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Energy Newsbriefs

Articles for August 12, 2013

ENERGY NEWSBRIEFS is a weekly current awareness service provided by the WSU Extension Energy Program Library and written by Angela Santamaria, WSU Energy Library Manager, to assist users in tracking developments in the energy field. To view past issues or to subscribe to receive an email notification of the publication of a new issue, go to the Energy Newsbriefs home.

Please be aware that although every URL is checked for accuracy prior to the publication of Energy Newsbriefs, URLs are, for various reasons, subject to change. Further, servers sometimes fail to connect to working URLs.


Plastic from Grass” was written by David Talbot, Chief Correspondent, MIT Technology Review; it was published in the July/August 2013 issue of that journal. Engineers at Metabolix in Cambridge, Massachusetts, are developing a polymer from genetically-engineered switchgrass. If successful, the new polymer might replace petroleum-based and non-biodegradable plastics.


The following five case studies appeared in the Summer 2013 issue of Buildings; in all cases, click on at the end of the text for the rest of the article:

  1. Building Ecology” was co-authored by Bruce Coldham and Thomas R.C. Hartman, Principals, and Erika Zekos, Consulting Designer; all of Coldham&Hartman Architects. At the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, student housing has been built to residential scale, simulating a New England village, which seems suitable for a student body consisting entirely of Human Ecology majors. Carbon neutral since 2007, the college is, also, aiming for zero fossil fuel use by 2015, and the new housing fits into that goal.
  2. Collaborative Learning” was written by Michael G. Talbot, P.E., Founder of Talbot and Associates Consulting Engineers. It describes Lee III, a new building for architecture students at Clemson University in South Carolina. Interestingly, it was designed to be net-zero-energy ready. While it is extremely energy efficient now, funds for the solar system have yet to be raised so it is not yet net-zero energy.
  3. Designing for Off” was co-written by Shawn Oram, PE, and Carmen Cejudo, both of Ecotope. A renovated Sears building becomes an NZEC (net-zero-energy capable) office and studio for the Rice Fergus Miller architectural firm.
  4. New Again, and Again,” by Bryna Cosgriff Dunn, Vice President at Moseley Architects, reports on the Cary Street Gym at the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). A nineteenth-century, open-air market has been repurposed several times; the latest is as a 1979 gymnasium at VCU that has just been expanded to quadruple the size of the original structure. The building is subject to rules covering historic buildings so the building envelope had to remain unchanged. Energy efficiency was achieved in other ways with attention to the roof, and internal mechanical systems. The addition achieved LEED Gold in the new construction category.
  5. Science of Efficiency” was co-authored by Matthew Longsine, PE, WSP Flack + Kurtz, and Chris Hellstern, KMD Architects. It is a case study of the Biological and Computational Sciences Factory at PNNL (Pacific Northwest National Lab) in Richland, Washington. It was built for research into the use of microbes as a renewable energy resource. Labs are energy-intense, but this one has achieved 77% efficiency and has earned LEED Gold certification.


The following four articles were carried in the July 2013 issue of HPAC Heating/Piping/AirConditioning Engineering:

  1. 2013 Engineering Design Awards: Innovative Design Gives Hospital a Clean Bill of HVAC Health" by Ron Rajecki, features the Peninsula Medical Center in Burlingame, California. It describes the winning HVAC design for one of the more challenging building types for HVAC engineers who design for energy conservation.
  2. Church Takes Nontraditional Approach to Heating, Installs Geothermal," by Waterfurnace International Inc. staff, describes the switch made by St. Michael's Lutheran in Akron, New York, from oil-fueled heating to geothermal.
  3. Location, Location, Location: Why Proper Placement Is Vital for HVAC Controls" was written by Mickey Schroeder, PE, HVAC Service Manager at Control Services Inc. The article is a serious caution to facilities managers and installers of HVAC controllers. The equipment must be located where physical maintenance can be conducted – often it is not.
  4. Pulse-Combustion Boilers Play Key Role in Sustainability-Lab HVAC," by The Fulton Cos. Staff, focuses on the Syracuse Center of Excellence (SyracuseCoE) in Syracuse, New York. Part of the Center is a research laboratory for clean energy and indoor air, and for water efficiencies with all the challenges that labs present HVAC design engineers. The other part is a demonstration area where newly developed, sustainable technologies are showcased.

Past issues of Energy Newsbriefs are available here. Generally, subscription information for the journals cited above can be found at the home page of their web sites. © 2013 Washington State University Extension Energy Program. This publication contains material written and produced for public distribution