Archive for the 'green products' Category

A New Home for the Solar Decathlon 2011

The new site for the solar decathlon was announced today.  You can read the original press release here,  It was previously rumored to be moving way off the national mall south of the district and I for one, am glad that didn’t happen.  But here are a few questions that the new site bring to mind.

Firstly, the new site, West Potomac Park, is on the splot of land between the FDR Memorial/Tidal basin and the Potomac River. There are ball fields there now that get a little bit of use, and usually a great place to snag a parking spot and walk into the monuments (Lincoln, Jefferson, and FDR).  I am familiar with this part of the tourist areas as it is easy access if you know the way.  It is a beautiful area with the river to one side and the tidal basin (through the cherry trees) to the other.  There is little out there in the way of services: restrooms, food vendors, benches, etc….

Here is a sunset picture from the Jefferson end of the field that I shot last year.  Not much out there, a few trash cans and baseball backstops.  Which brings me to my first concern, there is not much out there.  Tour buses drop off loads of kids and tourists to view the Jefferson Monument just behind me (and over the bridge) in this shot.  But no easy Metro access, closest metro is about 1 1/4 mile to the Smithsonian station. Logistics will be harder to work through.

The biggest concern I have looking at the map is provided in the press release mentioned above.  They have taken the sites and rotated them 45%.  I would think that this deep into the competition, changing the orientation would be a big issue.  I would love to hear from someone involved with the teams on this as I hope that I am wrong.  Perhaps it will separate the good designs from the really great ones that are flexible enough to be reoriented.

I wish the teams good luck and hope to see great things at this year’s event.


Disney’s Land at Disney World

Well the visit to Disney World has flown by. With a less than stellar Internet connection, I haven’t been able to post from WDW’s Dolphin as I wished.  But I took lots of great notes and I will be putting up posts in the days to come.

While you are waiting for your Epcot Soarin’ fast pass ticket time to roll boat-touraround here is a sustainability minded recommendation.  In Epcot’s Land Building, I went on the Living with the Land boat ride/tour.  It was an interesting look at a very different side of Disney.  First the ride is a gentle boat ride through 3 different eco systems – rainforest, desert and grassland prairie.  Then a nice replica of an America farmhouse front porch.  This flows into the improvements in Agriculture that have been made of the past years.  This is where my interests start to peak.  After a few large screens that segue into pest management you enter the greenhouses.  melonThe sights come fast and furious at this point.  Bananas, Papayas, Jack Fruit, on and on with exotic and non exotic varieties of plants.  This is where I decided to opt for the extensive walking tour after this boat ride.  I could see I was interested in what they had to say.  So after the tropical greenhouse, fish farm, and other greenhouse spaces you end the peaceful trip a little more aware of the impact we have made on the land.

After the boat tour, I went to sign up for the Behind the Seeds tour.  This is located at the Soarin’ information desk.  The tour takes about an hour and is well worth it if you have even a passing interest in either growing or eating anything agricultural.  The tour is an additional fee of $16.  Be sure to check out the discounts that apply.  I am a member of AAA but didn’t have my card with me and the very nice attendant gave it to me anyway.  So mine tour was $13.

The Behind the Seeds walking tour starts in the pest management area.  A very informative short film is narrated by your guide.  Lady Bugs and Wasps are the good guys in this one.  Their non-pesticide effects on harmful pests are impressive.

Our guide was a student intern from Colorado State.  He said that they had the intern positions for a six month period.  Smart guy, he picked the right seeds-pansix months to be in Florida versus Colorado. 

In the greenhouses there are many experiments on how things are grown tom-plantand produced.  Sort of a build a better plant workshop – faster, bigger and stronger.  One of the tomato plants that was developed from a Chinese variety has been trimmed and trained into a tree.  They believe that this technique produces more tomatoes per plant than a typical plant.  After seeing it, I would have to be a believer as well.  One of the plants lived and produced for 16 months.  It yielded a record crop of 32,000 tomatoes!

vert-growAnother very interesting technique on the tour was the space saving plantings.  A strawberry farmer developed these vertical growing stacks.  These were made out of Styrofoam forms but I think you could make them out of many different types of containers.  It not only saves space but in large operations it saved the workers backs.

Not only were they researching hydroponics but aeroponics as well.  Here are some brussel sprout plants that are hooked up to a hanging conveyor system.  They circle around the circuit and get sprayed with water, needing no soil or ground space to produce vegetables.  The spray system is contained so any extra water the plant doesn’t absorb will be reclaimed fish-with-boat-tourback into he system for reuse for the next plant.  Check out my video link on the sidebar for this moving system.

The fish farming part of the tour is inside the red shrouded room.  It was explained by our intern that the red helps to keep the algae production down, in turn keeping the tanks cleaner.  There were Talapia, shrimp, American alligator, catfish, sturgeon, striped bass, and eel.  The Talapia were scarey looking fish.  They are ravetalapianous feeders.  Even though they are mostly harmless for us, I was not about to put my hand in the tank as one of the other tourists were allowed to do.  He said it felt like sandpaper.  They were also integrating a system of talapia with plants and using the fish waste as a fertilizer for the plants.

The kids on the walking tour didn’t seem to get bored with the grown up topics, so if you can talk your family into an hour more of walking I would recommend this for all Disney goers.  Look past the silliness of the Disney shaped pumpkins and cucumbers and look into the benefits of Disney research.  We could all benefit from the research done in this place.

Santa brought me Cool Glass

I found a sample from CoveringsEtc on my desk.  This is one of the coolest products from GreenBuild that I haven’t written about yet.  I thought it was one of the most captivating displays and video.  The product is called BioGlass. The pictures barely capture the feeling of this great product.  Everyone that has come by my desk touches it and loves the material.100_2987

Bio-GlassTMsolid surfacing for countertops, walls, floors, and other applications is made from 100% recycled glass, heated and
agglomerated under pressure. There are no binders, colorants, fillers, or other admixtures.  Depending on color, the product is either pre or post-consumer, or a blend. The translucent, nonporous material is available as 110-inch by 47-inch slabs, about 4.7 inches thick with a lightly textured, slip-resistant surface; smooth surfaced slabs are also available, approximately 4 inches thick. The product is currently available in white and light green, with blue, brown, and dark green to follow.  This product will contribute to LEED Credit – MR Credit 4 – Recycled Content. 

It is made from only recycled colored glass.  Most products that reuse the recycled glass also use an epoxy to bind the glass.  This product is different.

The old glass is sorted by color and re-fired to just the right temperature and pressure.  The end result is stunning.  The ground polished edge revels the evoking layers of each piece’s former life.  The top is nicely surfaced, the brown glass reminds me of a leather texture, those are from beer bottle.  The green is from red wine bottles and so on.

The cost ranges from $85 – $125 per sf.  This is not cheap but comparable to a nice marble.  So instead of ripping a slab of marble from the earth consider this product for a stunning covering.

GreenBuild Expo 2008 – Sustainable Products

In keeping up with some of the other green blogs I read, I have noticed that most all of them have commented on great products at the recent GreenBuild Expo.  Here are some that I haven’t seen mentioned yet.

Kim's View of Embody Chair

Kim's view


Matt's View

First, let me say what a wonderful display of all things green.  The Expo was vast and diverse.   Because my company had some extra “giveaway” expo tickets Matt was able to get in on the expo as well.  We didn’t get much time on the floor together, so we looked at products with very different points of view.  Mine being an architect and his a product design engineer.  It was great fun to compare our pictures and see the different points of view.  Herman Miller’s Embody chair for example.  I was interested in the fabric and the design of the back and Matt while also interested in the design of the back, he was just looking at it from a different point of view, literally.  He is always interested in how it goes together and is produced.  My point is that no matter who you are and what you do there is something for everyone at the Expo shows.

Another of the cool green products I got to view, was the Bushman rain barrel/tankbushman-tankI like that these are flat backed and fit snugly against the side of your house.  I am still trying to figure out when and where I can buy one of these for my home.  They are an Australian company and just making their way into the US and Canadian marketplace.  The nice guys at GreenBuild did say that they would be sold in the Atlanta area through Pike Nurseries (a great place to dig in the dirt).


The Annapolis Bollard is solar powered and pictured on the right.  This is a great innovation towards safety off the grid.  Just image the places this could serve up a nice soft light to keep us safe in dark areas….. ANYWHERE.  That to me is super cool.  The crystalline solar receivers are on the top of the unit.  Just 4 hours of sunlight during the day keeps the bollard fully lit.  The use of LEDs help bright the light while using a small amount of the stored power.  I just think this is a wonderful product with limitless applications.  Check out the video.

3form3Form makes a great product called Wovin Wall.  The color palette is derived from over 50,000 colors.  The wall is expandable.  It is made from ecoresin™ with 40% post-industrial recycled content. In person I thought this was one of the best uses of the color green.  I could go on about the cliche of the color green and perhaps I will in another post.  I saw the wall from across the aisle and just wanted to get over there to see it up close.  Strong vibrant 3 dimensional color and it contributes to LEED credits.

This is just barely scratching the surface of the Expo.  If you get the chance to visit GreenBuild next year, they are heading to Phoenix and it will most certainly be bigger than this year. 

One last comment and a thought, the organization of the products was a good idea.  Having similar products in close proximity to each other helped me strategize my visits.  Now for the thought, vendors do your best to minimize the amount of paper you hand out during the expo for several reasons.  First – it is GreenBuild and those are trees.  Second – I am obligated to carry all of those fliers home and I rarely underpack.  My suitcase is usually right on the border of being over the 50 lb. limit. I did see one smart conventioneer simply write down everything he wanted to see when he got back home.  He only had a few sheets of paper to get home with him.  I think he had the true spirit of the event in mind.

I will leave you with a panorama from the midway catwalk.  You are only seeing half of the vendors and products from Greenbuild Boston.expo-pan2

GreenBuild 2008 – Opening night at the Expo

GreenBuild Expo 2008 in Boston

GreenBuild Expo 2008 in Boston

Just getting in from the opening night of the expo.  I am so happy to report that the registration/check-in/pick up your badge and bag process is sooooo much better than last year.  Even though I got my stuff tonight (early)  it is much more streamlined and smooth.  Very helpful attendants and efficient processes will make this a much easier process than last year.  Good Job GreenBuild!

The only snag I ran into tonight was that the coat check was full by 6:30.  This is a very windy cold town and everyone is in a heavy coat – get more coat check room.  A minor infraction in my book.

I only bit off a small part of the expo tonight.  From what I saw it is bigger and better than years past.  There is so much to learn and see.  I am looking forward to a few more swipes at the products in the days to come.  The new video posted is the ride down the escalators into the expo entrance. 

First full day tomrrow and it promises to be packed full.  Got to get to bed and get out early.

Energy Expo

Yesterday the Energy Expo opened in Roanoke, VA.  This is an annual event that has been growing by leaps and bounds.  I am happy to report that this year the exhibits are packed full of valuable sustainable information.  Here are a few….

Learn how to make your own rain barrel through the Western Va Water Authority.

Meet David Zachow with Direct Connect Solar and Electric to get set up with a solar system.

Even see a real live Yurt from Blue Ridge Yurt.  This is a neat structure that from the inside looks like one big baby gate.  Very quick to assemble and take down.

For my thoughts on thfuture-solar1e best of the show, it would have to be the kids from Thaxton Elementary.  These kids are getting it.  Walk up to their booth and you are greeted by six or so stations of experiments with energetic and excited kids demonstrating.  There were experiments on solar energy with small PVs, static electricity, magnetics, simple circuits and more.  While their teachers are to be applauded for making it fun, they are also teaching them important skills to understand tomorrow’s energy.  Job well done!

So if you are in the area of the Roanoke, Va, Civic Center stop by on Saturday.  It is free and you will see alot of great ideas for energy efficiency.