Talking Textiles Podcast: Manufacturing the Next Textile Experts

July 20, 2022

About This Episode

Dan Walczyk and Glenn Saunders have always enjoyed tinkering and taking things apart. This passion eventually led them to work as engineers and professors in the study of industrial robots, textile automation, fusing and composites. Today, as professors at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, they strive to produce the best engineering students and thus restore the manufacturing businesses globally. Listen in and learn more on our latest episode of Talking Textiles.

This episode is hosted by Pvilion co-founder and CEO, Colin Touhey.

To view this podcast on the IFAI website, click here.


Project Arcwater: Sustaining more than just the warfighter

52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs |  July 3, 2022 | By Tech. Sgt. Maeson L. Elleman

photo courtesy of Spangdahlem Air Base

OTWOCK, Poland —  Her words fell with a staggering weight as she began to recount the emotional journey that led her and her team of colleagues to this point.

Her purple glasses, pink-floral blouse, pink lipstick and thin gold chain necklace told the story of a bubbly, approachable woman, and her tone and articulation lent credence to her many years of education and experience. Yet through her smile, her struggle was apparent.

Pulling through the pandemic was already hard enough; organizations like hers had been forced to abandon their traditional practices for years or cancel programs altogether. What had once been an infallible annual tradition of teaching children English through an art summer camp in Poland was in triage for the third year in a row.

“This year had been a very hard year for me, personally,” said Mary Kay Pieski, co-president of Eagle-Orzel Educational and Cultural Exchange, Inc. who has a doctorate in cultural foundations of education. “I was up against a board that was saying no to me, and teachers that were saying, ‘No, we don’t feel comfortable.’”

Eagle-Orzel is a nonprofit cultural exchange organization between the U.S. and Poland has partnered with Poviat Youth Cultural Center in Otwock to host an annual summer camp for teaching English to Polish children through different arts.

The summer camp has become a tremendous part of Pieski’s life in many ways; it’s been an annual summertime staple for her throughout the past 27 years. Feeling as if she was faced with the abrupt end of something she has cherished so much fell onto her like a ton of bricks.

This year would be different, though. By partnering with the U.S. Air Force at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Pieski and her eight colleagues would finally cross the Atlantic to join what she considers to be her overseas family once again.

“At that point, I was very concerned because most of our volunteers were hesitant to come to Poland this summer because of the situation in Ukraine, and also COVID was preventing us the last two years to come,” Pieski said. “I was so upset because I didn’t know how I was going to make this happen this summer.”

Up to this point, the last few years had been especially challenging for Pieski. Though vaccinations and relaxed restrictions eased travel challenges in the early months of 2022, she received gut-wrenching news she feared would permanently end her participation in the English-language summer camp.

“I was diagnosed with breast cancer,” Pieski said. “I made it through surgery and radiation, and I was like, ‘I’m going to Poland, no matter what,’ but I just couldn’t find the way.”

This year’s program in Otwock, Poland, was further complicated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – Poland’s neighboring country – which sewed uncertainty in the nonprofit’s board members and cast doubt in its security.

Airman gives a demonstration of Project Arcwater to children at a summer camp.
People construct field tent.
Airman gives a demonstration of Project Arcwater to children at a summer camp.
photos courtesy of Spangdahlem Air Base

That’s when she called an old friend, Tech. Sgt. Matt Connelly, the innovation manager for the 52nd Fighter Wing, who first joined the summer camp as a teacher’s assistant roughly a decade ago.

“We would not be here at all if it wasn’t for Matt,” Pieski said. “His positive attitude, his assurance, his determination to work with us and make this happen for us … It was just incredible,” Pieski said. “It was an absolute, answer-to-prayer miracle that happened here on many levels.”

Connelly is the resident improvement expert at Spangdahlem Air Base. He teaches classes on process improvement and has helped countless members at the installation bring their workplace innovation ideas to fruition – ideas like Project Arcwater, the latest crowned champion of the Air Force Spark Tank innovation competition.

After speaking more with Connelly, Pieski had a way forward: Send a formal invitation to 52nd FW leadership asking Connelly to join.

While discussing the terms of joining the Eagle-Orzel bunch as a volunteer aid, it hit him: This was an opportunity for the Air Force, too. Connelly could help the summer camp continue forward, teaching both Polish and Ukrainian refugee children through humanitarian aid, while also field testing the Air Force’s latest big-name innovation.

Project Arcwater was pitched to provide two main services: Clean electrical power and ultra-pure drinking water. The system uses advanced solar fabric* and an atmospheric water harvester to drastically slash greenhouse gas emissions, fuel and equipment transportation challenges, and their associated costs in order to provide sustainable services in austere environments – or in this case, a two-week children’s summer camp.

“Project Arcwater is the number-one innovation in the Air and Space Forces; we report to the vice chief of staff just about every two weeks about what’s going on with Arcwater,” Connelly said. “The option of stepping away even for a personal vacation or anything, it’s very tough when we’re in a one-person position. It was a phenomenal feeling to combine something that was both humanitarian and practical for the needs of the Air Force,” Connelly said. “I love doing these kinds of volunteer programs; I’ve done this before on two separate occasions, and it was always very fulfilling. If we can effectively double-book by not only doing innovation work but also doing educational and humanitarian work – assurance and deterrence – that’s just a combination made in heaven.”

Using only sunlight and water from the air, the innovation can sustain dozens of warfighters during Agile Combat Employment, but the system is designed for a wide range of applications like humanitarian aid and disaster response. What normally requires a large generator and countless 55-gallon drums of diesel fuel can now fit in the beds of a couple pickup trucks.

After a few months of coordination with the Polish State Department, U.S. embassy in Poland, 52nd FW leadership, and Arcwater’s developer, Senior Master Sgt. Brent Kenney, the solar fabric system, the water harvester, an air conditioner and a small tent were loaded into two pickup trucks and driven across two countries to join the Eagle-Orzel crew.

The system will be put to the test supplying more people for a longer time than it had ever been tested before. A success at the summer camp is a success for agile warfighter sustainment in operations around the world.

“Arcwater was designed for 55 adult individuals,” Connelly said. “This would be a situation where we have 75 children plus the adult cadre. What this would allow us to do is seriously stress-test the system for not just two days, three days, four days … it would allow us to stress-test the system for more than two weeks, and that was, in terms of data, absolute gold for us.”

The summer camp is slated to continue through July 8.

To read the original article, click here.

*Project ArcWater uses Pvilion’s solar powered fabric to harvest water, heat and cool, and provide shelter.


Solar Fabric Canopies

Flexible solar panels integrated into fabric are giving tenants a new outdoor amenity that generates its own power. Here’s how you can create next-generation amenity spaces with this new solar technology.

Buildings | Janelle Penny

A new solar technology combines flexible solar panels with fabric to create a canopy that generates electricity.

Solar fabric architecture, the result of combining fabric and solar cells, can be used to create canopies and other shaded gathering places where building occupants can relax while they recharge their devices.

“It’s a pretty basic concept – it’s a surface that’s getting hit by the sun all day and previously wasn’t creating electricity. Now it is,” explains Colin Touhey, CEO of Pvilion, a solar fabric manufacturer. “We’re taking areas that get hit by the sun, providing shading and putting solar cells on them to serve a multi-purpose.”


(Photo: Solar sails are an easy way to create an outdoor sitting area for charging devices, eating lunch, or having outdoor meetings with colleagues. Credit: Pvillion)

How Solar Fabric Works

A solar fabric installation starts with an idea. Facilities professionals who know they want an outdoor hangout space with flexible solar panels will work with manufacturers like Pvilion to customize the project to the conditions on the site. This will account for:

  • Where the site gets the most sun
  • Local code, including wind load requirements
  • How to engineer the structure so that the fabric won’t flap around in a storm

Once the project is designed, thin film solar panels are laminated to sturdy fabric that can handle outdoor conditions. The fabric is then mounted on a frame, pole or other structure. The solar-powered space can be grid-tied or grid-independent and typically generate 10-15W per square foot of panel, Touhey adds. Many structures can be erected in a few hours or less – most of the work is done ahead of time, with just structure-building and basic wiring required on-site.

“We just did a few installations in parks in Atlanta that are basically benches under a beautiful arching canopy that provides shade in the summer and rain protection, and there are USB ports and AC outlets there for you to charge your phone or work on your laptop,” Touhey says. “Outdoor canopies are a hot topic right now. At Google’s headquarters, we did some outdoor juice bars – a café juice bar but in an indoor-outdoor space where you’re protecting it, making it waterproof and providing shading.”

The solar fabric is also ideal for open parking lots that are exposed to the elements all day. Carports can use the flexible fabric or a more rigid panel solution to offset the electrical demand of parking lot lighting or charge electric vehicles.


(Photo: Capital Cascades Park in Tallahassee, FL, features a solar-powered pedestrian bridge that uses flexible solar fabric. The panels on the fabric power the park’s lighting. Credit: Pvillion)

What to Know About Solar Fabric Architecture

This application of flexible solar panels may be new, but the maintenance is the same as it’s always been. A simple semi-annual cleaning with soap and water will make sure the panels can harvest the maximum amount of energy from the sun. A good rule of thumb is to clean the panels whenever you need to clean the fabric.

“If the white is getting dirty, the panels are as well. They’re just not as visible,” says Touhey. “But the panels are still going to work – you just want them to look nice.”

Solar fabric installations often qualify for investment tax credits, adds Touhey, so any financial discussion around investing in this new solar technology should take incentives into consideration. Pvilion’s clients are typically already interested in adding a solar-powered amenity, but the federal incentives make it easier to justify the upfront cost.


(Photo: Solar fabric creates a shady spot for cars. The energy it harvests from the sun can power parking lot lighting or even partially charge the cars parked under it. Credit: Pvillion)

“If you’re looking to put a $10,000 architectural trellis on your rooftop, you’re going to write a check for $10,000 to your contractor. If you add a $12,000 solar trellis to your rooftop, you’re immediately eligible for the 30 percent Investment Tax Credit, accelerated depreciation and any state and local incentives,” explains Touhey. “Just by adding a little bit of solar, you’re reducing the installation cost. You’re making the thing you were already going to spend money on cheaper.”

Tenant amenities are rapidly becoming sought-after ways to attract new tenants and retain existing ones. Extras like powered outdoor workspaces and device-charging relaxation stations could be the thing that sets your facility apart from the competition. Investigate this new solar technology and see if a canopy laminated with solar cells is the right investment for you.

To read the full original article, click here.


NYC Rooftop Vineyard Leverages Solar Power for F&B

The 15,000-square-foot Rooftop Reds space puts an emphasis on sustainability and social responsibility.

Hospitality Technology | June 29, 2022 | Robert Firpo-Cappiello

The founders of Rooftop Reds are on a mission. 

The pioneering rooftop vineyard, spanning 15,000 square feet at NYC’s Brooklyn Navy Yard, boasts nearly 200 grapevines, colorful seating, decorative lights, and jaw-dropping views of the Manhattan and Brooklyn skylines. And its status as the first rooftop vineyard is just the beginning.

Promoting Sustainability

“We’re developing a new breed of urban agriculture and sustainability practices to help reduce the heat island effect and inspire creative thought regarding city green spaces,” says Rooftop Reds founder Devin Shomaker.

A major component of the vineyard’s sustainability practices is a partnership with fellow Brooklyn-based technology company Pvilion to install solar fabric installations onsite, allowing Rooftop Reds’ food and event programming — including pizza and wine movie nights; wine, chocolate, and oyster tastings; vineyard tours; and locally sourced dinners — to become primarily solar dependent for the height of the summer season.

“We host many food events at Rooftop Reds,” says Shomaker. “With the investment of solar systems, we are living our mission of being a sustainable and forward-thinking business.”

On a day-to-day basis, the solar installation mostly generates energy for the property’s perimeter and vineyard lighting. When Rooftop Reds hosts food events, they often use the stored solar energy to assist with their cookware energy needs. 

“Solar is just another way we can promote and educate sustainability via our food programming,” says Shomaker. “While the economic benefits from solar for our business are quite minor, being able to speak about our values regarding sustainability practices with confidence is very important to both our staff and guests.”

Making Vineyards Accessible

Rooftop Reds’ mission also extends to social responsibility. By bringing the vineyard experience to the city, easily accessible via public transportation such as subway, bus, and ferry, the vineyard allows New Yorkers to enjoy an eco-friendly wine-culture experience close to home, without driving miles to the state’s renowned wine regions like the North Fork of Long Island or the Finger Lakes. 

Shomaker and his partner TJ Provenzano and GM Irina Sargisova also hope to “de-snobify” wine culture by making it approachable, fun, and educational. “We accomplish this lofty goal by focusing on a 100% New York State wine, beer and cider list,” says Shomaker. “We offer a casual environment with beer garden & bistro tables, hammocks, yard games, porch swings, pergolas, and an outdoor movie theater on the rooftop. Wine can and should be fun to enjoy and share!”

Rooftop Reds produces a range of tasty, reasonably priced whites, sparkling wines, rosés, and, yes, reds, in collaboration with Point of the Bluff Vineyards, in Hammondsport, NY.

To read the full original article, click here.