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:
Since the dawn of green buildings, these projects have always been synonymous with LEED certification. The process of obtaining that LEED certification has not always been an easy one for contractors; there is a ton of paperwork and documentation that needs to take place in order to prove all LEED credits have been rightfully earned. A new construction standard, called BREEAM, is hoping to disrupt the United States’ green building certification world with its impending New Construction Standard Release in 2019.
One of the biggest hassles of site work in construction is the hauling away of spoils. It’s costly and time consuming to bring in truck after truck to take unneeded soil off to an unknown dump site. When Elon Musk and his team, The Boring Company, started digging a tunnel for a HyperLoop system in Los Angeles, they knew there had to be a better way to handle to soil than to haul it away.
The following is a guest post written by Laurence Banville, Esq.
With much talk about climate change both politically and socially, citizens and the business world have started to calculate the way in which climate change will alter how we live and work. In the past, the construction industry has made a number of speculations about how it would change as the planet gets warmer, however, changes have only started coming in light of the rising temperatures and their effects on the industry.
The USGBC recently released their 2017 data for the Top 10 US States for LEED construction, which is sorted by Gross Square Footage per Capita. That ranking system allows them to get a fair comparison of states, despite differences in population and number of buildings.
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.