Continent’s Tallest Wood Building Getting off the Ground

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At the Forest Products Laboratory we will tell you there are all sorts of advantages to “going green” and using wood to construct buildings.

Thanks to Michael Green, and the company that bears his name, Michael Green Architecture (MGA),  this is beginning to happen in a very big way.

Work has started on what will be North America’s tallest wood building. The Wood Innovation and Design Centre (WIDC) will be located in Prince George, British Columbia, Canada. The six-story, 90-foot structure (pictured) will showcase the latest in wood construction. It is targeted to be finished by September, 2014. 

Says the pioneering Green: “What has allowed us to move to this new kind of building is the use of mass timber panels. These materials come in huge sheet sizes that are thick enough that they have an inherent fire resistance.”

For more on FPL’s green-building initiatives hit our website or dig into Lab Notes.

So … you need some Cellulose NanoCrystals, eh? At FPL, it's in the bag ...

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Supervisory Research Chemist Dr. Alan W. Rudie (left) and Chemical Engineer Richard S. Reiner stand behind their science, and a hefty batch of Cellulose NanoCrystals (CNC) produced in the lab’s state-of-the-art pilot plant. Some of this haul will be on its way to Purdue University for research there.

Another batch recently went to the University of Maine, which will be holding a ribbon-cutting ceremony next week to hail the launch of its own pilot plant. UMaine and FPL have partnered in this venture. The university received a $1.5 million grant from the Forest Service to upgrade this new facility.

Rudie, Michael T. Rains, Acting Director of FPL, and FPL Assistant Director Theodore H. Wegner will be among those speaking at the event in Orono, Maine.

Providence, R.I., Carbon Challenge Winners Announced

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Winners were announced Tuesday night in the Providence, R.I., Carbon Challenge Residential Design Competition.

The Forest Products Laboratory and the APA — The Engineered Wood Association challenged designers to create a new model home design for Habitat Providence while considering the impact that building materials have on the environment.

Cash prizes totaling $10,000 were awarded to the winners across multiple categories:

  • Grand Prize ($5,000): ZeroEnergy Design, Boston
  • 2nd Place ($2,500): Kyle Bamrick & Christopher Armstrong, Providence
  • 3rd Place ($1,000): Joseph P. Campanella — Design Alliance, LLC, West Hartford
  • Best Use of Wood Products ($500): Anne Lissett & Benjamin Monroe — LEAF Architecture, West Hartford
  • Best Curb Appeal ($500): Erik Rhodin & Taina Rhodin — Line Company Architects, Waltham
  • Most Cost-Effective ($500): Christen M. Robbins — Vision 3 Architects, Providence

Fossil fuel use and climate change are important environmental issues facing our nation today. The common denominator for these concerns is greenhouse gases that are emitted into the atmosphere when fossil fuels, such as oil and coal, are burned for energy or when organic materials decay.

While most people are aware that North American forests help to address climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, less well known is the fact that wood products continue to store carbon, thus keeping it out of the atmosphere indefinitely. Substituting wood products for fossil fuel-intensive alternatives also results in significant amounts of “avoided” greenhouse gas emissions.

FPL Helps Recyclable Solar Cells Take Root

The same building blocks nature uses to produce trees are now being used to enhance high-efficiency products such as photovoltaic solar cells.

By producing pilot-scale quantities of cellulosic nanomaterials, the U.S. Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) is collaborating with researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Purdue University to demonstrate the potential of cellulosic nanomaterials as a high performance, environmentally preferable material for the 21st century.

“Using cellulosic nanomaterials as a substrate for photovoltaic cells is just one example of the ability of these materials to provide renewable applications for such high-efficiency products,” said Ted Wegner, Assistant Director of the Forest Products Laboratory.

To date, most solar cells have been built on glass or plastic foundations. Neither is easily recyclable and petroleum-based substrates are not very eco-friendly. Cellulose nanomaterials, on the other hand, are renewable and can be sustainably produced. Use of these wood-based materials also creates a potential use for biomaterials harvested through forest restoration projects aimed at reducing catastrophic wildfires.

“These materials offer a profound opportunity to accelerate forest restoration across America, to protect lives and property from wildfire,” said Michael T. Rains, FPL acting director. “It is estimated that a well-established program in wood-based nanotechnology that creates high-value markets from undervalued woody biomass can help restore 7-12 million forested-acres annually,” said Rains. “This could significantly reduce future fire suppression costs.”

Cellulosic nanomaterials are naturally occurring and possess many outstanding qualities. They have strength properties greater than Kevlar®; piezoelectric properties equivalent to quartz; can be manipulated to produce photonic structures; possess self-assembly properties; and are remarkably uniform in size and shape. Because they are naturally abundant, renewable, and cost-effective, reproduction of cellulosic nanomaterials is expected to reach quantities of millions of tons. This exceeds production projections for many other nanomaterials.

A recent study by Georgia Tech College of Engineering, led by Professor Bernard Kippelen, opens the door for a truly recyclable, sustainable, and renewable solar cell technology.

“The development and performance of organic substrates in solar technology continues to improve, providing engineers with a good indication of future applications,” said Kippelen, director of Georgia Tech’s Center for Organic Photonics and Electronics (COPE). “But organic solar cells must be renewable. Otherwise we are simply solving one problem, less dependence on fossil fuels, while creating another: a technology to produce energy from renewable sources that is not disposable at the end of its lifecycle.”