Posts tagged with "energy":

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Lutron Lights up the Empire State Building

When construction was completed on the Empire State Building (ESB) in 1931 it cost $25.6 million—that's just $9.20 per square foot. You can't even build a single floor for that nowadays, much less a 1,454-foot tall skyscraper (adjusting for inflation, the ESB would cost $352 million today). Though the building hosts events and tour groups, most of us only see it from the outside and don't realize that the reason it's known as the World's Most Famous Office Building is because tenants occupy the vast majority of its 102 floors. And like any other office building, lighting consumes the majority of its electrical costs—a whopping 39 percent. In order to meet their stringent return-on-investment requirements, Anthony Malkin, President of Malkin Holdings, which owns the ESB, and Jones Lang LaSalle, an energy and sustainability consultancy, commissioned Lutron to supply pre-built tenant spaces throughout the building with sustainable lighting control solutions as part of the Clinton Climate Initiative Building Retrofit program aimed at improving efficiency and financial performance. The building-wide retrofit is projected to provide a total lighting energy savings of up to 65 percent and a reduced installed payback period of just 2.75 years. Overall, the Lutron system will reduce energy use by 38 percent and energy bills by $4.4 million per year. Moreover, the upgrade will prevent an estimated 105,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the next 15 years. The concept is simple: use less light, less often. Just as automatic faucets solved the problem of people forgetting to turn the water off at the sink, automatic sensors in Lutron's wireless lighting system turn lights off when a room is unoccupied. They also dim the lights according to the amount of daylight in a room so tenant spaces aren't over-lit and only use as much light as is necessary. "It's not about going without," said Lutron's President, Michael Pessina, "it's about not spending for what you don't need." It works like this: An occupancy/vacancy sensor is installed in the ceiling and/or in the corners of the room. In test mode you can check to make sure the sensor can reach the entire room and there aren't any dead spots. The sensors, which track motion and temperature and control both lighting and HVAC systems, offer three levels of sensitivity, from basic body movement to small, isolated actions like typing on a keyboard. The sensors are operated by small remotes and dimmers that can be attached to the wall like a standard light switch or left free to be used at your desk, couch, meeting area, etc. The sensors can be customized to power on and off automatically or to be powered on by the user and powered off automatically with various time-out times. In the Empire State Building, where overall usage is metered, tenants also have the option to install sub-metering units that allow them to monitor their energy consumption in real-time and make adjustments to consume less and, ultimately, pay less on their monthly bills. "It sounds basic," said Lutron's ESB project lead Tom Myers, "but making sure lights are only on when people need them is a big deal in terms of savings." As you would expect, Lutron's Manhattan office is equipped with all the bells and whistles, including a wall-mounted LCD TV where energy consumption is tracked in real time and adjustments can be made with an iPad application. Large windows that offer an impressive view of the city (which, in case you were wonderings, includes the ESB) are fitted with automatic shades programmed to raise and lower according to the amount of daylight in the room. You've probably seen motorized shading systems that aren't completely accurate and, over time, don't line up with one another anymore, but unlike many such systems on the market, Lutron's motor is not only completely silent, it's guaranteed to stop within ⅛" of its programmed level so each shade is always perfectly in line. While the projected energy savings for ESB retrofit are impressive, more impressive still is the ease of installing the wireless set-up. It literally takes just 12 seconds to program a sensor and its corresponding switch. More switches can be synced to the same sensor, adding a mere six seconds apiece to the installation time. Because rewiring is difficult and labor intensive, especially in buildings over eighty years old, Lutron's easy to install wireless system minimizes disturbance in retrofits. Wireless lighting technology streamlines construction on new projects, too, and cuts the cost of materials (no wires or pipes) and labor overall. While Anthony Malkin is in high spirits about the energy savings of Lutron's "state-of-the-art, cost-effective and architecturally beautiful" system in terms of the savings it will bring to his own properties, he seemed genuinely excited about what it could mean for the future of building in general. "If we only succeed at the Empire State Building" he said, "we have failed." See Lutron's collection and find out why their innovative products "save the nation nearly 10 billion kWh of electricity, or approximately $1 billion in utility costs, per year."
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SOM and Virginia Tech’s Hanging Garden Automatically Responds to Weather

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Hanging Garden

A motorized green wall that reads the weather and adjusts automatically

Two years ago six students and three faculty from Virginia Tech's School of Architecture + Design spent three weeks at SOM's Chicago office applying industrial fabrication solutions to the problem of high density housing for Southworks, a housing development that's currently being planned for a large vacant section south of the city. The result was LumenHAUS, an aggressively energy efficient home that won the international Solar Decathlon Competition that June for sustainable solutions to high density construction. LumenHAUS is not only net zero, it actually creates more energy than it uses by implementing, among other innovations, a modular system that autonomously responds to external weather information and internal environmental conditions to optimize energy use. This Fall Virginia Tech's Center for Design Research will begin construction on a full scale prototype of six housing modules, including a working prototype of Hanging Garden, a dynamic plant wall that reads the weather and responds by sliding along the walls and windows to either block or allow sunlight into the living unit.  Hanging Garden combines automated shading control with the emerging demand for urban garden space. Each unit is composed of a series of planters and and can be configured into one of three scenarios: (1) fully nested against the side walls of the south facing projecting balcony, (2) partially deployed to protect the balcony from east or west light or wind or (3) fully deployed and aligned with the outer face of the balcony (rotated 90 degrees). Each unit can automatically adjust to accommodate changing weather patterns, plant type and user demands by means of an actuated track system provided by Hafele. Two ceiling mounted tracks run parallel to each other until the garden reaches the outer balcony.  At this point the slave trolley follows the radial track and sends the garden plane horizontally along the outer edge of the balcony. "The plant wall system is integrated into our ‘responsive architecture’ smart home building control system, which was developed for the LumenHAUS," said Virginia Tech faculty member Joe Wheeler. "With real time data from both the house-mounted weather station and from interior environment sensors, the computer can detect when shading is needed or when direct solar gain is needed. For example, on a summer day when the system is in cooling mode, exterior temperatures are high and the daylight sensors detect full sun, plant walls are deployed into the full shade position along electronically controlled motorized tracks." Hanging Garden The Hanging Garden system can be built into a larger outdoor garden patio configuration that allots two outdoor spaces on either end of the main living module. During warmer months the patio can be opened up completely, providing cross ventilation. In colder months they can be closed to act like greenhouses and serve as insulating buffers to the indoor space, becoming passive mechanisms of energy efficiency. Even those whose thumbs are anything but green can easily keep their Hanging Garden growing year-round, thanks to the self-watering system - also a great feature for when you're out of town. "When the plant walls are in their "home" position, a reservoir is refilled by a ceiling mounted valve," Wheeler explained. "The reservoir directs water to each individual pot on the wall and a floor drain in the balcony collects any overflow." The final product will have a CNC cut steel frame and slip cast ceramic pots, but the prototypes for the six modular units will be made from MDF, an odd choice for such an environmentally progressive project, though perhaps the longterm benefits of Hanging Garden, and of the Southworks complex in general will ultimately outweigh a few preliminary MDF models?   Hanging Garden Hanging Garden Balcony-Diagram
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Quick Clicks> Big Apple vs. City of Lights, Plastic into Oil, Seeing Double, Lights of Knowledge

  New York vs. Paris. It seems that the Big Apple and The City of Lights are forever battling over design, architecture, fashion, and film. A Parisian graphic designer decided to take matters into his own hands, creating a website to display his witty color-block graphics that juxtapose these iconic cities. Topics are eclectic, ranging from landmarks (the Empire Sate vs. the Eiffel Tower), to architecture (5th Avenue Apple Store vs. Musée du Louvre), to food (cupcakes vs. macarons), to even car parking styles (parking lot towers vs. double parked). More at the NY Times T Magazine. Oil from plastic. Energy company Vadxx has invented reactors that can transform plastic scraps that can’t be recycled into crude oil with the lowest sulfur content in the world, says Good Magazine. The first reactors are slated for a recycling plant in Akron, Ohio. However, this begs this question: will the amount of crude oil created offset the amount of energy needed for the conversion process? Basket lights. A New Zealand designer, David Trubridge, has infused his lighting with the spiritual--looking to a Maori creation myth for design inspiration, writes Contemporist. The Maori believed gods gave humans three baskets of knowledge. Trubiridge designed three corresponding teardrop ceiling “baskets”: the bamboo light represents knowledge of the natural world, the polycarbonate light symbolizes knowledge of the spiritual world, and the aluminum basket signifies knowledge of the rational world.
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Charge Me Up

As automakers vie to release the next generation of plug-in electric cars, many eco-conscious drivers have wondered about the lack of charging infrastructure in dense urban environments. Unlike in, say, London, where charging points are being planned within one mile of every citizen by 2015, New Yorkers have heard little about curbside electric pumps. Well, if you’re looking for a place to plug in your GM Volt, one company’s vision of the future has arrived. This week, Brooklyn-based sustainable energy company Beautiful Earth (BE) unveiled their new solar-powered electric vehicle charging station, the first in New York and one of just a few in the world. Designed and built by BE from recycled steel shipping containers, the off-grid station sits on a lot near the company headquarters in Red Hook, collecting the sun’s rays with a roof of Sharp 235-watt photovoltaic panels. With a battery bank that stores electricity around the clock, the 6-kilowatt station can charge a car even at night, and could potentially feed unused electricity back into the grid. For now, the new station’s larger impact is more symbolic than practical: It’s only being used to charge BE’s company electric sports car, a BMW Group Mini E (though it would work just as well with any electric vehicle). A full charge gives the Mini E a little over a 100-mile range and takes about three hours, but shorter charging times are well within reach. “As the technology advances, easy charging stations will become increasingly realistic,” said Amanda Cleary, BE’s manager of sustainability.