The world’s largest green building event kicked off with a bang last week at the heart of our nation’s capital. While Greenbuild always features plenty of education sessions, talks, and tours, our favorite event will always be the trade show expo that, as always, was brimming with the newest innovations in sustainable design. We set off to explore the very best the trade show had to offer, from the world’s first Cradle to Cradle-certified solar panels to a net-zero energy daylight harvesting system. Keep reading to see our favorite picks for sustainable innovations from Greenbuild 2015.
Solar panels for buildings are no longer restricted to rooftop systems. Onyx Solar developed innovative “building integrated photovoltaic solutions” that make it possible for rain screens, skylights, and even pavers to generate solar energy. With a payback time of less than one year, their photovoltaic glass produces electricity while providing thermal and acoustical insulation. Our favorite of the Onyx Solar products were the transparent and walkable photovoltaic floors, which can be constructed in a variety of colors and lit from below.
The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) estimates that up to a billion birds die due to glass collisions every year in the United States. Fortunately, companies like GlasPro have created a bird-friendly glass specially coated with UV liquid, making the glass visible to birds, which can see ultraviolet light, but invisible to the human eye. We were particularly impressed by how GlasPro’s product is completely clear, unlike other bird-friendly glass alternatives that have thin but visible lines scoring the glass.
Marine Armor Defense (or MAD Products) developed an amazing all-purpose coating that can make virtually any surface waterproof, flame-resistant, acid-resistant, and rust preventative. The IMO-certified eco-friendly coating is water-based and comes in a liquid form that can be painted or spray-painted. When dried, the highly reflective UV stable material has a 1500-psi tensile strength and can withstand the full freeze and thaw cycle. The product, which can withstand 200-mile-per-hour winds, will soon be used to paint the roofs of housing in Haiti as part of a humanitarian project.
Winner of the USGBC’s 2014 Best Product for Water Efficiency, the Original Rainwater Pillow has been a staple of Greenbuild’s Expos for years. The innovative rainwater and stormwater harvesting system is horizontal, meaning it can be easily tucked away in unused spaces, such as beneath decks, and customized to a variety of sizes. The collected rainwater can be used for irrigation or hooked up to a secondary water treatment and filtration system that will clean the water to a drinking level standard found to be most often cleaner than any other water source.
SunPower is the world’s first and only company to receive Cradle to Cradle (C2C) certification for their solar panels. This means that their C2C-certified E-Series and X-Series solar panels were created from materials safe for humans and the environment, manufactured using renewable energy and water-efficient technologies, and can be recycled at the end of the solar panels’ life. This is a huge feat given that one of the biggest criticisms against solar panels are the often environmentally toxic materials and processes used in manufacturing.
This year’s Greenbuild show home was the stunning net-zero Unity Home, a solar-powered prefab assembled in just three days. Filled with eco-friendly and Cradle-to-Cradle certified products from floor to ceiling, the modern LEED v4 Platinum-seeking home combines high quality prefab construction with state-of-the-art products. Unity Homes’ incredible and beautiful prefab construction is paving the way towards affordable, smarter, and more sustainable housing.
The darling of KOHLER’s booth at Greenbuild 2015 was KOHLER Clarity, a ceramic water filtration system that eliminates over 99 percent of contaminants and costs less than a penny per person per day to operate. The sleek but simple design was developed in collaboration with World Vision, iDE, Water Mission, and others to bring safe and reliable drinking water to developing nations around the world. Field testing has already begun in November in India and Africa. The water system can filter up to 40 liters of water per day.
Tubular daylighting devices have been around for decades, but Replex Plastics created one of the most forward-thinking net-zero energy daylight harvesting systems we’ve ever seen. Their high-efficiency sky dome funnels natural light into the building during the day, without allowing solar heat gain, and is paired with LEDs that auto-dim or brighten in response to daylight sensors. The LEDs are powered with rooftop photovoltaic arrays that are sized using an algorithm that looks at daylight resource data for the building’s location.
Images © Lucy Wang