Greenbuild 2010 round-up: less water, more light

November 19, 2010

Here’s a round-up of some of the participants at  Greenbuild 2010, which is filling eight football fields’ worth of  exhibition space in Chicago:

— The folks at Zero Flush—a company in Kissimmee, Florida that builds no-water, non-flushing urinals—started with this premise: water is precious; urinal maintenance is a nightmare.

Zero Flush—whose founders left competitors Falcon and Waterless—builds wall-fixed urinals  that it says save approximately 40,000 gallons of water per year and are  odor-free and easily maintained .

They work like this.

Zero Flush urinals have a basin and a replaceable filter that fits in a tray. The filer contains an odor-blocking solution made of mostly vegetable oil.

Urine is 96 percent water, 4 percent solids (a combo of urea, chloride, sodium, potassium, and creatine, etc.). Urine flows down the urinal and is filtered through the vegetable oil solution. The liquid portion of urine flows directly through the oil and out to municipal sewage pipes. The solid portion is retained in the oil chamber.

What’s retained is a rather unpleasant yogurt-like substance, company representatives explained.

Once the chamber is filled—after about 15,000 flushes. 7,000 more than competitors, company literature says)—a maintenance person removes the chamber and the viscous blob flows through the normal sewage pipes.

A blue dye rises to the surface of the urinal tray when it needs to be changed.

“The main issue with waterless toilets is that people don’t want to have odor,” said a company rep. “If a bathroom has six urinals, a maintenance person needs to change them all if you smell anything.”

— On the “brighter” side of the expo, Vista, California-based Solatube offers a system for capturing daylight at the roof level using “advanced optics” and efficiently transporting that light to a building or home’s light-deprived spaces, explained Todd Anderson, a product specialist for the company.


The cylindrical transport tube is smaller than a skylight—its dome top is about 2  sq. ft.—and is internally engineered to be 99.7 percent reflective, which Anderson says allows light to travel farther. There is dimming functionality, as well.

They are also more flexible than a skylight, Anderson said. With a full 90-degree turn of the tube—as it meanders from the roof down to, say, a pantry—it loses about five percent of the light it collects. Anderson pointed to a representative floor model that retained almost 70 percent of its transported light. [Pictured]

“The great advantage of [a Solatube] over a skylight is that you don’t have to give up as much roof space,” a spectator noted. “These are smaller but they still give off the same light as their larger counterparts.”

Residential units run from about $250 to $450 dollars; commercial units vary.

The biggest assemblage of these devices, about 457 units, resides at a grocery store in Indiana, Pennsylvania.

—  PaperStone, a builder of sustainable composite surfaces, is showing off  a knife made of recycled paper.

“You can take these on an airplane,” said Michael Butler, a distributor and PaperStone enthusiast.

PaperStone products are made fromIMG_0066 recycled paper sheets that have been saturated with a proprietary resin, then trimmed, pressed, and fused together. The greater the number of sheets, the greater the strength of the product. Anderson chucked a sample of a PaperStone counter top to the ground: it was unscathed.

The products are scratch, stain, damage, and heat resistant. Anderson said he took a blow torch to a window frame he is making for a customer and it barely left a mark.

Plus, you “don’t rape the earth” while producing them, Anderson said.

Downsides are that the products are heavy and can be too expensive to use in building affordable housing applications.

Also, they only come in darker hues.

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