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U.S. Wood Design Awards

This call for wood design nominations is for all lovers of wood! The due date is fast approaching (September 30 deadline) to nominate work for the Wood Design awards. Here is pertinent information from the website: Wood Design Awards celebrate excellence in wood design, engineering and construction, as well as innovative projects that showcase attributes of […]

September 18th

Origami Robot Folds Itself Up, Crawls Away

Think 3D printing and origami robots. Very interesting technology here from an MIT and Harvard team. For years, a team of researchers at MIT and Harvard University has been working on origami robots — reconfigurable robots that would be able to fold themselves into arbitrary shapes. In the August 7 issue of Science, they report their […]

August 8th

LEDs Shine in Bedding Plant Production Study

LEDs shine brightly in a new study. Growers of annual bedding plant seedlings or plugs work to produce compact, fully rooted transplants with a large stem diameter and high root dry mass–qualities that make seedlings less susceptible to damage during shipping and transplant. To achieve these desirable qualities, greenhouse growers in northern latitudes must rely […]

July 22nd

Strength Tests & Simulated Earthquakes in Reno

 Meet the Earthquake Engineering Lab at University of Nevada, Reno. Engineers report a concrete bridge spanning 70 feet has survived an ongoing series of simulated earthquakes. We salute this kind of research. Structural tests like these should provide fundamentals in the design and development of new buildings and infrastructure worldwide. Take a look at this […]

July 17th

How Green Is Renewable Energy?

Thanks to ClimateWire for their interesting article on research into the environmental impact of manufacturing the equipment used to create renewable energy, something we don’t often discuss.  An excerpt is below: When it comes to energy, you have to invest some in order to get some. Whether drilling for oil or baking silicon for photovoltaic […]

July 1st

Green Discoveries: Magnetic Refrigeration

Refrigeration, a critical technology that supports, among other things, food and medicine sustenance in the 21st century, has no claim to having left behind it the greenest footprint. Without it, however, modern civilization would be nowhere near the same. Now a new discovery concerning magnetic refrigeration may open new paths for better environmental tools. Read […]

June 11th

Farmery Brings Urban Farms to Town

The Farmery, a combined grocery store and urban farm where grocery shoppers not only get a glimpse of how their food is grown, but also get to harvest some of their own ingredients, is the dream of Ben Greene and a team of eight others. With many urban areas suffering from a lack of options when it […]

May 13th

'Greener' aerogel technology holds potential for oil and chemical clean-up

Cleaning up oil spills and metal contaminates in a low-impact, sustainable and inexpensive manner remains a challenge for companies and governments globally. But a group of researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison is examining alternative materials that can be modified to absorb oil and chemicals without absorbing water. If further developed, the technology may offer […]

February 26th

Top U.S. Cities Beta-Test Smart Cities Council Readiness Guide

Mayors and smart city teams provide feedback on the Readiness Guide to bring cities into the 21st Century Leaders from top cities across the United States are evaluating the Smart Cities Council Readiness Guide beta version. The Readiness Guide is a how-to manual for building tomorrow’s cities today by enabling cities to self-assess their readiness to innovate. Mayors […]

October 8th

Lithium-ion Batteries: Improvement with Nanoscale Research

Collaboration between UC San Diego and the National Labs could lead to new battery architectures New research led by an electrical engineer at the University of California, San Diego is aimed at improving lithium-ion batteries through possible new electrode architectures with precise nano-scale designs. The researchers created nanowires that block diffusion of lithium (Li) across […]

October 1st

Natural Gas: A Step In The Right Direction

This post by Grady Winston addresses critical energy fuel and energy issues we all need to think about as a population that’s addicted to fossil fuels. I have no doubt some renewable enthusiasts will challenge Winston’s argument for using natural gas as opposed to oil or coal, saying it’s not nearly enough and it’s still a fossil […]

August 27th

Guest Post: Tokyo Off Nuclear Energy Grid

As a result of this problem, Japan’s trade minister, Yukio Edano, would like to bring back online two of the nuclear reactors currently offline. In order to resume operations of these facilities, however, he would need to receive the support of both the governor and mayor of the region, who both have expressed concerns regarding the safety of doing so.

June 7th

Green and Super-Sized?


Can a 10,000 square foot house really be green? Is a hybrid GMC Yukon SUV an oxymoron? At what point does the alleged greenness of something go from truly being green to mere greenwashing?

The environmental bandwagon is getting crowded as more and more people recognize the benefits and importance of going green. Sometimes it is out of a genuine sense of commitment to green principles. But sometimes it is just marketing.

Green houses are one area where this is becoming an issue. Houses which many people would consider oversized behemoths are being touted for their supposed greenness. In a recent article, Jetson Green pointed out the absurdity of a 9,800 square foot house in Larkspur, Colorado being called a "green" building. A couple of weeks ago, when I attended a GM-sponsored event (along with David Anderson), I test-drove a 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid. How truly green are these?

October 8th

Green Building Elements: Brick

Brick may not be the first thing that springs to mind when we talk about green building. But there are qualities that bricks posess that make them worth considering as a green building material.

For starters, let’s take a look at the materials that go into brick: clay and water. That’s it. No complex chemicals, no exotic compounds, no imported components. At the end of its life, a brick is effectively just a manufactured clay stone with a special shape. It breaks down into earth since it comes from earth. Clay mining is comparatively benign, compared to ore mining for metals, which requires far more material to be extracted and processed to produce the finished product. Clay is not a resource that is in short supply, which makes it a more attractive material to use, as well.

The main reason brick isn’t an even greener building material is that it takes a lot of energy to make a brick. However, the extra energy is relative. An Australian government website comparing wood siding to brick veneer shows that exterior walls with the same backing construction with brick have about three times as much embodied energy per unit of wall area. (A timber board clad wall takes 188 MJ per square meter; brick veneer requires 561 MJ per square meter.) The tradeoff is in durability and maintenance. Brick is much lower maintenance than other materials. Most brick will last for generations with only some minor tuckpointing to repair joints.

October 3rd