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Sustainability : Innovation & Startups

102 Sustainability Articles | Page: | Show All

Pittsburgh's Energy Innovation Center breaking ground this summer

The Energy Innovation Center overlooking downtown Pittsburgh from the Hill District is a study in sustainable enterprise and community-wide partnership. 
 
Formerly known as the Connelley Trade School, the EIC is moving forward with plans to become a hub for green workforce development and a test lab and demonstration area for sustainable technologies. The LEED-Gold project is estimated at $45 million.
 
Development plans were in a holding pattern while issues were resolved involving the building's status on the National Register of Historic Places, an important component given the $6 million-worth in "historic" tax credits.
 
After negotiating and compromising on several architectural elements, the NRHP signed off, paving the way to complete construction documents this May; bids will go out in June and construction should start in July says Tom Bartnik, executive director of Pittsburgh Green Innovators.
 
The building is presently in the first phase of deconstruction. Trainees and volunteers have helped to keep about 540 cubic yards of material, fixtures and furnishings out of the landfill, says Bartnik. The material is being resold through Construction Junction and donated to Storehouse for Teachers and ACTION-Housing Pittsburgh Greenhouse in East Liberty.
 
"It's been a win-win situation all around," says Bartnik. "We're not only saving money on dumpster costs, but we're providing furnishings for other nonprofits."
 
On the programming side, Bartnik is working with local unions and educational institutions to line up tenants. Local 95 engineers are taking classroom and lab space and plan to use the building itself as a teaching tool to experiment with building systems and technologies.
 
Pittsburgh Gateways has received "serious letters of intent" for 60,000 square-feet out of the 80,000 square-feet available in the first phase of the project. Several educational institutions and private companies, including Eaton, CMU and CCAC, have indicated interest in lab and teaching space. 
 
"We're not looking to recreate the wheel and brand new programs," says Bartnik. "The idea is to bring resources and programs together; the building's success will revolve around how much synergy there is in the building." 
 
Pittsburgh Gateways Corp. purchased the 233,822-square-foot building from the Pittsburgh Public Schools in July 2011.  The project has the support of numerous organizations, agencies, leaders and Pittsburgh nonprofits.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Tom Bartnik, Pittsburgh Green Innovators

Image courtesy of Pittsburgh Green Innovators


Google Pittsburgh's rooftop garden offers workers exceptionally green eating

Google Pittsburgh's rooftop terrace is a garden of planter boxes of herbs and tomatoes flourishing alongside cucumbers and sweet potatoes. Nearby, an apiary swarms with 30,000 bees harvesting honey. 
 
"How local can we get?" asks Craig Robbins, director of dining services for Parkhurst Dining in Pittsburgh. "We're growing terrace lettuce 20 yards away."
 
Google is a global company, but it depends on the local growing community to stock the company's five micro-kitchens with vegetables, healthy snacks, organic dairy and fruits for the more than 200 employees who eat breakfast, lunch and dinner on the job. 
 
Not only is nearly everything locally grown, but the kitchen is working towards zero waste, says Lee Keener, executive chef. 
 
"Pittsburgh is an important place for our food programs team because the office really sets the gold standard," says Katelin Todhunter-Gerberg, senior communications associate with Google. "The office boasts the highest local purchasing percentage in our entire company."   
 
The poultry and beef is part of the “Never Ever” program, protein that has never been touched by antibiotics and hormones, and are humanely treated and humanely slaughtered. 
 
Farms and vendors include: Logan Family Farms, Turner Dairy, Penn's Corner Farmer's Alliance, Laurel Hill Trout Farm, Red Ribbon Soda, Gluuteny (Pittsburgh’s Gluten Free Bakery) and Coffee Tree Roasters. 
 
All food and oils are composted and recycled when possible, working with AgreCycle and ReFuel Pittsburgh. Surplus food is donated to the Greater Pittsburgh Foodbank. 
 
Zero Waste Pittsburgh and Duquesne University also conducted a study of the Google office to determine the chances of getting a food service facility to zero waste. Google was among the first to receive Zero Waste certification. 
 
"We control everything we need to control" says Keener. 
 
"Our goal is to provide the highest quality food we can, nutritionally balanced, authentically prepared, while encouraging employees to collaborate amongst each other and talk," adds Robbins.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Lee Keener, Craig Robbins and Katelin Todhunter-Gerberg for Google
 
 

Duquesne professor's invention churns plastic bottles into thatch for roofs

Imagine a simple machine that turns plastic bottles into a thatch-like roofing material in sun-baked, developing countries.
 
Duquesne University business professor David Saiia has invented a tabletop lathe, similar to a hand-cranked apple corer, which shreds empty plastic bottles into long coils of plastic. The plastic is then straightened and layered like thatch from bamboo rafters on the roof. 
 
It could be a transformative project in developing countries, says Saiia, associate professor of strategic management and sustainability.  Saiia was investigating sustainable enterprises for the small farmers of the Macquipucuna region in Ecuador when he hit on the idea, sketching it on the back of a napkin.
 
Plastic thatch not only reuses virgin plastic efficiently, it will create jobs and is a far superior roofing material. 
 
Unlike the corrugated metal or fiberglass roofing found in the southern hemisphere, plastic thatch is porous, allowing hot air, heat and smoke to escape, creating a cooler environment inside the home. It's also quieter during heavy rainstorms, lets in light and last 10 times longer than organic thatch.    
 
Saiia raised an initial $60,000 through the Lemelson Foundation to produce a prototype in Ecuador with the help of students in Duquesne’s MBA Sustainability program. The students conducted an analysis for launching the product.
 
A nonprofit was created, The Reuse Everything Institute, through which Saiia hopes to raise additional funds. The next step is to hire an engineer to build the next generation of the machine.  
 
"It's a very low tech design now, but it works," he says. "I'd like to make it mobile, mount it on a truck and run it on biodiesel." 
 
Potentially, it could be used to create roofing for emergency relief work and in areas recovering from disaster. The project could also create business opportunities for local entrepreneurs in regions like the fragile cloud forest of Ecuador. 
 
Source: David Saiia, Duquesne University

Image courtesy of Duquesne University
 

East End product designer Daedalus growing, hiring

Innovator Daedalus has tackled and designed an impressive range of projects.
 
Consider Bilichek, a handheld medical device developed for Philips Healthcare. The device and incorporated graphical interface is used by hospitals to accurately screen and analyze newborns for jaundice without the need for an invasive blood test.   
 
There's a sustainable water bottle machine, advanced by local startup Evive, which washes standard stainless steel water bottles and fills them with clean water, eliminating the need to purchase pre-packaged bottled-water. Daedalus was behind the research, design and engineering and is now building pilot prototypes; the machines will be placed on college campuses. 
 
Daedalus has worked with local startups and global Fortune 50 companies. An Alcoa aluminium car jack. The Cleanwater Infant Tub by 4Moms, which monitors the temperature of the clean water streaming into the tub on an LED screen. Medical injectors for Medrad that are state-of-the-art,easy-to-use and improve the state of healthcare. 
 
The work is a process that incorporates engineering and science, art, and careful observation, explains Matt Beale, president. The firm's work tends to focus on safety products, industrial tools, scientific instrumentation, home health care and medical devices, improving the function and appeal of products that make everyday life safer and more efficient.
 
Daedalus was founded in 1979 by Tim Cunningham and has grown steadily to 21 people today. The firm merged with Excel Technologies (a spinoff of Thermo Fisher Scientific) in 2000, jump starting the growth of the engineering side of the business. Beale joined Daedalus in 1988 and runs the firm with two partners: Drew Degentesh and former Excel president Rob Parks.

The company is currently experiencing significant growth and hiring, looking for industrial designers, interface designers, mechanical engineers, software engineers, electrical engineers.
 
"Local and national clients like to know that we can take care of a project from start to finish, or just help out if they are short-handed," says Beale. "The economy in Pittsburgh has also been better than the economy in much of the country. We never saw the down-side of the recession; so it's been a good place for us to do business."
 
A winner of numerous awards for innovative designs, Daedalus most recently won a 2012 Carnegie Science Award for Corporate Innovation this week.
 
Source: Matt Beale, Daedalus

Fill 'er up or charge it? Optimus expands the biofuel sector

Yesterday Colin Huwyler was collecting used cooking oil in a renovated garage in Braddock. Fossil Fuel was the start of the growing biofuel business.
 
Today Huwlyer, wearing a coat and tie, is busy with two thriving businesses. While Fossil Free is working on fuel processing and opening biofuel fueling stations in the region, Optimus Technologies on Penn Avenue designs and manufactures fueling systems for industrial and commercial clients with the help of funding from state DEP and Pittsburgh Region Clean Cities (PRCC).
 
The momentum has shifted from passenger to industrial or commercial vehicles, says Huwyler, an expansion that magnifies the benefits of biofuel. "When you look at a company using 20,000 gallons of fuel a year, they're able to save a significant amount more than an individual."
 
The Pittsburgh region is in the midst of evaluating its alternative fuel/energy options, says Huwyler. Optimus is working with Giant Eagle and the City of Pittsburgh to install biofuel systems in commercial and city vehicles. (Both are also using CNG vehicles.)
 
The company also has a key partnership with the Operating Engineers Union to install systems on off-road equipment, such as bulldozers and road pavers, offering access to even more companies.
 
"The biggest challenge (for us) is convincing someone the technology works," says Huwyler. "This allows them to touch, feel and play with the system. It’s a huge step for us."
 
Optimus currently employs four full-time and one part-time person. The company hopes to find investors to recruit and expand manufacturing operations in the coming year. 
 
The growth of the regional biofuel business dovetails with the continued expansion of the infrastructure to support vehicles using compressed natural gas (CNG) from shale drilling and electric batteries.  
 
"What we're seeing is a trend toward using a mix of strategies," says Huwyler. "No company should put its eggs all in one basket. The biggest challenge is the infrastructure, making sure filling stations are available and accessible." 
 
Pittsburgh currently is has more electric car charging stations than the rest of the state.  A $1 million DEP grant will establish 17 charging stations on the Pennsylvania Turnpike from Ohio to New Jersey by July 2013 (see the PRCC map). Another 45 charging stations will be located along I-376 with funding from the DEP, PRCC and Eaton Corp.
 
In CNG news, two natural gas pipelines got a green light in the last month. Enterprise Product Partners has secured contracts to construct a 1,200+ mile pipeline to transport ethane extracted from Marcellus and Utica wells from Washington County to the south.  Spectra Energy Corp. also received federal approval for a pipeline expansion to funnel shale gas through Greene County to points on the East Coast. The company has contracts with Range Resources and Chesapeake Energy. More CNG gas stations are planned as well. 
 
PRCC is hosting a Compressed Natural Gas Vehicle Expo on Thursday, Jan. 13th to educate companies and the public on the future of CNG in the region. 
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Colin Huwyler, Optimus Technologies; Rick Price, PRCC
 

A high-energy workout that powers your appliances? It must be ZeroFossil

Steven Kovacik calls himself a mad scientist, especially when it comes to energy.
 
"Being creative and inventive runs in the family," says the Canonsburg native and graduate of University of Pittsburgh. After spending several years as a plastics chemical engineer, working in industry, Kovacik decided to channel his own creative energy into a business that was "more fruitful for the earth." 
 
He bought the innovation subsidiary of his father's firm, Kova Enterprises, and founded ZeroFossil, a Munhall-based company developing power generation systems that harness the free energy around us, from the sun to wind, water, and yes, human power.

It puts a whole new spin on the high-energy workout.  
 
Two renewable energy storage units are the centerpiece of the products. The Integrator is an off-grid or grid-tie in power system for the home, cabin or small business that stores solar, wind, hydro-electric or human power. The JuiceBox is a miniature version of the Integrator, a plug and play perfect for camping, tailgating or an apartment. Both units come with solar panels but run off several types of renewable energy. 
 
That's where the Bikerator comes in, an assessory that fits any adult bicycle and captures energy and stores it while you peddle.
 
"If you're going to workout, you might as well capture the energy and use it," explains Kovacik. "A forty-five minute workout on the Bikerator will generate a five or six hour run time on your refrigerator."
 
While the products are expensive--the Integrator sells for $5,000 and the JuiceBox $1500--the costs should decline in time as the manufacturing process becomes more streamlined, he says. 
 
In the meantime, ZeroFossil is helping several area businesses, non-profits and Occupy Pittsburgh. The startup powered the Carrie Furnace Tours offered by the Rivers of Steel Heritage Foundation. It will light up the big glass block corner staircase on the Ohringer Building in Braddock. Occupy Pittsburgh has benefited from a Bikerator/JuiceBox combo that ran the media and medical tents.
 
While ZeroFossil is just starting out, Kovacik has a vision for the future. He hopes to hire several craftspeople and engineers on the manufacturing side. All components will be sourced domestically. 
 
"I spent 10 years watching jobs move overseas. I want to be very diligent about making this company as domestic as possible. Ninety-five percent of all my components are from North America," he says.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Steven Kovacik, ZeroFossil
 

Axion Power revs up renewables with the PowerCube, predicts major hiring and growth

Axion Power's PowerCube is going where few batteries have gone before, storing and providing electrical power (and renewable energy) to utilities, industries, hybrid cars and locomotives.
 
The New Castle based manufacturer has spent the last seven years developing the revolutionary battery based on patented PbC Technology, a unique system that captures energy and provides short-term storage, including wind and solar generated energy, for utility-scale energy producers. 
 
Axion's PowerCube is a 99% recyclable lead battery that lasts up to four times longer than advanced lead acid batteries and promises improved performance and lower energy costs. 
 
"The missing link has always been storage," explains Tom Granville, CEO. "Without storage, when a wind farm generates power it cannot store, it goes off into space. The same thing happens with solar.
 
"We respond in microseconds to the need (of industries), allowing plants that run on grid power to switch to battery power. It smoothes out those peaks and valleys and allows industry to function at an even level. If we can plug this gap, they (industries) can shut down turbines, reduce emissions and conserve energy."
 
Axion, founded in 2003 by nine investors, is based on research initially developed in Toronto, Canada. The company operates two manufacturing plants, one in the former New Castle Battery Company, and employs 90 people. Axion reported revenues of $9 million in 2011 and expects to top $10 million next year, projecting company growth, hiring and expansion. 
 
The system is currently used by one of the largest regional transmission organizations in the world, PJM Interconnection, which services more than 650 companies and 51 million customers. 
 
A recent change in Federal Energy Regulatory Commission regulations paved the way for the PowerCube's use off the grid, Granville explains. Philadelphia-based Viridity Energy provides the software that manages the use of the PowerCube. 
 
In addition to industrial uses, the PowerCube is targeting the huge, emerging microhybrid car and locomotive market, especially in Europe, says Granville.
 
"It's exciting for us to find a great work ethic here, people who want to work," says Granville. "Many have suggested that we take the company overseas, but quality control is important to us. For that reason, we plan on growing right where we are." 
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Tom Granville, Axion Power
 
 
 

PublicSource.org, the region's new online voice in investigative journalism, goes live

PublicSource.org, a new voice in collaborative, online journalism in the region, will go live this Sunday on Nov. 6th. 
 
Promising original, in-depth, investigative news, PublicSource hopes to to be a watchdog for the region, speaking for those who don't have a public voice, especially children and the elderly. The site will also remaining free of partisan political influences. The first issue will address Pittsburgh's failing infrastructure and education, says Sharon Walsh, editor. 
 
The issue will also include an audio slide show by photojournalist Martha Rial of Westinghouse High School's experiment in single-gender classes where girls and boys are taught separately. PublicSource collaborated with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Allegheny Front on stories that all three will use on their own platforms.
 
Five other local news organizations have joined PublicSource as co-contributors of news stories: Pop City, Pittsburgh City Paper, The New Pittsburgh Courier, Essential Public Media and WQED Pittsburgh. 
 
"This is the wave of the future, bringing together larger news organizations with smaller startup journalism groups that are already doing their own in-depth reporting," says Walsh. "It's a partnership among equals, but in three different platforms (print, radio and online). It's a bit like a wire service model."
 
In addition to the shared content, PublicSource will commission freelance reporters and photographers for original reporting and hire a full-time investigative reporter. The website was in beta this fall to test the design and navigability with partners. 
 
"Investigative reporting is difficult…it's not gotcha reporting," says Walsh. "It's going beyond what happened yesterday and finding out what's going on behind the scenes; it's the deeper story.
 
"The idea is to seek the widest possible distribution so the largest number of people can see and read it," she adds. "The same thing doesn't work in every region. We have to find our own path and that's very exciting and challenging."

To receive the first issue, sign up by email on PublicSource.org.
 
Source: Sharon Walsh, PublicSource.org
 

LANXESS commits to phthalate-free plastics, CNG refuse trucks and the greenest Eat'n Park in town

LANXESS, the German specialty chemicals and high-performance synthetic rubber maker--with U.S. operations based in Pittsburgh--will be making phthalate-free plastics by next year. 
 
Driven by concerns that phthalates contaminate food and the environment and are hazardous to human health, LANXESS has announced its commitment to renewable raw materials. The move is in response to growing concerns around the world that phthalate-free plastics be used in all consumer products such as toys, food packaging and cables.  
 
LANXESS's strategic partner is the U.S. company BioAmber, Inc., based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a global leader in succinic acid, which is primarily used by the food and beverage industry as a sweetener. The two companies are developing the new plasticizers, a more cost-effective and safer alternative.
 
In green development news, the Fox Chapel Eat'n Park Restaurant in the Waterworks shopping plaza is the first restaurant in Pittsburgh to achieve a LEED-Certified Gold. Opened last summer, the eaterie features skylights that amplify natural light, LED lighting, an Energy-Star rated kitchen, barrels to harvest natural rainwater and a wind-turbine system that generates 2,000 kilowatt hours of wind energy a year.
 
Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens has launched a new blog to chronicle its Center for Sustainable Landscapes, the 24,350-square-foot facility that will be one of the first buildings in the world to achieve net zero energy and water standards. 
 
The Green Lead will include updates on construction, design technology details and highlights, which includes the recent installation of state-of-the-art solar photovoltaics, the largest non-commercial solar panel array in the region.  
 
Finally, the City of Pittsburgh is embarking on a pilot partnership with EQT Corp. with the purchasing four refuse trucks that will run on compressed natural gas. The program was made possible through a $500,000 grant from the State’s Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority (PEDA). City workers will fuel-up at EQT’s recently opened, public-access CNG fueling station located at Smallman Street.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: LANXESS Corp., Eat'n Park, Phipps and the City of Pittsburgh

Image courtesy of Phipps Conservatory and Bontanical Garden
 


International food chain activist and conservationist comes to Point Park Nov. 2

Renowned Indian environmentalist and international activist Dr. Vendana Shiva--named one of the seven most powerful women in the world by Forbes magazine--will speak at a free event on Nov. 2 in Point Park University's GRW Theatre.
 
Dr. Shiva has written several books, including Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge and Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply, which addresses the economic and ecological costs of corporate-led globalization. Her first book, Staying Alive, redefined the perceptions of Third World women. 
 
She is also the founder of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, a center that addresses ecological and social issues in India, and Naydanya, a nonprofit dedicated to biodiversity, organic farming and defending the rights of farmers. Naydanya has helped to successfully conserve more than 2,000 rice varieties and create seed banks throughout the country.
 
Dr. Shiva also believes that women must take the lead in helping to solve the problems of food scarcity in the developing world. Her talk will address her research as it relates to her work on changing the practices and paradigms of agriculture and food. 
 
Visit the website for more information or to register for the free event. Seating is limited and on a first-come, first-served basis. 
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Point Park University

The Green Report: Liberty Tire Recycling, our greenest women and more

Pittsburgh-based Liberty Tire Recycling is taking a hazardous waste product and making it safe for gardens, playgrounds, turf, even underfoot at home.  
 
The largest scrap tire collector and recycler in the nation is the first company in North America to achieve certification from the Greenguard Environmental Institute, an organization that strives to improve public health and air quality through the reduction of chemical exposures.   
 
A Tech 50 finalist, Liberty Tire collects nearly 33 percent of America's scrap tires through a nationwide network of facilities. The tires are then processed, metals and fibers are removed, and the result is a clean rubber product that serves as a decorative layer for gardens and playgrounds or is crumbled for use as welcome or anti-fatigue mats, acoustical underlays and more. 
 
Athletic fields, another popular product, are made from crumb rubber. Liberty Tire has donated 500,000 pounds of rubber to build athletic fields in Iraq.
 
In other green news, the Women and Girls Foundation has selected 15 "Women Greening Pittsburgh" who will be honored at a fundraiser and gala at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture downtown on Nov. 19. Click here complete list of the honorees and ticket details. Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, will be the keynote speaker.
 
Finally, for a third consecutive time, Duquesne University's graduate school of business has been ranked among the world's top business school for preparing MBA graduates for leadership in social, ethical and environmental stewardship. The Beyond Grey Pinstripes survey, administered by the Aspen Institute, ranked the school No. 25 among the top 100 in the world. 
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Liberty Tire Recycling, The Women and Girls Foundation and Duquesne University 
 

Greener Expressions launches an Angie's List for Pittsburgh sustainability, hiring

Greg DiMedio believes that companies that are committed to being truly sustainable in practice should have a competitive edge in today's market.
 
This is the premise of Greener Expressions, a new company that has launched its first directory in Pittsburgh, GreenerPittsburgh.com,  with the goal of emerging as the Angie's List or Yelp of the sustainability set. Looking for a dry cleaner that uses non-toxic products? A lawn service that promotes organics? Greener Pittsburgh wants to be the go-to resource for green companies, offering consumers advice, information and products in Pittsburgh.
 
"Our mission is to aggregate, educate and promote greener services," explains DiMedio, CEO. "We want to perfect this model in Pittsburgh. Our next stop is Philly, then D.C. and then nationally."
 
Green marketing is a $208 billion dollar market and growing at 15% a year, says DiMedio, a founders of the for-profit company which is based in Lawrenceville. Unlike the Green Business Association, Greener Expressions will not evaluate the listings and state to what degree each company is green. The directory will, however, inspire more businesses to think about their carbon footprint, he says.
 
The website will maintain its integrity through consumer reviews, which will encourage honesty and disparage greenwashing, the practice of falsely contending to have a green agenda, he adds. It will give people the power to review any business and give businesses a chance to respond. City Councilman Bill Peduto says the company has his full endorsement.

"I brought the team together and support the company in an informal but proud way," says Peduto.
 
Greener Expressions has been working on its strategic business model directory for a year and has raised $150,000 from private investors. The company has six full-time staffers and plans to hire in the near future for technical developers, customer service, sales and support.
 
"Our goal is to build a green marketplace in support of an online community," says DiMedio. "It's a blend of social mission and a promotional marketing tool." 
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Greg DiMedio, Greener Expressions
 

Pitt undergrad invents electric scooter, PEV0 by Pulse Motors. Vote for him!

Micah Toll has lofty aspirations as an undergraduate inventor at Pitt.

Among his early accomplishments are a lightweight building material, made of plastic and foam, for use in the rapid deployment of shelters in third world countries. Toll also retro-fitted his dorm room with space-age stilts to maximize storage space.

And his latest invention--an urban, personal electric vehicle zero or PEV0--just might win him recognition as "College Entrepreneur of the Year" by Entrepreneur Magazine. But he needs your vote to land him in the winner's circle.  

Toll wants to change the urban landscape with his green-minded PEV0s. A senior mechanical engineering major in Pitt's Swanson School of Engineering, Toll founded Pulse Motors with two fellow students, Max Pless and Thorin Tobiassen. The company is working on a cool line of urban scooters, which get 15 to 30 miles on a single charge and can zip up the steepest hills on campus with ease.

"Our vehicles are designed to be the ideal solution for millions of commuters driving in and around urban centers," says Toll. "Instead of a single person commuting in a two-ton gas-guzzler, our vehicles allow drivers to zip effortlessly along using minimal energy and no fossil fuels while producing absolutely zero tailpipe emissions."

No slouch when it comes to competition, Toll placed first in Pitt's 2009 Randall Family big Idea Competition for his new-age building materials. He was also on the winning team in the Energy Efficient Building Technologies Challenge, hosted by Pitt's Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, picking up a $5,000 prize.

And he won an award for his kit to test for toxins in imported Chinese drywall.

Vote for Toll before the Sept. 12 deadline. The winner will be the focus of a feature article in the magazine's January issue.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Micah Toll, University of Pittsburgh

How cool is your roof? Check out the options on top at the region's first sustainable roof project

How many ways are there to green a roof?

Quite a few, actually. Burns & Scalo has unveiled a unique rooftop demonstration project in Crafton that illustrates the many ways that solar arrays, sustainable rooftop gardens and energy-saving roof products can save money for commercial customers. The Scalo Solar Sunscape Demonstration Project is a living research laboratory and training center not just for companies but also university researchers who are studying the latest ways to put solar energy to work, explains TJ Willetts, director of marketing.

"In about 10 years, we think people will ask one another what kind of solar technology they have on their roofs the same way they're asking about cell phones now," says Willetts. "It’s the technology of the future. It's such a great story for Pittsburgh."

Burns & Scalo has been in the roofing business for years, so moving into solar made sense. The demo project is a working lab of three energy-producing photovoltaic technologies-- polycrystalline modules, cylindricals and thin film photovoltaic panels--five different vegetative green roof garden systems and the latest in efficiency products including daylights and reflective roof membranes.

Sustainable roof projects show a return within five years, Scalo says. Buildings that use a combination of solar arrays and vegetative garden systems are generally finding energy savings of 38 percent.

Key is the project's educational component, says Willetts. Thirty data sensors monitor energy generation, information that will be used by researchers to study the benefits of the technologies. Project partners include Carnegie Mellon University, University of Pittsburgh, Penn State, Green Building Alliance, Three Rivers Clean Energy and the Center for Roofing Innovation.

“This project will generate an extensive amount of research data that will shape how we integrate sustainability in our buildings for generations to come,” says Jack Scalo, president and CEO of Scalo Solar Solutions.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: TJ Willetts, Scalo Solar Solutions

 


Green energy savings starts with the smallest of consumers at Propel Schools

Propel Charter Schools is bringing its creative thinking in education to the city of Pittsburgh this fall with the opening of the city's first charter school on the Northside.

Known for offering innovative educational opportunities, especially in art and technology, Propel is also partnering with Direct Energy for a Green Schools initiative through Alliance to Save Energy, teaching students how to save energy and electricity in the smallest but most effective of ways.

The Green Schools program got underway this month at Propel Braddock Hills Elementary and will expand to Propel's eight locations across greater Pittsburgh. The objective is a powerful one, educating and empowering students, administrators, teachers and custodial staff to work together to reduce the school's overall energy usage by five to 15 percent.

“The Green Schools program not only teaches young people about the importance of effective, efficient use of energy, but also demonstrates firsthand the significance that small, individual actions can have on their school, in their home and in the community,” said Cory Byzewski, vice president of U.S. North for Direct Energy.

The schools will become learning labs where students learn about energy efficiency, assess usage in their school and apply science, math and language arts to solve problems and make improvements. Simple awareness--like turning off lights that aren't needed--can save thousands of dollars says Byzewski.

Propel serves a diverse population of 2,500 children in eight schools including Homestead, Turtle Creek, Montour, McKeesport, Munhall, Braddock Hills (elementary and high school) as well as the Northside.

Check out more on Propel Schools and the Pittsburgh Hip Hop on LOCK Futuristicz Documentary on YouTube.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Cory Byzewski, Direct Energy

102 Sustainability Articles | Page: | Show All
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