Though LED is slowly but surely becoming the light source of choice (or the only one available) across many fixture types and applications, the industry isn't giving up on its soon-to-be legacy options like fluorescent. As a result, the fluorescent tube that has long illuminated offices the world over may get a little bit greener thanks to new research from General Electric, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California, Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, and the Critical Materials Institute at Ames Lab in Iowa. The team is focusing on phosphors, which are used to coat the inside of fluorescent tubes to absorb ultraviolet light and re-emit it on the visible spectrum. But phosphors rely heavily on rare-earth elements, which are dispersed and therefore relatively scarce and whose sourcing can be costly and harmful to the environment. The research team developed two new phosphors (of the three that make up the current tri-phosphor blend) that use far less of the rare-earth elements, thus having the potential to reduce the reliance on the chemical elements until LEDs phase out fluorescent light sources, which isn’t expected for at least a decade, Gizmag reports. The researchers are now honing the new phosphors to meet the cost, color-rendition, lifetime, and efficiency requirements of today's light fixtures. [Gizmag + LLNL]
ICYMI: Use our interactive map to find out what legislation your state, city, or county has passed to track a building’s energy performance. [ARCHITECT]
One data scientist aggregated all of the personal information gathered by his smart-home products and systems, revealing just what we’re giving up in the exchange of data for convenience. [ProPublica]
Yesterday, Saint-Gobain, the Paris-based multinational parent of building-products maker CertainTeed, opened its new North American headquarters in Malvern, Pa. The 320,000-square-foot brownfield project was designed by architects Bernardon, in nearby Kennett Square, Pa., and global engineering firm Jacobs and uses the company’s and its partner’s products throughout—including 17,000 square feet of electrochromic glazing that lets the interior make use of the site's ample daylight.
The thermostat has received no shortage of attention from designers looking to upgrade the ubiquitous tool for the digital age. They're now moving on to other utilitarian elements of building management—among them, the fuse box. U.K. designer Dan Salisbury created this conceptual box with an e-ink display and white-aluminum construction. Fuse is designed to illuminate when the power goes out, track the amount of electricity used in each room, forecast future energy consumption, and can be managed via a mobile app. [Fast Company’s Co.Design]
Smart-home developers aren’t stopping there. Designing a door lock that renders your keys obsolete is another area of recent focus. Startup August’s Bluetooth-controlled Smart Lock debuted last year and was recently made compatible with Apple’s HomeKit—essentially trading a set of keys for Siri. The company is also adding opt-in functionality that lets users give access, within specific parameters, to partner companies to enter their homes for purposes such as making deliveries or repairs. [Wired]
In 2014, MIT’s Tangible Media Group debuted a life-size, responsive grid of dynamic pins that moved up and down in response to either user gestures or the presence of a physical object. The team continued to build on that work, most recently with its project Kinetic Blocks (shown below), which uses the pin-based surface to put the digital in physical form to assemble and disassemble stacks of building blocks. The new work addresses a major challenge for virtual reality—the ability to use bodies and gestures to control virtual, 3D surfaces—by tackling it in reverse: using digital technology to move 3D objects in the real world. [The Creators Project]