green building migrates from Europe and proliferates in the
United States, one company is leading the way in harnessing
new technologies to increase the quality and quantity of daylighting
brought to indoor environments without sacrificing energy efficiency.
Cabot Corporation, located in the heart of Boston, offers the
latest in research and development in green construction trends,
with industry professionals to advance recyclable environmentally
friendly materials that combine high light transmission with energy
efficiency, sound insulation and permanent performance.
Green building is the practice of increasing the efficiency in
how buildings and their sites use energy and materials. These buildings
are designed to significantly reduce or eliminate negative impacts
on the environment and minimize the depletion of natural resources.
In fact, green building is an essential component of sustainable
design and sustainable development, giving property owners lower
operating costs while improving the health and well-being of their
There are varying aspects of green building, one of which is daylighting
applications that come in the form of glazed facades, skylights
and translucent roofing systems. The benefits of natural daylight
are widely recognized to contribute to the well-being of occupants.
Fenestration systems—the design of windows and doors in buildings—have
been the weak energy link in building envelopes. Technology
advancements such as multiple glazing systems have improved fenestration
systems, but not nearly enough to comply with many of today’s
new and pending building codes and restrictions around the nation. One
solution is simple, involving the incorporation of Cabot’s
translucent aerogel insulation into design and construction applications
to improve visual aesthetics, reduce energy costs and enhance the
quality of indoor environments responsibly.
In response to the call for a higher standard of energy-efficient building materials
and stricter energy building codes, Cabot Corporation commercially manufactured
Nanogel® translucent aerogel. The feather-light aerogel is the lightest solid
on earth and is based on Cabot’s patented surface modification and fine-particle
manufacturing technology. Due to its composition (it is 95 percent air), low
density and porosity, Nanogel is a poor conductor of heat, and therefore a great
thermal insulator. It provides a superior combination of thermal and sound insulation,
as well as light transmission and diffusion over other insulation materials.
These benefits offer new design solutions for architects and commercial builders
in projects in which both natural daylight levels and energy efficiency are required. In
fact, NASA first used aerogels as insulation in aerospace applications.
Milwaukee Zoo’s Green Exhibit
The art of green building daylighting applications has taken off across the country
in structures such as residences, schools, atriums and, most recently, zoos. The
newly opened big cat exhibit at the Milwaukee Zoo is among the latest in building
sites moving toward this environmentally friendly construction alternative.
The state of Wisconsin is just one of the many states in the country enforcing
stricter energy codes on all new and existing building envelopes. One of the
first building projects under these stricter guidelines was a complete retrofit
of the energy-inefficient, 1960s-era concrete and sprayed concrete rockwork Feline
House building. The project included the removal of the entire built-up roofing
system, and the replacement of nearly 50 percent of the roof area with ridge-
and shed-configuration skylights. The lion’s den contains an approximately
34-by-34-foot ridge skylight that contains Nanogel aerogel, making it the first
commercial building of its kind to house large animals while keeping energy costs
down for the zoo.
One unintended effect of this mandate is that the healthy effects of daylight
on mammals, including humans, are minimized for the sake of energy efficiency,” says
Dale Nielsen, owner of Nielsen Building Systems, in Wisconsin, which provided
the roofing for the exhibit. With this in mind, the daylight needs of the animals
were of primary concern to Dr. Bruce Beehler, deputy zoo director of the Milwaukee
Zoo, who oversees animal exhibits and buildings including the popular feline
exhibit. “A natural light cycle and a feeling of openness are necessary
to create a healthy indoor environment for the animals,” Beehler says. “Studies
show that daylight positively affects the reproductive cycles of animals, and
is essential for the production of vitamin D.”
With the increased size of the exhibit and a more natural daylight environment,
the zoo has room for more cats in the Feline House. New additions are planned,
and hopes are high that the Milwaukee Zoo will be able to breed at least two
species, including lions and Siberian tigers.
Energy-efficient green building is also taking form in residential building in
the southeastern United States. Centerpoint Translucent Systems, a manufacturer
and distributor of residential roofing products, and Cabot Corporation have teamed
up to offer developers and homeowners a needed energy-efficient option to the
standard glass skylight. The Centerpoint translucent roofs allow natural, diffused
daylight to penetrate into home living areas without the energy loss and increased
heating and cooling costs associated with traditional glass roof inserts. Nanogel
also allows diffused, full-spectrum light to penetrate deeper into indoor environments;
this provides residents with greater access to natural daylight, and the associated
mental and physical health benefits.
The reduced energy costs due to thermal insulation levels that are significantly
higher than traditional systems is the first step toward homeowners contributing
to a greener environment,” says Kendall Sayers, president of Centerpoint
Translucent Roofing Systems. “As soon as people walk into their home with
these roofs, they are drawn to the cozy, relaxing environments they create. Buyers
are further pleased to learn that the insulation can provide up to five times
the energy efficiency of glass panels, and can actually save them money by reducing
heating and cooling costs,” added Dereck J. Lee, president of Advanced
Builders in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Many executives, builders and developing companies involved in the green building
boom have noticed the overwhelming benefits of this environmental trend. Many
have reported an increase in construction activity, and expect this growth to
accelerate. The function of green building and energy-efficient daylighting
alternatives is an important trend, and a necessity to improve the environment
we all share.
James Satterwhite is director of Nanogel building and construction
for Cabot Corp. in Boston, Mass., a specialty chemicals and materials