Archive for January, 2009

January SWVA USGBC – Firehouse #3

engine-10The Southwest Virginia Chapter of the USGBC kickoff meeting for 2009 was held at a newly built #3 Firehouse on Williamson Road.  This is a relocation of the airport firehouse #10 and the old old #3.  The location is smack dab in the middle of  the Williamson Road activities.  Coordination with the transportation department on signal controls seems to have worked out.  Traffic briefly stops when calls are answered. 

It was one of those nights in Roanoke that was on the verge of a monster snow/ice storm but instead we got 33 degree rain.  Gloomy night to be out, however since this was a tour I was looking forward to seeing, it was worth staying out in the yuck a little.  The great men and women of firehouse #3 were nice enough to let our group invade their surroundings for a tour and meeting, even during their dinner.  Thanks to them for letting us see part of their world.  We even got to witness a real call going out.

The firehouse is currently truck1in the middle of LEED certification, seeking LEED Gold.  Some of the very interesting sustainable features include:

A rainwater collection system for toilet flushing and firetruck washing,

On site Bio retention pond – small but effective check out the video of Steve explaining the system,

Bike Rack and Neighborhood integration,composter

LED lighting and sensors,

in kitchen composter and recycling,

Soy based insulation,

Video LEED education programs.

Overall the building is efficient and well organized.  It hopes to serve its occupants as they serve the public.

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E-Waste Recycling

Today was a good day in the Roanoke Valley to recycle e-wasteewaste Despite the gloomy weather, the event was well attended.  It seemed organized and efficient. We pulled in, cycled in the line and waited only a few minutes for workers to unload our trunk.  Good-bye old outdated scanner. 

If you have old computers, TVs or other electronics seek out your community’s e-waste opportunities to recycle.  It keeps these items out of the landfills and out of potential deadly situations in unrestricted foreign back lots.  It is a common practice to smelt the heavy metals from the internal computer parts for scrap at the expense of worker safety, usually women and children.  This is a highly toxic and dangerous process for pennies in profit.  By recycling your ewaste you are doing the right thing.

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Traffic Lights

As I am in the middle of a nice 4 day new year’s holiday break, thoughts always turn away from the everyday work to more intersectiontedious ones.  I am concerned about the time I spend everyday just sitting at traffic lights.  It is one thing to be in the stream of traffic and need to stop to let other traffic pass safely.   But when nothing is coming for miles or just one car passes by then nothing for the next several minutes, I consider it wasteful that I am sitting and waiting.

Just down from my house I have a major intersection (OK major enough for Salem).  They just recently had the whole thing under construction to install really big poles and little tiny cameras.  OK wonderful – keeping me safe as big brother keeps an eye out. 

But here is the point…. with all the wonderful and amazing technology in the world could some smart traffic engineer not be able to “see” with those new cameras and coordinate traffic accordingly?   Seems to me that the right hand is not talking to the left hand. I saw a neat camera the other day that has face recognition incorporated into its programs.  See a face and zooms it into focus.  Could this not be done to recognize vehicles? moving objects?

That is exactly what architects and engineers were in the habit of doing until the very end of construction documents to only then discover the collisions in many of the building’s systems.  Now the LEED coordination and othertraffic_lights1various 3d programs enable the teams to act more like a team and not get into those situations in the first place.  A project that incorporates LEED fully from the conceptual phase is most likely to have a holistic well coordinated building in the end.

Didn’t years ago every intersection have a sensor to detect when traffic approached?  Granted motorcycles, and probably smart cars today, would never trip the senors.  But I am sure that technology has improved with all the smart traffic engineers out there today.  So what happened to the sensors?

Shouldn’t this be the case everywhere?  Traffic light should coordinate with traffic, Empty parking spaces should communicate with parkers (Oh wait that is happening), elevators should know when someone wants a ride (oh wait this is happening too), 

Time spent at traffic lights should be minimized by “smart lights”…. we have that technology don’t we?  Wake up traffic light industry and the communities that support them!  You are wasting my time, my gas and helping to pollute the world by having me sit at a red light to watch nothing go by.