Will Tesla solar roof tiles be an industry game changer?

Elon Musk in a quest to make solar as attractive as electric vehicles may have leap-frogged many solar building innovations and prototypes in revealing a range of solar tiles (to be in mass production soon) at a show case event at Universal Studios yesterday.

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It is not often, or at all, that building products are launched with the degree of secrecy and flair that is the domain of new cars or smart phones. But that’s what Tesla did yesterday, revealing new solar tiles and power packs on a completed detached home, to invited guests. The event was reportedly powered by the energy from the display home, and then as the sun sank, powered by the battery Powerpack energy stored from the roof tiles.

Being able to generate more energy than required, and store that energy within the building for when it is not being generated, is key to sustainable buildings.  Such breakthroughs will enable both new build and refurbished buildings to move closer to the Living Building Challenge Energy petal imperative. Generating 105% of a building’s energy from the sun. And with roof tiles rather than panels, start to address the challenges Beauty petal, removing the all-too-often unsightly post construction solar panels

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The tiles price point is still be announced, yet whilst reported to be more expensive than standard tiles, they will be cheaper than the cost of tiles and equivalent cost of energy  over the life of the tiles or building. And far cheaper than the cost of post-roof or post-construction solar panels.  The tiles will also have a longer life time than more traditional US roof tiles. (US domestic buildings have a roof replacement cycle of 20 years or so)

References:

BBC: Tesla shows off solar roof tiles

Tesla: Sustainably Power your Home or Business

Mashable: Elon Musk tied together some of the disparate threads of his company’s various grand ambitions in a product launch event here at Universal Studios Friday night.

iSite Related: at last … low cost solar power that works in the (Welsh) rain…

What can social media offer in support of Construction Innovation, Information, Process and Management?

Today’s construction and built environment sector faces exciting but immense cultural, societal and technological changes. This is evidenced through a myriad of issues; a rapid escalation in the need for improved sustainability; better information management and advanced construction techniques; to test and challenge established practices.

While these challenges are significant, there are a number of platforms and tools that can improve communication, learning and sharing – not least social media. The core challenge here is “what can social media offer in support of Construction Innovation, Information, Process and Management?”


My guest editorial to Construction Innovation, Information, Process and Management (Volume 14 Issue 3) provides a snapshot of social media (past, present and future), including why and how this new collection of tools can be used to purposefully improve construction.

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Why Use Social Media in Construction

Social media, alongside web 2.0 applications have been major disrupters for many industries, from music to books thorough to newspapers and journalism. These disruptions have led to new platforms and avenues for future innovation and creativity. Just how much social media, BIM/modelling, and the move towards transparent, responsible sustainability will disrupt construction and the built environment in coming years is one of the salient questions to address (and one that makes construction such an exciting industry).

Social media is by no means a panacea solution for construction improvement or, indeed, a means of replacing all construction communication. It is, however, a vital tool in today’s construction improvement “toolbox”. The discussion now needs to move beyond social media as a technology to social media as a crucial enabler.


Access the full article here (may require registration) 

A TQM for the social media, digital age?

I see Harvard University are initiating a Digital Problem Solving programme for the digital age.

The Digital Problem-Solving Initiative (DPSI) at Harvard University is an innovative and collaborative project piloted in Fall 2013 that brings together interested students, faculty, fellows, and staff and enables participants to work in teams on practicable and concrete digital use cases – problems and opportunities – across the university.

The pilot offers students and other participants a novel opportunity to enhance and cultivate competency with digital tools and online activity as teams engage with research, creative production, and policies governing the digital world.”

This looks an interesting project, dusting down the 80’s and 90’s Total Quality Management, (problem solving, team work, quality circles and more) and re-inventing for a digital age. Anyone remember great work done through National Society for Team Work (NSQT)?

Wondering if any UK University would be interested in or is running a similar pilot?

Before all those programmes and initiatives, and indeed the foundation for them all was the Deming improvment PDCA cycle ( Plan Do Check Act) which still holds great significance in a social media, digital enabled world.

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For all projects, we need to consider the planning, the execution, the checking and importantly how we will act and improve for next time around.  (Which makes the Deming cycle an ever improving spiral) And of course requires continual effort to maintain equilibrium as my last blog post explored

The Checking is not just numbers and inspections, but critically the stories from those involved – as evaluation. Today, social media  can really enable the collation, sharing and analysis of stories, and hence has a huge part to play in future KPI’s (key performance indicators) as we move forward to ever more social businesses and organisations.  (Subscribe to this blog for future updates and support on this topic)

Helping your planning, doing, checking and improving efforts keep in equilibrium 

#tweetchats … observations + how to

What is a tweetchat? In my view: a global online brainstorm: a fast paced collection of expert opinion, links, references, questioning, learning but above all sharing around the theme of the chat.

“A tweet chat is a pre-arranged chat that happens on Twitter through tweets that include a predefined hashtag to link those tweets together in a virtual conversation” Formal Twitter tweet chats are arranged in advance and occur at set times. They may include a formal agenda with a specific leader or “speaker”, or they might involve a free flowing discussion between all participants.

Dont attempt to make too much sense of it at the time, dive in, chat and share. Make sense of it later (which makes the output and transcripts very important). A brilliant use of twitter!

Having participated in a number of tweetchats over tha last few months #futrchat, #CSRchat and the more frivolous #sugarfreetweets for example, I recently took on the task of oragnising and facilitaing #GVisChat ‘Future of Energy in Buildings’ for Green Vision.

For an inaugural chat it worked well, with thought leaders and seasoned tweeters conversing and sharing with those who made their first tweet during the chat, which has to be a result.

Here then are my thoughts and observations:

Preparation:

  • Choose a hashtag and check it hasnt been used for another chat.
  • Most hashtags end ‘chat’ which has become a notation for tweetchat.Make the hashtag simple and memorable
  • Get the word out there – through twitter but also through related groups, forums both online and real.
  • Get the time and date agreed: Check there are no other big, subject related chats scheduled around the same time: Balance between working day time (9-5) and a global enthusiast though leader chat: It does seem the popular time is 7, 8 or 9 pm UK time for a global input. (and looking at a recent spreadsheet of existing scheduled chats, USA tweeters would appear to be more comfortable with the tweetchat format.)
  • Have instructions you can point to in order to help participants, for eg: How to take part in a tweet chat and How to join up to twitter (you don’t want to exclude those not on twitter who may see the whole twitter thing a bit of a dark mystery)
  • Agree roles – I think there are three, a facilitator, a subject driver and an amplifer See below  (I did all three so it can be done but … wow – it gets busy)
  • Agree Questions in advance, say 5 or 6 but be prepared to change and flex with the direction the chat may take.

Setting up to capture: 

Register the hashtag with  tweetchat.. Tweetchat provides a nice simple format that puts you in the ‘tweetchat room’ for the chosen hashtag and automatically adds the hashtag. Overall though I find tweetdeck easier to use during the chat.

‘Facilitating’ the chat:

  • Introduce topic, and the first question.  The start of the chat was probably the most ‘awkward’: unlike real meetings there are not many signals to pick up on that people are there and ready to go so you have to dive in. I had a sense of I was waiting for tweeters and they for me to kick off.
  • Welcome – be sure to welcome people as they enter the chat, that is make their first hashtaged contribution
  • Let twitter know the chat is running
  • Feed in the questions – the skill would appear to be in introducing next question at the right time, not too soon or too late – keep the fast pace going…
  • Amplify good points (ie RT and add to)
  • Praise good points being made, thank people for links (as you would in a real world brainstorm)
  • Challenge, question, throw in off the wall out there concepts to widen the discussion (eg future of energy chat led to possibility of building on the moon)
  • Give time checks, especially towards the close  – the 60mins flies past rather swiftly!
  • Watch for contributions from people forgetting or not using the hashtag and RT them so they get into the mix. (and remind people to use the # and Q and A numbering)

During the chat I used tweetdeck so I could have a DM channel open for closed communication with other hosts and a timeline to watch for related tweets from friends who forgot the hashtag!

Post Chat

Use a service such as the brilliant Tweetbinder to capture the tweets as well as statistics on the tweetchat.

Drop the tweets into Storify to create a transcript

Use the tweets and links to craft an interview sytle article for publication on blogs or elsewhere

Thanks:  These are my observations and lessons learnt from organising a tweetchat for the first time. I do hope they help and encourage you to get involved in a chat and to facilitate, they are great fun, generate a real buzz and to me prove the potential business and learning power of twitter is yet to be fully realised

I am indebted to Cindy @Urbanverse, a great friend and seasoned tweetchat expert for help and guidance

 

Three reasons to give your PQQ and Bids an independent Health Check

 

One: Many PQQ’s and Bids ‘deselect’ themselves through errors and omissions. It is obviously far better for errors, omissions, questions not (fully) answered or formatting issues to be picked up by independent review rather than your client. Don’t throw away valuable points…

 

Two: Make your bid content the best it can be. Make sure your PQQ response is a killer, with compelling evidence, sparkling innovation and best practice awareness.

 

Three: Learning gained with one independent health check can be transferred to future bids, ensuring increased success potential

 

Independent reviews of your PQQ and Bids can be conducted through Fairsnape

 

Simply forward your responses prior to submitting to your client, giving enough time for review and your updating of the bid. In addition to Health Checks, other bid services are available, for example reviews of failed bids, PQQ training and coaching, bid writing and support, along with interview and presentation skills support. Get in touch to discuss more.

 

 


Counting construction carbons with ConstructCO2

This blog has reported on numerous occasions (eg here and here) on the need to measure and improve carbon emissions from construction activities separately from that of the building itself or the facility in use. And the need for an easy, simple to use tool.

As noted many of the available applications for calculating carbons were linked dubiously to carbon offsetting schemes.  Of note for use in construction were the Google Carbon tool (but not construction specific enough) and the Environment Agency tool (but is proving to be too detailed and cumbersome for most projects)

Measuring and improving carbons on site is increasingly important as more and more projects seek higher standards to BREEAM and Code for Sustainable Homes (and soon Non Dom Buildings).  One recent project set ‘damages’ for the contractor not achieving the ‘management points’ (for waste, CO2 and considerate constructor standard) for CSH at £40k per point. (See the CSH Technical Manual for more on this)

Recently at EcoBuild Paul Morrell, Construction Tsar commented  that focus on carbon emissions should be a number one site priority as it is measurable and addresses other areas of ‘waste’ in the industry

And yet the majority of contracts just do not know their project carbon footprint, whether its close to 1tonne or over 100tonne. We do not have a feel for the magnitude of emissions, or indeed what 1kg of CO2 actually looks like.

So it is good news to see the release of ConstructCO2, developed through Evolution-ip, by construction people for construction use.

ConstructCO2 is a simple carbon calculator based on the premise of keeping it simple and easy to use on site. It makes use of existing site approaches for data collection (induction sheets, daily log-ins, plant sheets, utility invoices etc). Carbon emissions through transport are calculated through use of google mapping API .

Construction (people) travel miles are recorded for management, operatives and visitors. (With a dispersed project management team you will be surprised at the carbon footprint of a project site meeting and probably think of alternative arrangements) Material transport miles are derived from delivery notes or goods received sheets.

Where the power of ConstructCO2 lies however is in its reporting. Construction carbons can be measured in terms of co2/£project value, co2/dwelling, c02/m2, co2/bed or other, enabling benchmarking with other projects and generically through KPI’s such as those from Construction Excellence.

But simply knowing the project footprint, the construction company’s total project footprint, and where the biggest areas for carbon emission are enables action for real improvement.

ConstructCO2 is currently being used by a number of different projects in what I guess would be called a beta stage. Current projects include a large new build hotel project, a small industrial refurb project, school extension and an architect’s office.

Currently the use of ConstructCO2 as a tool is free, with a (currently optional) fee based support and training package to help contractors understand carbon issues, carbon standards requirements, measuring, benchmarking and improving carbon footprints.  So it makes sense to take the opportunity now, measure and understand the carbon footprint of one of your projects. At the moment sign up is through request via email contacts on the ConstructCO2 front page

Future developments include the option for live energy feeds from site power meters to ConstructCO2 and live exporting from ConstructCO2 to Google and Pachube for example.

ConstructCO2 is on twitter at @constructco2 and has a ning forum in development for discussion and benchmarking of project carbon issues.

Note: As an associate with Evolution-ip, I have been involved in the ConstructCO2 concept development and testing.  Evolution-IP is a be2camp partner, presenting at and sponsoring be2camp un-conference events.

passivhaus innovation circle

The next Innovation Circle Session on ‘Passivhaus’ will look at the possible influencing factors of implementing the Passivhaus principles in the UK.  Friday 20th March 1-3pm at the Adelphi Conference Room, Adelphi Building, UCLan.   

 

Led by Sabine Engelhardt – Green Cities, Manchester, and Facilitated by George Hall

Details passivhaus innovation-circle-flyer