Great Solutions: Products

August 11, 2010

14. Mod Pod A Nod to Flex Biz

Designed by the British firm Tate + Hindle, the OfficePOD is a flexible office space that can be installed, well, just about anywhere, indoors or out. The self-contained modular units measure about seven feet square and are designed to serve as dedicated space for employees who work from home or other remote locations. Construction of the modular pods includes natural, recycled, and recyclable materials, as well as insulation and a high-efficiency HVAC system. The pods are plug-in powered; the fully wired units connect to an existing structure (home, garage, office building, um...Starbucks?) while IT and phone connectivity is wireless, but can also be cabled in. Delivery takes approxi

mately 12 weeks.


15. Transform any Work Surface into A Charging Station

Imagine being able to charge your laptop, smart phone, or iPod by simply placing it on your desk. Sounds improbable, but wireless charging technology is actually a reality thanks to Commerce Township, Mich.-based Powermat Ltd. The company's Powermat utilizes the principles of magnetic induction to transform virtually any surface into an energy hub for charging portable electronic devices. Simply plug in the mat and place it anywhere on your work surface. Form-fitting covers embedded with a wireless receiver allow gadgets to "plug in" and power up. The company is also exploring partnerships with workplace furniture manufacturers, such as Teknion, to embed the Powermat in

tabletops, desktops, and other furniture.


16. Concrete Slabs Plays up Rubber Ball Technology

The BubbleDeck utilized in construction of the $27 million, 104,000-sf academic building at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, is new to North America, but the concrete slab technology has been used in Europe since the early 1990s. BubbleDeck technology involves substituting recycled rubber balls for concrete that has no carrying effect (nonworking dead load) in concrete slabs, which reduces the amount of concrete used by 35%. Steel lattice locks the balls in place and serves as traditional reinforcing components to create a monolithic hollow slab with maximum biaxial strength. The site of the four-story Dalhousie project had height restrictions, so the flexible BubbleDeck allowed the Building Team to use multiple grades; slabs can be utilized in various shapes, sizes, and applications, such as cantilevers and large deck spans. Because the BubbleDeck slabs have significant span capabilities, they require fewer support columns, which gives the Dalhousie building more usable floor space and a

llows better filtration of natural light. The university is targeting LEED Gold.

17. Brown Rice for Greener Concrete

While slag from steel mills, fly ash, and silica fume are being added to concrete to reduce the material's greenhouse gas emissions and make it stronger and more resistant to corrosion, rice husks (the small cases around edible rice kernels) have so far proved an unsuitable additive because when burned, its ash is too contaminated with carbon. However, scientists were focused on finding ways to utilize rice husks because they are very rich in silicon dioxide, a core concrete ingredient. A breakthrough has come from researchers at Plano, Texas-based ChK Group, who discovered that superheating the husks to almost 1500 °F in an oxygen-free furnace produces pure, nearly carbon-free silica. ChK researchers, who are still refining their production processes, speculate a single full-size furnace could produce 15,000 tons of rice husk ash annually, which can be used to replace up to 20% of ceme

nt used in concrete production.


18. Killer Beetles Lead to Concrete Plywood

The mountain pine beetle is devastating British Columbia's conifer forests, and while some researchers focused on controlling the destruction, others focused on salvaging the billions of dead trees. The University of Northern British Columbia's professor Ron Thring and graduate student Sorin Pasca focused on salvaging efforts and discovered that dead wood from lodgepole pine trees is an excellent ingredient for cement production. While cement typically repels organic material, the beetles "enhanced" the wood in such a way that it sticks to cement and act as a substitute for typical aggregates like stones and rocks. Researchers say the concrete plywood hybrid board (above), which they call MPB (for mountain pine beetle), is water resistant and can be used in place of drywall and gypsum board or as flooring and countertop surfacing. Boards can be cut with regular woodworking tools and nailed without pre-drilling.