The ‘Strawscraper’: An Energy-efficient Alternative… but how?


Transforming the Soder Torn into a … strawscraper?

Co.design just published this article, highlighting the possibility of transforming the Soder Torn, one of the tallest residential high-rises in Stockholm, into a “hairy” skyscraper. [“Strawscraper,” as the idea is referred to throughout most of the article, seems remarkably more appealing to me than “hairy,” but maybe that’s just me.] The point is that this ‘Strawscraper’ seems to be a phenomenal and large-scale solution to infrastructural energy efficiency. The “hairs” or straws that are affixed to the building capture wind and use it to produce electricity for the building, transforming the building into a large-scale urban wind farm. Undoubtedly, this is impressive and intriguing, but how can it become a reality? What are the barriers/challenges to adoption and implementation and most importantly (for my research, at least) how can those barriers be addressed and overcome so that sustainable solutions for energy efficiency are developed and embraced by the public?

Per Stern in The Economics of Climate Change, the obstacles to the adoption of opportunities for improving energy efficiency are market barriers and failure (248). This proposition reflects much of the traditional literature about the implementation of climate change adaptation technologies… that “the” barrier is economic; however, this assumption is changing, due to research such as the STIR initiative at the Consortium for Science & Policy Outcomes @ Arizona State University. STIR, Socio-Technical Innovation Research, is founded on the premise that although economic costs/benefits are an important component of scientific and technological innovations re: climate change adaptation, economic factors aren’t the only barriers, and therefore, this research is founded on the premise that perceiving of sci/tech challenges holistically, from the inception of these projects, ensures more “responsible” innovation (innovation that uses public research dollars for science/technology in ways that address public values).
Is it possible that initiatives like STIR can make sustainable/energy efficient architecture like “strawscrapers” a reality? I believe so, or at least from my perspective as a rhetorician of science, I believe that a holistic perspective about the management of scientific and technological uncertainties is necessary for moving science into policy in more exigent ways. The research of applied rhetoricians of science has very similar goals to initiatives like STIR, and has much to contribute to its purpose because of its foundation on the core of how these challenges are discussed, framed, and embraced/rejected.
Applied rhetoric of science is founded on an analysis of language, in order to trace how the implications (affects, results) can be better controlled so that the language used to communicate scientific and technological risks is more directly appealing to particular audiences. The usefulness of a rhetoric of science is in methods such as rhetorical framing analysis (as one example) where the terms of the debate are mapped to show their efficacy for targeted constituents. Such mapping is then used to develop rhetorical frames, to be used by decision-makers in communicating more effectively with their constituents, promoting the audience’s understanding of the risks, as opposed to their outright rejection of them because of their lack of “interest” or experience with the particular risk. Rhetoricians and public policy analysts call this strategy “situated judgment,” where an audience’s judgment of a particular issue is enhanced by the communicator’s ability to talk in terms of the audience’s “real” interests and investments. This mode of persuasion is ethical – and effective- because it ultimately enables the audience to make up their own minds as to whether the proposed risk is valuable to them, in the end, or whether such a risk doesn’t mesh with their values.

Innovative and impressive sustainable developments, like turning the Soder Torn into a strawscraper, deserve a fair chance at becoming a reality, but will require interdisciplinary strategies for negotiating the frames in which they can be communicated to “interested” parties, such as the residents of the building. Although such a strategy may seem trivial to the architects that developed the idea, researching and reinforcing public values is proving to be an inherently valuable component in overcoming the barriers to adoption and implementation of sustainably developed alternatives.

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About klangbehn

Doctoral Candidate: Rhetoric of Science University of South Florida 4202 E. Fowler Avenue Tampa, FL 33620-5550 View all posts by klangbehn

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