China skyscraper stakes claim as world's greenest

A 71-storey commercial building under construction in southern China is being billed as the world's most energy efficient skyscraper, generating all the power it needs onsite.

Located in China's industrial heartland in the city of Guangzhou, the 310m Pearl River Tower is being equipped with wind turbines, solar panels and fuel cells. The high-profile project is due to be completed in October 2010.

The wing-shaped building has enormous scoops on the exterior walls that are designed to push air through wind tunnels located on the building's two mechanical equipment floors. The two floors are each equipped with two wind turbines, which together are expected to generate an estimated one million kilowatt hours of electricity a year.

Meanwhile, solar panels will be used to heat the hot water supply, while huge fuel cells located in the basement will produce electricity by extracting hydrogen from natural gas that will be piped into the building.

These onsite technologies mean that the tower does not need to be connected to the local power grid.

Other energy efficient features include a double-layer curtain-wall system to reduce heat absorption and slab concrete vaulted ceilings that enhance natural daylight. Chilled water will run through metal panels in the ceiling, helping to cool the building.

The tower was designed by Chicago-based architectural and engineering firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, which hopes that the structure will be a prototype for future green skyscrapers around the world.

The tower will be home to the Guangdong Tobacco Company, which had asked architects to submit building designs incorporating sustainable elements when fielding bids for the project in 2005.

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