Green Is The New Black

Arkit Environment • Technology • 9 minute read

For many years, it’s been a popular trend to think of more environmentally friendly methods for day-to-day life from taking the bus to work to the ethos of reduce-reuse-recycle. While there are little differences we’re all capable of making in our life, this same innovative spirit of sustainability has become an important force in the fields of civil engineering and construction, where a friendlier footprint is a matter of prime importance. Few things can have a more marked influence on our environmental impact as the cities we live in and the way we build them, and these industries are prepping for a more sustainable future. Whether it involves the use of environmentally friendly and sustainable materials or the creation of homes that exist entirely off the grid, here are some means by which the world is set to become a little greener in the years to come.

Energy Use Of Net Zero?

The perfect solution for eliminating greenhouse gases all together may not be known yet, but the venture-backed startup Acre has created a zero-energy building that approaches architecture and construction from an entirely different perspective, with innovation and the planet in mind. The goal for each Acre home is that the amount of energy used by the building annually is equivalent to the amount of energy the home is creating each year. Though these buildings cannot always rely on solar energy, they do consume approximately 90% less energy and 70% less water than the traditional home. While the use of sustainable materials means that these homes are currently priced between 400 and 500 thousand, there are future plans to put a more affordable home on the market so that sustainability, in the form of this structure, can reach the masses.

Concrete That Won’t Crack

The stats say that cement is responsible for approximately 7 percent of annual global emissions, but with this popular material being used in so many construction projects, it can be problematic to re-consider its use entirely. Fortunately, researchers at Bath University in the United Kingdom are working on a solution to the problem of cement crack-ups. Since cracking is a serious construction problem and requires maintenance that leads to the release of even more damaging emissions, these researchers are trying to concoct a material using bacteria that will instantly react by producing limestone when water appears, so cracks cannot permeate to the core of a structure. While this invention is still in the development stages, this concept could mean a marked improvement for global emissions annually.  

Paving The Way To Electrical Energy

It might seem like the road beneath your vehicle is something that can be easily bypassed, but the Italian company Underground Power has discovered a way to utilize the kinetic energy that is instantly created by driving. Known as the “speed absorber”, Underground Power has come up with a technology called LYBRA which is installed flush with the pavement in areas where vehicles are required to slow down. As the car breaks, the kinetic energy that is lost during deceleration is collected and converted into electrical energy. The statistics determined by UP show that in a roundabout that is used by approximately 10,000 vehicles per day, this product produces 100,000 kWh per year, equal to the energy used by about 40,000 families. Since LYBRA can be customized for different roadways, it has the ability to be used in a variety of different circumstances to harness energy that would otherwise go to waste.

Buy A Small, Solar Jagpod

The price of real estate is quickly becoming unattainable for millennials and the middle-aged alike, but Jaguar Containers, which was started by William Coit, has come up with the concept of a small-sized home with an environmentally friendly outlook. Utilizing the unique concept of a shipping container as humble abode, these home units known as Jagpods are approximately 144-300 square feet and start at a price of $30,000. Each space is equipped with 2-4 solar panels that are 235 Watts, and have the ability to store energy so that no other energy source is required and owners can live off the grid. While the hope of the founder is that Jagpod can offer a quick solution for shelter in the event of natural disasters or other calamities, this environmentally friendly concept may have great future prospects given its progressive spirit.

Making It Modular

At some point in our youth, most of us played with Lego and put together a room or building only to add it onto some other, larger piece, but the increasingly popular use of modular construction actually takes a page from this very book. Traditionally, buildings were all built on site from top to bottom, but the utilization of modular techniques means that certain components of a larger structure are actually built off site - using the same materials and methods - and then transferred to the structure following completion. While this may seem like a much fussier method of construction, it’s actually a more sustainable process that can easily streamline construction. Due to the need to move parts after completion and the determination of logistics beforehand, there are fewer vehicle movements, which leads to less overall waste per project.

A Hobbit House In Real Life

The concept of the Hobbit house rose to prominence with the movie trilogy “The Lord of the Rings”, but DIY home designer Kristie Wolfe has taken it into her own hands to bring these houses into real life in the area of Chelan, Washington. Wolfe’s first Hobbit home is 288 square feet and built into the mountainside, with its internal size and style designed to be consistent with the concept of the Hobbit house. However, from the solar panels that make this home completely off the grid to the water from a nearby tower that feeds into the home, this undersized space is also entirely progressive and takes its environmental footprint into consideration. While the first home has now been completed and is ready to be rented through Airbnb, there are two more currently being built with a projected completion date of Summer 2016.

Mapping The Assets

There can be a number of environmental downfalls when it comes to equipment that is not properly maintained, but asset mapping is a means of ensuring that when certain equipment is on its last leg, it will be detected before it finally goes. Utilizing the information provided by serial numbers and firmware, asset mapping gathers the date from multiple devices and systems into one single map that can be monitored with ease. This means that anyone has the ability to see the location and condition of their equipment and systems instantly, with a smart phone or device. Instead of having to worry about where and when things will go, asset mapping will send out an alert so that the appropriate parties can be proactive and address the issues before they become problematic. As a result, this functionality means that energy costs and the carbon footprint will be considerably reduced.

The Advent Of LEED Buildings

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system has been around since 2002, but this environmentally responsible initiative for buildings is recognized in 150 countries and remains a progressive concept today. Since most structures actually generate up to 35 percent of all greenhouse gases and approximately 70 percent of the local water supply is consumed in and around buildings, LEED is something that will come to have a significant impact on the world of construction as sustainable methods become more popular. There are now more than 1800 LEED buildings in the world that function to make for a greener, healthier work environment that features improved air ventilation, natural light, and reduced waste and water consumption. With plant roofs and siding that absorbs moisture and light, the initiatives of this program make a marked difference for what the future of construction can hold.

As the world changes around us and the environment demands more sustainable solutions to serve our lifestyle, there is a lot of innovation driving future success in the fields of civil engineering and construction. Whether it happens to be the sustainable initiative of a LEED certified building or the possibility that exists on the horizon for concrete that can resist cracking, there are plenty of solutions that are set to change the way we live. When it comes to being sustainable and environmentally friendly, these sectors should see many effective, exciting shifts in the years to come.

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