September Scientific American: All About Green, Sustainability, Energy + Carbon

Scientific_american_september_2006_1 The September edition of Scientific American went completely environmental with topics ranging from nuclear power to renewable energy, from hydrogen transportation to sustainable building, from climate repair to carbon emissions, and from coal to advanced technology.  This issue really covered the important topics in a smart, sophistocated, and thoughtful way.  I wanted to relate some of the concepts that the magazine mentioned in its article by Eberhard K. Jochem, "An Efficient Solution."  Generally speaking, the crux of the article is that wasting less energy is the quickest, cheapest way to curb carbon emissions. 

Need for Green Building:
Swiss_re_tower_london Nearly 35% of greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings, and 66% of all energy converted into a form usuable for human consumption is lost in conversion.  By improving the process whereby energy becomes usuable for human consumption, it is possible to reduce carbon emissions.  And more efficient buildings will play a role in this process.  If we assume that energy prices will continue to rise, every piece of technology that saves energy is an economic, business opportunity to be captured. 

Building Construction:
Many buildings are constructed with only the first costs in mind.  Maybe this is attributable to the process of bidding for projects, which seems to only include an analysis of the total build cost.  The life-cycle costs of a building, which would consider the operating costs, never enters into the calculation (unless developers request bids for products with green features and the life-cycle cost is implicit in the construction). 

Example – Green Renovated Apartments:
Edificio_malecon_hok_1The article mentions a project in Ludwigshafen, Germany, with 500 living spaces.  These places were difficult to rent.  So the apartments were renovated to adhere to low-energy consumption standards, which required about 30 kilowatt-hours per square meter per year.  Subsequently, rental demand for the apartments soared to 3 x capacity.  As a business person, this should ring a bell:  an automatic waiting list, pent up demand, nominal advertising as word-of-mouth grows legs, and a healthy business conscience.  Not a bad strategy. 

If you’re thinking about renovating, building, or replacing something, you should know about energy-efficient, green products before making the decision to purchase.  Here are some practical tips from the article for using less energy. 

  • Stove – Convection ovens can cut energy by roughly 20%.
  • Walls – thick cellulose insulation can prevent heat loss (winter) and heat gain (summer).
  • Refrigerator – new refrigerators use 25% of the energy required for a 1974 model (just buy all energy star electronics + appliances).
  • Compact fluorescent bulbs – uses 25% of the energy required for incandescents and last 8-10 times longer.Menara_mesiniaga_ken_yeang_1
  • Computers – LCD screens use 60% less energy than conventional CRTs.
  • Windows – Double panes filled with low-conductivity gas (w/ edge seals made of silicone foam) reduce heat flow by 50%+ . 

Overall, the entire magazine was pretty amazing and offered examples of how different buildings are saving money and energy.  Buildings mentioned include the Swiss Re Tower (London), Menara Mesiniaga (Malaysia), Edificio Malecon (Buenos Aires), ABN-AMRO Headquarters (Amsterdam), Szencorp Building (Melbourne), Genzyme Corporation headquarters (Cambridge, Mass.), and Procter + Gamble’s factory (Germany).  Go out, get a copy, and read it…you’ll be smarter for doing it.   


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