It is fascinating when old concepts and new ideas merge together to create something unique. Recently, both steam loop districts and eco-industrial parks have been in the news. The latter concept involves a cooperative effort between the businesses and the community of a particular area to cut down on the amount of pollution in their immediate environment. In addition, these “environmental partners” also work to make better use of the resources that are available to them, with the ultimate goal of stimulating the economy and reducing their carbon footprint.
The concept of “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” is heavily at work here. The pollution that is created by one company is then used by another business to complete needed tasks and functions. The Chicago Clean Energy Project is a perfect example of this system; it is an alternative energy plant that is scheduled to be placed at a site that was previously developed and is now not being used to its fullest potential.
In part, the Chicago Clean Energy Project aims to increase the number of mining and manufacturing positions for workers in the Chicago area and begin creating substitute natural gas. If successful, it will be a great model for how to take brownfields, commercial or industrial sites that aren’t being used any more, and transform them into something the surrounding community will benefit from. A state that has several large cities in it, like Florida, would be the perfect place for additional projects.
Steam loop districts are closely tied to industrial city sites as well. This concept involves district heating, which is when heat is taken from one place and then sent over to multiple other locations, providing everyone within the “loop” with steam heat. Doing this means that there does not need to be any boiler systems at these locations, cutting down on the number of maintenance workers needed as well. District heating is better for the environment than the old boilers or similar alternatives. In New York, The Loop is modeling this concept in an effort to curb the pollution in Rochester and save money for the members. It seems a little unbelievable that although steam engines were first invented more than 300 years ago, society has only recently begun to explore the option of districts that are powered by steam.
Steam loop-powered districts and eco-industrial parks have the potential to alter the landscape of existing cities by re-using old commercial and industrial sites. They are good for the environment and for the community, and they allow cities to continue generating a profit while making a positive impact at the same time.