A) US DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY LAB
I couldn’t go down South to Tennessee without visiting an energy project. During my recent trip to Tennessee, I had the pleasure of touring one of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (US Department of Energy) facilities at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. While touring the Fibers and Composites Manufacturing Facility, my friend Komal Kooduvalli presented her research to share her work at the lab. She is focused on performing Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) and Embodied Energy (EE) calculations for the products and processes that are prototyped and worked on at the lab, through collaborations with its industry partners and IACMI- the Composites Institute. Says Komal, “The work related to plastics and composites that is taken up in our laboratories has a trickle-down effect on several secondary industries. We focus on aspects ranging from characterization, modeling and simulation, prototyping products and developing new materials altogether. My work specifically focuses on understanding the energy, cost and emission baselines for manufacturing products and processes. These have a direct influence on the amount of energy and resources consumed at commercial scale facilities which feed into the amount of pollutants released into the atmosphere that greatly influences human health, resource efficiency, and climate change.”
Komal knew she wanted to pursue a career in Sustainability early on. “For me, sustainability started at a young age where I noticed how certain environments were not kept as well as others. This made me wonder why the NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) syndrome is so deeply embedded within us and how we can work to rectify it through necessary education and behavior change. My first internship at a local solar company in Bangalore (SELCO India) helped solidify my interest in renewable energy. Their cost-effective social enterprise model influenced people positively, especially those in under-served communities. That summer greatly influenced me to pursue higher studies in sustainability and focus on renewable energy projects with an optimistic outlook.” Her environmental aspirations for the future are bright! “My dream job would be to work for the United Nation Development or Environment Program working on development work in underserved communities with the goal of disseminating decentralized renewable energy and possibly taking up a consulting role for such projects at a social enterprise.”
Check out some DOE reports Komal contributed to, via IACMI!
B) KNOXVILLE INTERNATIONAL ENERGY EXPOSITION
1982 WORLD FAIR
We climbed up the 266’ steel Sunsphere, an icon for the World Fair exposition, themed “Energy Turns the World.” Today, the Sunsphere is the icon of Knoxville’s skyline.
The energy-themed World Fair hosted interesting environmental exhibits, including Today’s Solar Home, America’s Electricity Energy Exhibit, Gas Energy Pavilion + more!
On the site of the former 1982 World Fair is the Convention Center, the first LEED building in Knoxville to be certified by the US Green Building Council. Scroll below to see the solar panels installed on its roof, as seen from atop the Sunsphere. The area was a fun evening walk, and it was incredible to think about how many thousands of Americans had migrated to this very location decades ago.
Fun Fact: Knoxville is a Solar America City!
Gatlinburg is the gateway mountain town to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This is a great pit stop for experiencing southern culture + sweeping views of the hilly topography. Check out their tramway cable rides! We walked around through the little village on the main strip,and loved all the quaint shops, galleries, and displayed craftwork!
It is easy to grasp why Music City is coined as such. As soon as I emerged from a downtown parking garage, I was greeted by very loud and distinctive live music; a fusion of country and jazz. This city is truly a melting pot for a variety of musical genres! Check out some of the sites I visited below along with travel tips.
Music City Center, pictured above, is one of the most architecturally playful structures I have seen in the downtown area. Check out the floating composition, acoustical aesthetic and warm wood texture! I was very impressed! Though I didn't venture inside, the building does have some interesting design elements, including ample daylighting and a green roof (it's a massive footprint!).
Architects and Country Music lovers can find common ground at this site! I was very delighted with my visit and highly recommend the Daytime Backstage tour. Described as country music’s “most famous stage”, the Grand Ole Opry was first founded in 1925. The Opry is the longest running radio broadcast in the U.S. It was originally housed at the historic Ryman Auditorium before moving to its current location in the 1970s.
We ended our trip with an extra day in Knoxville (Thank you, Allegiant Airlines, for canceling our flight+ providing no alternatives. Travel Tip: Do NOT fly Allegiant). We spent the day at the Knoxville Zoo!