St. Louis, Missouri  -  What do you do with 265 skylights that are heating up thousands and thousands of square feet of office space, but sit on top of a pyramidical truss system that prohibits the use of traditional fixed frame shading systems?  Oh yeah, these skylights are forty feet off the floor and you cannot use a lift or ladder to reach them because of the permanent cubicles on the floor below.  

Univerdant member Syntropy Building Systems in partnership with St. Louis Skylight designed a unique "scroll shade" that could be rolled up into a tube and carried by installers as they climbed out into the truss system.  These scroll shades are made of metalized PET film that reflect about 50% of the heat passing through the skylights and were designed to be attached by bungee cords to the truss framing without the need for tools or fasteners.  This allowed the installers to work safely and quickly carrying only the shades through the trusses members.

Syntropy Building Systems specializes in custom designed heat reflection components for building envelopes.  In many cases, reflecting heat is not enough. In the case of the Maritz Motivation Company atriums in Valley Park, Missouri, Syntropy had to design around worker safety and existing structural limitations.   This required thinking outside the box in terms of a shade that could change shape while being installed and eliminated the need for tools and fasteners that only add to the hazard of working high above concrete flooring.  From the floor the shades look like they are built on fixed horizontal frames, but they are actually a heat reflective film web stretched between to aluminum rails attached by bungee cords at all four corners of the device.

July 25, 2013 Lee’s Summit, Missouri – Exergonix CEO Don Nissanka Wednesday was part of the delegation that welcomed President Barack Obama during the President’s speech to University of Central Missouri students. The President was in Warrensburg to talk about the University’s new Missouri Innovation Campus (MIC) program. Nissanka – who approached UCM President Chuck Ambrose to develop the concept for the MIC few years back, and was recognized yesterday along with Worldwide Technologies CEO Dave Steward for their contributions to UCM. Both Nissanka and Steward are UCM graduates who have been actively involved in the growth of educational programs there.

President Obama recognized the importance of programs like UCM’s, “Everybody is now working together to equip students with better skills, allow them to graduate faster with less debt and with the certainty of being able to get a job at the other end,” he said.

Nissanka said, “The visit by President Obama was a monumental event for Warrensburg and the area. More importantly it focuses attention on a cutting edge education program in our own back yard that brings a unique way for our future work force to learn.”

“The goal of the program is to train a generation of advanced, educated employees for companies throughout the region including Exergonix,” Nissanka said. “Our goal is not only to develop a quality workforce, but also to spark further innovation and incubate new entrepreneurs through hands on learning.”

The Missouri Innovation Campus (MIC) is a collaboration between the Lee's Summit R-7 School District, Metropolitan Community College, the University of Central Missouri and business partners such as Exergonix, Cerner and DST. MIC students will graduate with a four-year degree, two years after high school, no student debt, applied experience through paid internships and highly sought-after skills for high-paying careers. Beginning their junior year in high school, students take classes from Metropolitan Community College and the University of Central Missouri to earn college credit. Upon graduation from high school, these students will have their high school diplomas and associate degrees. After high school graduation, students

who finish their curriculum are eligible to complete a bachelor's degree from UCM

in only two years. Academic programs at the MIC focus on the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. (http://www.ucmo.edu/about/mic/)

Exergonix, based in Lee’s Summit, Missouri designs and builds renewable energy solutions for a wide range of applications including storage for solar and wind power, utility management and emergency back up. The company’s technology provides the missing link in the advancement of grid and micro-grid level infrastructure. Energy storage and renewable technologies are essential to the evolution of a smarter decentralized grid structure that can help the world's population alleviate its dependency on fossil fuels and protect the environment for future generations.

The company is building its world headquarters and production facility on an 85-acre campus it owns in Lee’s Summit. The campus is also planning to house the future home of the Missouri Innovation Campus and other renewable energy businesses that will also employ MIC students. The company also is expanding in Europe and in Asia in a diversified business structure to become a global leader in green initiatives.

Nissanka – a graduate of UCM – was recognized as a Distinguished International Alumnus in 2006. His work on the Innovation Campus concept has been recognized by the Bill and Melinda Gates Lumina Foundation and the Senate Commerce Committee which had him testify about the concept in 2012.

You can see video footage on President Obama’s speech and MIC initiatives below:

Columbia, Missouri -  University of Missouri, a Univerdant member, has announced that it has received a gift from Enterprise Leasing, the St. Louis-based rental car company in the amount of $2 million to study biofuels and energy efficiency.  The University of Missouri is deeply involved with a broad spectrum of research ranging from sustainable agriculture, biofuels and sustainable building design to modular nuclear reactors and radioisotope batteries.  

Enterprise Holdings owns the Enterprise Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car brands and was founded in 1957 by St. Louis native Jack Taylor. Taylor named the company after the USS Enterprise aircraft carrier, which he served on during World War II.  Enterprise Holdings has more than 74,000 employees, and more than 600 of those, including several senior executives, are Missouri alumni.

For more information regarding this sustainability gift see the recent article in the Kansas City Star

Unico, Inc. Logo
St. Louis, MO (March 11, 2013)—Unico, Inc, a leading manufacturer of small-duct, high-velocity central heating and air conditioning systems, announced today that work is set to begin on developing a new product that could revolutionize how homeowners heat their homes.  The project is funded by the federal government.

Unico applied for, and was awarded a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop a cold climate heat pump.  This would be a first of its kind heat pump that would heat a home without any additional sources of heat, even when the outdoor temperature reaches 17 degrees below zero.  Such a product would enable customers living in areas that are dependent on fuel oil or propane to dramatically reduce their heating costs, and save energy at the same time.

“We are very proud to have been awarded the DOE grant, and are quite excited about getting to work on developing a product that would be truly be a first for the HVAC industry,” said Shawn Intagliata, President, Unico, Inc.                 

All work on the project will be performed by Unico engineers, and some new employees hired specifically for work on the project.  The project is expected to take three years.

For more information, visit http://www.unicosystem.com.

World renown architect, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe taught at Illinois Institute of Technology and left behind him several buildings of his design and several other that were built using his methods.  Mies van der Rohe was considered one of the fathers of modern architecture and was critical to the development of the glass curtain wall buildings that are now commonplace in American urban architecture.  These buildings known for their ability to be built in factories and assembled in the field, radically changed the urban landscape.  Most of these buildings, however, were built at a time when energy was cheap and seemed to be limitless. 

That was then, this is now.  Univerdant member, Syntropy Building Systems was called in to passively reduce the temperature of the Life Sciences Building on the IIT campus, one of the Mies van der Rohe-inspired buildings on its Chicago campus.  The building was getting so hot that the air conditioning system was generating excess air pressure in a losing battle to cool down the building.  The air pressure was so high in the building that on more than one occasion it blew out twelve foot wide, quarter inch thick plate glass windows creating an enormous safety hazard for anyone entering the building during a hot summer day.

Syntropy, a distributor of Halcyon Shades, a metalized reflective film product made in St. Louis, Missouri, designed over sixty large shades with special magnetic brackets.  These shades literally could be taken out of the box and snapped in place in less time than it took to move the ladder used by the installer.  The magnetic brackets were necessary to avoid drilling into the steel window frames designed by Mies van der Rohe so as to avoid allowing corrosive moisture into the frame.  In the photo above, you can see the new shades installed by Syntropy (dark bronze) side-by-side with the old venetian blinds that had been used in the building for years.  The new Halcyon Shades allow building occupants to take in in the view of the surrounding campus while rejecting nearly 70% of the heat.  Consequently, head pressures on the air conditioning system can now be lowered thereby eliminating the threat to the glass and reducing energy demand substantially.

Univerdant members, Exergonix (makers of nano- particulate high-capacity lithium battery systems) and Unico (manufactures of high velocity heating and coolingsystems) have been working together to solve a persistent problem with high capacity energy storage - heat.  Typically, battery storage controls the temperature of the room or building containing the battery storage units.  The system under development in this collaboration, however, allows the cooling system to monitor and manage the heat of individual battery cells.  In a large capacity system like the ones built by Exergonix, there can be hundreds, or even thousands of individual lithium battery cells.  Being able to micromanage the temperature of the individual cells increases cell life, but also increases the efficiency of the entire battery storage system.

David Singer is the president of Warehouse of Fixtures TNG, one of the region's largest new and refurbished office furniture companies.  Warehouse of Fixtures has a comprehensive office furniture recycling program that significantly extends the life of office furnishings thereby avoiding waste.  Born and raised in University City, David MICDS before attending Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts.  During his college years, he spent a year studying in Israel learning about sustainable farming and solar energy generation.  In 2004, after graduating from Brandeis, David restarted his family’s new and used furniture business, Warehouse of Fixtures, with his mother Joanne Singer and good friend Dan Lohman.  Warehouse of Fixtures ships their products to environmentally conscious corporations nationwide.
David is a member of the St. Louis Chapter of Entrepreneur’s Organization, a member and past president of the MAC Toastmasters Club, and a board member of the Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition.  In his free time, enjoys hiking with his wife, Danielle, and dogs, Argos and Kassie.    

David was elected by the membership of Univerdant to be the president of the organization for the 2013 fiscal year.  He succeeds Nick Hennen as president of the organization.  Nick will remain on the board per the organization's operating agreement throughout 2013 as well.  

David has strong operational management skills and the membership is looking forward to his contribution to launching Univerdant into a fully funded, full service organization.   He has already made major contributions to the group by being one of the principal authors of the groups organizational documents operational plan.  

Jim Curran is executive vice president of the Electrical Connection, a partnership of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local One and the St. Louis Chapter, National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA). He cultivates professional relationships and develops new business opportunities with economic development stakeholders with a focus on Eastern Missouri, including the St. Louis region.

With more than 30 years experience in development and marketing positions, Curran is engaged in a number of organizations advancing Missouri’s economic development and energy needs. He is a board member and an elected member of the Missouri Energy Initiative’s Executive Committee.  He is also on the board of the Hawthorn Foundation. Since 2004, Curran has been the elected District 5 Director of the Missouri Economic Development Council (MEDC) and is the Public Policy Liaison for District 5. 

In addition, Curran serves on the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association (RCGA) Green Talent Task Force; the China Hub Initiative Advance Manufacturing Committee; the St. Louis Regional Clean Cities Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Committee; the Univerdant Sustainability Network board; I-44 High Tech Corridor Advisory Board, Missouri’s Small Modular Reactor Suppliers Committee member; and the St. Charles Economic Development Center Incubator Advisory Committee.  He was also named to the St. Louis Business Journal’s list of Who’s Who in Energy in 2012.

Curran previously served as economic development director for the cities of O’Fallon and Fenton, both suburbs of St. Louis, and as president of the Fenton Development Association.  He was formerly president and CEO of the International Order of the Golden Rule and president of Curran Consulting.  Earlier in his career, he was associate director of the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission, where he generated more than $3 billion in economic impact through his bookings.  He is past president of the Hotel Sales and Management Association.  For eight years, he hosted the “Curran Events” talk show on WGNU.  

The Electrical Connection is located at 5735 Elizabeth, St. Louis, Mo. (63110).  Its member electrical and communication contractors and their IBEW craftspeople serve facility owners in the city of St. Louis and the 25 Missouri counties of Bollinger, Butler, Cape Girardeau, Carter, Dunklin, Franklin, Iron, Jefferson, Lincoln, Madison, Mississippi, New Madrid, Pemiscot, Perry, Reynolds, Ripley, St. Charles, St. Francois, St. Louis, Ste. Genevieve, Scott, Stoddard, Warren, Washington and Wayne.

Nick Hennen
It has been two years in the making, but through the hard work and tenacious leadership of Nick Hennen, Univerdant is now a reality.  Several years ago, Nick began to circulate the idea of a consortium of companies, civic organizations and educational institutions that could create a green energy and sustainability think-tank of sorts.  For the for-profit members this might look like a tight collaboration, or "virtual firm" as Nick often called it, that would allow smaller regional companies and emerging start-ups to work with bigger companies to compete for large projects.  Through strenuous networking, recruiting and endless presentations and discussions, Nick brought together a broad selection of companies and institutions with hundreds of years of collective experience.

A critical ally in his quest for an organization that would encourage development and synergize sustainability technologies throughout the Midwest and around the nation was Jim Curran, Executive Vice President of Electrical Connection.  The Electrical Connection, in and of itself is a remarkable collaboration between the National Electrical Contractors Association and the International  Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.  Its purpose is to create a platform for management and labor to work together to open new economic opportunities in the emerging energy conservation and new energy generation markets.  Jim is also a member of the board of directors of the Hawthorn Foundation and has been a driving force on the Missouri economic development scene for many years.  The Hawthorn Foundation is a nonprofit organization of corporations and business leaders who are working to make Missouri’s future brighter by encouraging the economic success across the state.

Recently, Univerdant found support for its vision from two of Missouri's most important academic institutions.  Missouri S&T was the first academic institution to join Univerdant and has established itself as a model for university participation.  Tony Arnold, the Assistant Director of the university's OSE3 program has recently been elected to the board of directors of Univerdant.  The University of Missouri at Columbia has also joined the Univerdant membership and is represented by Dr. Robert Reed who is also the director of the Midwest  Energy Efficiency Research Consortium.  Other major universities have applications for membership pending.

Univerdant members offer a broad range of services and products from solar heating units that reduce energy consumption in commercial boiler systems from Engineered Solar Solutions, to top-end engineering services offered by two of Missouri's premier engineering firms, EDM, Inc. and FDH, Inc.  Nick Hennan's own company, Exergonix, is one of Univerdant's best examples of high-tech product development.  Exergonix makes lithium batteries that can store up to a megawatt of electricity and can be used to capture energy produced by wind generators for release into the grid at times of peak need.

Univerdant offers to the region and nation a "one-stop" energy and sustainability management resource that can offer any company, institution, or even individuals, access to top-flight expertise, services and products to meet virtually any need.  As the organization grows, it intends to broaden its offerings into all aspects of sustainability including the government and community development sectors.

And to think, this all became possible through an idea shared by an enterprising electrical engineer.  Thanks, Nick!  

As part of the inaugural launch of Univerdant as a formal organization, members elected its first slate of officers, a board of directors and initiated an advisory board.  The officers of the organization are:
  • President, David Singer, Warehouse of Fixtures
  • Vice President, Randy Niederer, Unico System
  • Treasurer, John McClain, The Productivity Team
  • Immediate Past President, Nick Hennen, Exergonix, Inc.

The member of the board of directors include the following members:
  • Anthony Arnold, Missouri S&T
  • Jim Curran, Electrical Connection
  • Chase Green, H & H Lighting
  • David Kenyon, Syntropy Building System
  • Chris Kerckhoff, EDM, Inc.

The board of directors has resolved to establish an advisory board and appointed its first member, Jason Archer, Director of Business Development for the Missouri Department of Economic Development.