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Inspiring Green Innovations

These days, not without reason, we hear a lot of doom and gloom about humanity’s negative impact on the environment. It helps to hear of inspiring and helpful green inventions and innovations that lead the way to a sustainable future for the human family. For example:

French bio-chemist Pierre Calleja designed a lamp powered by bioluminescent green algae that uses no electricity. The algae lives off of the carbon dioxide present in the air. A single lamp can remove a ton of carbon from the air after a year’s use, equivalent to 100 to 150 trees.

Alfred Moser, a Brazilian inventor, confronted with a power outage that shut down his workshop, created a 50 watt bleach solar light bulb from a 2 liter bottle of water, two capfuls of bleach, and a 35mm film canister. Inserted into the roof, exposed to the sun, the bulbs light a room without being hooked up to the grid. Students at MIT later streamlined the invention, and their solar bottle project, A Liter of Light, has already installed thousands of the lamps in the Philippines.

Millions of people around the world sicken or die from water borne diseases contracted from contaminated drinking water. Torben Vestergaard Frandsen invented the Life Straw while trying to find a way to stop worm disease in Africa. It purifies and filters the water as it’s sipped from the straw. The introduction of the device has all but wiped out the disease. Life Straw has helped millions of people since its invention, from vulnerable families without access to clean water, to campers and backpackers in need of a simple water purification system that allows them to drink directly from a source.

While the cityscape often resemble a concrete wasteland, sky gardens or roof gardens utilize the space on top of buildings to create green spaces for workers and residents, and reduce the overall heat absorption of the structures, reducing energy consumption. The Rockefeller Center in Manhattan has a lovely roof garden, as does the Housing Development Board building in Singapore, and the Marriot Hotel in British Columbia, Canada.

Something as simple as a better teapot can improve our lives. Standard stove top kettles waste energy heating the water, and usually heat more water than needed. British designer Brian Hartley’s Eco Kettle measures the exact amount of water required into a separate chamber for heating, and insulates the water to keep it hot, resulting in a 30% energy savings. Leave it to the British to make tea time, green.

Reusable water bottles provide a simple solution to plastic bottle pollution. Many types are available, but a perennial favorite is the bota bag or wineskin, used since ancient times.

Finally, Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute, an alliance of 50 research organizations, is developing a mobile phone powered by solar cells needing only two hours of sunlight each day.

Every innovation, no matter how small, is a step toward a better, more sustainable future, and a reminder that human hope and creativity are renewable energies of positive change.

Why You Should Consult With a General Contractor About Your Roofing

You’ve owned your home for a few years now and as with most things over time, they start to succumb to wear and tear after repeated use. Just like your family car needs regular maintenance to keep it running properly, your home has to have maintenance to make sure that the structural and aesthetic components last. Every area of your home needs attention such as the foundation which can leak if not properly maintained.

One area that many home owners almost always seem to neglect is roof and gutter system. Many times, these issues are not apparent from just a cursory look from the front of one’s home, and so sometimes we may be totally unaware of an issue until real damage starts to show on the exterior. At that point repairs can get costly. To avoid those heightened costs you should consult with a general contractor or roofing specialist.

Having your contractor perform an inspection of the stability of your roof and gutters can reveal problems that may be just minor; easily taken care of quickly. If after speaking with a general contractor it is determined that you need to have your roof replaced, then your contractor can discuss some of the options available to you and the best course of action. The general contractor may recommend traditional roofing products along with green products that are viable alternatives to traditional roofing products.

Speak with your contractor in regard to pricing and availability of the product(s) you are interested in, so that this cost can be added to the estimate for the job. Other parts of the contractor’s estimate should include materials and labor associated with particular needs for your project. The other issue to be concerned with is if the present gutter system already installed on your home is still adequately performing the job it was intended for; namely draining water away from your roofing structure to a separate runoff system and protecting your home from excessive rain and snow runoff damage.

If your gutter system is not performing as it should, then it should be repaired or replaced. Your general contractor can also add this into his estimate, and will have suggestions as to the different types of gutters that are available, and which will be the most cost effective for your personal situation and the needs of your home.

The other things that have to be considered in regard to your gutters are whether you go with seamless gutters or with sectioned gutter. Again, this is a choice that you and your contractor can discuss, and decide on a choice that can work with your budget. So don’t wait to have a serious problem arise with your roof and gutters. Be proactive and have a general contractor take a closer look at them today.

Roofing Materials From Familiar to Exotic

Asphalt Roofing Materials

There are two types of asphalt roofing materials: organic and inorganic. Together they account for about eighty percent of the roofing materials sold in the United States. Both organic and inorganic asphalt shingles are constructed from a base mat which is covered in asphalt and finely crushed mineral granules. Organic asphalt shingles have base mats of wooden chips, cellulose fibers, or recycled cardboard, while inorganic ones are made of fiberglass.

Inorganic asphalt shingles are both stronger and more fire-resistant than organic ones, but the organic shingles are simpler to install and are better able to withstand extreme cold and high wind without tearing. Some makers of inorganic asphalt shingles will bind them with a polymer-based asphalt to add to their cold and wind tolerance.

In spite of their name and appearance, asphalt shingles are seldom installed as individual shingles but usually as sheets of shingles, both to save on labor costs and to reduce the risk of leaking.

Metal Roofing Materials

While their similar appearances may make it difficult for most of us to distinguish among the different types of metal roofing materials, the five metals from which they can be made give them widely ranging characteristics. The metal most often used in metal roofing materials, because of its strength and durability, is steel. But untreated steel is susceptible to corrosion and rust, so most steel metal roofing materials have a protective coating of tin.

In addition to being treated with tin, most steel roofing will some sort of decorative coating to improve its appearance. Stainless steel is also used in roofing because of both its striking appearance and its resistance to rust and corrosion, but is rare because it is so costly.

Aluminum, after steel, is the most popular metal roofing material for homes, but must be painted to make it presentable. Aluminum is both lightweight and impervious to rust, but is usually coated in he same way as steel roofing.

Copper and Alloys

Copper is the most expensive of all the metal roofing materials, but requires no treatment because it is naturally rust and scratch resistant. Copper is also one of the most beautiful of roofing materials, with its glowing red sheen gradually taking on a lovely green patina as the years pass. Copper roofing can last for more than a century if properly maintained.

Like copper, metal roofing materials roofing alloys are expensive, but they are also extremely strong, durable, and attractive. Their costs will vary depending on the different metals they contain.