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Hot Topics for Green Gurus

Posted January 15, 2008 2:21 PM by Jim Newman
Related Categories: Behind the Scenes, Events, Greenbuild '07, The Industry
Notes from BuildingGreen's breakfast gathering at Greenbuild for partners and Sustainable Design Directors from forward-thinking firms around the U.S.
    Overarching Issues

Part 2: Non-chemical water treatment systems

Posted November 20, 2007 6:00 PM by Mark Piepkorn
Related Categories: Events, Greenbuild '07, Product Talk, Science & Tech
It's not all about magnets. Two other nonchemical water treatment systems that have exhibited at Greenbuild for at least the last couple years are worth noting... for one reason or another. During the '06 show in Denver, I spent some time learning about the VRTX—say it "vortex"—sidestream "hydrodynamic cavitation" and filtration system. The company was there again this year. As I understand it (and please do understand that I don't claim to really understand it), it works by blasting two spinning, high-velocity cones of water into each other, which releases high localized heat, creates a strong vacuum, and generally bangs things into each other. A paper assessing an installation at the Ford Motor Company describes it like this:
The VRTX unit consists of a pressure equalizing chamber and a cavitation chamber.

Non-chemical water treatment systems

Posted November 15, 2007 4:02 PM by Mark Piepkorn
Related Categories: Events, Greenbuild '07, Product Talk, Science & Tech
Sometimes it's hard to suspend disbelief enough to make an unbiased judgement about a product, particularly when it's from an industry with a history of charlatanry, if not outright chicanery. For instance, chemical-free water treatment—which most people associate with sticking a speaker magnet on a pipe under the kitchen sink. The systems I'm talking about, though, are industrial-sized... used for cooling towers, boilers in big buildings, even large fountains. There were a small handful of companies offering such non-chemical systems exhibiting at this year's Greenbuild. At least three of them use advanced magnetics for at least part of the system, and that's a giant hurdle for a lot (probably most) specifying engineers and prospective clients to get past. A couple years ago, Clearwater Systems submitted their pulsed-electromagnetic Dolphin system to be considered for GreenSpec. They had case studies—impressive ones from large multinational corporations—but it's not enough for us for manufacturers (or their clients) to just say something works.

Some of the other as-it-happened Greenbuild 2007 coverage around the web

Posted November 14, 2007 4:18 PM by Mark Piepkorn
Related Categories: Events, Greenbuild '07
  • One of the posts at the gb.07 Journal (written by USGBC staffers Lauren Kuritz and Doug Smeath) is about the ASID / USGBC collaboration, ReGreen, "a collection of tools to help you focus your renovation projects toward sustainability, durability, comfort and style." Peter Yost, Jennifer Atlee (best researcher I know), Alex Wilson, Amie Walter, and Julia Jandrisits of BuildingGreen all spent long hours finishing up the initial draft of the Residential Remodeling Guidelines for this initiative in time for Greenbuild so it could be included on the ReGreen program website for its launch. (The Residential Remodeling Guidelines are in a public comment period through Monday, December 10. After you look them over, please fill out the comment form linked from the ReGreen site.

Community Leader Gail Lindsey

Posted November 13, 2007 2:45 PM by Nadav Malin
Related Categories: Events, Greenbuild '07, Op-Ed
Mark posted earlier about David Eisenberg and his organization, DCAT, getting USGBC's Organization Excellence Leadership Award at Greenbuild 2007. David has certainly been a great friend and mentor to many of us here at BuildingGreen. Personally, I have to say that no one has had more impact on my career in green building than Gail Lindsey (except, of course, BuildingGreen's fearless leader Alex). You can see a summary of her achievements in this online bio (PDF format). Gail was recognized by USGBC for her role in creating Community, which is certainly apt. She has an amazing ability to make connections—between people, ideas, projects, you name it—everywhere she goes. In conversations about specific projects, whenever there is the suggestion that a choice has to be made between two competing possibilities, Gail speaks up as the "And Police"—not "this OR that" she says, but "this AND that".

Running with the Big Dogs — at Greenbuild and Beyond

Posted November 12, 2007 2:47 PM by Mark Piepkorn
Related Categories: Behind the Scenes, Events, Greenbuild '07, The Industry
In a brilliantly cruel stroke of scheduling irony, the morning after our party with the GreenSource folks at the Funky Buddha, we held a breakfast for our BuildingGreen Suite firm-wide subscribers: organizations that have an account for every person in their operation. It was some heady company to be in, with movers and shakers from the likes of Gensler, HOK, Perkins + Will, William McDonough + Partners, Sasaki, Rocky Mountain Institute, Mithun, and SmithGroup, among several others.

Thoughts From Chicago

Posted November 9, 2007 8:37 PM by Allyson Wendt
Related Categories: Events, Greenbuild '07
I haven't yet posted from Greenbuild, mostly because this was my first time at the conference, and it took most of my mental energy just to sort through the experience of 22,000 people and all of the information I was taking in. Not posting, however, has given me some space to start thinking about some of the big-picture themes of the conference. The most striking is the influence of social justice and social movements on green building, and vice versa. Social justice is, of course, the third leg of the triple-bottom-line stool. Without it, even the greenest and most economically successful buildings have failed to live up to their full potential. Buildings can be powerful tools for social change: mixed-income housing, high-performance schools, and even office buildings can change the way people interact with their environment and with one another. It felt at Greenbuild like the architecture community was being challenged (often by younger conference attendees) to think beyond the energy performance of the building, beyond its implications for stormwater runoff, and beyond indoor air quality to something much bigger. Several sessions I attended tackled the idea that buildings can be catalysts for social change.

Alex Wilson on Water Conservation at Greenbuild

Posted November 9, 2007 3:06 PM by Alex Wilson
Related Categories: Events, Greenbuild '07, Product Talk
While there were lots of highlights at Greenbuild, the only way I can really be productive at such a big conference is to narrow my focus. I'm researching water conservation and water efficiency for an upcoming EBN feature article, and I made great progress on that in Chicago. First, there was doubtless lots of water saved here by not having drinking water readily available. The water jugs were often empty (and even when they still had some water in them, I have a hard time using those high-density polystyrene cups so I would go looking for a drinking fountain and usually get into a conversation before finding one)—so there was doubtless a bit of water savings here! At least there were none of those PET water bottles in the conference facility! Rachel Navaro and I had great conversations with water efficiency experts John Koeller of Yorba Linda, California and Bill Hoffman of Austin, Texas before their presentations Thursday afternoon. In the conversation with John we were joined by Mary Ann Dickinson, executive director of the brand-new Alliance for Water Efficiency (based here in Chicago). AWE opened its doors this summer as the first and only national organization focused on water conservation and water efficiency.

Does Wind Power Increase Carbon Emissions?

Posted November 9, 2007 2:55 PM by Tristan Roberts
Related Categories: Events, Greenbuild '07, Science & Tech
I wrote earlier today about grumbling at a Greenbuild session on life-cycle assessment, and I assigned the blame to bad news delivered by Stanley Rhodes of Scientific Certification Systems. The biggest shocker might have been Stanley's analysis that a given unit of electricity produced by wind resulted in increased greenhouse gas emissions compared with a unit of electricity produced by traditional fossil fuels (unfortunately he did not name the specific wind project analyzed). Because wind begins and ends abruptly and unpredictably, it delivers a fluctuating amount of electricity. Power companies therefore need to be prepared to spike the power grid with electricity from conventional power plants like those using natural gas. These plants need to be on "hot standby" to be ready for this spike, which is an inefficient way for them to operate, hence resulting in increased emissions, according to the analysis. If this is true, why would any power company use wind power? One answer would be renewable portfolio standards, which require a certain percentage of power from renewable sources.

Not Grumbling About Life-Cycle Assessment

Posted November 9, 2007 2:25 PM by Tristan Roberts
Related Categories: Events, Greenbuild '07, LEED, Science & Tech, The Industry
Based on some of the audience Q&A I think that much of the audience left grumbling after Thursday's session, "Demystifying Sustainability: A Life-Cycle Perspective," convened by the energetic Meredith Elbaum of Sasaki, with Stanley Rhodes of Scientific Certification Systems speaking along with Nancy Harrod of Sasaki and Melissa Vernon of InterfaceFlor. I put Stanley's name first because I think he was the source of the grumbling.

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