January 2013, Vol. 25, No.1


Atlantic Wharf puts green in the sky

The Atlantic Wharf project in Boston, which includes a mixed-use skyscraper, boasts a long list of “green” features that have earned it the Sustainable Development Award from NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association (Herndon, Va.).

The certified U.S. Green Building Council (Washington, D.C.) Leadership in Engineering and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum building is designed to use 69% less domestic water in the office tower, compared to a typical downtown tower, according to Boston Properties’ (Boston) Atlantic Wharf website. The project’s water-saving features include a rain-harvesting system that captures stormwater and reuses it for both irrigation and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, according to a NAIOP news release. Overall, the building saves an estimated 47,313 m3/yr (12.5 million gal/yr) in water use, the website says.

The building also features a green roof, integration of 41.8% of the existing historic structures onsite, and energy-efficient elements, including an improved thermal envelope, high-efficiency glazing, a high-efficiency boiler, and garage ventilation controls, the news release says. The building is designed to use 33% less energy than comparable office towers.


Cow footbath harms Idaho crops

While copper sulfate baths help prevent foot infections in dairy cows, the resulting land-applied wastewater may be harming crop production, according to U.S. Agriculture Research Service (ARS) research.
Many of Idaho’s dairy cows wade through these shallow baths every day, and producers discard bath water into lagoons and eventually use it to irrigate corn and alfalfa crops, according to the Agricultural Research magazine article, “A Cautionary Note About Copper Footbaths for Dairy Cows.”

ARS researchers studied how copper levels in the wastewater affected crop performance and soil microbial activities. They selected two soils common to south–central Idaho and conducted a laboratory study of alfalfa growth in soils containing copper at levels of 50, 100, 250, 500, and 1000 ppm.

Researchers found that copper sulfate soil levels up to 250 ppm did not affect alfalfa growth, but when levels exceeded 500 ppm, growth stopped, the article says. But plants took up copper at both application rates, with 40% to 80% of the added copper still in soil at the completion of the study, the article says.

Researchers also discovered that beneficial soil bacterial activity declined in both soils when copper soil levels were higher than 50 ppm. And a correlation analysis indicated that soil levels higher than 63 ppm resulted in copper concentrations in alfalfa that could potentially harm grazing livestock, according to guidelines established by the U.S. National Research Council, the article says.

Jim Ippolito, the ARS soil scientist who contributed to the study, also conducted another laboratory study showing that biochar made from pecan shells absorbs as much as 40,000 ppm of copper in spent wastewater. Ippolito concluded that biochar may be able to clean water containing copper, but more studies are needed to identify characteristics that optimize the carbon capture, the article says.
Ippolito joined ARS soil scientist David Tarkalson and ARS microbiologist Tom Ducey to conduct the study, which was published in the Journal of Agricultural Science, Soil Science, and the Journal of Environmental Quality. 


Coral Triangle reefs more threatened than most

Local human activities threaten a greater number of Coral Triangle reefs than other coral reefs around the world. Overfishing, watershed-based pollution, and coastal development in the countries that make up the Coral Triangle — Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Solomon Islands, and Timor–Leste — contribute most to these increased numbers, according to a World Resources Institute (WRI; Washington, D.C.) news release.

The Reefs at Risk Revisited in the Coral Triangle report says that more than 85% of reefs in the Coral Triangle are threatened, compared to the global average of 60%, the news release says. The report was developed by WRI in collaboration with the USAID Coral Triangle Support Partnership, a consortium of the World Wildlife Fund (Washington, D.C.), The Nature Conservancy (Arlington, Va.), and Conservation International (Arlington, Va.).

The report shows that five of the six Coral Triangle countries are vulnerable to social and economic effects from coral reef services, which also includes shoreline protection. The report also reveals that only 16% of the region’s reefs are inside marine protected areas, which is lower than the global average of 28%, and that less than 1% of this area is fully effective at reducing threats, such as overfishing, the news release says.

The report recommends actions to protect the reef, such as reducing the local pressures of overfishing, destructive fishing, and runoff. It also informs activities of the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security, a multilateral partnership formed in 2009 by the Coral Triangle countries to promote sustainable fishing, improve marine protected areas management, promote climate change adaptation, and protect threatened species, the news release says.

Access the report at www.wri.org/publication/reefs-at-risk-revisited-coral-triangle.


Military-grade mobile biofuel cell system generates energy ‘on the go’

Soldiers on missions in remote areas may have a new tool at their disposal. A mobile unit using wastewater to generate electricity could provide a way to recharge soldiers’ electronic devices, such as night vision goggles, two-way radios, and geographic positioning systems, according to a University of California–San Diego (UC San Diego) news release.

Joshua Windmiller, postdoctoral researcher in the UC San Diego Department of NanoEngineering, has developed a printed biofuel cell system to meet military needs for field-deployable and mobile power solutions. And the system could be lighter than the load of batteries these soldiers currently carry, the news release says.

Windmiller is one of four 2012 recipients of the von Liebig Center for Entrepreneurism and Technology Advancement fellowships. The center, part of the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering, provides fellowships so researchers can pursue commercialization of their technologies, the news release says.

Fellows will be awarded $40,000 to conduct proof-of-concept studies, technology development, and preliminary market research to determine the commercial feasibility of their technologies.

Fellowships are funded through the Southern California Clean Energy Technology Acceleration Program, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy in partnership with the UC San Diego Rady School of Management and San Diego State University. 


Asian carp invades Great Lakes

Asian carp are threatening native fish species in the Great Lakes. A Canadian and U.S. risk assessment report conducted by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada examined the potential for survival and establishment of Asian carp in the lakes, according to a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) news release.

The report says that bighead and silver carp species pose an environmental risk to the Great Lakes within 20 years and that this risk increases with time. And lakes Michigan, Huron, and Erie face the greatest risk, the news release says.

The lakes face a high risk of invasion because they offer food and habitat for the carp to survive and spread. The report identifies the Chicago Area Waterway System as the most likely path into the Great Lakes for these species, the news release says.

The concern is that Asian carp will out-compete native fish for food and resources and weaken native fish populations. The establishment of Asian carp in the Great Lakes is not definite, and the report states that prevention is the best way to avoid economic and ecological effects, the news release says.

“This study will help scientists and resource managers in Canada and the United States determine how and where to redouble their efforts as they continue to prevent the establishment of these invasive fish,” said USGS Director Marcia McNutt in the news release.

Efforts by the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee to control the fish’s abundance and distribution is published in the 2012 Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework, available at asiancarp.us. 


U.S. NOAA opens hub for innovation and collaboration

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has a new green hub that facilitates collaboration in research. NOAA’s Center for Weather and Climate Prediction, located at the University of Maryland (College Park) campus, houses more than 800 NOAA employees who research and track weather and climate patterns, as well as conduct atmospheric and environmental research, according to a NOAA news release.

NOAA also will implement a new partnership with the University of Maryland by pairing university undergraduates with center researchers so that students can become certified meteorologists and oceanographers, the news release says.

“It’s a place where government, academia, and others can come together to make new discoveries, drive innovation, and uncover new ways to give our citizens and businesses the information they need to make smart decisions,” said Rebecca Blank, acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce, in the news release.

The 24,897-m2 (268,000-ft2) energy-efficient center, which includes a green roof and rainwater bioretention area, also will feature a visiting scientist program, offering rotating assignments to foreign meteorologists and scientists to facilitate sharing ideas and experience, the news release says.