Interview with Designer of World’s 1st Net Zero–Energy Skyscraper & World’s 1st Large-Scale Positive-Energy Building — Gordon Gill

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I recently had the fortunate chance to interview Gordon Gill, “one of the world’s preeminent exponents of performance-based design” and a trendsetter in the realm of net–zero energy and net-positive–energy design. Gordon will be a featured speaker at the upcoming Total Energy USA conference (you can still register for that conference here).

Gordon’s work, “which ranges from the world’s largest buildings to elements of a single home, is driven by his philosophy that there is a language of performance: a purposeful relationship between design and the performance-based criteria placed on the subject,” a Total Energy USA news release notes.

Masdar Headquarters by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture. (Copyright)

“A founding partner of award-winning Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, Gordon’s work includes the design of the world’s first net zero-energy skyscraper, the Pearl River Tower (designed at SOM Chicago), and the world’s first large-scale positive energy building, Masdar Headquarters.” Those are some big accomplishments.

“These landmark projects achieve energy independence by harnessing the power of natural forces on site, striking a balance with their environmental contexts,” the news release adds.

Masdar Headquarters by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture. (Copyright)

Hopefully net zero–energy and net positive–energy architecture will be the norm soon… but can this quality of design ever be the norm?

As noted above, I was lucky enough to have the chance to interview Gordon recently. Here’s what came out of that interview:

1. You have designed the world’s first net zero–energy skyscraper, the Pearl River Tower (designed at SOM Chicago), and the world’s first large-scale positive-energy building, Masdar Headquarters. These are stunning achievements, and I imagine you must be pretty happy to have claim to those world firsts. How did you get involved in those projects?

In both cases, these were invited competitions, Pearl River at SOM and Masdar HQ at AS+GG. They were both extraordinary opportunities to display the full extent of holistic design for all the teams involved. Both of these projects have confirmed the principles of the design philosophy that Adrian and I have developed, and for that we’re extremely pleased.

2. And what are some of the main sources of inspiration and guidance you used in designing those?

In all cases, the inspiration is a confluence of evaluating environmental assets (and deficits) — to create solutions that work for all conditions. We merge those findings, along with indigenous principles, which hopefully leads to beautiful solutions that are genuinely better performing and increase savings for our clients. In both cases (Pearl River and Masdar HQ), the design for these projects was driven by adherence to the principle “Form follows Performance,” which is both scientific and artistic.

3. When did you decide to focus on green design? And what pulled or pushed you to it?

I’ve always been interested in the relationship between nature and technology and how different cultures and disciplines solve the implied conflict between them. I have chosen to embrace them both as mutually supportive of each other because I believe they’re both critical to our souls and our future. I believe that their futures are mutually inclusive.

4. Do you have any big green designs in the works that you could share with us?

We have been very fortunate to have many interesting projects where we can exercise our performance based principles. We have a large-scale master plan for 100,000 people in China; we are working on supertall buildings that test and integrate wind as a formal aspect of their expression and performance; we have designed net zero water buildings; and we are currently doing an in-depth research study on the relationship between density and carbon emissions within regional typologies, so we can understand the impact of certain building types on their cities and proposed plans. All of these generate vast amounts of discoveries for us that allow us to advance all our projects.

Those certainly are some awesome-sounding projects! We’ll have to check in with Gordon in the future to find out more about them as they come along.

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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