Can a 63-year-old icon of Modernist architecture become a beacon for sustainable and efficient architecture?
Mohammad Shahidehpour, Distinguished Bodine Chair Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and director of Illinois Institute of Technology’s Robert W. Galvin Center for Electricity Innovation, seems to think so. As a part of Galvin Center’s evolving microgrid project—a self-sufficient and environmentally sustainable energy system on Mies Campus—Illinois Tech has installed a system of photovoltaic panels on the roof of S. R. Crown Hall.
More than a part of the microgrid, Crown Hall is its own nanogrid, a self-sufficient island-within-an-island that can function independently of the grid in the event of a blackout by pairing the solar panel system with a 500 kilowatt-hour (kWh) lithium-ion battery from Tesla that is able to supply the building with enough energy to operate off the grid for up to eight hours.
On a daily basis, the setup reduces the building’s reliance on electricity generated from emission-producing sources. Battery power can be used during the building’s peak hours, when the cost of electricity is at its highest and solar conditions are ideal. It’s also capable of providing what Shahidehpour refers to as “peak shavings.” When the energy load of the building exceeds 100 kWh, the battery feeds power to the building to cover energy usage up to 350 kWh.
“Crown Hall was designed at a time when energy efficiency was not a critical subject for discussion, but now it’s a common consideration in architecture design,” says Shahidehpour. “Since it is a focal point on campus, we wanted to demonstrate that by putting solar panels on it. We can bring the old and new together.”