Engineering a Sustainable World


| 4/17/2014 8:56:00 AM


Tags: environmental stewardship, environmental education, Earth Gauge, Washington D.C.,

April 13-19, 2014 is National Environmental Education Week, and throughout April, students, educators and others around the country are taking part in learning focused on how the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, specifically engineering, can be used to solve some of today’s biggest environmental problems, leading to sustainable solutions for a healthier planet and healthier people.

So, how is engineering helping to solve some of our biggest environmental challenges?

Biomimicry: Whale Fins and Wind Turbines

Many of the environmental problems that engineers are working to solve already have hints to solutions in the natural world. Using the complex sciences of fluid dynamics and biomechanics, researchers discovered that the bumps on the front edge of humpback whale fins (called tubercles) increase lift and reduce drag for maximum efficiency as the whales move through the water. Now, a company called WhalePower is applying this bumpy-edged design to wind turbines and fans to increase efficiency – researchers have found that adding tubercles to wind turbine blades increases efficiency by 20 percent.

Designing Green Buildings: Seattle’s Bullitt Center

One of the significant challenges engineers are constantly working to improve is the sustainable use of resources. Seattle’s Bullitt Center is one of the greenest commercial buildings in the world. The building is powered by 575 solar panels and uses extremely low-flow toilets and composting toilets reduce water waste. Greywater from sinks and showers is cleaned in a constructed wetland, where plants help to remove nutrients and pollutants – the clean water eventually recharges the aquifer below. Rainwater is collected on the roof and used throughout the building. These are just a few of the features that make the Bullitt Center an innovative space to learn about green building technology.




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