Earlier this summer I was in Chicago for the big NeoCon conference and took a green building trolley tour.  We checked out several uber-green buildings and made a detour to drive by the Mercy Lakefront SRO project by renowned architect, Helmut Jahn.  Up to this point, I had only seen pictures of this gorgeous structure and was eagerly anticipating seeing it with my own two eyes.  I was particularly interested in checking out its innovative use of wind turbines, which is what this post will be about….

here’s a pic of the Mercy Lakefront, a 96 unit, low-income housing solution.

This project is one of the first in the country to utilize Aerotecture’s Aeroturbine, which can be utilized vertically, or like in the Mercy Lakefront, horizontally!  This is relatively groundbreaking in the wind energy field, as the horizontal application in particular, can be used in urban areas.  They can be installed on existing buildings, can stay under building height codes, and won’t cause too much of a visual fuss from neighbors.  They are also wildlife friendly!  Due to high reflectivity and slow moving parts, there have been no bird related casualties up to this point.

Here are a couple more shots of the aeroturbines on Jahn’s building:

So this horizontal application is absolutely amazing, but it does have a drawback or two… For starters, it has to be installed in a location that has a dominant wind direction, which limits its usability (it would be installed perpendicular to the wind source).  It could be perfect for that ocean or great lake home though.

This wind direction problem can however be easily remedied by simply setting the aeroturbine up vertically.  A great example of this can be seen in the Mauceri Residence renovation, also in Chicago.  These innovative homeowners placed a pair of turbines on their roof, which also features photovolteic panels and native landscaping.


Between the two 1000 watt wind turbines and the 5000 watt solar electric system, this home will no longer need to be on the grid.  Pretty cool!!!

Here is a YouTube clip of aeroturbines in action:

Let’s talk logistics… there are two aeroturbines available right now, the 510V and the 520H.  The smaller 510 puts out 1kW in 30 mph winds, while its big brother 520 does about 1.8 kW.  The price points for these are pretty high right now (sitting at $15,000 and $21,000, respectively), but are projected to drop significantly with increased production.  Amen to that!


About Joshua Foss

Joshua is a leading voice for transformational change. He is the editor of Metro Hippie, co-founder and director of development of the Ecala Group, and adjunct faculty at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. He is also an ambassador for the Living Building Challenge and is a frequent speaker at national conferences, trade shows and summits.