Our landscapes, cities,
buildings and homes are something that all of man kind interact with on a
daily basis and are incredibly important to our survival.
use tremendous resources and hence are a prime focus for all
humanity to ensure that they are sustainable. It is estimated that energy
use in buildings is the equivalent to the energy used in industry and
One particular part of
constructing our buildings that is ubiquitous is the use of concrete.
Unfortunately producing concrete
consumes vast amounts of energy, emits some of the most deadly of
pollutions and approximately one ton of carbon is emitted for every ton of
There is a tremendous
amount of innovation going on in the world of cement. Some folks are
working on making concrete's production more environmentally benign and
its use in the process of construction more friendly to the environment.
Other innovators are
working in the area of alternative bonding agents to cement. New bonding
agents enable concrete to be light weight which will enable more of the
construction process to be done in a factory so that building sites will
become more "assembly only" oriented.
Making a house out of
wood is the equivalent of making your house out of matchsticks. Trees are
a great way to sequester carbon and are renewable, but matchstick houses
rot, catch fire and are easily decimated by high winds.
We will look back in 20
years and notice that all new houses are made with renewable and low
carbon concrete systems and we are likely to think "what the heck were we
building houses out of wood for"?
Heating and Cooling
Our buildings use a
tremendous amount of the nations total power consumption and though
florescent light bulbs help, LED's will help even more, the real power
hungry devices are the heating and cooling systems.
Solar hot water heaters
coupled with radiant floor heating offer a low energy heat solution. Water
based air conditioning systems that are the modern equivalent of swap
coolers offer huge efficiency gains over traditional air conditioning in
water accessible areas.
Windows are the hardest
part of any building to insulate. Most windows have very low R values with
today’s good quality, dual-pane commercial or residential windows coming
in at R-1 to R-3, dramatically lower than a typical R-13 wall.
There is considerable
work going into developing vacuum sealed glass. These are hard to
manufacture because of the differential temperature between outside and
inside a building can be huge, so the glass must expand at different
rates. Making this seal work is not easy but a number of companies are
working on solutions to this problem. In addition to this temperature
differential problem, spacers are needed to keep the panes of glass away
from each other due to the vacuum and this reduces the windows visibility.
A window with an R-12
center-of-glass insulation level at a reasonable incremental cost is the
holy grail of window construction. This insulation level would convert
most windows in cold climates into energy suppliers rather than being one
of the largest sources of heat loss.
Heat and Cooling