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]

Concrete is a really amazing building product that provides strength and protection, particularly when reinforced with steel, or when combined with various admixtures. Unfortunately, concrete is extremely costly to produce in terms of its environmental impact.

By some accounts, concrete production results in the release of a ton of carbon, for every ton of concrete. For that reason, researchers are constantly looking at ways to improve concrete’s sustainability while still benefitting from its contribution to more resilient structures and assemblies.

To that end, researchers at the University of British Colombia have developed a novel new cementitious concrete-like product that has some amazing properties. ArchDaily’s Patrick Lynch has more:

Called EDCC (eco-friendly ductile cementitious composite), the material is engineered at the molecular level to react similarly to steel – with high strength, ductility and malleability. When sprayed onto the surface of traditionally poured interior concrete walls, it reinforces against seismic intensities as high as the magnitude 9.0-9.1 earthquake that hit Tohoku, Japan in 2011.

“We sprayed a number of walls with a 10 millimetre-thick layer of EDCC, which is sufficient to reinforce most interior walls against seismic shocks,” says Salman Soleimani-Dashtaki, a PhD candidate in the department of civil engineering at UBC. “Then we subjected them to Tohoku-level quakes and other types and intensities of earthquakes—and we couldn’t break them.”

Combining cement, polymer-based fibers, fly ash and other industrial additives, EDCC is also surprisingly environmentally-sustainable – nearly 70 percent of the cement required in traditional formulas is replaced with fly ash, a prevalent industrial waste product.

Here’s a video:

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…)

Television, unless it is available to stream via Hulu, Netflix or HBO Go, isn’t something I watch much of. CBS apparently aired an impressive program highlighting the impact of the skilled labor shortage on the construction industry, and the resulting impact on the rest of our economy and infrastructure.

Here’s an excerpt:

America’s economy has a growing labor crisis — a shortage of skilled construction workers. These men and women — carpenters, plumbers, electricians and masons — put a roof over your head. They’re getting harder and harder to find, at a time when — with two devastating mainland storms in the past month — they’ve never been more needed.

“Over the last four years, we’ve seen rising rates of open jobs,” said Robert Dietz, chief economist for the National Association of Homebuilders. “In other words, there’s a help wanted sign put out by the builder or the remodeler, and they simply can’t fill it.”

Where does the shortage come from? In short, the “Great Recession” had a lot to do with it:

The 2008 recession hit on homeowners, and homebuilders, hard. More than 1.5 million residential construction workers left the industry. Some changed careers; others simply retired. Many immigrant workers went home and never came back because of tougher immigration laws.

Of those 1.5 million workers that left the industry, reportedly on about half have returned.

Here’s video:

Becoming licensed as an architect, engineer or contractor is the culmination of many years of hard work. Since humans often like shortcuts, I suppose it should come as no surprise that someone felt that impersonating an architect would be a lot easier than actually becoming one.

As you might expect, hilarity did not ensue.

Consumerist’s Laura Northrop has the story:

If someone is a successful architect, people assume that he or she actually is an architect. Yet a man in upstate New York who drew up renderings of over 100 buildings and received hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments for designing commercial and residential buildings has been charged with pretending to be an architect for more than half a decade.

According to New York’s state Attorney General, the alleged fake architect’s crimes go beyond just telling people that he was an architect when he wanted to impress them. He’s accused posed as an architect from 2010 to 2016, designing buildings and submitting site plans for projects in and around Albany, NY. These included apartment buildings with hundreds of units, a development of townhouses, and a a retail store.

You’ll want to read the full story, but I did want to point out the hilarious Seinfeld clip that Northrop included with her post:

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.

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:

Submitted for your approval, below is a video that is part of an entire series of videos on YouTube depicting a guy working on excavating a tunnel all by himself, using primitive tools.

On the one hand, the idea that someone is constructing a massive tunnel by themselves, using hand tools, working shirtless and barefoot is certainly intriguing.

On the other hand, not only is this completely unsafe and goes against well established standards of practice, but if I understand some of the comments, he is not performing this work at his own property. If true, it is highly illegal, and it exposes the actual property owner to significant liability!

Perhaps there are other hobbies one might want to consider…

Admittedly, this is a little strange, but clearly could be a practical measure in certain parts of the world.

Dahir Insaat Corporation is a Turkish company that specializes in pre-fab cast-in-place construction buildings ranging in size from a small cottage to an entire apartment block.

The company also has developed a design concept for an “earthquake safety bed” design to quickly (perhaps almost violently) swallow the bed’s occupant whole within an industrial strength steel shell in the event of an earthquake or building collapse.

Rather than try to explain the concept any further, here is a video:

Friday is here, and this video seems like the perfect end to this week:

I first noticed this video in a post by Mike Wehner at Boy Genius Report:

As someone who spends much of his work day trying to sift through gadget rumors and staring wide-eyed at photos taken hundreds of millions of miles away from Earth, I’m not the kind of guy who passes judgment on what anyone does for a living. That being said, I have to assume an industry trade show for something as straightforward and utilitarian as construction equipment would be a pretty dull and boring affair. But how wrong I have been.

This footage, smuggled out of some magical fairy tale land where 18-ton bucket loaders prance around like unicorns (or, slightly less interestingly, a Chinese industrial trade show) reveals just how exciting earth-moving machines can be.

While I would like to pretend that this sort of thing happens all the time at construction trade shows, sadly that is not the case. Here’s hoping this trend makes its way to US events in the near future…