Greenbuild Expo Rolling

12/01/2005


Walking the Greenbuild exhibit floor in Atlanta this year, one felt that the most obvious difference from past shows was the size. With roughly 400 exhibitors and an attendance increase of about 2,000 from last year's record-breaking crowd of 8,000, the show is certainly growing. But like many shows M/E/P consulting engineers attend, it's often the case that the larger the event, the less relevance a show has to specific products engineers are looking for. Greenbuild is no different, with lots of carpeting, furniture and flooring displays. The good news is that there were some new players from the M/E/P world and even some surprising vendors exhibiting.

Case in point was Indianapolis-based Great Lakes Chemical, the manufacturer of the FM-200 fire-suppression clean agent. No shock to see these folks at NFPA, but why Greenbuild? According to Karen Brown, who handles Great Lakes' public relations, the company feels it's part of the LEED/sustainability puzzle and wants to get its message out there.

For example, Brown pointed out that FM 200 systems were part of the Environmental Protection Agency's new National Computer Center, a silver LEED-certified building, and the halon-replacing clean agent met EPA's Significant New Alternatives Program (SNAP) criteria—a qualification, she feels, speaks for itself.

But in the context of LEED, she said the special suppression agent can qualify under the Energy and Atmosphere category for reducing ozone depletion and supporting compliance with the Montreal Protocol. Brown added she's even heard that the system can be applied toward the LEED innovations category in some cases.

Also from the world of fire protection was Ansul, who was exhibiting its Sapphire clean agent. The clear, non-toxic fluid, also a halon alternative, becomes a gas when activated, but is so safe, according to the manufacturer, that people in an affected area can continue to function immediately after a fire is suppressed.

Of course, both of these products use no water, and using less water was a theme that ran throughout the show floor. In fact, a number of water-conserving products landed on BuildingGreen's Top 10 products of the show, including Toto and its Aquia dual-flush toilet, which only uses 0.9 gallons in low-flush mode. Sloan's Uppercut Dual-Flush Flushometer valve also made the group's list, notably for being the first dual-flush technology for commercial toilets that relies on water line pressure. BuildingGreen, which publishes Environmental Building News , also honored Ice Energy with an award for its Ice Bear thermal energy storage system, which is targeted for smaller commercial buildings or large residential homes.

Sticking with the subject of water, a number of different vendors exhibited a variety of interesting non-chemical cooling tower water treatment alternatives. Perhaps buoyed by the attention the technology gained as part of the innovative M/E/P systems employed in the David L. Lawrence Center in Pittsburgh—the home of the '03 Greenbuild conference—Essex, Conn.-based Clearwater Systems, with its Dolphin treatment system, was joined by three other vendors offering similar solutions. Clearwater's product generates a pulsed, time-varying induced electric field inside a PVC pipe fit within a cooling tower's recirculating system. The electric signal changes the way minerals precipitate in the water, averting hard-lime scale.

Fort Wayne, Ind.-based Superior Manufacturing had a similar story to tell, except that its product (below) is based on magnetic technology (visit the HVAC community for a case study). Toronto-based EnviroTower exhibited a custom filter system that accomplishes many of the same anti-scaling measures and provides legionella protection and operational efficiencies by automatically and constantly adjusting system conditions. Last, but not least, Newport News, Va.-based Zentox Industrial and Commercial Water Treatment presented a solution based on ozone injection.

Kim Shinn, P.E., a principal with TLC Engineering for Architecture's Nashville office, and the author of Reducing Potable Water Use: Calculating LEED Water Efficiency Credit 3 , told us at the show that the important thing for engineers to note in considering such technologies is water savings. While the "non-chemical" part certainly sounds green, he said, keep in mind that most chemicals being used in cooling towers are approved to go directly down the drain.

Shinn, who has experimented with "dew harvesting"—collecting condensate from air-handling units for cooling tower water—said the real savings with the types of products noted above come in eliminating "blowdown" water—the water regularly discharged from cooling towers because chemical concentrations get too great.

Of course, the chemicals discharged in this manner don't always sit well with many environmentalists. And in an odd twist, the Sierra Club is objecting to a proposed cooling tower plan that would save water, albeit in an unorthodox way. The Chicago Tribune reported that a power plant in an outlying area of the city wants to use treated blackwater for cooling tower make-up water. The organization, joined by concerned citizens, raised objections regarding the material that may be released and carried airborne in the evaporative process. Despite sounding unsanitary in principle, Shinn said, it's not such a crazy or even illegal idea. That said, to do it properly requires a lot of filtration and on-site treatment, that frankly, he feels, would offset any cost savings.

On the other hand, Scott Bowman, a principal with KJWW Engineering Consultants, Des Moines, Iowa, also attending the show, told CSE that larger industrial facilities often have their own on-site treatment facilities and so it might not be a great stretch in all cases.

Elsewhere on the water front, a new chiller produced by Multistack, West Salem, Wis., caught Bowman's attention, as he said it allows geothermal water to be employed as the source. "We've been using their products for quite a while, but having the option to use a ground source opens the door for a lot of new possibilities," he said. "And it's also a flexible option because you can decouple the ground source and heat pumps."

Another product that caught Bowman's eye was "Green Touchscreen," a computer product that serves as a post-construction user tool that can be employed for anything from education about the building itself, to wayfinding to gathering various kinds of general information, such as temperatures.

Bowman also recommends readers pick up a copy of Interface Engineering's new book on achieving platinum level LEED in a cost-effective manner. The book, Green Building Breakthrough: Engineering A Sustainable World , outlines the strategy the firm used to deliver the Oregon Health and Science University's River Campus One project for 10% under its original M/E/P budget. For a teaser see Platinum on a Budget .

The book can be ordered online from Interface's web site at www.ieice.com . Simply follow the links from the announcement on the home page.





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