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Inside Innovation: Tomorrow’s clean, green job site here today

John Bleasby
Inside Innovation: Tomorrow’s clean, green job site here today

Construction has a GHG emissions problem. From the moment shovels hit the ground, the building process creates massive amounts of carbon. Add in the GHGs created by the manufacture of ubiquitous materials like concrete and steel, it’s no wonder attention is being paid to solutions that will reduce emissions in the construction process.

One such development is the possibility of a work site with next to no dependency on fossil fuels. Call it the “Clean, Green Job Site”. It’s now becoming a possibility, thanks to the development of high capacity electrical storage stations and cordless power tools.

At the heart of construction’s GHG-reduction solution lies the power source. For example, the Canadian-made VoltStack power stations are proving themselves to be sufficiently flexible and rugged to energize all sizes of construction sites, thereby eliminating noisy, smelly exhaust from generators that waste that fossil fuel while running on standby. With various models, the company has created a family of power stations that can be located around the site as required.

VoltStack’s mobility allows smaller units to be used for corded tool applications and the re-charging of cordless tool batteries, and for larger units to re-charge some of the new electrically-powered machinery now being used in interior excavation work. The company’s smaller units can even recharge off larger units while simultaneously providing power to any tool connected to it. Management communications applications that monitor power drawdowns among the power stations around the site give supervisors the information needed to place the right-sized units where required.

The health and safety aspect cannot be overlooked as well. “There isn’t the noise and the smell,” says Tom Bennett, Director of Marketing for Vancouver-based Portable Electric, manufacturer of the VoltStack product line. Units can be brought right alongside the work at hand. Communication on site also improves. “Workers can talk to each other.”

The development of cordless tools has further contributed to the reduced call for noisy compressors and exhaust-spewing generators. “Battery technology is advancing rapidly,” says Stephen Blain, Commercialization Manager of Professional Power Tools for Stanley Black & Decker Canada. “With all the new higher amp hour batteries coming to the market, tool manufacturers have been developing new chargers that are able to charge batteries faster.” Portable power stations allow these batteries to be recharged after use, either centrally or near the worker.

The result is the development of what many call “the cordless job site”. It’s another health and safety benefit that couples with the noise and emission reductions offered by VoltStack stations. “Cords are huge tripping hazards on job sites,” says Blain. “The wrong gauge of extension cord can lead to tools functioning below their full level of performance, and risk breakers tripping. Poor cord positioning can lead to incidental cutting as well as shock hazards. Large companies can end up spending thousands of dollars on proper extension cords as well as labour to properly inspect, collect, and store cords.”

Of course, there are times when AC power simply isn’t available on site at all. And when there is power, users might fight over a common plug which then becomes burdened with many cords, tripping breakers and shutting down progress on site. “On the other hand, a cordless tool user can show up and get to work without having to run excessive cords,” says Blain. “They are also able to work in areas where gas tools are prohibited.”

The list of job functions within the capability of cordless tools is shrinking rapidly. Blain says most manufacturers, like Stanley Black & Decker, have over 200 cordless tools. Tools still requiring direct AC power may see cordless equivalents coming to the market soon, as higher voltage platforms beyond the current 18V/20V are developed.

Quieter, cleaner, safer, and with GHG emissions significantly reduced — the work site of the future is, in fact, already here.


John Bleasby is a Coldwater, Ont. based freelance writer. Send comments and Inside Innovation column ideas to

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