Tom’s Green Building Technology Portfolio
Some Technques You May not Know About
In publishing articles in Progressive Engineer Magazine, we come across many technologies that relate to green building and sustainability. These play into Tom Gibson’s consulting services, as they give him a unique vantge point for creatively researching and applying technologies. Most of these are new, and some are still under development, but many can be applied today. Stay tuned as we continually add to the list.

Building Materials

Concrete-and-Foam Composite Wall
Known as an insulated concrete composite wall system, Solarcrete consists of a core of expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam insulation sandwiched between two layers of concrete formed by spraying shotcrete over steel reinforcing bars. With an R-value of 36 at 12” thick, the energy-efficient wall reduces heating and cooling loads and provides thermal mass. See our story on it

Flexible Concrete Resists DeteriorationA flexible concrete known as an engineered cement composite (ECC) has small fibers embedded in it with a thin surface coating that allows them to slip rather than break under heavy loads. This deceases the weight of the concrete up to 40 percent and increases the tensile strength and durability, resulting in reduced maintenance requirements and lifecycle costs. When excessive loading damages ECC, micro cracks stabilize, preventing water or deicing salts from seeping in and attacking steel reinforcing bars and delaying or eliminating deterioration. See our story on this

Lightweight Wallboard Made from Coal-Fired Plant EffluentU.S. Gypsum is producing wallboard that weighs up to 30 percent less than the conventional variety at four of its worldwide plants. This increases production on construction projects, lessens the strain on workers carrying and positioning wallboard panels, and reduces the costs of transporting the product, including fuel use. One of the company’s plants manufacturing the lightweight wallboard is located at PPL’s coal-burning electric generation plant in Washingtonville, PA. Limestone is scrubbed from the effluent from the generation process and used in the wallboard.

Steel Technology Uses Recycled Rubber and PlasticTraditionally, in electric arc furnace (EAF) steelmaking, scrap is reprocessed using large amounts of nonrenewable fossil fuel. Polymer injection technology mixes in plastic and rubber waste, reducing the reliance on coke. The technology reduces carbon emissions, requires less electricity, and reduces the amount of plastic and rubber that ends up in landfills. One Steel, in collaboration with the University of New South Wales, has seen a 3 percent energy reduction, 3 percent productivity improvement, and 10 percent reduction in carbon emissions in test plants.

Building Mechanical Systems

Recover Heat from Water Flowing Down the Drain
Made by RenewABILITY Energy, the Power-Pipe drain water heat recovery (DWHR) system is a double-walled heat exchanger that recovers heat energy from the wastewater flowing down your household drain and uses it to warmincoming cold water. Single-family homes as well as multi-unit residential, commercial, institutional, and industrial buildings can take advantage of thePower-Pipe to reduce energy use and water heating costs. Multiple coils of rectangular copper tube wrap together in parallel around a central copper drainpipe. Hot water flowing down the drain transfers its heat toincoming cold water moving up the coils in a counterflow mode. See our story on this

Building Transportation Systems

Elevators More Efficient
Elevator manufacturers, including ThyssenKrupp Elevator, report that switching from a motor generator drive to a variable voltage variable frequency (VVVF) drive can save up to 50 percent on energy consumption. In addition, installing destination-based dispatching software can increase efficiency by up to 35 percent, saving energy and improving productivity. A dispatching system directs passengers to the elevator that will get them to their destination quickest. Grouping people together based on the floor they are traveling to reduces the number of stops and improves overall efficiency of building traffic. 

Electrical Components

Superconductors Offer Zero Resistance to Electrical Flow
Scientists and engineers are busy developing superconductors, materials that have no resistance to the flow of electricity when cooled to a very low temperature. SuperPower builds electric power components such as underground transmission cables, transformers, motors, generators, and fault current limiters incorporating superconductors. They act as perfect conductors of electricity because they dissipate no energy by resistive heating; therefore, they hold tremendous promise for saving energy and improving the performance of these devices and, in turn, our nation’s electrical grid. See our story on this


Aerovoltaic Wind Power: No Moving Parts
Accio Energy is making distributed wind energy systems scalable and affordable with Aerovoltaic energy systems that convert wind energy to electricity without any moving parts. Its Aerovoltaic energy systems offer the low cost of big wind with the modularity and flexibility of solar, creating a new direction in wind energy. Aerovoltaic technology does not rely on electromagnetic effects to produce electricity from the wind’s kinetic energy, just as photovoltaic cells exploit photoelectric effects rather than electromagnetic principles. Instead, it harvests energy by using the wind to move electrically charged particles against a voltage gradient.

Flexible PhotovoltaicsWorking with the Center for Advanced Microelectronics Manufacturing at Binghamton University, Endicott Interconnect Technologies fabricates flexible circuits using a roll-to-roll process that mimics newspaper printing. In a variation of this, CAMM and EIT are developing flexible photovoltaics. While not as good as those made from silicon, they would be cheaper to make. They envision putting them on tents along with flexible LED lights, with the PV panels powering the lights. The Center for Autonomous Solar Power (CASP) at BU is researching and developing large-area, flexible, lightweight solar cells for aerospace, consumer, and industrial markets. See our story on this

Trigeneration Adds a Cooling ComponentThe Syracuse University Green Data Center employs a novel trigeneration technique in which natural-gas-powered microturbines generate electric power on site. They capture the heat from this to heat the building and power absorption chillers that cool computers and servers. This increases overall efficiency and reduces energy use, creating a model its designers hope to replicate with other data centers as computer energy consumption soars. See our story on this
Tom Gibson. P.E. Green Building Engineer
Milton, PA