All Articles
All Articles

Charged: Solaire Generation

The New York firm transforms parking structures into solar power plants

by David Graver
on 10 March 2014

Depending on where you live, parking lots can either feel like a terrific waste of space or woefully inadequate for city needs. Still, they are everywhere, not to mention a critical component of urban planning. Since 2008, Solaire Generation has been busy reimagining parking structures in an innovative, powerful way. The firm, founded by architect Laurence Mackler, has developed a series of renewable energy products which are installed within and atop parking structures around the globe, essentially transforming parking lots into power plants. From initial design and engineering to fabrication and installation, Solaire is a full-service shop when it comes to sustainable energy solutions.


Mackler went into architecture wanting to make an impact on society and, particularly, the environment. It wasn't long before he realized he could make a far greater impact by focusing his efforts on the energy realm. "Parking lots were not on the energy market at the time, but I saw a potential for the elegance of architecture to join with the production of power," he explains to CH. He notes that "architecture is always a blend of engineering, ingenuity and functionality—where form meets aesthetics." For Mackler, the final element was economics. "It's often a complaint, and sometimes a mystery to architects," he shares before emphasizing that Solaire's work directly impacts the longterm economics of the locations they work with.


The numbers to date are impressive: 4,600 homes have been powered with energy Solaire's driven from the sun. There are 23,100 Solaire parking spaces across the US, comprising more than 14 miles of photovoltaic (PV) canopy. Earlier this month, Solaire notched Best Solar Project honors at the Solar Power Generation conference in San Diego for their designs for the recently opened Whole Foods Market in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Gowanus. Solaire's solar canopies alone were able to generate roughly 25% of the store's energy needs. The store's parking lot, featuring six of Solaire's canopies, is the largest solar parking system in all of New York City.


Their boldest project yet, the firm has designed an all-encompassing new model for transportation and power called the Solaire Power Park. Employing integrated PV as well as carport and roof-top paneling, the design also delivers both geothermal and solar energy. Beyond providing energy security, there are battery storage elements and grid resilience. And on top of it all, it's a well designed transportation center with eco pavement that limits wastewater runoff into storm drains, prevents erosion and utilizes recycled materials. Electric vehicle charging is also integrated, rounding out a green architectural vision of the near future.


To create such designs, Mackler instructs his employees to delve deep into the mundane and ordinary, and leave with something extraordinary. "If you have an imagination, you'll ultimately have to be informed on how to execute it," he says. "But if you begin with all the information, you don't necessarily have the ability to search your imagination."

Images courtesy of Solaire Generation

The CH25 is a showcase of creators and innovators from a broad range of disciplines who are currently working to drive the world forward.

Cynthia Breazeal

How an emotional, empathetic robot named Jibo stands to revolutionize communication

Read More
The thing that's so provocative about social robots is that it's fundamentally a community technology

LaToya Ruby Frazier

Documenting the slow, troubling change in Braddock, Pennsylvania

Read More
I am not a journalist, I am a conceptual documentary artist using my visual expression for building narratives that are unseen and unheard

Jonathan Sparks

Reinventing electronic music by inventing multi-disciplinary instruments

Read More
Recorded music is becoming so cheap, so the value of music is now in live performance

Lulu Mickelson

A civic leader bringing change to NYC through design

Read More
Human-centered design is one of the many tools that we can use to better engage the public

Vanessa Newman

Redesigning pregnancy for the post-gender generation with Butchbaby & Co.

Read More
I want my customers to feel comfortable and unchanged, in that becoming pregnant didn't take away from or compromise their identity

Kathleen Supové

The NYC performance artist who’s radically reinventing the piano recital

Read More
I like pieces that are virtuosic, that show off the piano and what it can do, and are awe-inspiring

Sabine Seymour

A future where smart clothes are as ubiquitous as zippers

Read More
In the future you will not buy a piece of 'functional' clothing without SoftSpot

Sarah Kunst

The entrepreneur single-handedly changing the landscape for women in tech

Read More
People who live on a planet that is half women but can never seem to find any when they need one, I have solved your problem

Alex Kalman

The tiny museum in Manhattan that’s redefining museums

Read More
The mission is to put this small simple and powerful tool into the hands of as many people as possible

Melissa Kushner

Addressing the needs of orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi through microenterprise

Read More
Poverty is complicated, there is an increasing temptation and pressure in the development space to oversimplify things

Marcus Weller

Using technology to turn motorcycle helmet design on its head

Read More
I was taken aback both by the number of people that doubted it, and by the equally large number of people that got behind it

Kegan Schouwenburg

Revolutionizing orthotics through 3D-printed insoles

Read More
What orthotics do is they effectively change the geometry of what your alignment is like

Pauline van Dongen

The Dutch designer blazing the wearable technology path

Read More
I’m fascinated by concepts of change, movement, energy and perception; since they are closely related to the way we experience the world

Tarren Wolfe

The next-generation appliance making kitchens greener—literally

Read More
Our goal is to provide food for everyone in the world, and the best place to start is in our very own community

Leopoldine Huyghues Despointes

The young filmmaker and non-profit founder who just wants people to follow their dreams

Read More
I feel confident and ready to accomplish so much more, the movement is on

George Arriola and Monohm

An heirloom electronic for the post-smartphone era

Read More
We agonized during the design process as all hyper-obsessed craftspeople should

Tal Danino

The bioengineer who’s programming DNA to fight cancer

Read More
[Manipulating genes] is very new, people are just learning how to program these organisms

Roxie Darling

From un-shampoo to transgender identity, the NYC colorist boldly defining the next chapter of hair

Read More
Hair color is as much a science as it is a craft

Joshua Harker

Pushing the boundaries of sculpture with intricate 3D printing

Read More
My intent was to explore and depict the architecture of the imagination, to interpret and share forms evident in the mind’s eye

Dan Barasch + James Ramsey

A quest to make the future brighter—underground

Read More
We both share a passion for groundbreaking technology and a shared love of New York

Matt Kenyon

Fusing art and technology to disrupt concepts of corporate America

Read More
I want the work to live in the world and circulate, so it can generate more dialogue

Douglas Riboud + Justin Guilbert

How a mission to create great coconut water led to a whole new way of doing business

Read More
We’ve made a conscious decision to be as transparent and honest as we can, and let people decide for themselves

Corinne Joachim Sanon

The chocolatier bringing social change to Haiti and bean-to-bar chocolate to the world

Read More
Seeing the poverty surrounding me and the lack of jobs and opportunity bothered me

Meredith Perry

How searching the Internet helped a 22-year-old invent wireless electricity

Read More
It’s not about where the information is, it’s about how you use the tools

Eelke Plasmeijer

The locally driven restaurant that’s upending Balinese food culture

Read More
We really try to keep things simple and let the produce do the talking