According to Building Enclosure Online:

Texas-based Priest & Associates Consulting, LLC., through an engineering evaluation, determined that current code-evaluated exterior insulation and finish systems (EIFS) adhered to DensElement Barrier System are compliant with NFPA 285. According to their evaluation, it can safely replace exterior gypsum sheathing in current code-evaluated EIFS designs.

Brent Paugh, President of Georgia-Pacific Gypsum, says the acknowledgement speaks to the strength of the DensElement Barrier System: “This kind of recognition is a tremendous advancement for an important product,” he said. “And with the increased use of continuous insulation across all climate zones, NFPA 285 compliance is essential to ensure the safety of building occupants.”

What’s the big deal? This means that there is yet another substrate option that designers can opt for when implementing an EIFS barrier system for higher performing exterior cladding.

Gypsum-based sheathing is often used as a substrate for barrier-based EIFS exterior assemblies. The problem, in my experience, is that standard gypsum board products are extremely vulnerable to water and moisture intrusion. The whole point of the building’s envelope is to protect vulnerable interior materials such as gypsum wallboard from exposure to weather. So the idea of placing gypsum on the exterior of a building has always seemed counterintuitive to me.

The DensElement Barrier System is a versatile product that, unlike standard gypsum board, is water resistant, serves as a proper air barrier when properly installed, resists flame spread, and may reduce labor costs.

While I refuse to endorse any particular building product, I applaud the innovation.

Once again, the incredibly brilliant minds at Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich (ETH Zurich) have announced innovative processes and materials for a better built environment. Phys.org has the story:

Researchers from ETH Zurich have built a prototype of an ultra-thin, curved concrete roof using innovative digital design and fabrication methods. The tested novel formwork system will be used in an actual construction project for the first time next year.

A prototype for an ultra-thin, sinuous concrete roof using innovative design and fabrication methods has been designed and built by researchers from the ETH Zürich. The shell is part of a roof-top apartment unit called HiLo that is planned to be built next year on the NEST, the living lab building of Empa and Eawag in Dübendorf. The penthouse will provide living and work space for guest faculty of Empa. Researchers led by Philippe Block, Professor of Architecture and Structures, and Arno Schlüter, Professor of Architecture and Building Systems, want to put the new lightweight construction to the test and combine it with intelligent and adaptive building systems.

The self-supporting, doubly curved shell roof has multiple layers: the heating and cooling coils and the insulation are installed over the inner concrete layer. A second, exterior layer of the concrete sandwich structure encloses the roof, onto which thin-film photovoltaic cells are installed. Eventually, thanks to the technology and an adaptive solar façade, the residential unit is expected to generate more energy than it consumes.

Here is a video of the new ultra-thin concrete roof:

Previously, ETH Zurich was featured here on AECforensics.com for their innovative combination of robots and 3D printing. That project also involved some really advanced applications of specialized concrete.

[via ConstructionJunkie]

Lloyd Alter, writing for Treehugger:

According to Jacob Atalla of KB Home, “The best way to predict the future is to make it.” So he and others in the building industry often build model concept homes to test out ideas. Michele Lerner of the Washington Post talks to a few people in the industry to get a sense of what’s coming next.

“When we imagine the home of the future and look at innovations, it’s important to answer two questions,” said Matt Power, editor in chief of Green Builder media in South Portland, Maine. “Just like you ask yourself about relationships, you should ask, ‘Does this make your life better?’ And if the answer is yes, then ask yourself from an ethical point of view, ‘Does this reduce my impact on the Earth?’ ”

Alas, when you look at what they are actually proposing, it doesn’t have a lot to do with reducing impact on the earth. They pay lip service to energy consumption, but it is all about adding stuff.

As always, Alter has exposed the raw nerve of the building industry that ultimately holds progress up for the entirety of civilization: complacency.

Cramming more gadgets and features into the home only results in planned obsolescence, and yet more crap to eventually make its way to a landfill.

We can, and should do better as an industry.

 

Papyrus is distinctive as typefaces go, and as a result, highly recognizable. For typeface designers, that seems like the ultimate accomplishment. Unless, as in the case of Papyrus and Comic Sans before it, the typeface becomes so prevalent that it loses its luster.

I will go one step farther, and state for the record, that I believe Helvetica has suffered the same fate. It is a great font, but it is too common.  (more…)

San Diego’s Building Industry Association played host to an outstanding and dynamic presentation earlier this morning on the topic of energy and the 2016 California building codes that went into effect at the beginning of this year.

The panelists included a great mix of building professionals and thought leaders that don’t merely speculate on the impact of green building — they live it:

(more…)

Jason Vander Griendt, founder of Render3DQuickly, posted a pretty decent roundup of some current applications for VR in the construction industry:

Humans are emotional and the more you connect with them emotionally the easier you can communicate, and this is what virtual reality helps you to achieve. Giving an immersive experience whereby your prospective clients can preview the elegance of your projects increases the chances of them approving of your request to work on their projects. Virtual reality gives a sense of satisfaction as it helps to satisfy the urge to know what lies behind a project.

The following points really resonated with me:

Even before some projects begin, there is a high chance there could be some dispute later. You don’t want to spent time and money working hard on a project only for it to be rejected later. This problem can be eliminated by offering a detailed illustration of the project so the client can see what will be included and some of the features that could be added to make it better. It provides a basis on which a client can make a decision whether to implement a project or to reject it before work commences.

Virtual reality also provides an easy guide to those who are not able to read technical scripts and maps. Everything that is provided is within the imagination of the client, and this makes it easy for them to understand because they can relate with most of the features included.

Technische Universiteit Eindhoven (TU/e) in Netherlands reports the following:

Today the Built Environment department’s concrete printer starts printing the world’s first 3D printed reinforced, pre-stressed concrete bridge. The cycle bridge will be part of a new section of ring road around Gemert in which the BAM Infra construction company is using innovative techniques.

One of the advantages of printing a bridge is that much less concrete is needed than in the conventional technique in which a mold is filled. By contrast, a printer deposits only the concrete where it is needed. This has benefits since in the production of cement a lot of CO2 is released and much less of this is needed for printed concrete. Another benefit lies in freedom of form: the printer can make any desired shape, and no wooden molding frames are needed.

An extra detail is that the researchers in the group of Theo Salet, professor of concrete construction, have succeeded in developing a process to also print the steel reinforcement at the same time. When laying a strip of concrete the concrete printer adds a steel cable so that the bridge is ‘pre-stressed’ so that no tensile stress can occur in the concrete, because this is something that concrete is not able to cope with adequately.

This is quite a feat! By including steel reinforcement and the ability to pre-stress, 3D printing is truly beginning to become a viable option for certain projects. What is especially fascinating to me is how this technology might be able to in the future avoid a common issue in structural concrete erection: congestion.

I have about $15-million in claims sitting on my virtual desk right now in which reinforcing congestion resulted in delays that had a material impact on the job.

Here’s a video:

Procore, an all-encompassing software suite for managing construction projects, is a tool I use daily, and have become quite fond of. Moreover, the company is extremely forward-thinking in its approach to business, and the software development team is a fully Agile shop that, as I know from personal experience, is committed to constant improvement of their product for the benefit of end users.

The company also has a pretty great blog that focuses on lessons learned, best practices and highly effective teams. In a recent post at the Procore blog, UK construction freelance writer Paul Wilkinson discusses a major difference between European design/construction practices and those of the US: mandatory adoption of BIM.

Given that US federal and state administrations may be reluctant to mandate BIM as the UK did, perhaps the US can learn from the wider European experiences? In 2016, the European Commission asked the EU BIM Task Group to help align public sector use of BIM across the region. The group has developed a handbook, published in July 2017, covering procurement measures, technical considerations, cultural, and skills development, and the benefits case for BIM and ‘going digital’ for policy makers and public clients. It collates experiences from over 20 countries and presents a strategic framework to deliver robust and effective BIM programmes, identifying four key areas for action:

1. Establishing public leadership

2. Communicating vision and fostering communities

3. Developing a collaborative framework

4. Growing client and industry capability and capacity

It is all too easy to look at BIM as the obvious answer to so many outstanding issues and inefficiencies that exist in the built environment. However, as Wilkinson points out, that may be easier said than done:

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is more than just adoption of digital modeling technologies for design and construction. Its successful adoption also requires deep changes to how clients procure their projects, and new professional roles and responsibilities. These are significant steps, and, in an industry long prone to inertia, they may deter many from even starting.

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.