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Weekly Grind: Bricks, Gehry, and UK's BIM Bash


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Bricks to be Replaced by Precise Polymer Nanotrusses

Materials scientists are hard at work devising complex-sounding new building materials.  No, they're not baking gravel into bricks and calling them Gravelbricks. Their efforts are happening at the nanoscale, where they're manipulating molecules and fiddling with fractals. They're calling this new grouping of building stuff "Metamaterials".  For instance, they've come up with paper that won't get wet, can't be torn, and will insulate your home. Don't worry, you can still put bricks around the fireplace.  Read more.

E-Commerce's Weird Mixed Blessing for Construction

Yes, our collective delight in shopping online is slowly killing the "brick-and-mortar" shopping experience. That means less retail construction. Uh oh! But what else does it mean? Remember, your fancy online Amazon purchase ("I shopped in my pajamas!") is still just a Thing sitting on a dusty shelf somewhere. A caffeine-fueled worker has to grab it and send it to you. Your sleek online buy is actualized in a building the size of a small city.  Read more.

River Schmiver. These Energy-Cranking Dams Prove We Can Build Anything

Technologically, dams have never received their due respect. "Hell, a beaver can do that!" But as renewable energy continues to top the daily news cycle in one form or another, it's good to revisit these huge, functional marvels of old school tech.  And to remind ourselves why we are rightly in awe of construction. Read more.

Will Chicago's Wrigley Field Upgrade Wreck the Old Dear's Charm?

Wrigley Field's famously time-worn amenities are being upgraded. Chicagoans have the same love/hate relationship with their famous old baseball field as they do with the star-crossed team that calls it home. Translation: Cubs fans are not unanimous in their praise of the changes.  How to meet the future while hanging on to a past loaded with nostalgia and emotional payoff? Read more.

The Quadsaw Makes Square Holes. Builders are Pleased.

A UK startup has hit the ground running with a new product that solves a problem some of us may not have known existed. How to drill a square hole in a wall when a circular one just won't do? This immediately popular invention uses "Quad-Blade Technology" to do the previously impossible. Best of all, it fits onto your old-school rotary drill.  Read more.

UK BIM Event Continues Rollout of Digital Modeling Culture

Speakers at this second annual gathering in London explained to a rapt audience how new developments in digital construction are uniting the efforts of architects, developers, engineers and contractors. Engineers in particular are increasingly adopting the virtual environment to share their drawings and data across projects.  Read more.

Smart Buildings are Getting so Smart It's Almost Like We're in the Way

Conditions-based maintenance, cloud-based infrastructure, architectural self-awareness; so many "convergent technologies" in one building it confuses the wifi and necessitates an installation of fiberoptic. It's enough to make you forget why you came to the office. Read more.

Neighbors in Jackson Hole, Wyoming take Developer to Court

The developer of a hotel in the Teton Village section of beautiful Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is getting special treatment from the county commission. At least that is the position of the angry locals who are taking the developer to court.  At issue is the developer's unspoken plan for a 20 year buildout on a lot whose "two-year basic use permit" has been specially redefined by the developer-friendly commission; a zoning squabble that may reach the Supreme Court. Read more.

Hand-Held Imager Sees Through Walls

An Israeli company has introduced a high-tech stud finder (for lack of a better way to describe it) that uses low-power radio frequencies to detect studs, pipes, wires, and even termites. The device handily clips onto your smart phone, and even has a selector dial that lets you tell it what sort of wall material you need it to look through. Glass half empty: they're calling it the Walabot. Read more.

Gehry Cut Down to Size on Sunset Strip

L.A.'s Planning and Land Use Management Committee has told globally revered architect Frank Gehry to lower his ambitious Sunset Strip shopping and residential complex by 56 feet. Waving aside all other complaints by locals who fear the impact of the grand edifice on their beloved strip, the plan now goes to the City Council for approval. Read more.

When Plywood Emits Gas It Clears the Room. Or Ought To.

There are thousands of materials that ooze toxic gas. Thousands. Unfortunately, these are the very materials that comprise the buildings in which we live and work. Fiberboard, plywood, carpet, paint—these seemingly innocent materials—and many many (many) other common items— emit a family of gases known as Volatile Organic Compounds; or VOCs. In New York, Building Science experts help to determine a building's level of VOC, and take steps to mitigate the danger to occupants. Read more.