Net zero buildings, which are buildings that produce as much energy as they use, are gaining popularity throughout the world. The earth has a lot of energy to share with us, but actually harnessing that energy is a science that’s still developing. When people are willing to invest in energy manufacturing technologies, scientists gain what is otherwise unattainable inside a laboratory: real world examples in real world situations.
One of the greatest examples of diving deep and making a commitment to sustainability is Lady Bird Johnson Middle School in Irving, TX. By employing geothermal heating, solar panels, wind turbines, rain water harvesting, and smart solar management, the 152,000 square foot school is the largest public school in the country to obtain zero energy status.
They didn’t just dip their toe into producing energy, either, they dove right in. According to Architect Magazine, school officials spent roughly $3.75 million of their $30 million on the design strategies and energy-efficient technologies. So what does $3.75 million earn them? The typically middle school in Texas spends roughly $200,000 a year on energy and this new facility only costs $60,000 a year to operate.
A total of 53 geothermal wells that were 250 feet deep underground were used in the design, accommodating around 590 tons of air conditioning for the building. That totals over 50 miles of 1” pipe. Bosch FHP Geothermal Heat Pumps ranging from 1 to 20 tons were incorporated in the design in order to convert the heated or cooled water from the geothermal wells into conditioned air for the building.
A 65,000 square foot solar plant that contained almost 3,000 solar photovoltaic panels produces about 800,000 kWh per year. By employing all of these technologies, the building not only achieved the aforementioned zero energy status, it was also awarded as LEED Gold Certified.
For more info, check out the video below of the finished product:
As the world not only becomes more familiar with green products, but also starts demanding them, researchers and contractors alike need to be ready to embrace the ever-changing world and meet their customer’s demands. Each year, new products are released that hoping to reduce waste or harness renewable energy sources, but only some of them reach the mass market.
Below are 8 green products, processes, and stories that we found most interesting in 2017:
Wood construction has typically been used for purely residential products in the past few decades and especially after fire protection standards became more stringent. Besides fire rating, concrete and metal has several other benefits over wood, including overall strength, resistance to insects, and resistance to rot. Wood, however, does have some advantages over concrete and steel, like its relative light weight and it’s much less harmful to the environment.
The Netherlands has a ton of bridges, especially pedestrian and biking bridges, thanks to its abundant system of canals. Perhaps because of that, they have become a leader in 3D printing technology when it comes to bridges.
Concrete is an extremely strong building material, but has a notoriously weak tensile strength. In order to resist tension, bending, and shear forces, steel rebar or other reinforcement materials are added either prior to the placement or into the mix. Even with reinforcement, concrete is still extremely rigid and prone to cracking. In the event of a major earthquake, the uneven and horizontal forces can cause structures to crack and, in the worst case, cause failure.
Concrete can adapt to any shape its formwork calls for while it’s being placed. While it’s POSSIBLE to make intricate designs with the material, it’s not always easy or practical to do so. Researchers from ETH Zurich have designed a new method of forming and placing an ultra-thin, curved concrete roof system that they plan on installing on a construction project next year.
As electric vehicles are becoming more and more popular around the world, researchers are trying to find ways to adapt the technology to heavier duty applications. Due to the large size of projects and amount of money in the industry, the mining industry has seen its fair share of technological advancement. Several manufacturers, like Komatsu, have developed and released driverless dump trucks for mining operations in the past few years. A team of companies in Switzerland is now working on a gigantic battery powered dump truck that will be tested for 10 years.
Rapid growth and the industrialization are the major contributors to China’s noted air quality issues. 4 years ago, the Chinese government issued a “war on pollution” aiming to improve air quality and reduce other environmental hazards, such as land and water contamination. Air quality is at its worst in the winter months across the country, due to households relying more on coal power to heat residents’ homes.
Asphalt is one of the world’s most popular pavement materials. Because of that, researchers and scientists are constantly looking for ways to improve upon it. Additives have been included in some asphalt mixes for years to improve strength, but recently researchers have been getting pretty clever with the types of additives they’re testing.
As great as a product as asphalt is, there’s no doubt that there is room for improvement. Scientists all over the world are trying to solve its most common issues, such as potholes, cracking, ice build-up, and storm water drainage. Los Angeles is now tackling another issue with the material: heat island effect.
In March of this year, Elon Musk announced that Tesla would begin taking orders on their Solar Roof Shingle concept. Tesla Solar Roof is a solar power roof system that eliminates the need for bulky solar panels installed over top of traditional roof materials. Instead, the shingles themselves, which come in a variety of different styles, are the solar panels.
At the company’s second quarter earnings report, Tesla announced that the first solar roof installations have been completed.