The Green Button

6 April 2010 By Louisa Beckett

Most yachts are recycling as much of their garbage as possible and many are using environmentally friendly cleaning products. But are you as diligent about not wasting electricity? Does your yacht sit in the marina lit up like a Christmas tree, even when the owners and guests are not aboard?

That’s where the Green Button comes in. A concept with practical applications, the Green Button is part of the Awareness project Azure Naval Architects’ designed for a 170-foot, 499 GT superyacht that would consume up to 30 percent less energy overall than a traditional yacht of comparable size.

“I wanted to develop the concept of less energy consumption. Most owners are really looking for improvements there,” said Hugo van Wieringen, chief naval architect of Azure, which is located in The Netherlands.

Awareness’ energy savings would result from a combination of design factors, including giving the yacht a longer hullform with a beam of just under 28 feet that would slip through the water with less drag. While these dimensions – a return to oceangoing yachts of the past – would reduce interior living space to some degree, a side benefit for owners and guests is expanded real estate on the swim platform and foredeck.

Van Wieringen also specified much larger propellers with a higher reduction ratio than are typically used on a 170-foot motor yacht, further enhancing efficiency under way. Although there would be some trade-off in speed, the yacht would require smaller main engines for propulsion, reducing its overall carbon emissions.

Photovoltaic solar panels sleekly incorporated into the superstructure would supplement electrical power produced by the generators by an estimated 10 percent. But in order to achieve Awareness’ energy consumption goals, the hotel load also would need to be reduced when compared to a traditional superyacht. Extra insulation and heavy-duty glazing would help by lowering demands on the yacht’s air-conditioning system. LED lighting throughout the yacht also would save a significant amount of energy over incandescent lights.

But the Awareness project also has a “human factor.”

“It’s the mindset of the crew,” said van Wieringen. When the yacht’s guest areas are not in use, he said, “You have to be sure that the lights are out, and you keep the temperature a little higher.”

On many yachts, this means sending a crew member to every cabin and head on the yacht to turn off all but essential lights and reset the thermostat. But on Awareness, “The crew is not required to go around and turn off all the systems. It is automated,” said van Wieringen. “All the functions are centralized.”

Drawing on existing technology, Awareness would be equipped with a ship’s monitoring system, in addition to incorporating sensors for all the alarms and the security equipment on board, that would integrate controls for the lighting, air-conditioning systems and even the draperies throughout the yacht. The captain could return the yacht to a pre-set “low energy draw” operating mode with a few taps to a touchscreen, essentially “pushing the Green Button.”

Azure Naval Architects introduced the Awareness concept at last year’s Monaco Yacht Show. Gavin Higgins, vice president of business development for Derecktor Shipyards, which hopes to build the project in the U.S., presented it at Boat International Media’s Superyacht Design Symposium in New York. Since then, Van Wieringen reports his firm has received a lot of interest in the concept from owners and shipyards that want to “raise their Awareness” about all things environmental. A larger version of the yacht also is on the drawing boards.

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