The very fabric of skyscrapers is being reinvented now as architects and engineers look to make these dense urban buildings more sustainable. One of the biggest dilemmas they face is allowing for visibility without overheating the interior from direct sunlight. BIG Architects recently came up with their solution to this issue, winning them the award to design their origami-folded skyscraper for the Shenzhen Energy Company. The facade is folded accordion-style, and shades the office complex from direct sunlight with integrated solar thermal panels, while simultaneously allowing for indirect light into the interior.

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The new international headquarters of Shenzhen Energy Company will be located in the center of Shenzhen, and the 200 meter tall structure is designed to withstand the tropical climate of the city. The winning proposal by BIG was selected by a jury of experts from Shenzhen Municipal Planning Bureau due to its innovative exterior design, which will drastically reduce the cooling load inside and at the same time provide power through solar energy.

On the southern faces, integrated solar thermal panels receive direct sunlight, which goes to power the air conditioning and provide dehumidification for the working spaces. These southern faces are also highly insulated, shielding the interior for direct heat gain. Meanwhile the northern faces receive indirect light, which bounces into the interior as natural daylight. Even when the sun is in the east or west, the sun’s rays will reflect off the solar walls and bounce into the interior. BIG’s innovative exterior facade with integrated solar panels and indirect light will drastically reduce energy consumption by 60%.