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Weekly Grind: Robots, Dust, and Ta’u


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Early Start: Hard Hats Extoll Virtues of Construction. To Preschoolers

A handful of tradesmen and builders took their message to a hugely influential group whose input, it is hoped, will radically alter tomorrow's construction sector.  Then they broke for recess.

Robotic Swiss Mesh Joins 3D Printing Parade of Progress

A university in Zurich, Switzerland, has taken this year's Swiss Technology Award 2016. A team of researchers there devised a means to combine 3D concrete printing with a simple, pliable mesh support structure to broaden the structural design horizon. Oh, and the space-age mesh superstructure is itself assembled by a robot arm. It would appear the future has arrived.

Clouds that Kill

Of all the things that can go terribly wrong on the job site, a small cloud of airborne dust doesn't seem like that big a deal. Well. OSHA estimates that around 2 million workers are exposed to dangerous silica and other types of potentially fatal particulates every year.  An injury to the lungs is not like a limp; it means you have difficulty drawing breath. It's entirely possible to inhale lung-ruining matter without even realizing it, making the threat insidious. Some companies are taking it on themselves to innovate a way out of this sometimes invisible workplace threat. 

Urban Land Institute Attacks Homebuilding Shortfall

Housing supply: two little words that pack a serious punch. A lack of interest in homebuilding innovation is all but dooming us to a future deficit in housing. This growing concern dominated several homebuilding conferences around the country this fall. 

Trenching Technique Takes Top Prize in Watery Place

Belgium, like Holland, is partly comprised of "polders": vast land areas that have been reclaimed from the sea. In those areas the water, lots and lots of it, is kept at bay by the building of dikes. In short, water control is all-important in Belgium. Now a Belgian engineering company has won the European Project Design in Inland Dredging award for its non-intuitive approach to shoring up dikes. By using "engineered sediments" as additives to the dike construction materials, the company was able to improve the "geotechnical" integrity of the structures.

Tiny Solar Island in American Samoa Makes History. Courtesy of TESLA

4000 miles off the U.S. west coast, the teeny tiny island of Ta’u (population 600) is now relying solely on 5000 solar panels and 60 Tesla power packs for it's electricity.  The island has ever been dependent on diesel to power its homes, public buildings, and everything else; Ta'u's entire energy lifeblood delivered by ship. When the diesel-delivering ferries would themselves break down or encounter rough seas, the island would simply have to go without. Those days are gone. At least while the sun is still with us.

Unpaid Aussie Tradesmen Take Chainsaws to Jobsite

Two disgruntled, and allegedly unpaid, construction workers in Australia had lots to say about their miserly bosses. They said it with chainsaws and happily filmed themselves doing it. Someone call payroll. Stat.

NYC Skyscraper Myth-Busting

New York City is practically a living museum of skyscrapers. It's no surprise that all those super-tall buildings inspire runaway myth-making and rumor-mongering. Let's set the record straight on a few of the more widely accepted misunderstandings.

Company Bets Big on the Circular (Green) Economy

From coffee grounds to plastic, recycled materials are increasingly being considered mankind's hope for a renewable future. One company has even invented a whole new building material that it's calling "fiber alloy". It comes in panels and is made from office paper, cardboard, recycled denim, hemp, jute, sugar cane, and corn husks. Believe it.

Contractor License Revocation Tied to Deadly Balcony Collapse

Segue Construction Inc. "willfully departed from or disregarded building plans or specifications..", leading to the decay of joists and the collapse of a balcony in Berkeley which killed 6 people.  Investigations have turned up other lesser-known violations in the company's history. Having one's license revoked is no small thing. This company's reported pattern of disregard seems to merit the severity of this disciplinary action.