Green-Designed Passenger Boat Departs Florida for Educational Mission

Thursday, March 08, 2007
Explorer, RiverQuest’s newly constructed boat leaving Freeport, Fla. for its homeport in Pittsburgh, is a state-of-the-art environmental classroom, a world benchmark “green” commercial vessel and a tourist attraction that is the first of its kind. The launch of Explorer, the world’s first green-engineered floating classroom, marks a new era in marine design for environmental sustainability. Departing from its construction site in Freeport, Fla., the 90-foot, 150-passenger vessel will make a 16-day journey to its permanent home in Pittsburgh, Pa. RiverQuest provides river-based experiential learning about sustainability including ecology, environment science, energy, climate change, green engineering and river history and culture for students, teachers and the community through hands-on activities and technologies. Because there are no official standards for the design of “green” boats, RiverQuest assembled a unique team of naval architects, marine and electric-drive engineers, and green building experts from Pittsburgh, Pa.; across Florida; Atlanta, Ga.; Houston, Texas; and Germany. The melding of global expertise in boat design, alternative propulsions systems and the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) design process and standards has resulted in a series of green applications that are completely new to the marine industry. The foundation, a steady supporter of RiverQuest since its founding in 1991, has contributed more than $1 million toward Explorer’s $3.5 million construction cost. Other significant funders are the Richard King Mellon Foundation, The Buhl Foundation, the Hillman Foundation and the state Departments of Environmental Protection and Conservation & Natural Resources.

The design and construction team assessed some 100 different green technologies and applied the best applicable and feasible to Explorer. The hybrid diesel-electric, battery powered boat includes: A state-of-the-art, Siemens-furnished hybrid propulsion system and integrated electrical system that is the first commercial implementation in the world. The world’s first marine application of the LEEDTM design and construction standards that includes environmentally friendly coatings and paints, architectural windows, HVAC systems and a hull made of 100 percent certified steel. The ability to retrofit the power plant with solar, hydro and fuel cell technologies. RiverQuest will be adding a 1.5kW solar array to Explorer’s roof later this year. Water conservation technologies including the use of river water and waterless waste systems.

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