Since the luxury automakers seem to come out with technology about three to five years after I first think of it (cruise control that automatically maintains a safe distance from the car in front of you was my idea—ask my wife!), I figured I would perform a public service this month and predict some future building technologies. Just remember, when you start seeing this stuff in TFM articles and in your building, you heard it here first! By the way, I want royalties if you steal any of my ideas.
Rather than repeat “facilities of the future” throughout this column, I’ll take a bold step and create my own facilities standards-”Crane Compliant Buildings,” or CCB for short. Let’s start our virtual tour at the top. CCB built up roofing will feature new composite structural materials (polymers, alloys, etc.) and use waterproof, closed cell insulation. These roofs will have insulation values better than 10 times that required by today’s codes, and the structural materials will be inherently fire retardant (without the spray on stuff).
They will enjoy tornado proof strength properties superior to metal or wood construction. And without the oxidation, insect, or moisture concerns of today’s materials will disappear.
CCB roofs will be capped with lightweight alloy sheeting with physically welded seams and no fasteners. The alloy sheet cap material will be painted with a new CCB polymer “chameleon coating” developed to maximize ambient temperature, turning it white or black-to absorb or reflect solar loads for optimal energy efficiency. The alloy sheet capping will be turned down over the sidewalls to maintain the integrity of the building envelope perfectly. Roof caps will also integrate strain gages and heat strips to monitor and control snow and ice loads before they become critical.
Parapets and skylights will be forbidden on CCB roofs, as will equipment and personnel. Proximity card readers verified by retina scanners will secure hatch access.
Exterior facades of CCBs will be constructed of concrete/foam hybrid materials, either precast or poured on site. Wall panels will be 10″ to 12″ thick and cam-locked together for air and water tight joints. Facility professionals will enjoy superior thermal, moisture, and sound insulation values with a blast proof exterior.
Thin, rectangular, mirror-like panels will cover the CCB facades to look like today’s contemporary facilities. These panels will be embedded with photovoltaics that collect solar energy each day. Every evening, they will charge the DC cell banks powering the facility’s lighting systems.
These exterior panels will also integrate fiber optics and prisms to deliver abundant natural daylight through pencil sized openings in the work space walls. Conventional electric lighting will only be necessary on the dreariest of days. Architects and owners will use the exterior CCB panels (available in numerous colors, textures, and patterns) as “design signatures.”
For optimum thermal efficiencies and air/water/blast tight specifications, CCBs will have no windows. Enormous flat panel, high definition LCDs (or projector screens for smaller budgets) will instead provide continuous video loops of scenes selected by the occupants. Even low-rent CCBs in urban areas will be able to program their LCDs to create virtual environments with waterfalls, tropical rain forests, beaches, or snow covered mountains-all just outside the office. Imagine working in a downtown basement’s 1,000 square foot tenant space…but on a virtual summit in the Alps! Special programming will be available to turn the workplace into a virtual aquarium or even a high-speed aircraft hurling through space!
With minimal heat loads, geothermal water/chemical loops will heat and cool CCBs. More traditional refrigerant based HVAC technology and desiccants will control humidity and peak loads.
Activated charcoal, chemical membrane filters, and reverse osmosis technology will be fully integrated with air handlers, eliminating the need for outside air introduction. This will provide more energy savings.
Hydrogen fuel cells will be incorporated into CCBs for complete independence from utility companies. As an added bonus, state and federal governments will offer financial rewards to connect new CCBs to the grid, so older facilities fed by conventional power can be served by their more modern neighbors. Additional incentives will encourage new CCBs designers to incorporate extra capacity into their clean burning generators.
The utilities will begin phasing out coal-fired plants as more and more commercial and industrial facilities install generating capacity-eventually to the point where CCBs can satisfy the power requirements of entire communities. Utilities will become transmission service groups and energy consultants responsible for confirming the power quality and safety of the independent user/generator.
Byproducts of power generation (water and heat) will be integrated to the facilities’ water supply and HVAC recovery systems. CCB engineers will then convert all hydrogen generators to 100% solar power generators.
CCBs will feature low maintenance exterior landscaping that requires no sprinkler systems or fertilizers. Insect controls (bats, birds, and electronics) will be used exclusively. Three dimensional, low voltage electrical arrays will eliminate mosquitoes, flies, and gnats within 100 yards of occupied properties but will be safe for people, birds, and other small animals.
Recycled materials with absorption and filtration properties to handle storm water runoff will replace non-porous asphalt and concrete parking lots. Trellises with genetically engineered vines will cover parking lots. Lighting and security cameras (powered by the photovoltaics on the facility exterior) for the lots will be installed under the trellis/vine canopies, reducing light pollution in parking areas.
Hydrogen powered Personal Propulsion Vehicles (PPVs) will be protected by the vined canopy. PPVs will eliminate traffic, accidents, and the need for roads. Capable of flying 250 miles per hour, these vehicles will operate at multiple altitudes and will be outfitted with autopilot and collision avoidance systems. These vehicles will be filled up with free hydrogen at the facility’s energy plant, and workday commutes will average five minutes, regardless of where workers live.
In hot climates, evaporative coolers will be incorporated into the trellises to maintain a 75 degee F temperature in the parking areas, even on a 100 degree F+ day. In cold climates, waste heat and moisture from the energy plant will maintain a balmy 68 degree F parking area, even on a below zero day.
Inside a typical CCB, paper, printers, and copy machines will not be permitted. All communication, documentation, and signatures will be electronic.
Meeting notes will be taken on electronic tablets that also function as wallets, PCs, and phones. Networks will be wireless, electronics will all be voice controlled, and Internet based telephony and three-dimensional videoconferencing will eliminate the need for most business travel.
Meals will consist of specially engineered nutrition bars. All dietary restrictions will be taken into consideration automatically.
Now brace yourself for this feature; CCB occupants will have individual workspace control of temperature and airflow. Building air will be 100% recycled, and pollutants will be discarded in cost effective, disposable filters.
Philosophers, business leaders, and economists will reflect on the turn of the century with awe. Facility professionals will wonder why it took them so long to evolve to CCB standards of facilities. Won’t it be cool?
Crane is a mechanical engineer and regional property manager with Childress Klein Properties, a leading real estate developer and property management services provider in the Southeast.