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Is a Giant Polar Umbrella the Solution to the Melting Polar Caps?

By: Sarah Stevens

The human race is defined by innovation—the light bulb, the Internet, the iPhone, and now a giant Polar Umbrella designed to refreeze our melting polar caps.

Polar Umbrella Buoyant Skyscraper. Image courtesy of Derek Pirozzi.

To reduce our ecological footprint, we are actively restoring public spaces and urban rivers and building vertical forests, but what about rebuilding our polar caps? Architect, Derek Pirozzi’s groundbreaking design introduces a new vision for arctic habitat restoration and a solution to rising sea levels.

The Polar Umbrella Buoyant Skyscraper is essentially a giant floating umbrella or arctic buoy that floats amongst the ice, rebuilding the thinning arctic layers while cooling the Earth’s surface temperature and slowing rising sea levels. This innovative design has captured the world’s attention and recently won the prestigious eVolo Skyscraper Competition.

Shaped like an umbrella, the buoyant arctic skyscraper is ingenious and innovative, integrating ecology and design. Restoring the melting glaciers is only one aspect of its multi-functional design.

The umbrella’s diameter is the size of the Empire State Building, naturally cooling the earth and harvesting solar energy. Image courtesy of Derek Pirozzi.

The size of this mega structure is comparable to the Empire State Building. With the diameter measuring almost 1,450 feet, the umbrella canopy provides natural shade cooling of the arctic surface while harvesting solar energy. Not only can the canopy be angled to absorb the maximum amount of solar energy but also it can withstand the natural environment. In case you are wondering, it’s made out of permeable carbon-based zinc-coated steel.

In addition to capturing solar energy, the structure is self-sustainable creating solar thermal energy through an osmotic (salinity gradient power) power facility (aka heating saltwater). Located in the core of the structure, the power facility uses salt water harvested by underwater structures. These structures are crucial to the design, keeping the structure afloat and collecting the salt water to produce energy and restore the thinning ice caps.

The polar umbrella is self-sustainable harvesting solar energy and converting salt water into energy, while refreezing the thinning polar caps. Image courtesy of Derek Pirozzi.

It’s hard to believe, but Pirozzi’s design also provides ecological habitats for wildlife. The core of the structure includes National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) research laboratories, housing for 200 researchers and tourists, eco-tourism attractions, and an observation deck provides researchers and tourists a 360-degree view.

Although only a conceptual design, Pirozzi’s intention was to inspire, raise awareness, spark debate, and induce change. His inventive vision for an arctic buoy may need some development before it is ready to launch, but it has great potential as a viable solution to pressing environmental issues.

References:
Polar Umbrella Buoyant Skyscraper Protects and Regenerates the Polar Ice Caps. eVolo.
Clark, Liat. Giant ‘Polar Umbrella’ regenerates ice caps and houses research labs. Wired.co.uk

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