Innovations in Green Engineering.

As the global human population continues to grow, there’s no doubt that we’re going to have to become a lot smarter in the way we develop the places we live and work. Retrofitting existing structures and buildings can go a long way towards making their environmental footprints smaller; but getting it right from the get go offers huge advantages. Here we explore just a small sampling of the most promising innovative, and sometimes unexpected, advances in green engineering over the past few years.

Using Excess Wind And Solar Power To Turn Water Into Hydrogen

One of the biggest challenges for solar and wind power has always been that you’re at the mercy of the elements. If the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining, you simply can’t harness that energy. On the flipside, when the sun is shining and heating demands are low, you have an excess of electricity that needs somewhere to go. Using this power to split water into hydrogen and oxygen – with a device called an electrolyser – could turn that excess energy into a useful fuel for electric vehicles, get blended in with an existing natural gas supply, or sent to fuel cells to create electricity at night or when the wind isn’t blowing.

Turning Eyesore Retaining Walls Into Green Masterpieces

geocell technology

Retaining walls might not be the most exciting of engineering structures. But they’re a vital component in long-term soil protection and the stabilization of slopes and embankments. For a long time they’ve been nothing more than a necessary eyesore; but through the use of geocell technology, that could be set to change. Geocells placed together form a kind of honeycomb structure with in-built drainage that is remarkably strong (as bees have known for a very long time, of course!)

The outer layer also happens to make perfect plant containers, trapping nutrients in the soil around the roots; and retaining enough water to allow improved growth. In addition, because the fill for the walls can be sourced from local soils or packed with recycled materials; both the cost and the carbon footprint of the project can be reduced further. And the aesthetics certainly aren’t bad either!

Critter-Friendly Coastal Construction

geocell

People have always loved to build along the shoreline; but too often we forget that this is prime real estate for plenty of other important creatures too. Protecting our planet’s water quality is just one of the functions that wetlands and coastlines perform. And making room for them as well as us can have benefits all round. Solutions include incorporating ‘soft features’ into hard engineering; giving small creatures like oysters, barnacles, fish and marine plants room to live and grow. Making sure facilities are in place to treat rain water runoff from littered and polluted streets and other urban sources before they enter wetlands. Or the ocean is another consideration that can be made when planning a ‘greener’ coastal or riverside development.

Energy Efficient Skyscrapers

Building upwards instead of outwards has been a strategy humanity has used for increasing the amount of space available in cities for decades. And of course, it’s also become a way for architects, engineers and corporations to show off! The Jeddah Tower in Saudi Arabia, is set to take the record for the tallest of them all from the Burj Khalifa (which has held the record for over a decade) in 2020. And at just over one kilometer tall, this is an impressive feat indeed!

What’s most interesting to us however, is how sufficient and sustainable the build is planned to be too. Adrian Smith and Gordon Gills Architecture have designed the structure to be what they call “super sustainable” from the get go. This means taking things like internal climate control and air circulation into consideration in the design process in a manner; that will improve the entire building’s energy efficiency and reduce the emissions created. Their innovative Pearl Tower construction in Guangzhou used the very height of the building; which makes it subject to extreme winds at the top, to create energy through an inbuilt wind turbine. By creating a causeway for wind to flow through, they not only created the ideal place to build the turbine. But helped to reduce the wind load on the structure itself too.

From how we alleviate traffic congestion and overcrowding in cities; to the ways we source our energy, the scope for more sustainable innovation is endless. With a bit of effort and outside the box thinking, a brighter future for all really is possible.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *