Flower power: How One Company is Beautifying the Wind Turbine

Tulip-shaped ‘eco-art’ turbines address common complaints about noise, danger to wildlife and ugliness

Flower Turbines designed a product that’s suitable for built-up areas.

Photograph: Jan de Groen

Tulips and flowers could help harness the power of the wind, after a green energy company came up with its own spin on wind power in an “eco-art” design.

Flower Turbines, based in the US and the Netherlands, has installations across Rotterdam, Amsterdam, parts of Germany, Israel and Colombia.  The company aims to democratize green energy for everyone and make small windfarms a leading player in the green energy industry.

The turbines pose no danger to birds and other wildlife, particularly in urban settings, the company claims, and they create noise at a low frequency undetectable to humans.

Opponents of windfarms often cite noise concerns along with aesthetic complaints.  Dr Daniel Farb, the CEO of Flower Turbines, hopes to have solved this problem with an “eco-art” design.

“Big turbines are very efficient, but for some people they’re an eyesore,” he said.  “They definitely produce noise, flicker and some degree of environmental degradation.  I was looking for a way to solve these problems, to make wind energy available for everybody.

The turbines create noise at a low sound level that is undetectable to humans. Photograph: c/o flowerturbines.com

“I felt that there had to be a missing solution that would work for the combination of houses, large buildings, the environment – close to people.  In other words, how could you make something that could be quiet but also efficient?”

The company has also looked into expanding into e-mobility, creating wind- and solar-powered electric bicycle charging stations.

Roy Osinga, the European director of Flower Turbines, said: “Our product – compared to big windmills – is silent, and good-looking, which makes it very successful for building in cities, because nobody wants to live next to a turbine which is up to 200 meters high making a lot of noise.

“Solar power doesn’t perform that well at night, or during the winter.  The turbines that we are delivering are a good match with solar energy, because wind and solar have natural opposite panel patterns when they produce energy.

“We are not a competitor or an alternative for the big energy companies.  We are a solution provider for companies and corporations that really want to pivot their business towards sustainability.”

Europe is working towards becoming climate-neutral by 2050.

In the UK, most of the offshore workforce, including in wind power, could be involved in delivering low-carbon energy by 2030.


Author: Rhi Storer, the Guardian

Maxeon signs deal for 1 GW of modules for $1 billion solar project

Burns & McDonnell completes work on a 50 MW solar project for CenterPoint Energy, Fourth Wave to spin off its GeoSolar Tech unit, and Sunwealth secures financing for its LMI solar expansion.

photo courtesy of Burns & McDonnell


Maxeon Solar Technologies said it will supply around 1 GW of its bifacial Performance 5 UPP solar panels for the $1 billion Gemini solar plus storage power plant project approximately 33 miles northeast of Las Vegas, Nevada.  The project is being built and will be owned and operated by Primergy Solar.

The agreement calls for nearly 1.8 million modules to be supplied over a four-quarter period starting in the second quarter of 2022; project completion is planned by the end of 2023.

The Gemini Project is a 690 MWac solar photovoltaic plus a 380 MW/1,400 MWh battery energy storage project.

The Gemini project will be one of the largest operational solar power system in the U.S. when completed.  It is expected to provide a foundation to support the start-up and initial operation of Maxeon’s new Performance line module capacity for the U.S. solar power market.  Using large-format G12 mono-PERC solar cells manufactured in Malaysia, and module assembly in Mexicali, Mexico, this project is expected to take a significant portion of the expected output of Maxeon’s new capacity during the first year of operation.

Burns & McDonnell completes Indiana project

EPC firm Burns & McDonnell said it recently completed construction of CenterPoint Energy’s 50 MW utility-scale solar project near the Ohio River in southern Indiana.

The Troy Solar power plant uses First Solar 440-W thin-film photovoltaic modules and consists of approximately 150,000 solar panels distributed across 300 acres. Modules are mounted on a NEXTracker single-axis tracker enabling the modules to track with the sun to maximize energy generation.

Burns & McDonnell was hired after the project’s first engineer-procure-construct (EPC) contractor exited the market. The company provided engineering, detailed electrical, civil and structural design, procurement specifications, and construction execution services.

GeoSolar spin off

Fourth Wave Energy said that GeoSolar Technologies filed a registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission in connection with the spin-off of GST from Fourth Wave. Following the spin-off, GST and Fourth Wave will be two separate and independent public companies.

As part of the spin-off agreement, GST received all commercial rights to the GeoSolar Plus technology and patents in exchange for the issuance of around one share of GST common stock for each outstanding common share of Fourth Wave.

The GeoSolar Plus system is designed to reduce energy consumption and associated greenhouse gas emissions in residences and commercial buildings. It is made up of a number of components including solar/PV and geothermal and is designed to produce more energy than it produces with no carbon.



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Scientists gain an atom-level view into Perovskite cell efficiency

Using Department of Energy laboratories, scientists learned at the atomic level that a liquid-like motion in perovskites may explain how they efficiently produce electric currents.

A team of scientists studied the inner workings of a perovskite material to better understand the material’s behavior at the atomic scale.  Their work revealed that a liquid-like motion in perovskites may explain how they efficiently produce electric currents.  A perovskite solar cell is one type of solar cell.  Solar cell efficiencies of devices using these materials have increased from 3.8% in 2009 to 25.5% in 2020 in single-junction architectures, and, in silicon-based tandem cells, to 29.15%, exceeding the maximum efficiency achieved in single-junction silicon solar cells.  Perovskite solar cells are the fastest-advancing solar technology as of 2016.  Perovskite solar cells have become commercially attractive because of the higher efficiencies and relatively low production costs.

The scientists explained that when light hits a photovoltaic material, it excites electrons, prompting them to “pop out” of their atoms and move through the material, conducting electricity.  One problem is that the excited electrons can recombine with the atoms instead of traveling through the material.  This can cut the amount of electricity produced relative to the amount of sunlight that hits the material.

Perovskites do well at preventing this recombination, the scientists said.  Their work aimed to uncover what mechanism causes this and how more efficient solar cells can be developed.

Duke University led the effort that included scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The team studied one of the simplest perovskites, a compound of cesium, lead and bromine (CsPbBr3).  They then used X-ray scattering capabilities at Argonne’s Magnetic Materials group’s beamline.

The team captured the average positions of the atoms in a perovskite crystal at different temperatures.  They found that each lead atom and its surrounding cage of bromine atoms formed rigid units that behaved like molecules.  In particular, the units oscillated in a liquid-like manner.

One theory to explain how perovskites resist recombination is that these distortions in the lattice, or crystal structure, followed the free electrons as they traversed the material.  The electrons might deform the lattice, causing the liquid-like disturbances, which prevented them from falling back into their host atoms.  The researchers said this theory may offer new insights into how to design optimal perovskite materials for solar cells.

The data also indicated that molecules in the material oscillated within two-dimensional planes, with no motion across planes.  This two-dimensional nature could also help explain how the perovskite can prevent electron recombination, contributing to the materials’ efficiency.

To investigate the motion of the atoms directly, the team used neutron scattering capabilities at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.  Neutron scattering confirmed the pattern seen in the X-ray scattering experiment.  It also showed that it took almost no energy for the molecules to oscillate in two dimensions. The researchers said this helps to explain why the excited electrons could deform the lattice so easily.

A paper on the study, “Two-dimensional overdamped fluctuations of the soft perovskite lattice in CsPbBr3,” was published in Nature Materials in March.  Computational studies to support the experiment were performed at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center at Berkeley National Laboratory.  The research was funded by DOE’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Materials Science and Engineering division.

Author:  David Wangan, PV Magazine

Images: Dennis Schroeder/NREL and Duke University

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SMART Competition and the Collaborative Learning

The SMART Competition was originally designed as a team-based program that integrated science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and provided a hands-on, career technology based real-world engineering experience (CTE).  The Smart Education Foundation, host of the SMART Competition, has a goal of positively influencing the motivation of students to pursue architecture and engineering careers.  Using professional tools, provided by Bentley Systems, students completing the competition have a set of marketable skills sought after by companies all over the world.

According to Michelene T. H. Chi & Ruth Wylie, researchers at Arizona State University, students learn better from interactive activities where they talk, act, deliberate, and reflect compared with passive and (superficially) active behaviors, such as taking verbatim notes while listening to a lecture.  Asking open-ended questions, peer teaching, and group problem-solving are some of the most effective ways to promote deep learning.  Collaboration also helps students develop interpersonal and teamwork skills, which are key 21st century competencies.

ICAP framework Chi and Wylie explored and findings published in Educational Psychologist, defined the cognitive engagement activities based on students’ overt behaviors and proposes that engagement behaviors can be categorized and differentiated into one of four modes: Interactive, Constructive, Active, and Passive. The ICAP hypothesis predicts that as students become more engaged with the learning materials, from passive to active to constructive to interactive, their learning will increase.

The SMART Competition engages students in each ICAP learning experience: Interactive, Constructive, Active, and Passive.  Student teams download materials, conduct research, learn design tools and methodologies, create facilities and complete real-world simulations as they redesign elements of the campus they are provided.

The SMART Competition encourages students to follow their “academic nose” to develop solutions buried within the SMART acronym:  Sustainable Materials and Renewable Technology.

SMART’s use of Bentley’s OpenBuilding Designer and Energy Simulator software enables teams to use reality modeling methods to address Green Building Design, Energy Conservation, Localized Power Generation, Intelligent Power Distribution, Architecture, Sustainable Technology, Transportation and Electric Vehicles.

The SMART Competition (www.smartcompetition.org) is a global STEM and Career and Technology Education (CTE) education program.  The competition is open to all high school and university students.  The competition is designed to attract all students without regard or bias of gender, race, geographic, socio-economic or academic performance level.

For additional information, contact Michael Andrews, m.andrews@smartcompetition.org

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Transparent Solar Panels

Imagine a world where we could generate electricity using the surface of our windows, smartphones, our car’s sun roof or the glass roof of our office building.  What sounds like a far-away dream, is on its way to become reality thanks to transparent solar panels.

Conventional solar panels, more specifically solar photovoltaic panels, absorb sunlight and convert photons (particles of sunlight) into usable energy.  The difficulty with making transparent solar panels is that the sunlight passes through the transparent material.  This means that the process that generates the electricity in the solar cell cannot be started because no light is absorbed. This article presents two interesting attempts to overcome this obstacle: partially transparent panels and fully transparent panels employing organic salts, detailing the advantages and disadvantages of solar panels of these kinds.

Partially Transparent Solar Panels

Heliatek GmbH, a German company, has developed partially transparent solar panels, which absorb 60% of the sunlight they receive.  The efficiency of these panels is 7.2%, compared to an efficiency of 12% for conventional solar photovoltaic panels of this manufacturer.  The efficiency is reduced because only 60% of the light is absorbed by the panel while the remaining 40% is transmitted through the panel.  Heliatek hereby shows how the solar energy production can be adjusted by adjusting the balance between light transmitted and absorbed.

Office buildings with large south-facing glass areas are already employing tinted glass to reduce the transmitted sunlight.  The partially transparent solar panels have a high commercial potential for situations like these.

Fully Transparent Solar Panels

Although partially transparent solar panels are suitable for the previously mentioned cases, they are not perfectly suitable for clear windows or touchscreens.  A breakthrough achieved by the Michigan State University where scientists produced a fully transparent solar panel that resembles normal glass could however fulfill this need.

The fully transparent solar panel may by definition not absorb visible sunlight.  However, researchers at Michigan State University used organic salts that absorb specific invisible wavelengths of light, such as ultraviolet light.  This light is then transformed and the material of the panel moves it to its edges, where stripes of photovoltaic solar cells convert it into electricity.

The efficiency of the fully transparent solar panels is currently about 1% with an estimated potential of 5%.  Compared to the average efficiency of 15% for conventional solar panels, efficiencies of 5% and 7.2% for the fully and partially transparent panels respectively are still quite low.

However, solar panel efficiency does not mean everything.  In practice it only means that the less efficient panel needs to be larger than the more efficient one in order to produce the same amount of electricity.  As transparent solar panels can be integrated into windows in buildings, it means that the lower efficiency is overcompensated by the potential areas of employment.


article written and published by GreenMatch

Transparent solar cells don’t steal light from greenhouse crops

Advances in transparent solar cells mean that soon we might be able to install them into windows and greenhouses. But in the latter case, would they deprive plants of vital sunlight? To find out, researchers at North Carolina State University grew lettuce under various wavelengths of light and found that the plants did just fine.

Organic solar cells are emerging as a viable system for renewable energy, thanks to a number of advantages. They can be more flexible than other technologies, be made transparent or semi-transparent, and the wavelengths of light they harvest can be adjusted.

In theory, that could make them perfect for embedding into greenhouse roofs. There, these organic solar cells could capture certain wavelengths of light while still allowing some of it to pass through to the plants below.  In a previous study, the NC State team investigated how much energy this kind of setup could produce, and found that it could be enough to make greenhouses energy neutral.

There is one big piece of that puzzle missing – nobody asked the plants how it affected them.  So that was the focus of the new work.

The researchers grew groups of red leaf lettuce in greenhouses for 30 days, which took them up to full maturity. The different groups were all exposed to the same growing conditions, such as temperature, water, fertilizer and CO2 concentration.  The only difference was light.

The lettuces were split into four groups – a control group that received regular white light, and three experimental groups that grew under light passed through different filters. These changed the ratio of red to blue light that they received, to mimic wavelengths that would be blocked by transparent solar cells.

Then the team monitored several markers of plant health, including number and size of leaves, weight, how much CO2 they absorbed and the levels of antioxidants they contained. And perhaps surprisingly, it turns out that the lettuces thrived regardless of what type of light they received.

“Not only did we find no meaningful difference between the control group and the experimental groups, we also didn’t find any significant difference between the different filters,” says Brendan O’Connor, co-corresponding author of the study.

The team says that it’s currently working on testing the effects of blocking different wavelengths of light on other crops, like tomatoes.

The research was published in the journal Cell Reports Physical Science.

By Michael Irving

Source: North Carolina State University


Assessing smart buildings in the digital era

By Marta Soncodi, Telecommunications Industry Association and Thomas Blewitt, UL

In the past, most smart or intelligent buildings were designed and built primarily for sustainability, energy efficiency and health, acquiring recognition via programs that focused primarily on criteria like use of renewable energy and green construction materials; amount of greenspace, waste reduction and recycling efforts; and optimization of air quality, thermal comfort and natural daylight. While these criteria remain integral components of a smart building, the evolution of technology and digital transformation have significantly changed what now defines a smart building and how to effectively assess them.

It Takes a Holistic Approach

In today’s smart buildings, Information Communications and Technology (ICT) plays a leading role as emerging 5G, low-latency networking, sensor technologies and IoT applications like data analytics and machine learning all come together to make buildings smarter than ever.  Interoperable building systems and their devices are converging over network infrastructures and communicating with each other via open protocols to enable advanced building automation for increased efficiency, optimized operations and enhanced occupant productivity, safety, security and wellbeing.

In the digital era, smart buildings now have the opportunity to be designed and utilized for benefits not previously realized.  And in light of increasing global security threats and health concerns such as the COVID-19 pandemic, building intelligence is becoming even more critical and required by building owners, tenants and occupants alike.  With this increased demand, the value of smart buildings and ensuing business opportunity reaches across multiple company types and industries—including the entire ICT industry.

However, to truly succeed and create brand differentiation in the booming smart building market via technology that delivers increased efficiency, optimized operations and enhanced building occupant experience, those involved in the investment, planning, design and operation of smart buildings need insights, benchmarks and roadmaps based on accurate, comprehensive and quantitative data that considers the entirety of the building. Acquiring this data can only be done through holistic assessment criteria that focuses on all aspects of what constitutes a smart building in today’s digital world. But what exactly is that criteria and how is it measured?

Through the input of more than 60 leading commercial real estate, asset management, technology and ICT industry leaders, the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) in conjunction with UL, the leading global safety science company, has defined the following six criteria that form the basis of the SPIRE™ Smart Building Program for assessing and rating smart buildings:

  • Connectivity
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Life and property safety
  • Power and energy
  • Cybersecurity
  • Sustainability

It’s important to note that not one of these criteria alone make a building smart, but they work together in harmony to provide a complete, balanced assessment methodology that considers the modern-day challenges that come with the increasingly digital world we live in today.  To put it into context, consider that while the use of sensors to monitor potable water usage certainly contributes to sustainability, it is also critical to monitoring the quality of the water for health and wellbeing of building occupants.  This in turn requires reliable connectivity to transmit and share the information from monitoring systems, while enabling integration with other systems that can use that information to optimize power and energy usage. This all creates the need for cybersecurity measures to protect the critical information as it transmits between systems, while the potable water system itself must be protected to ensure both life and property safety. Only when all six criteria are considered together, as part of a holistic transparent, measurable and objective methodology, can today’s smart buildings truly be assessed.

How Criteria is Measured

Let’s take a closer look at how each of the six criteria are measured to acquire the quantitative data needed to provide a comprehensive, reliable and transparent framework that can be used by any organization globally to assess smart buildings and achieve consistent results.


Now dubbed the fourth utility, connectivity has become the most essential utility of a smart building, as crucial as water/sewer, electricity and gas utilities. Without connectivity, it is virtually impossible to optimize all other aspects of a smart building. Comprised of equipment and devices that are linked within a building and to external networks, connectivity enables building systems and applications to transmit, receive and share data. In assessing the capability of a smart building to effectively transmit data between internal systems and with external cloud and service provider networks, while also supporting future smart building technologies and innovations, assessing connectivity is measured based on the following factors:

Media—The type of media deployed withing a smart building is evaluated based on its ability to support current and future bandwidth capabilities, low latency, low-voltage power delivery and wireless coverage. This is determined by looking at the performance and standards compliance of cabling, public and private cellular technology and wireless applications.

Coverage—A smart building infrastructure should provide adequate and ubiquitous coverage by connecting devices and sensors for a range of systems (e.g., voice, data, security, wireless, lighting, building management, etc.) throughout the entire building and its surrounding property. Coverage is measured based on the number of wired data ports, percentage and type of Wi-Fi and cellular coverage, heat mapping and the number of carriers providing cellular coverage and support of e911 service.

Security—A critical aspect of a smart building is its ability to ensure the security of occupants and maintain physical security of the network and its infrastructure. This is determined based on the security of network spaces, devices and points of cable entry/egress, segregation of specific system traffic, client or asset tracking, e911 compliance and backup of security systems and information.

Expansion—Ensuring that connectivity will support ongoing changes to building systems and future expansion can be measured by the capacity and growth potential of pathways, power systems, bandwidth, and cellular and wireless coverage.

Resilience—Smart building connectivity should enable the network to adapt, recover and maintain critical operations in the case of an event. The resilience of connectivity can be measured by the redundancy of power and cabling, maintenance and troubleshooting processes, network interoperability, risk assessment capabilities, disaster recovery, and real-time monitoring, management and preventative maintenance of critical systems.

Health and Wellbeing

With emerging digital health and wellbeing tools, combined with recent COVID-19 concerns and intense competition for engaged and satisfied building occupants, smart buildings today need collaborative, comfortable spaces and indoor environmental quality. Measuring the health and wellbeing of a smart building is based on the following factors:

Indoor Air Quality—Maintaining indoor air quality is based on the ability of building systems to automatically monitor, analyze, control and report on levels of volatile organic compounds, ozone, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and particulate matter.

Thermal Management—Maintaining comfortable air temperature and humidity levels is key to occupant wellbeing and can be assessed by the ability of building systems to automatically monitor, analyze, control and report on temperature and humidity, as well as the ability of occupants to control conditions for desired comfort settings.

Visual Comfort/Light and Noise Control—Visual and sound comfort in a smart building can be determined by the ability of building systems to automatically monitor, analyze, control and report on lighting, acoustics and vibration, as well as the ability of occupants to actively control lighting conditions and the use of technologies like automatic shading.

Water Management—Clean drinking water is an expectation within any building and measuring the ability to maintain and manage water quality is based on the ability to automatically monitor, control and treat water based on turbidity, chlorine, alkalinity, pH and conductivity.

Odor Management—Offending odors can have a significant impact on smart building occupant satisfaction and visitor experiences and odor management can be measured by the ability of building systems to automatically monitor, analyze, control and report on odors.

Life and Property Safety

Safety of building occupants is the top priority for building owners and operators, and in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, safety of occupants is more paramount than ever from both a human wellbeing and operational standpoint.  Measuring the ability of a smart building to optimize life and property safety beyond required regulations and codes is achieved by reviewing the following factors:

Building Emergency Plan—Emergency plans can have an impact on the ability to optimize life safety and property protection and are measured based on documented evidence of efficacy and accountability, integration of safety systems identified in the plan (e.g., fire protection, egress lighting, ventilation, mass notification, access control), and the ability of safety systems to provide asset location for authorized persons.

Integrated System Performance—The performance level of integrated safety systems is measured based on the connection of safety to non-safety systems and risk assessment of those connections, response procedures for when an issue has been detected, and the ability to track and document against established parameters.

Situational Awareness—Smart buildings that provide information about as-is conditions can significantly improve safety and protection of occupants during emergency situations and can be measured by the ability of building systems to optimize crowd movement during emergencies, automatically monitor and control systems to prevent/mitigate spread of infectious disease and enable occupants to place emergency calls that provide dispatchable location

Emergency Communication System—While emergency communication systems are required by various building codes such as NFPA 72 and the International Fire Code, the effectiveness of emergency communication systems can be further measured via the existence of additional technologies and practices that enable enhanced public safety, such as RF site surveys to determine signal levels and coverage for public safety frequencies and in-building mobile service.

Power and Energy

Energy remains one of the largest components of a building’s operating budget, and green energy options and intelligent energy management systems provide insight into power and energy usage to help reduce consumption, supply and cost. The ability of a smart building to monitor and manage its power and energy use, and respond to the electric utility grid, can be measured via the following factors:

Energy Use Management and Analysis—Meeting energy efficiency and cost reduction goals is measured by the ability of building energy systems to track and manage energy consumption from connection points like outlets and third-party loads, autocorrect self-detected faults and automatically verify effectiveness of energy efficient measures against a predicted, modelled or established performance range.

Demand Response and Grid Interoperability—Reducing operating costs and responding to real-time price, grid requests and financial incentives from local utilities and municipalities can lower overall local electricity rates and reduce the chance of grid instability, which can be measured by reviewing peak load management protocols, demand response capabilities and integrated building-to-grid power management.

Distributed Energy Resources—Measuring the distributed energy resources of a smart building is based on the use of small-scale on-site energy generation like solar, wind, geothermal or biomass generators, as well as use of intelligent management systems that manage energy production and balance load, and the ability to automate energy storage for intelligent grid use and resiliency.


Technology advancement is accelerating and with it cyberattacks and back-door mechanisms are emerging that threaten to disrupt critical smart building infrastructure. The ability of a smart building to manage cybersecurity risk, benchmark capabilities and set goals for improvement can be measured by ensuring adherence to the following National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework (CSF) guidelines and best practices:

Identify—The ability to identify assets and cybersecurity risks is based on management plans that include collaboration between the IT and OT networks, use of third-party risk assessments for suppliers and vendors, and privacy policies that cover how personal data is gathered, used, disclosed, shared and managed.

Protect—The ability to regularly protect assets and ensure the integrity of data and the network is based on remote asset access and specific techniques such as segregation, firewalls, encryption, cryptographic algorithms, antivirus software and intrusion detection, as well as secure development lifecycle (SDLC) testing for internally-developed applications and response, recovery and vulnerability management plans.

Detect—Ensuring the detection of cybersecurity events and incidents is based on the ability of building systems to consistently and continuously monitor and analyze events and malicious software across multiple sources, sensors and devices, as well as send alarms and alerts based on anomalous activity.

Respond—When a cybersecurity event has been detected, the ability of a smart building to respond to and prevent future events is based on policies and procedures for ensuring continuous review and update of response and risk analysis plans and processes to receive, analyze and respond to incidents and vulnerabilities, including those disclosed from internal and external sources.

Recover—The ability of a smart building to effectively recover from a cybersecurity attack or event is based on having procedures in place to update or develop new processes and recovery plans based on the event, ensure proper public relations and external communications, and incorporate lessons learned.


Sustainable building criteria encompass many areas that relate to the smart building concept, including water, energy, and waste tracking; indoor air quality; lighting and acoustic qualities; and more. In the interest of not duplicating sustainability-focused criteria covered under previous sections or existing smart building sustainability programs in the marketplace, sustainability is measured by reviewing existing recognized building sustainability certifications such as:

  • LEED – U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design
  • BREEAM – Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method
  • Green Globes – Used primarily in Canada and the U.S.
  • Living Building Challenge – International program created by the International Living Future Institute
  • WELL Building Standard – Administered by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI)
  • Fitwel – Operated by the Center for Active Design (CfAD)
  • Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) 360 Performance Program

Other nationally and globally recognized rating systems, such as Singapore BCA Green Mark, Australian Green Star, German Sustainable Building Council’s DGNB, France’s Haute Qualité Environnementale (HQE) and China Academy of Building Research (CABR)

  • Codes such as ASHRAE 189.1, International Green Construction Code and CALGreen

Sustainability is also measured via the use of additional smart sustainability technologies and practices that actively track, monitor and control the use of natural resources, waste, materials, recycling initiatives and other factors related to sustainability.  The technologies and practices include automated monitoring and control of potable water and irrigation systems, waste management systems, digital dashboards for tracking and reporting on sustainability initiatives, building information modeling (BIM) or Digital Twin for building design and/or operation, and electronic recyclers that track and share data.

Some Critical Success Factors

Ensuring a comprehensive, reliable and transparent framework that can be used to objectively and wholly assess a smart building and make the right decisions surrounding investment, planning, design and operation all comes down to having a benchmark, and a good benchmark is always one that is based on criteria measured via hard, quantifiable data.  The holistic assessment criteria explained herein is specifically designed to acquire that data.

Equally important to a successful smart building assessment program is the ability to collect data from numerous sources and types of organizations and analyze it over time so that the criteria can be reasonably adjusted as necessary to remain valuable and relevant as technology evolves.  Similar to how the ICT industry continually reviews and updates standards and best practices to respond to changes in technology, regulations and other fluctuating factors, the data collected via the smart building assessment criteria will be reviewed and analyzed to periodically update and refine the criteria as necessary, or to develop new criteria needed to effectively measure smart building performance in the future.

It’s important to note that for smart buildings to effectively meet the criteria and gain a high rate of performance, the infrastructure and systems that enable smart building technologies must also be properly designed, deployed and tested in accordance with all applicable industry standards.  To that end, these criteria go hand in hand with existing guidelines, best practices and safety guidelines for each of the various systems, such as existing TIA and UL standards and those outlined by professional and  industry organizations such as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), BICSI, American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association (AVIXA), Security Industry Association (SIA), National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and others.

To achieve success and industry adoption, assessment programs also need to be easily accessible and provide significant value to participating organizations.  The smart building criteria developed by TIA and UL in conjunction with leading experts is already available for use by organizations to collect data and conduct self-assessments of their smart buildings. The outcome of these self-assessments can be used by these organizations as a roadmap for future improvements to help increase value.  The criteria also forms the basis for in-depth audits by qualified, accredited auditors to perform verified assessment and rate the performance of a smart building, as well as provide detailed reports with insight on opportunities for improvement.  Earning a verified mark allows any organization to objectively promote their commitment to smart building technologies and the performance of their smart building, while differentiating themselves and opening up revenue opportunities by attracting and retaining employees and providing an overall better customer experience.

Opportunity for the ICT Industry and Beyond

The investment, planning, design and construction of smart buildings involves a highly complex ecosystem of stakeholders and having the ability to effectively assess and rate a smart building in this digital era provides significant benefits and business opportunities that span multiple company types and industries.

With a survey by Johnson Controls indicating that more than 50% of building owners and tenants are willing to pay more for a smart building, and Morgan Stanley claiming an estimated 10% increase in equity value for occupant-optimized facilities, REITs, developers and building owners clearly stand to benefit from increased property values and the ability to differentiate their properties.  Utilities and energy management solution providers also benefit as they can leverage criteria to drive solutions like distributed energy resources, energy management systems and demand response participation.  Even finance and insurance providers benefit as they can leverage assessment data surrounding life and property safety, health and wellbeing and cybersecurity to develop programs and pricing for building owners and operators.

With connectivity as the most essential utility of a smart building and necessary to optimize all other aspects of a smart building, the ICT industry as whole reaps significant business opportunity from an effective smart building assessment program that considers the importance of connectivity as it relates to the entirety of the building.  These benefits cross the entire spectrum of the ICT industry—from designers, installers and consultants, to manufacturers, service providers and integrators

  • IoT and building system architects designers, installers and consultants can leverage assessment criteria to ensure smart building performance for their customers, collaborate with other stakeholders (HVAC, electrical, plumbing, lighting, security, audiovisual, etc.) and position themselves as experts and trusted advisors in the smart building design, specification and build process.
  • Manufacturers of cabling, connectivity, equipment and devices can leverage assessment criteria to demonstrate their expertise and enhance their industry stature by driving best practices for the deployment of standards-based high-performance infrastructure and helping customers make informed decisions surrounding equipment, devices and solutions that enable low-latency data transmission, wireless coverage, physical security, cybersecurity, and power and environmental monitoring and control.
  • Managed service providers and cloud solution providers can leverage smart building data and assessment criteria to develop and deliver innovative platforms, software and services that optimize building intelligence and manage, monitor, control and safeguard devices, systems and information.
  • Service providers and integrators can leverage the assessment criteria to provide recommendations for the deployment of critical communications infrastructure and cellular technologies that support smart buildings and enable digital transformation, ultimately establishing the foundation for smart cities and a myriad of emerging applications.

There is no doubt that in today’s digital world, the smart building industry needs to revisit how it assesses and rates smart building performance by taking a more holistic approach that considers the entirety of the building with a keen focus on connectivity as a critical element and criteria based on transparent, quantitative data. Only with this comprehensive, consistent and measurable framework can stakeholders effectively define investment strategies, planning tactics, design principles and operational procedures that lead to increased efficiency, lower operating expense and enhanced occupant productivity, safety, security and wellbeing. When smart buildings can be designed and constructed in this way, they become the building blocks of smart cities that will enable society’s digital transformation, achieve sustainability and improve overall quality of life.

Marta Soncodi is Smart Buildings Program Director with the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA). Thomas Blewitt is Senior Vice President and Chief Scientist at UL.

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The world’s first 3D-printed school is taking shape in Madagascar

Thinking Huts and its partners are building the world’s first 3D-printed school on the campus of a university in Fianarantsoa, Madagascar.

3D printing builds solid objects layer by layer, creating less waste than traditional manufacturing methods.

The solution addresses the lack of sufficient investment in physical infrastructure, which is one of the biggest barriers to education.

A new project in Madagascar is rethinking the building blocks of education – using 3D printing to create new schools.

Non-profit organization Thinking Huts has partnered with architectural design agency Studio Mortazavi to create the world’s first 3D-printed school on the campus of a university in Fianarantsoa, Madagascar.  It is aiming to tackle the shortage of educational infrastructure which in many countries contributes to fewer children getting a good education.

Using technology developed by Finnish company Hyperion Robotics, the school will be built using 3D-printed walls and locally sourced materials for the doors, roof and windows.  Members of the local community will then be taught how to replicate the process to build schools for the future.

In this way, a new school can be built in under a week, and with less of an environmental cost than traditional concrete-based construction.  The 3D-printed buildings use less concrete than other methods and the 3D cement mixture also emits less carbon dioxide compared to traditional concrete.

An artist’s rendering of how part of the school will look once completed.

Image: Thinking Huts

The design allows for individual pods to be joined together in a beehive-like structure and means schools can be easily expanded.  The Madagascan pilot project also features vertical farms in the walls, and solar panels.

Widening access to education

An absence of buildings to deliver education from is a significant hurdle in many countries, particularly in areas lacking skilled labor and resources for building.  By using the technology to build schools, Thinking Huts is seeking to widen access to education – something which will become particularly important post-pandemic.

UNICEF and other organizations have warned of a learning crisis exacerbated by the virus, with 1.6 billion children across the world at danger of falling behind because of school closures aimed at containing the spread of COVID-19.

So, getting children back in the classroom as soon as is safely possible will be vital to continuing their education, particularly for those with limited access to the internet and personal learning devices.

Printing the future?

The process of 3D printing, which is also known as additive manufacturing, uses a digital file to build solid objects layer by layer – meaning there is less waste compared to traditional methods, which often use molds or hollowed out materials.

3D printing has revolutionized manufacturing processes, enabling mass customization, creating novel visual forms not previously possible and creating new opportunities to increase the circularity of products.

The machines are increasingly used in the production of everything from consumer goods such as sunglasses to industrial items such as car parts.  In education, 3D modelling can be used to bring educational concepts to life and help build practical skills, such as coding.

In Mexico, it has been used to build a neighborhood of 46-square-metre homes in Tabasco.  The houses – consisting of a kitchen, living room, bathroom and two bedrooms – will be made available to some of the state’s poorest families, many of who earn just $3 a day.

The technology’s relatively easy portability and low cost has also proved vital in disaster relief.  When Nepal was hit by an earthquake in 2015, a 3D printer perched on a Land Rover was used to help fix water pipes flown in as part of a relief effort, the Guardian reported.


Written By: Natalie Marchant, World Economic Forum

IBM sets new climate goal for 2030

IBM plans to get rid of its planet-heating carbon dioxide emissions from its operations by 2030, the company announced today.  And unlike some other tech companies that have made splashy environmental commitments lately, IBM’s pledge emphasized the need to prevent emissions rather than developing ways to capture carbon dioxide after it’s released.


The company committed to reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by the end of this decade, pledging to do “all it can across its operations” to stop polluting before it turns to emerging technologies that might be able to capture carbon dioxide after it’s emitted.  It plans to rely on renewable energy for 90 percent of its electricity use by 2030. By 2025, it wants to slash its greenhouse gas emissions by 65 percent compared to 2010 levels.

“I am proud that IBM is leading the way by taking actions to significantly reduce emissions,” said IBM chairman and CEO Arvind Krishna.

IBM is putting more emphasis on its cloud computing and AI after announcing in October that it would split into two public companies and house its legacy IT services under a new name.  That pivot puts IBM in more direct competition with giants like Amazon and Microsoft in the cloud market, which is notorious for guzzling up energy.  Data centers accounted for about 1 percent of global electricity use in 2018, according to the International Energy Agency, and can strain local power grids.  All three companies have now made big pledges to rein in pollution that drives climate change.

Microsoft’s climate pledge focuses on driving the development of technologies that suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere; it reached net zero emissions in 2012 but still relies heavily on investing in forests to offset its carbon pollution.  Amazon committed to reaching net zero emissions by 2040.  Amazon’s emissions, however, continue to grow as its business expands.


There is still room for more ambition in IBM’s new climate commitment since the company so far is not setting targets for reducing emissions coming from its supply chain or the use of its products by consumers.  These kinds of indirect emissions often make up a majority of a company’s carbon footprint.  IBM does not track all of the pollution from its supply chain, but other indirect emissions (like those from the products it sells) made up the biggest chunk of its carbon footprint in 2019.  Microsoft and Amazon, on the other hand, consider all of these sources of emissions in their climate pledges.


By Justine Calma

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EIA projects renewables share of U.S. electricity generation mix will double by 2050

In its Annual Energy Outlook 2021 (AEO2021), the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects that the share of renewables in the U.S. electricity generation mix will increase from 21% in 2020 to 42% in 2050.  Wind and solar generation are responsible for most of that growth. The renewable share is projected to increase as nuclear and coal-fired generation decrease and the natural gas-fired generation share remains relatively constant.  By 2030, renewables will collectively surpass natural gas to be the predominant source of generation in the United States.  Solar electric generation (which includes photovoltaic (PV) and thermal technologies and both small-scale and utility-scale installations) will surpass wind energy by 2040 as the largest source of renewable generation in the United States.

The AEO2021 Reference case projects that the natural gas share of the U.S. electricity generation mix will remain at about one-third of total generation from 2020 to 2050.  The natural gas share of generation will remain stable even though natural gas prices will remain low (at or lower than $3.50 per million British thermal units, in real dollars) for most of the projection period.  This stability occurs despite significant coal and nuclear generating unit retirements resulting from market competition as regulatory and market factors induce more renewable electricity generation.

The share of natural gas-fired generation in the United States will remain relatively constant through 2050, as projected in the AEO2021 Reference Case, and the contribution from the coal and nuclear fleets will drop by half.  Through 2050, the share of electricity generation from renewables will double.  Wind will be responsible for most of the growth in renewable generation from 2020 through 2024, accounting for two-thirds of the increase in that period.

After the production tax credit (PTC) for wind phases out at the end of 2024, solar generation will account for almost 80% of the increase in renewable generation through 2050.  EIA assumes that utility-scale (and commercial) solar PV facilities will receive a 30% investment tax credit (ITC) through 2023, which will then be reduced to 10% beginning in 2024 and lasts through 2050.  Residential solar PV will also receive a 30% ITC through 2023, which will expire in 2024.

Because renewable energy technology costs and natural gas prices are key determinants of these projections, EIA explores sensitivity cases with varying levels of both renewable costs and natural gas price trajectories.  Accordingly, the renewable technology share of generation will be higher in the Low Renewables Cost and High Oil and Gas Resource cases, relative to the Reference case, and the share of generation from renewables will be lower in the High Renewables Cost and Low Oil and Gas Resource cases.


Principal contributor: Kenneth Dubin

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 2021 (AEO2021)