Atlantic City, a setting for “Monopoly,” “The Boardwalk,” casinos, and now five not-quite-offshore wind turbines that power the local sewage treatment plant and also recently hosted the 63rd Annual Atlantic Builders Convention. I traveled to Atlantic City to answer a question: “What technical innovations are being discussed and seen at the “street level?” This is a convention for builders primarily in the “Garden State,” a state once known for its farms that supplied the nearby metropolitan areas of Philadelphia and New York. In the last half a century, New Jersey seems to have grown more residential buildings, commercial complexes, and malls than produce.
I attended three seminars of the convention and roamed the exhibit floor. “New Developments in Green Building” was moderated by James Kozachek, esq. of Bisgaier Hoff LLC, and speakers discussed the regulatory and legal environment for green building in NJ. PV Systems and the State of the of the Solar Industry was conducted by the animated Constantine Papademas, a tech instructor for Warshauer Electric, and was a brief review of an extensive 40-hour course. In the seminar on Operational Efficiencies in New and Remodeled Homes, we were told that consumers are the biggest factor in a home’s efficiency but, unfortunately, that modern homes do not tend to come with an owner’s manual. The seminars were designed to satisfy various continuing education requirements.
The floor was dominated by law and engineering firms, among the many companies offering creative products. One of the many interesting products was presented by David Card of Alligator Spaces, a NJ manufacturer of innovative SIPs (Structural Insulated Panels). While similar panels have been made for years for refrigerated boxes, they have also been adapted for many years for housing construction. Uniquely, he has combined SIP panels with DragonBoard, which has excellent fire resistant properties.
SIP panels are often combined with foundations of poured concrete, but the forms for those can now be made from foam blocks that assemble like “LEGOs.” Foam Form Technologies had an impressive display of the blocks that also formed the walls and an overhead part of its booth.
There were several manufacturers and installers of PV panels, as well as at least one geothermal installer and one maker of solar thermal panels.
During last month’s Boston Offshore Wind Power Conference 2012, Michele Siekerka, Assistant Commissioner for Economic Growth and Green Energy at NJDEP, promised that by 2017 NJ would have an offshore wind farm. As I roamed the aisles, I inquired to the engineering firms about this, asking if anyone had heard of progress with offshore wind in NJ. Only one said that they thought their firm had been engaged in an offshore environmental study sometime in the recent past. Several expressed the opinion that nuclear was the answer to any energy issue or that our newfound gas reserves would provide energy independence for the US and completely kill any “speculation” about renewables.
The building industry in NJ by some accounts has suffered more than the rest of the country. People at this convention were not sales representatives but seemed to be the company owners. Their economic outlook and perhaps political perspective tends to be conservative. They are not about to install the latest “High” technology when it may need a call back or a sharp learning curve. Conservative talk radio, WNTP Phildelphia, was attending the builders convention to solicit advertising and hoped to find a receptive audience if not one with money to spend.
A convention like this provides balance and reminds that what can be heard at an offshore wind power conference or seen at the NY auto show this coming week is something different from what “folks” are planning for the next construction project. Such “High” tech can be a dream or a hope but what is within the grasp of the average NJ builder is what will be considered today.
Photo Credit: Wind turbines by ACUA
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