Re-Wind: Architectural Design Studio and the Re-Purposing of Wind Turbine Blades

This paper discusses the opening moves of an international multidisciplinary research project involving researchers from Ireland, Northern Ireland and the US, aiming to address the global problem of end-of-life disposal of wind turbine blades. The problem is one of enormous scale on several levels: a typical 2.0 MW turbine has three 50m long blades containing around 20 tonnes of fibre reinforced plastic (FRP). It is estimated that by 2050, 39.8 million tonnes of material from the global wind industry will await disposal. Whilst land-fill is the current means of disposal, the nature of the materials used in the composite construction of wind blades (glass and carbon fibres, resins, foams) means it unsustainable. Hence, the project sets out to deploy innovative design and logistical concepts for reusing and recycling these blades. The project begins within an innovative joint design studio, staged between Queen’s University Belfast and the Georgia Institute of Technology, where architecture students will, within the highly-constrained contexts of the blade properties and the potential reuse sites, systematically generate, filter, and prototype a selection of proposals, reusing the decommissioned wind turbine blades in buildings, infrastructure, landscape, and public art. The paper analyzes the potential and challenges of considering this highly constrained and yet multidisciplinary problem within the context of a Masters level Architecture studio. The paper concludes with an analysis of how outcome-driven design problems challenge traditional design studio cultures, acknowledging the need to make processes and ideas more explicit in order to categorise, analyse, rank and refine proposed architectural solutions.

Design studio, wind turbines, reuse, circular economy.

R. Morrow, T.R. Gentry, T. Al-Haddad, “Re-Wind Architectural Design Studio and the Re-Purposing of Wind Turbine Blades,” SEEDS 2018, Dublin, IRELAND, Sept 6-8, 2018.