Copenhagen-based architect BIG , in collaboration with ARUP  and Transsolar , was awarded first-prize in an international competition to design Shenzhen International Energy Mansion, the regional headquarters for the Shenzhen Energy Company.
The purpose of the international design competition was to find a sustainable and efficient solution for the Shenzhen Energy Company office headquarters. Located in the centre of Shenzhen, the 96,000 square meter project will be integrated with the surrounding environment and designed to withstand the tropical climate of the city. BIG’s winning proposal was selected by the jury experts from Shenzhen Municipal Planning Bureau, chaired by Alejandro Zaera-Polo and client representatives.
The headquarters rises 200 meters creating a new landmark visible from the highway in the cultural, political, and business center of Shenzhen. The designers envision combining a practical and efficient floor plan layout with a sustainable façade that both passively and actively reduce the energy consumption of the building. The façade is conceived as a folded skin that shades the office complex from direct sunlight and integrates solar thermal panels, reducing the overall energy consumption of the building.
The skyscraper has evolved as an economically efficient way to provide flexible, functional and well-illuminated workspaces for dense populations of professionals. It has, however, evolved at a time when air conditioning and electric lighting are merely seen as modern solutions to modern demand, without thought being given to environmental consequences or energy shortages.
Today, the skyscraper needs to evolve into a new sustainable species. It must retain its highly evolved qualities such as flexibility, daylight, views, density, and general usability while advancing new and untested attributes such as ways of combining maximum daylight exposure with minimal sunshine exposure or integrated ways of limiting the need for cooling.
“We propose to make the Shenzhen Energy Mansion the first specimen of a new species of office buildings that exploits the buildings interface with the external elements - sun, daylight, humidity, wind – as a source to create maximum comfort and quality inside," said Bjarke Ingels, Founding Partner, BIG. "The Shenzhen Energy Mansion will appear as a subtle mutation of the classic skyscraper – a natural evolution rather than a desperate revolution.”
The traditional glass façade has little insulation leaving the offices overheated by direct sunlight. This results in excessive energy consumption for air conditioning and the need for a heavy glass coating that makes the view seem permanently dull and grey.
“The towers are based on an efficient and well-proven floor plan enclosed in a skin specifically modified and optimized for the local climate. By focusing on the envelope, the façade, we are able to enhance the sustainable performance of the building drastically,” said Andreas Klok Pedersen, Project Leader, BIG.
By folding the façade in an origami like shape we achieve a structure with closed and open parts. The closed parts provide a highly-insulated façade, while blocking the direct sunlight. On the outside the closed parts are fitted with solar thermal heat panels that power the air conditioning and provide dehumidification for the working spaces.
The folded wall provides a free view through clear glass in one direction creating a condition with plenty of diffused daylight by reflecting the direct sunlight between the interior panels. Even with direct sun from east or west, the majority of the solar rays reflect off the glass, due to the flat angle of the window. The reflected rays increase the efficiency of solar thermal energy panels. The combination of minimal passive solar heating and active solar panels reduce the energy consumption by more than 60%.