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Capitalizing on Wasted Energy

We hear it every day, that America’s infrastructure needs repair. The President and political leaders are talking about re-building our infrastructure to create jobs and stimulate the economy. What hasn’t been mentioned is that while we re-build a highway, railroad, or even a runway we have the opportunity to generate Green Energy. Harnessing this green solution takes advantage of the fact that certain materials (piezoelectric materials) generate electric current when they are deformed. Piezoelectricity can be generated from cars driving over pavement, train rails pressing on ballasts, a heavy press machine constantly pounding, or even a person simply walking. The more frequent and higher the impact, the more energy and electricity we can generate.

New Technologies...

Diagram: Generating electricity from force.One company named Innowattech has developed custom piezoelectric generators that maximize the retrieval of wasted mechanical energy by converting it into electrical energy. This electricity can be stored and used to power street lights, traffic signals, and on a larger scale, potentially thousands of homes and/or businesses. Additionally, Innowattech products have the ability to store data like the speed and weight of vehicles. With the ever-increasing weight of vehicles, municipalities can not only use the energy generated by the heavier traffic, but they can also have the capability to monitor heavy vehicles on their roadways without installing and maintaining weighing stations.


This technology is already being tested and used overseas. In September of 2011, the state of California Senate and Assembly passed a bill that would allow this piezoelectric technology to be researched under their roadways and railways.


Implementing this type of technology can be done within the existing footprint of our infrastructure and would not require additional impacts. This technology can be installed in any area and isn’t affected by weather conditions. Innowattech claims this sustainable alternative has a life expectancy of 30 years and a payback period for the initial investment, estimated at 6 to 12 years, depending on the volume and size of traffic.

To find out more about this technology visit:

Contributed by Steve Lange, PE, Highway & Bridge Sustainable Leader

New envisionTM Rating System

Envision Rating CategoriesThe Institute of Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI) has debuted its new infrastructure-focused sustainability rating system called “envision”. ISI is sponsored by three major infrastructure associations - American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), American Public Works Association (APWA) and American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC). The objective of the new system is to provide a comprehensive sustainability rating for infrastructure projects, similar to the LEED system currently in place for the rating of buildings. While envision has similar goals as the LEED system, due to its focus on the horizontal built environment, envision has a completely different framework and approach.

Rating Categories...

The envision system is divided into 10 Rating Categories (shown on right). This system is web-based and scoring is primarily quantitative, with some qualitative measures. Envision scoring results in achieving one of these levels of accreditation: Improved, Enhanced, Superior, Sustainable, and Restorative.


One feature of this rating tool is that it will include links to reference materials and best practices. Another aspect of the envision system is that a project will only achieve a rating after an independently-verified performance assessment is completed.

Try It Out...

Envision is currently in the open review period, where anyone can test this system and provide comments on its use and value. You can access the test system by logging into: The official roll-out of the system is being targeted for early 2012.

Contributed by Richard Brauer, PE, President/CEO

Low-Maintenance Grasses Promise Reduced Costs

Difficult-to-maintain grassy areas at a sampling of airports.Airports in many parts of the country have vast expanses of grass on their airfields. These grassy areas require frequent mowing to maintain visibility of airfield features (lighting and signage) and for control and visibility of wildlife. All of this mowing is done at considerable expense, including employee time and equipment, not to mention the fuel expense and emission of carbon dioxide and other exhaust gases. As such, airfield grass maintenance is a logical target for reducing airport operating expenses and fuel consumption, thereby also reducing the airport’s carbon footprint.

Potential Benefits & Cost Savings...

Recently, new varieties of grass mixes have arrived in the marketplace. These new varieties of grasses have been bred to be very slow growing, disease and drought tolerant, and reach a maximum height of 6-12 inches. Suppliers have recognized the potential benefits to airports and have been marketing them accordingly. Their claims include the fact that these new variety, low-maintenance grasses reduce mowing and irrigation requirements. The slow growth of these grasses may reduce airfield mowing to a total of 1-2 times annually, freeing airport staff and equipment to perform other functions. One supplier claims that mowing costs can be reduced by as much as $500 per acre annually. If this claim is substantiated, an airport with 200 acres of maintained grass area would save $100,000 annually in mowing costs. Suppliers further report that the cost of installation of these grasses can be recovered in 3-5 years. An additional benefit of low-maintenance grasses is that they may deter wildlife, especially birds, from occupying the airfield, by robbing them of cover and reducing the insect population.

Future Testing...

MJ is progressing tests of low-maintenance grasses during the 2012 construction season at two airports in Upstate New York. The tests will be conducted in locations where new turf will be established as part of on-going airfield construction projects. The tests would be conducted under a variety of site conditions. Watch for test results in future issues of Green Points.

Contributed by Jeff Wood, CSDP, Aviation Sustainable Leader

Costs of Going Green in Your Facility

Green Design; Marcy Pharmacy Warehouse Project Multiple studies and historical construction data have shown that there is no significant difference in average costs for “green” buildings as compared to traditionally-designed buildings. For one comprehensive reference, see "Costing Green: A Comprehensive Cost Database and Budgeting Methodology" by Davis Langdon. Even in light of this data, the perception still persists that incorporating sustainable design features into a facility design will cost significantly more money. Many project teams are building green buildings with little or no added cost, and with budgets well within the cost range of non-green buildings with similar programs. We have also found that, as the technologies become more familiar, the contracting community has embraced sustainable design and no longer sees sustainable design requirements as additional burdens to be priced in their bids.

Overcoming the Notion that "Green" Costs More

Green Design: Merrimack County Nursing Home and the Binghamton Intermodal Transportation Center Data from various studies, as well as our own cost data, show that many projects can also achieve certification through pursuit of the same lower-cost strategies and that more advanced, or more expensive, strategies are often avoided. Some examples of low or even no-cost elements include: site selection, building orientation, window and overhang placement, low/no-flow fixtures, etc. Also, the additional cost for extra insulation can be offset by the reduced cost of a smaller mechanical system. The cost of documentation remains a concern for some project teams and contractors, although again, as designers and contractors become accustomed to the requirements, the concern is diminishing. We continue to see project teams conceiving of sustainable design as a separate feature. This leads to the notion that green design is something that gets added to a project, and hence, should require an additional cost.

Contributed by Bob Lambert, PE, CSDP, Buildings & Facilities Sustainable Leader

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