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Squire & Partners imagines waste-to-energy future for petrol stations

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Squire & Partners is among 45 participants in an international contest seeking innovative solutions to retrofit petrol stations around the world

The contest, organised by GoArchitect, invited participants to imagine how existing fossil fuel infrastructure could be repurposed to service the rising number of electric and autonomous vehicles.

Squires proposes a modular timber-framed structure on the site of an existing petrol station next to Victoria Coach Station in central London.

The four-storey ‘Recharge, Recycle and Reconnect’ complex refuels electric vehicles while also processing various types of waste and maintaining a rooftop street food market. The concept was drawn up by Squires partner Murray Levinson, associate See-Beng Ng and architect Adam Jones. Squires and an unnamed English team are currently the only UK participants in the competition.

Submissions could focus on any existing petrol station anywhere in the world and provide a sustainable use for the site in the decades to come. The overall winner, to be announced on New Year’s Day, will receive a $1,000 prize and a $500 people’s choice prize will also be awarded.

In a statement, Squires said: ’The GLA’s 2050 carbon zero ambition sits on a backdrop of a waste management crisis, a growing fleet of Electric Vehicles (EVs) and the wider challenge of producing renewable energy.

‘Our Gas Station of the Future replaces an existing Shell garage at Victoria Coach Station with a low-tech modular timber structure; creating a place where residual waste is turned into electricity through clean incineration, allowing EV charging and other programmes to flourish, including a workshop, allotments, hydroponic farm and a rooftop food market.

The contest is organised by GoArchitect, a US-based research platform which previously hosted a contest for ideas to rebuild the Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral following its partial destruction in April. Zeyu Cai and Sibei Li were announced winners after a public poll of 30,000 voters. 

Squire and Partners' proposal in an international contest seeking innovative solutions to retrofit gas stations around the world

Squire and Partners’ proposal in an international contest seeking innovative solutions to retrofit gas stations around the world

Squire & Partners’ proposal in an international contest seeking innovative solutions to retrofit petrol stations around the world

Architect’s view

The building is a low-tech modular timber structure that provides a robust framework and flexibility for future adaptation and extension. It is made up of four levels with distinctive but interconnected uses. The proposal is a destination for everyone; drivers, non-drivers and passers-by, local residents and visitors. It is a place to charge the car, deposit recycling and waste, and recharge the mind, body and soul through education, nourishment and connection(s). Our proposal is a place to Recharge, Recycle and Reconnect.

Drivers are able to drive onto the ‘Drive-in pads’, from which the vehicle is automatically recharged on a seamless 30-minute conveyor, picked up at the other end once fully charged. During this time, one can explore and use the building’s layers, or take a direct route to the roof for a stroll through a green oasis.

At the basement level is an incinerator and recycling bank where all waste deposited will be sorted into recyclables (collected to larger recycling plants) and organic waste prepared for incineration. Excess organic waste can be turned into compost fertiliser through a slower process of anaerobic digestion, and used to grow fruit and vegetables on the second-floor allotment.

Unwanted items or material not currently recyclable can be deposited at the ground floor Workshop, for repair, reuse and appropriation. This is a place of learning, craft and creativity; a catalyst for a zero-waste revolution.

Steam from the incineration process will be channelled to the upper levels where it will mobilize turbines to generate electricity. London produces 1.75 million tonnes of food waste per year – an opportunity to create electricity sufficient to power over 82,000 Teslas per day.

Excess water vapour and steam will be harvested at the top level of the building and converted back into liquid form. This will be recycled into the vertical urban farm utilizing hydroponic systems. This becomes a place for the mechanical production of food, sold and enjoyed on the vibrant rooftop street food market.

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