Construction Junkie’s Shane Hedmond shared a video marking completion of work on the foundation at “The Tower” in Jeddah:

The final height of the building has yet to be announced, which is common for supertall buildings, as those involved want to avoid tipping their hand to fellow supertall building developers. It’s expected that the tower will end up between 3,600 feet and 4,413 feet tall. The Burj Khalifa is 2,722 feet tall.

Once completed, the building will likely enjoy a somewhat short-lived recognition as the next world’s tallest building.

From the video’s description:

Since The Tower’s ground-breaking ceremony in October 2016, more than 145 barrette piles have been laid to depths of over 72m. These piles are now being trimmed in preparation for the laying of the 19m-thick pile cap.

Designed by Spanish-Swiss architect and engineer Santiago Calatrava Valls, The Tower will have multiple several observation decks delivering 360 degree views of the city.

The project is currently on schedule for a 2020 completion with the final height of the structure yet to be revealed.

Vancouver, British Colombia played host for a couple decades to a dramatic uprising of concrete-clad condos that permanently altered the city’s skyline. Developers rushing to sell units to (oftentimes  foreign) investors and empty-nesters cut corners, leading to years of litigation followed by tougher standards and improved oversight — particularly regarding the building envelope.

Despite the progress, construction defects have been far from eradicated in the Vancouver region.  According to CTV’s John Woodward, the (presumably unrelated) Woodward building located in the historic Gastown neighborhood is subject to a $1-million (CAD) lawsuit over failing — and falling — concrete. Here’s more:

The suit, which was filed in 2016, refers to a 2014 engineering report done five years after the building opened with designs of transforming the Downtown Eastside.

That survey found fourteen cases of exposed rebar in the exterior of the building, and warned: “Unrepaired exposed steel will corrode and cause more of the surrounding concrete to spall and break off, creating a safety hazard for vehicles and pedestrians below.”

The review found nine cases of staining from corrosion, 12 cases of concrete cracks, as well as 13 cases of efflorescence of concrete–a streaking that is a sign of moisture ingress–and two cases of missing sealant.

Kevin Nute, writing for the Washington Post:

A building’s primary purpose may be to keep the weather out, but most of them do such an effective job of this that they also inadvertently deprive us of contact with two key requirements for our well-being and effectiveness: nature and change.

In the 1950s, Donald Hebb’s “arousal theory” established that people need a degree of changing sensory stimulation to remain fully attentive. And 30 years later, landmark research by health-care designer Roger Ulrich showed that hospital patients in rooms with views of nature had lower stress levels and recovered more quickly than patients whose rooms looked out at a brick wall.

Unfortunately, many buildings — especially in cities — are not blessed with green surroundings. I am part of a group of architects and psychologists at the University of Oregon that has been examining ways to overcome this problem using an aspect of nature available anywhere: the weather. Think of rippling sunlight reflecting from water onto the underside of a boat, or the dappled shadows from foliage swaying in a breeze. Other examples can be seen at vitalarchitecture.org.

How a building’s design, use of materials, the amount of natural air and light allowed, and — perhaps most importantly — how it is operated, all have measurable and well-established impacts on building occupants.

As Megan Fowler point out at ArchDaily in response, these concepts shouldn’t be reserved solely for new buildings, but in fact, we desperately need to apply them to the existing buildings that make up the vast majority of our building stock.

The dilemma of course, is how do you allow more weather in, while simultaneously protecting occupants (and sensitive building components) from that weather in order to comply with basic building code requirements? Besides integrating advanced technologies into the design and construction process, I predict this challenge will become critical to the future of our industry in coming years.

Grenfell Tower, a UK public housing project that caught fire recently, was a true disaster that is most likely directly attributable to incompatible design specifications and implementation by established architecture, engineering and construction professionals.  I’ve been holding off publishing much about the event until there is more consensus from the forensic experts regarding root cause, but I felt this was worth sharing in the meantime.

Peter Murray, writing for Archinect, offered his take following a talk by the CEO of a UK housing developer discussing the aftermath of the Grenfell disaster. Specifically, Murray focuses on the UK (and, it should be noted, US) practice of relying on subcontractors to transfer away risk. The title of his article: “The return of the master builder?”

In the coming months and years there will be numerous inquiries into the cause of the fire and its effect. There will be investigations to ascertain blame – corporate, personal and institutional. All to ensure that nothing similar happens again. While the results of forensic analysis and judicial process will potentially take years to publish, it is appropriate that attention is paid to key concerns that have emerged in the immediate aftermath. The testing of cladding materials and their context is the most publicised of these, but the issues highlighted by Vlessing have subsequently been picked up by many professionals and by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). The institute’s recent statement points out that current building procurement methods mean that the lead designer (architect or engineer) is frequently not responsible throughout the project for the design and the specification of materials or the inspection of their installation. The RIBA also commented on the disappearance of the clerk of works who would traditionally inspect the work of contractors and report non-compliance to the client.

Architects have argued for some time that not having the authority to insist on specific products being used in design build contracts allows contractors to change specifications to cheaper materials, without understanding the knock-on effect. In some cases architects are discouraged from going to site, but when they do manage to influence the process they are often seen as adding cost. Which of course is frequently the case if they are stopping the contractor from using the less expensive and possibly inappropriate spec.

[…]

As the construction industry discusses the aftermath of Grenfell and the changes that need to take place in the procurement of buildings it should ensure that there is greater consistency of quality control throughout the process. In the era of BIM, VR, MMC and an industry that is committed to collaboration, perhaps we should look again at the master builder role that Fosters carried out in Hong Kong. The idea of the architect as master builder was described by Paul Morrell when he was Government Construction Advisor as a’role that many still romantically profess an ambition for’. But however romantic it may be and whether it is an architect or other professional, the industry which has discussed collaboration for so long but has ended up with buck passing, needs a new mechanism for delivering a fully integrated end product.

 

Great Big Story bills themselves as “a global media company devoted to cinematic storytelling.”

Last year, they produced a great short feature about a team of skilled contractors and archeologists putting ancient building techniques to use in order to construct a medieval castle. Here’s the description accompanying the video:

It’s hard to fathom how magnificent castles were built centuries ago. One group set out to understand just that by building their own masterpiece two hours outside of Paris. Tucked away in a forest, a team of master builders and archeologists are attempting to construct Guédelon, a castle from the 13th century, using only medieval techniques.

And here is the video:

Peter Yost is a building scientist and regularly blogs at Green Building Advisor. A recent post of his chronicled his adventures dealing with some sort of bio-organic growth on the recently added siding at his home — but just at the south side, not the north.

Mr. Yost’s wife first noticed the issue and began the conversation as follows:

“OK, Mr. Building Scientist, you supposedly worked your moisture magic when you re-sided the house with clapboards[…] But I am looking at little black dots all over the siding. It looks a lot like mold to me.”

You’ll want to read the full post for details, but the Reader’s Digest version is that some species of mold or mildew was relying upon the oil in the oil-based paint as a food source, rather than his wood siding. Here are some of his lessons learned:

  • Keep your eye out for oil-based primer on exterior wood trim and cladding. It’s great to order materials that have been factory-primed, but what they use can make a difference.
  • Beware of potential problems when you install a latex topcoat over an oil-based primer. If you are in any sort of “wet” climate (generally more than 20 inches of precipitation annually), these are probably not a good mix.

Energy modeling is not exactly a brand new science, but it certainly hasn’t been around very long, either.

In essence, energy modeling is a software-based approach to predicting how much energy a given building will use based on its location, orientation, wall/roof/slab design, windows, doors, etc. In California, for example, energy modeling is a critical aspect of designing any project and carries a great deal of influence on the permitting process. In Europe, there are very real country-wide energy usage agreements that set measurable goals for building performance. (more…)

Debra Rubin, of ENR, shares the sad news of the passing of an AEC forensics grandmaster:

John M. Hanson, who, as president, helped guide the growth of Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc. into an industry-leading forensics and failures engineer and who led probes into high-profile collapses of the Kansas City Hyatt hotel walkway in 1981 and the New York State Thruway Schoharie Creek Bridge in 1987, died on May 26 in Green Valley, Ariz., at 84. The firm did not release the cause of death.

(more…)

Astrophysicist and author Ethan Siegel, writing for Forbes, just helped to expose a longtime myth about good ole’ Galloping Gertie, a bridge that (in)famously collapsed just a few short months after opening to public traffic.

To help jog your memory, here is footage uploaded to YouTube of the bridge twisting and bouncing around:

The story we learned in Physics class back in school was that Galloping Gertie’s fatal flaw was related to “resonant frequency” — the same phenomena responsible for wine glasses shattering when exposed a tone of specific frequency. Siegel proposes an alternative explanation:

But it wasn’t resonance that brought the bridge down, but rather the self-induced rocking! Without an ability to dissipate its energy, it just kept twisting back-and-forth, and as the twisting continued, it continued to take damage, just as twisting a solid object back-and-forth will weaken it, eventually leading to it breaking. It didn’t take any fancy resonance to bring the bridge down, just a lack of foresight of all the effects that would be at play, cheap construction techniques, and a failure to calculate all the relevant forces.

This wasn’t a total failure, however. The engineers who investigated its collapsed began to understand the phenomenon quickly; within 10 years, they had a new sub-field of science to call their own: bridge aerodynamics-aeroelastics. The phenomenon of flutter is now well-understood, but it has to be remembered in order to be effective. The two bridges currently spanning the Tacoma Narrows’ previous path have shorn up those flaws, but London’s Millennium Bridge and Russia’s Volgograd Bridge have both had “flutter”-related flaws exposed in the 21st century.

Don’t blame resonance for the most famous bridge-collapse of all. The true cause is much scarier, and could affect hundreds of bridges across the world if we ever forget to account for, and mitigate, the fluttering effects that brought this one down.

Read all of Siegel’s piece for the details…

Patrick Sisson, writing for Curbed, wrote a wonderful article: How air conditioning shaped modern architecture — and changed our climate. He states:

Air conditioning enabled our great modernist buildings to rise, but it’s also fueled today’s energy and environmental crisis. AC helped create a new building typology, one that environmentally conscious architects and designers are trying to move beyond with new designs and passive-cooling techniques.

“Modern buildings cannot survive unless hard-wired to a life-support machine,” says University of Cambridge professor Alan Short. “Yet this fetish for glass, steel, and air-conditioned skyscrapers continues; they are symbols of status around the world on an increasingly vast scale.”

Interestingly (at least to me), the development and implementation of air conditioning and mechanical ventilation was not primarily driven by a desire for improved occupant comfort. Instead, the focus was health:

The new class of white-collar workers who occupied these upper-level offices suffered through humid summers not just because they didn’t know any better, but because Victorian social mores didn’t place much stock in personal comfort. In fact, the adoption of mechanical ventilation systems, which were invented by Benjamin Franklin Sturtevant in the 1860s and became more common in taller buildings towards the end of the 19th century, was due in large part to the problems of heat and light—coal- and gas-powered lamps and heaters quickly filled rooms with toxic smoke—and the belief that poor health was caused by miasma, or dirty air.

Still, at the time, ventilation was less about a comforting breeze and more about sanitation—removing humid, fetid air from crowded workshops and workspaces. By the mid-1890s, designers and architects in New York needed to file their building plans with the Bureau of Light and Ventilation. The 21-story American Surety Building in New York, built in 1896, included a ventilation system, but only for the lower seven floors. Workers on these levels couldn’t open their windows due to the dirt, muck, and grime of the city streets.

I find it amazing that a little over 100 years after Carrier installed the first building air conditioning system that we have seemingly come full circle.