Although Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Brock Environmental Center is considered a major landmark in the green building movement, it looks like that just wasn’t enough for the eco-loving team behind the project. Now, thanks to SmithGroup JJR architects and Hourigan Construction, the building, a net zero energy and net zero water masterpiece, is about to receive the world’s most prestigious accolade in sustainable building: a Living Building certification.
According to CBF Hampton Roads Director Christy Everett, the ambitious project was designed to be a model for future sustainability. “When we envisioned the Brock Environmental Center, we intended to raise the bar and demonstrate the built environment can actually give back to the natural environment rather than harm it,” she said. “We hope the Brock Center can be an international model for sustainability for years to come.”
The 10,500 square-foot center was built to provide all of its water and energy needs on site, while composting 100 percent of its building and human waste. To date, the building currently generates 80 percent more power than it uses thanks to its 168 rooftop solar panels and two wind turbines. Additionally energy advantageous is the strategic orientation of the structure, which uses ambient wind currents for natural cooling and circulation during the hot summer months. All of the center’s energy generation and use can be seen in real time at the building’s public energy dashboard.
To help with its zero waste objective, the building is equipped with composting toilets and even urine is collected and turned into green fertilizer that is then sold at local nurseries. The center is also the first commercial building in the U.S. to be granted a special permit that allows for the collection and reuse of rainwater for all of its water needs, including drinking water. The system uses large cisterns to collect rainwater, which is then treated to meet safety standards set by EPA’s Safe Water Drinking Act as well as local safety standards.
Set on a coastal marshland, the building not only needs to be storm resilient, but also prepared for the inevitable rise of sea levels. The Virginia Beach region is expected to sea at least a one meter rise by 2100. Accordingly, the Brock Center was built almost 14 feet above sea level so that it would be able to withstand future storm surges.
In order for a building to be awarded a Living Building certification, it must be able to perform up to International Living Future Institute’s standards for 12 months. The Brock Center’s 12 month test period ended in late March, at which point, the Future Living Institute audited the center to ensure it met all of the strict environmental criteria required to achieve certification.
Annette Osso, Co-founder and Managing Director of the Resilient Virginia nonprofit commended the hard work and determination the team work put into the project. She said, “The Brock Center illustrates what can be done by committed organizations, working with the public sector, to ensure that energy production, water management, and waste handling not only have less environmental impact but actually give back to the surrounding communities and their ecology”.
The Brock Center will be awarded the Living Building certification in May at the Living Building Conference in Seattle, Washington.
Four bright young minds in Thane, Mumbai, have come up with an idea to use dry waste to generate electricity. Instead of dumping dry waste into a garbage bin and filling up landfills, this novel idea makes use of domestic waste that every household in India produces, and turns it into a sustainable form of energy. And it can prevent mishaps like the Deonar dumping ground fires, too.
Aged between 10 and 13, the girls have devised an instrument with two parts that converts dry waste into electricity.
The bottom part of the instrument burns dry waste. The heat generated from this is used to move the turbines attached in the top-most part of the furnace. These turbines help in creating electricity.
The girls, Pooja Ramdas, Nikita Dhamapurkar, Jovila D’souza and Sharanya Bhamble spent two weeks figuring out the minute details, researching and experimenting. They were inspired by the working of a pressure cooker.
Sharanya Bhamble explains the eco-friendly process: it starts off with segregating dry and wet waste. While the dry waste is burnt in the furnace, the wet waste is used for composting.
“The toxic fumes produced in the process (of burning dry waste) are filtered, making it pure and released in the environment,” she said. “Meanwhile, we put seawater in the top part of the two-part-furnace, which turns into steam when the waste is burning. This steam is then released on a set of turbines which rotate and produce electricity in the process.”
To test the device, the girls used a cycle pump to create air pressure. This generated enough electricity to light up the bulbs that were fixed to the device.
In Mumbai, about two-thirds of its solid waste that is dumped into landfills is illegal and beyond the capacity of the landfill.
Repeated dumping, with no waste segregation, caused the massive Deonar fires in the months of January and February this year. Smoke from these fires covered the areas surrounding the dumping ground, forcing schools and colleges to shut, and people to fall ill.
Most of the waste that ends up in landfills are actually biodegradable or fit to be converted into energy. With waste segregation and municipal body support, sustainable waste management isn’t difficult.
While on a macro-level, the municipal solid waste-to-energy process requires installation of biogas plants, on an individual level, devices such as the one invented by the students can help reduce the negative impact on the environment.