This is an opinion editorial by Makoto Shibuya, a licensed architect with a comprehensive portfolio of personal and professional projects.
I tend to believe that every challenge is also an opportunity. Cities developed over centuries, but the world is changing rapidly. While there is a healthy debate about what a future city might look like, if we were to design a city knowing what we know now, we can assume that it would look very different.
Architecture is difficult, complicated and rooted in a lot of history and tradition. Yet it is one of our oldest practices: we needed a roof over our heads before we could sit down and think about anything else. Unfortunately, this combination of complexity, tradition, and permanence has historically kept the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry at the mercy of changing technology rather than advancing it. Change is difficult, especially for something built on centuries of precedent.
Like it or not, this will have to change as the world recognizes what some have been warning for decades. Although the numbers are evolving, we know that buildings collectively contribute around 40% of global CO2 emissions.
Bitcoin introduces a market-based economic incentive for net positive energy projects, which in addition to reducing CO2 emissions, could help offset the embedded carbon of our infrastructure over time.
A case study
In 1945, the “Case Study House Program“ was commissioned to help reimagine housing after World War II. Although some of the projects were never built, it was an important and influential contribution to the modern architecture movement. Today we face a different challenge: we know that buildings collectively contribute around 40% of global CO2 emissions.
Zero is a case study for exploring new opportunities around renewable energy infrastructure and Bitcoin. The ultimate goal is to accelerate net zero carbon projects through renewable energy technology, materials selection and carbon removal strategies. I understand that there are many nuances around environmental concerns, and I’m just flexing some design ideas to see where I go.
At first glance, the energy consumption of a “proof-of-work” system like Bitcoin may seem like an inherent problem, but complex problems require looking at the whole system. When we think about this, it is important to decouple energy from carbon emissions. Energy use is not inherently bad. Everything requires energy, it’s part of the first law of thermodynamics.
In short, the problem of energy has never been scarcity, but intermittency, storage and distribution. For the first time in history, energy has a buyer of last resort, bitcoin miners, who can take stranded or surplus energy from anywhere and turn it into a global digital asset. Bitcoin mining introduces a perpetual appetite for stranded, or surplus, energy that can augment traditional net metering and energy storage. Mining makes it possible to monetize the construction and operation of a solar system from day one instead of waiting for permits to be sold back to the grid, which can often take months. It is another valuable tool that is geographically independent. This new demand acts as a continuous incentive for renewable energy and energy infrastructure innovation.
Combining renewable energy sources with batteries allows people to be their own utility. Mining could add another tool to help balance its renewable energy economy. This additional utility allows homes, campuses, and cities to design a renewable energy system that meets all of their energy needs without the risk of overbuilding. Traditionally, this has been uneconomical because the system had to be designed for peak loads. This new ability to economically design for these extended loads, in turn, continues to improve the economics of renewable energy infrastructure.
Below is a diagram showing how bitcoin mining could complement energy storage and net metering. The heat generated by the mining hardware is used to preheat the domestic water used in the house.
Waste heat (a byproduct of bitcoin mining) is used to preheat domestic water in the house. In winter, it is also used as radiant heat for the floor.
“Capturing just one hour of sunlight reaching our planet would allow us to meet the world’s food and energy needs for an entire year, and each year the sun radiates more energy to Earth than has been used in the entire history of the humanity. “– The solar revolution
Angle of the Sun
The roof could be designed to block the angle of the sun in the summer and allow it to filter through during the winter. In summer, this helps to control the temperature from overheating. In winter, the sun can warm the floor and radiate heat throughout the space throughout the night. Adjustable sliding blinds provide another level of local solar control.
Rainwater is collected in a water source and stored in an underground cistern. In summer, as this water evaporates, it pre-cools the air before it enters the building. Combining this with strategically placed operable windows allows fresh air to cross-ventilate through the residence, saving energy on air conditioning.
The power of an image
After World War II, the original “Case Study Houses” appeared in “Arts & Architecture” magazine with iconic black and white photographs. These photographs spread California’s mid-century architecture around the world and were influential in the modern architecture movement. In a similar spirit, I’ve created several images capturing Project Zero to help paint a vision. It’s not the full picture yet, it’s just a case study to test ideas. It is true that there are details to work on and improvements to be made. However, the intention is to have an ongoing process to test ideas in the hope of a sustainable future.
This is a guest post by Makoto Shibuya. The opinions expressed are entirely my own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.