Piezoelectric Pavements


So I came across this concept deign by Merge-XI Architecture – an architectural firm based in Lagos. The whole ideas is that the building is powered by energy from piezoelectricity. What’s that? There are some materials that create electric charge when they are subjected to mechanical stress or squeezing, Piezoelectricity is simply the electricity created by such materials. Interesting stuff, right? Pretty novel? Well, I can definitely say I hadn’t heard much about it. But it turns out the idea and its application is much more commonplace than I realised. After some research, it turns out that piezoelectricity is used in quartz watches and microphones for voice recognition. It’s also used in the public transport system in Tokyo. Pretty cool, ehn?

Anyway, back to the building. So this Merge-XI proposal is called ‘Power Holding City’ . And beyond looking pretty (see pic below), is designed to harvest energy from a core spiral ramp which runs from bottom to top of the tower, and acts as the main route for circulation (elevator use is limited to every 3 floors). How? As people walk on the ramp clad with piezoelectric material (which would be happening often considering elevator use would be limited). energy can be stored and used to power the building.

Partial screenshot from the MergeXI website (click here to go to theirs)

For me, there’s a light-bulb moment here. How about using this piezoelectric ‘technology’ to power street lights and other street furniture (traffic lights, update boards, street signs)? There are roughly 20 million people in Lagos State – that’s a lot of walking (I know not everyone walks, but…), and walking potential. This would allow Lagos to move towards clean, sustainable energy sources as well. The Lagos State Energy Board (LSEB) is already dong some great work in this area with solar-powered street lights..

The idea is to have pavements and other walking surfaces around the city engineered with piezoelectric materials, that would allow the energy from the thousands of feet that tread on them to be stored and used.


  1. The energy source is already available. There would be no need to go out and convince people to walk, there are so many people walking in Lagos already, it’s a shame to let all that potential energy go to waste.
  2. Lagos is actually behind on pedestrian provision (see the urban analytics section of this piece). And in this case, that would be a good thing because we wouldn’t have to demolition too many facilities and rebuild. Piezoelectric can easily be integrated into construction from scratch.
  3. We have a relatively blank canvas and can experiment. This article discusses how African cities are in prime position to create cost-efficient, energy-efficient, sustainable cities,


  1. Cost might be an issue. What would the cost implications of using piezoelectric materials for walkways, as opposed to the usual asphalt or paving blocks, be? More research and cost analysis will need to be done.
  2. Then there would be the cost of re-making existing walkways, and the possible disruptions they might cause to the already strained pedestrian routes in the city.

What do you think about this idea? Do you know of any other strategies or ideas that can help Lagos move toward a sustainable resilient future?

piezo 2

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