“How can we quantify the sustainability of buildings?”
Buildings are amongst the most important facets of our civilization. Because of them, we can live, work, and play freely. But like most things created by humans, they take up environmental resources. And since we want to be as sustainable as possible, we need some way to measure the environmental impact of each building. That’s why the United States Green Building Council has developed a certification system called LEED. LEED works by giving “points” for each sustainable activity the building does, whether it be brownfield redevelopment energy optimization, or using regional materials. Based upon these points, the building may be awarded a LEED certification (with levels specified by the figure) and become eligible for incentives such as tax credits. Because of the system’s success, numerous countries around the world have expressed interest in the system, including the rapidly developing India and China.
“How can we measure how resilient the grid is?”
Grid reliability is a great way to measure the stability of the grid. But unfortunately, it does not give us the complete picture. When a grid systems experience are taken down, they need time to recover. The less time it takes, then the more resilient a grid will be. Taken the two systems in the picture for example. When the bottom one experiences a disruption, not only will it need a long time to recover but it does not reach close to its full potential again. In contrast, the top one only experiences a brief hiccup and quickly flows back to normal. This measure is called Grid Resilience and is an important part of the analysis of electrical systems.
“What is one is one measure of how functional the grid is?”
The grid is one of the most important works of engineering to society. Nearly every facet of our modern lives depends upon it, whether it be using energy to warm our homes, the plug-in wifi hotspots to communicate with our friends, or even keeping the food stored in our refrigerators cold. Since it is important, we must use our engineering mindset to keep track of how stable this system is. One way to do that is to introduce a measure called Grid Reliability, which is the ratio of the times when the grid is functioning to not functioning. With this tool, we can see which parts of the grid need assistance and why.
“How can we prevent moisture from seeping into a building?”
Many people around the world live in very damp places. In such locations, moisture often seeps into interior spaces, causing great discomfort and sanitary issues to the people who love inside. So how can we use our engineering mindset to solve this problem? Well, what if we were to insulate our buildings with materials that could resist the passage of water? Well, this is the idea behind damp proofing and is a very vital service for many people in this world.
“How can we use insulation to maximize a building’s temperature inertness?”
If you live in an environment where the daily temperature can change very rapidly such as the Midwestern United States, you might want your home and office to be as thermally inert as possible. So how can we use our engineering mindset to solve this problem? Well, we know that if we use insulation then a building’s temperature will be more stable. So what if we were to just maximize our insulation to the limits? This is the idea behind superinsulation and is a new approach and radical approach to building design.
Water Heat Recycling
“How can we recycle some of the warm water from our showers?”
There is something very wrong with our water use. We spend a great deal of energy making hot water for our showers, and once it’s used it gets completely wasted! So how can we use our engineering mindset to solve this problem? Well, we know that this hot water has a certain amount of energy associated with it. And we also know that we can extract some of this energy to perform useful processes. So what if we were to take the wasted water and run it through a heat exchanger to warm some other water? This could save us a large amount of time and energy dedicated since if we wanted to warm up the other water to be used in household applications, we would need less energy. This is the fundamental idea behind Water Heat Recycling and is used in buildings all over the world.
How microgrids can help get Puerto Rico back on its feet
“How can the people of Puerto Rico use microgrid technology to help get their infrastructure up and running?”
For those of you who are out of the loop, a recent hurricane has totaled the energy infrastructure of Puerto Rico. As much as 95% of the island is out of power, affecting around 3.5 million individuals! But how can the people of Puerto Rico use their engineering mindset to fix this problem? Well, if they have been keeping up on recent trends, then they might have heard of a little technology called microgrids. They can be set up much quicker than for a centralized grid to be repaired and are even cheaper to run. The German company Sonnen GmbH is already supplying the people of Puerto Rico with these much-needed systems.