Pre-fab panels instead of a wood frame save cash and energy
By John B. CarnettPosted 07.17.2009 at 2:15 pm 35 Comments
John B. Carnett, PopSci's staff photographer, is using the latest green technology to build his dream home. Follow his progress in his monthly magazine column (the first of which you're reading now) and on the Green Dream blog.
In the past 20 years, I've lived in some pretty weird places — a leaky loft, a sailboat, an old carriage house that I rehabbed myself. Makeshift bachelor pads were fine until I found myself with a wife and two small boys.
The economy is down and global warming is up. Instead of tackling the two problems individually, some lawmakers are looking to link the two activities together in what is proving to be an opportunity to fix both. In California, they are killing the two proverbial birds with one law, or in this case, many energy-efficiency policies.
Set to rise 54 stories above Manhattan, the crystalline Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park will incorporate an unrivaled number of environmentally friendly technologies, from its windows to its toilets. The building will supply 70 percent of its own energy with an on-site natural-gas-burning power plant. For climate control, One Bryant Park will rely on excess thermal energy from the power plant, a groundwater heat exchanger that is the first of its type, and an air-conditioning system cooled by ice made with excess power during off-peak hours.
Board a luxury yacht made by the Ferretti Group, and you can leave the Dramamine at home. Starting in late 2004, Ferretti began offering yachts with an Anti Rolling Gyro (ARG) invented by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The ARG helps boats stay upright even in heavy swells simply by doing what gyros do: resisting rotation, in this case caused by waves rolling the boat. A motor sets in motion a several-hundred-pound flywheel mounted in the center of the boat. Unlike other anti-rolling devices, such as fin stabilizers, which work only when water is moving over them, the ARG works while at anchor.
Now being readied 3.1 miles off the coast of Portugal, the first commercial wave farm will use the movement of the sea to generate 2.25 megawatts of electricity-enough to meet the
energy needs of more than 1,500 homes-from three 459-foot-long Pelamis Wave Energy Converters. Moored to the seafloor, each machine has four cylindrical pontoon-like segments. Passing waves will cause each machine to undulate like a giant sea snake.
Blowing by the current record-holder-the French TGV, with a maximum operating speed of 186 mph-East Japan Railway´s Fastech 360 train will carry travelers at a top speed of 224 mph and is expected to hit speeds above 250 mph in test runs. This year East Japan Railway began testing a prototype with two uniquely shaped nose cones-at 52 feet, the longest ever-that reduce drag and noisy micropressure waves in tunnels. To stop quickly in an emergency, the Fastech 360 uses cat-ear-like spoiler brakes that pop out of the roof to increase air resistance.
The northbound bridge over De Neveu Creek near Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, looks just like the two-lane southbound crossing, which is made conventionally from concrete poured over steel rebar. But in 75 years the difference will be clear. Inside the northbound bridge's concrete deck, builders used a prefabricated plastic grid instead of steel.