The mainstream news coverage from the Greenbuild expo in Philadelphia last week was focused on two threads. First, it played up the version 4 release for the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) building certification. Second, it demonstrated how easy it is to earn green halo points just by showing up at a conference like this. Home Depot got huge press. Plastics hit the local papers. And reports touted “safer chemicals” at Walmart, Hewlett-Packard and Staples.
Give me a break. These things were hardly the real story. If you attended (I did), you would have noticed a million awesome, incremental advances in green building technology on display. Some were highlighted in talks on recent architecture projects. Others were on display at the expo floor from creative companies based all over North America. Here’s an awesome sampling of the newest and greenest things that I saw as I roamed the aisles:
The top 3
1. Never seen before was the daylight louver system from SkyLouver (below), with its integral glycol heat absorber. While the technology looked rather wonky and not the slightest bit revolutionary sitting on the show floor, this sensible combination has never before been marketed. The louvers help direct light, while the glycol loop captures heat.2. Mushrooms called mycelium combined with agricultural waste make up Ecovative’s insanely cool insulation and fiberboard. It can used as a lightweight protective packing material (Dell has adopted it for certain notebook boxes), and I think it will make a nice acoustic finish material, too.
3. SemaConnect makes the coolest new EV charging stations, which are already operating in some locales. ChargePro (pictured below) looks like a sci-fi droid. Use the PlugShare app to locate charging stations, so you are never stuck on the road with your Toyota Prius.
Oldies but goodies
4. Remember the old chutes used for trash and hotel laundry? They’re headed for a big revival as a means of sorting trash from recyclables and compostables. The latest models serve as built-in recycling systems for multi-family housing or office structures. The trash falls quietly down to a patented tri-sorter machine created by Chutes International.
5. LED lighting fixtures may be old news, but why aren’t contractors using them? Now they can, with Clear-Vu’s construction site luminaires. They pull 0.05 watts per square foot, as opposed to 1.00 watts for standard, old-school lamps. (P.S. Owners usually pay the electric bill on a construction site, so ask your builder what they use!)
6. Load-based optimization can make any building more efficient from an energy and air quality perspective. The latest newbie plugin for your old-hat HVAC system is Lobos, from Enerliance. The technology is used by the Irvine Cos. to manage 30 million square feet of commercial space.
7. The clean white skid displaying a ready-to-install water-harvesting system was not only certified to the recently released NSF-350 standard, it was also on its way to be installed at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). The maker is a budding leader in greywater and rainwater harvesting, Wahaso.
8. For full-building water recycling, Aquacell has developed a sophisticated packaged system for greywater and blackwater. The core of the system is the five-step water purification module, with aerobic, ultraviolet and filtration treatments.
9. As more cities try to green up and prevent stormwater overflow, CityGreen offers its “structural soil cells,” similar to a green roof system, for use in parks and sidewalk tree pits. The Gen V StrataCell is a piece of the green infrastructure movement.
Modular and matching
10. Sloan’s Basys line features new, angular faucets and matching faucet-y hand dryers that blow warm air. You can’t tell them apart. Best of all, the components are all interchangeable and come with an optional turbine power-harvesting technology.
11. Add a grinder pump and your sewers can be routed through tiny, 2-inch pipes. Environment One Corp. has a new grinder pump and its new E/One Sewer System is a drop-in solution for environmentally sensitive landmarks like Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater or landlocked buildings such as Alcatraz Island.
12. The science of protecting birds from unnecessary collisions with architectural plate glass has been advanced by Walker Textures’ new line called AviProtek, launched in August by the Montreal-based company. It’s a big line of glass in varied patterns, all of which help deter birds.
There was much more to see at Greenbuild. From Finland, for example, come Peikko’s slim floor systems with lay-in concrete planks -- a method that’s growing market share fast. Easy-to-maintain backwater valves from Mainline protect properties from sewer line backflow, a problem when your building is lower than the locale’s highest manholes.
Many of the purveyors cited above are small private companies with a real, healthy fixation on making the world greener.
My favorites were the mom-and-pops who broke the bank to peddle their new gadgets to the assembled architects and designers in Philadelphia, at the nation’s biggest and most vibrant green confab.
(Photos courtesy of SkyLouver, Sematech)