Archives For Green Tech

Home energy management softwareIn the United States, sustainable progress most often takes the form of ways to engineer a more efficient version of the status quo. Products that allow for a reduction in net resource use while allowing customers to live the same way are seen as a win/win. To be fair, the small advances we can take through greener product choices are a first step and certainly better than nothing, even if course-altering impacts towards a sustainable culture will require the underlying lifestyle to evolve. If greener consumerism is one of the paths that Americans are responding to then the products need to do more than provide a promise for eventual savings. The more that people can connect choices of product usage to resource repercussions in real time, the better the chance that lifestyles can alter to maximize the use of more efficient products. Continue Reading…

Mid Rise Hive FarmWhile the interest in the prospects of Vertical Farming have picked up over the last few years with the topic finding its way into more articles and design competitions, we have yet to see a corresponding surge in prototypes going into construction. We have not suddenly come to an ulterior solution for how to supply more locally grown produce to our cities with a reduced carbon footprint behind it by any means, but financing hasn’t yet found a model for vertical farming that seems to be worth bringing past the brainstorming stage. However, a new proposal by OVA Studio that pushes a modular version of vertical farms is in the process of trying to secure funding for prototype design and construction, hoping to be the model that bucks the trend.  Continue Reading…

wind turbine electric carGiven our propensity for streamlining information paired with our dangerous addiction to hype, we have a tendency to pull things out of context to weigh them each as isolated ideas. This is just as true with sustainability as it is with everything else. Merits and shortcomings are all too often examined on one specific gadget, product or system, but everything (especially sustainability) is really a system of systems. More often than not, the real opportunities for progress come with linking individual solutions together. A great example is renewable energy and electric cars. Continue Reading…

Office Building Environmental AnalysisIn a previous article I dug into the first half of the Midcentury (un)Modern study conducted by Terrapin Bright Green that raised the question of what we should do with a group of over 100 energy deficient New York office towers built between 1958 and 1973. Once it became clear that a series of unique conditions were making this particular group of poorly performing buildings unadaptable the question became if there was a positive scenario for demolition and reconstruction. There could be a number of ways to stimulate or incentivize the replacement of these buildings to coax building owners into action–essentially paying them to make a change. However, even though it’s possible, is it positive? Is there a process that creates a new building while providing a net gain? Not only a monetary gain for the city, but a net gain in things like energy use, water consumption and air quality. Continue Reading…

The Electronic Waste Race

trash stream from electronicsOver the past two decades the evolution of consumer electronics have cause massive amounts of information to migrate from the physical world of paper into the digital network of electrons. Throughout that time increases in efficiency and capability have shrunk the physical size of computers while expanded the capacity for information and exponentially increased speed to move it back and forth. The same progression, however, has led to a new, complex and rapidly growing waste stream that we know relatively little about. At the same time, the lifecycle of our paper products has not been idle. Steadily improving forestry practices, more efficient production methods and vast improvements in recycling make paper a much greener option than it was years ago. More and more, we need to consistently reevaluate which medium is offering us the most sustainable option. Continue Reading…

green applianceIn its basic definition, efficiency relates to a given amount of energy or effort it takes to accomplish a certain task relative to the least possible amount. It is true that a more efficient system/solution/product will use less energy than a less efficient counterpart, but in order to gauge its place within the topic of sustainability we have to ground the term and its use in realistic conditions. What we end up with is that “efficiency” is a much more incomplete thought that most people treat it. As an idea, it is a component of a direction more than a solution. Continue Reading…

[tweetmeme source=”intercongreen”]If you walk into the city on a sunny, summer day and feel like it is warmer than the suburban home you left earlier, it isn’t your imagination. The “Heat Island Effect” is a term that refers to a localized rise in ambient, outdoor temperature due to dark materials absorbing light from the sun. While asphalt roads contribute meaningfully, roofscapes are the most abundant culprit with a large number of existing flat roofs in this county being black—either tar, asphalt or a rubberized membrane. In full summer sun, a black roof can reach temperatures of 170 degrees. When the number of these roofs located in close proximity rises so does the amount of heat captured and radiated back into the air.

Though it is occurring at some scale on any dark-colored, man-made surface, the effects are most strongly felt in urban conditions where streets and the tops of buildings make up most of the net surface area facing the sky. In a city like New York, the result can be a local air temperature 5 to 10 degrees higher than surrounding townships in the depths of summer. Keep in mind, Manhattan is also on the coast which means that this temperature rise is happening despite the cooler normally found from coastal winds. Continue Reading…

earth power production[tweetmeme source=”intercongreen”]The term “geothermal” describes two similar technologies that operate on different scales. Both are used for harvesting clean energy from the earth. Both yield opportunities for displacing pollution and emissions. The best case would allow for us to pour support into both of these technologies, but the prolonged fragility of the economy prompts the question of which one of these options actually gets us farther? Which should we be encouraging, publicizing and subsidizing? Which gives more bang for the buck? Continue Reading…

New light bulbs[tweetmeme source=”intercongreen”]The signing of the federal budget for 2012 marked the latest effort by Republicans to forestall the coming legislation that will begin the phase out of the traditional incandescent bulb. The time and energy spent on debating a law that was signed into being 4 years ago under a Republican President exemplifies the misdirected focus of our elected officials not to mention their blatant disregard (or ignorance) of efficiency’s importance. Thankfully, their tribulations are unlikely to have any material effect on the movement that the forces of American capitalism have been welling behind for years now. Continue Reading…

US Suburban House[tweetmeme source=”intercongreen”]In 1973 the initiation of the Arab Oil Embargo had rippling affects on energy use in the United States. As oil prices climbed while supply fell, in months America became suddenly conscious about their energy use and how much their dependence on inexpensive energy could cost its economy. The government action in response came at impressive speed by today’s standards, initiating a series of efforts to encourage people to save both oil and money spent on energy. The 55mph speed limit was born. Daylight savings was extended (temporarily) to the entirety of the year in an effort to conserve electricity. New subsidies were given to the spur the development of renewable energy sources. Oil consumption dropped 20% in the U.S., yet the country survived.

Though the embargo was lifted in 1974, it would mark the first time when the steady increase in residential energy use across the country ceased its upward movement. While energy would be an issue viewed with greater scrutiny from this point forward, the Energy Information Administration revealed that the per capita residential energy consumption has remained nominally flat over the past 40 years, lingering at the 1973 levels of around 70 million Btu’s per person. Continue Reading…