Engineering firms should, by their very nature, be interested in sustainability. After all, their objective is to solve problems and make things function in a better way, and right now our world is in dire need of solutions for global climate change, dealing with plastic waste and finding new sources of sustainable energy.
If this is interesting to your firm but you’re not sure how you could contribute or what kind of projects you should look out for, maybe this article will help you. We have rounded up some of the most interesting sustainable engineering projects from around the world.
Dell Technologies harvests & recycles plastics from oceans
Dell has created a new supply chain that recovers ocean-bound plastics, putting them back into its packaging instead of letting them wash out to sea. The company says it works with suppliers to collect, process and mix plastics with other recycled material to create molded trays used for packaging select products. The trays are made from 50% ocean-bound plastic and 50% recycled HDPE plastic, using no virgin materials.
Anne Wrobetz is an adjunct instructor in CU Boulder’s Engineering Management Program, and shared her insights on this project in a recent article, saying, “It’s positive for Dell. They’ve had to make this initial upfront investment but over the long run they are saving a lot of money and they are becoming recognised as an industry leader in the field of sustainable business. They are making all of this information available to other companies in an effort to get them to also start thinking about where their plastics come from and how they can change their supply chain and really leverage these new ideas. It sets them apart from their competitors and gives them a competitive advantage.”
Newlight creates AirCarbon sustainable plastic
AirCarbon was developed by Newlight Technologies. They use natural ocean microorganisms to make PHB from air and greenhouse gas. Unlike synthetic materials, the AirCarbon molecule is a molecule made throughout nature, and can be re-consumed by natural microorganisms like leaves or twigs, enabling life to restore itself.
Recently featured on CNN, AirCarbon has won many awards for its innovative sustainability. It’s a verified carbon-negative material, meaning every step of its production and use is fully green and sustainable. Because it is not made from oil like other plastics, it is also a cost-effective alternative to other synthetic materials.
EONEF brings electricity to disaster zones
Developed by French start-up EONEF, Zéphyr is a photovoltaic balloon and eco-friendly generator . The autonomous aerial platform takes the form of a helium balloon.
It was created to help emergency services deploy telecommunications networks in under an hour when dealing with crises and emergencies, providing field teams with live data using a fixed-point camera.
It’s also used for scientific missions including measuring air quality and observing wildlife, and for extended protection of sensitive sites.
The Svart Hotel: the world’s first energy-positive hotel
The Svart Hotel in northern Norway will be the first energy positive hotel in the world.
Set to open in 2022, Svart is “Inspired by local coastal building traditions and nature, dissolving the boundary between land and water. We aim to transform how we look at hotels and introduce hotels’ future through a sustainable, innovative approach to design, technology, construction, operation and guest journey.”
Designed by architects Snøhetta and engineering consultants Asplan Vaak, this hotel aims to create more energy than it uses. With an annual energy consumption that is expected to be 85% lower than other hotels, it will harvest enough solar power to cover all on-site energy needs, including the energy required for construction.
Pavegen Systems uses steps to generate energy
Pavegen’s award-winning smart street pathway converts the kinetic energy of people’s footsteps into electrical energy and data. One footstep produces enough energy to light an LED light bulb for approximately 20 seconds.
The company aims to build awareness and help create highly engaging consumer experiences, while educating and inspiring stakeholders in the hope that, eventually, footsteps could power whole cities.
Baby steps towards sustainability
As inspiring as these sustainable engineering projects are, they require big budgets and ambitious clients. Sometimes the best way to become more sustainable is through a series of smaller changes to the way we run our offices and source materials.
To help you think about how your firm can “go green” we’ve created a handy summary for you to download.