. This could be everything from business models to governmental policies and so on.
I hope this column makes you wonder as much as I do about how the final design should look like and where the focus of the research should be…