Conservation of non renewable sources, at the same time maximizing the use of renewable sources, is the need of the hour. A notable effort in this direction is the mega project at North Dakota in USA. The Solar Plaza Fargo is an example of how architecture can be utilized for sustainable development. Set up in a unique parametric design, the Solar Plaza has a sweeping solar panel surface with a glass layer covering it, thereby making solar power generation its USP.
The mega structure
Designed to give an open site Broadway like feel to the maximum, the Solar Plaza has been planned as a perfect getaway for congregating, eating, shopping and enjoying – in short a place to hang out. To maintain the Broadway like feel on the storefront side, where retail stores and restaurants would be located, street level mass has been strictly kept to two-story brick retail. To enhance the feel as well as provide daylight to the interiors, glass has been used to the maximum extent possible.
Subtle use of architecture has been made so that the five upper residential floors are exposed to more of the northern light. Additionally, the floors have been made easily configurable to standard apartments and/or single floor and duplex studios. This has, thereby made the residential zone of the building ideal for photographers, artists, craftsmen, and telecommuters. The third story of the plaza is dedicated towards commercial purposes in addition to the three floors of the US Bank building present nearby. The US Bank has banking operation facility at the street and second levels of this building in addition to drive-through banking facility.
The biggest bane for mega projects is usually having the residents share the lobby with office goers. This has been taken care of by having separate lobbies. Ample parking facility too has been carefully provided below the plaza, which can only be accessed from the 5th Street N near the drive-through banking facility. This would not just limit the vehicular traffic to 5th Street, but would also prevent congestion thereby not hampering the open-site Broadway like experience the Solar Plaza promises.
In addition to the two structures, a third and final structure for this mega plaza is a single-story arc shaped circular civic center. Designed for small restaurants, pedestrian scale cafes and walk by oriented sales, this structure adds a finishing touch to the magnanimity of the Solar Plaza.
What makes it mega
The mega Solar Plaza is proposed to be 8-stories high and spread over an area of 90,000 sqft with a total building area of almost 157,000 sqft; of which 38,000 sqft, 54,000 sqft, and 76,000 sqft would be allocated for office, retail, and residential spaces respectively. In addition to a parking facility for 400 cars on two sublevels, the plaza would have ample space for plantations, a sundial and/or central fountain in addition to the many café tables and benches.
Designer: Bill Caplan, 2010
Architect: ShortList_0 Design Group LLC
Place: Fargo, North Dakota, USA
Purpose: Mixed use – residential and commercial
Surface Area: 157,000 sqft spread over a site area of 90,000 sqft
Construction Time: Concept proposal stage
Shaped in a parametric design to harness maximum solar energy throughout the day, irrespective of the season and the shadows of the nearby Radisson Hotel, the Solar Plaza has frameless PV solar panels with fully integrated skin/panel construction. Such an efficient architectural design makes the mega structure capable of producing 70,000 kWh units/month leading to an annual production of 850,000 kWh units – almost half of its requirements. The Solar Plaza is therefore, a true warrior for green architecture.