21 May 2012 – Architect and urban designer Elena Vanz is fine tuning an exhibition at Customs House Sydney next month which challenges sustainable electricity generation in the CBD.

The exhibition from14-16 June by students at the UTS Design Architecture and Building faculty is tipped to trigger new thinking about how supplies of renewable electricity close to the city’s grid can be achieved.

The focus of a study that led to the exhibition was three major energy substations in the CBD (Erskine and Sussex Street Building, 8-16 Dalley Street, 33 Bligh Street). Solutions were based on the social dynamics of the city spaces and the time and power consumption within the city, Professor Vanz, a visiting professor at UTS, said.

“I wanted the students to explore the individual ways that each site is experienced by the public and from this propose ways that electricity could be generated locally and supplied to the substation and the existing grid,” she said.

These strategies, with public understanding, would be valuable in reducing electricity consumption and helping to revitalise the CBD by introducing new models for operating public space.

Students are proposing to generate electricity by: placing photovoltaic systems on pavements and public spaces (to promote awareness and culture of renewable power generation), facades and roofs; and integrating piezo technologies underfoot that transfer energy from pedestrians or athletes pressing down on surfaces.

Other ideas include rezoning areas for pedestrian only throughways; using tunnels proposed for the trigeneration energy as pedestrian walkways; constructing a network of above ground walkways that connect one building to another; redistributing energy consumption by rezoning some areas to allow for more residential which is less energy demanding that office rental and reconfiguring substations as hybrid buildings to allow space for creating renewable power sources.

Ms Vanz draws on many years of esearch in the field of renewal electricity generation, in particular with a Columbia University, New York based project “Solar Urban Prairie”, which involved retrofitting parts of the city’s urban infrastructure for solar energy generation

While in the USA she also taught urban studies at the State University of New York where she examined how to integrate renewable urban energy systems for the “shrinking city of Buffalo.