LANSING, Mich. - The Mobile Classroom of Sustainable Technologies, sometimes called the “big green trailer,” made its way through the capital of Michigan and surrounding areas as it continued its mission to educate consumers and HVACR tradespeople about the many green technologies available today, technologies designed to save on energy costs while increasing energy efficiency without harming the environment.
The 40-foot-long green and white trailer is equipped with eight workstations, each of which offers hands-on installation, operation, and service training opportunities on state-of-the-art green building technologies. The primary program sponsors are the Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA), Mechanical Service Contractors of America (MSCA), United Association (UA) of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada.
John Reilly, training director, UA Local 333, of Lansing, demonstrated the many technologies to thousands of interested people during the trailer’s weeklong stop in the Lansing area, including visits to the campus of Michigan State University, the Michigan State Capitol building, and mechanical contractor T.H. Eifert Mechanical Inc.
“We probably had over a thousand people a day come to visit the trailer,” Reilly said. “These are people of all generations, some of whom are educated about green technologies and had a lot of questions. “These people volunteered to come and visit - this wasn’t a field trip for them. I am inspired by their enthusiasm and this has been a great education for me, too.”
Visitors got a first-hand look at various technologies including:
• Fuel cell technologies;
• Wind power generation;
• Solar heating system;
• Solar photovoltaic system;
• Grey water toilet flushing system;
• Anaerobic treatment process;
• Infiltration demonstrator;
• Geothermal system trainer;
• Gas fired warm air heating demonstrator.
“First of all, the world needs to do something about protecting its resources,” he said. “Secondly, green will bring a lot of job opportunities to our tradespeople, either through job shifts or the creation of new jobs.”
Eifert said that a lot of the green technology is based on systems that have already been tried and tested for years. “Piping and controls have always been there,” he said. “We know how to open and close valves and how to take readings. It’s the applications that are new.”
Eifert noted the move to make mechanical systems more ecologically friendly began back in the 1980s, but the incentives and urgency just weren’t strong enough then. “Now, push has come to shove,” he said. “The cost of energy has made this urgent, and I would guess that interest in these systems has tripled.”
Eifert’s own interest has had a profound effect on his employees, too. He makes sure his people are educated on a regular basis, including designing and selling geothermal systems. “Our people are becoming certified in geothermal installations,” he said. “Geothermal is becoming very big in mid-Michigan. The newest building on the Lansing Community College campus has a ground source heat pump system.”
Both Eifert and Reilly know that the green trailer is just one step in a continuous educational program. Reilly said he plans to continue his involvement by helping to construct a number of new mobile classrooms, while Eifert continues to stress education for his people and for consumers.
“Our industry has done a poor job of informing the public and its own people,” he said. “Once green technology gets publicized, the public will become more interested and will want to learn more.”
Reilly has already seen interest grow and he is excited about it, even if it keeps him up at night. “I’m up at 3:00 a.m. doing research and answering e-mails,” he said.