Buildings have been made with wood for thousands of years, but those buildings rarely make it above a couple stories high. Due to building codes and requirements, non-combustible materials like concrete and steel are required to be used in most commercial buildings. Typical timber buildings, like many North American houses will easily burn in the right conditions, but more and more projects are using cross-laminated timber (CLT) which has excellent non-combustion properties. Because of that, the International Building Code has adopted it as an alternate material in the 2015 version.
Quebec, Canada based firm, Nordic Structures, is ready to join the arms race for North America’s tallest wood structure. The Origine Condominium Complex is set to start construction in the Fall of 2015 and reach roughly 134 feet in height (40.9 meters). Once complete, the 12 story condominium will supplant the 96 foot tall Wood Innovation and Design Centre in Prince George, British Columbia, which opened in October of 2014.
Even though North America is slowly allowing the use of CLT, it takes a lot to convince jurisdiction of the fire safety. In order to approve the design of this building, Nordic had to undergo two fire tests: a furnace test and a demonstration with a three story mockup of the condo’s elevator shaft. The first test required the weight of 11 stories to be placed upon a mockup of a wall and floor. The wall was then set ablaze inside a furnace to see how long it would take for the wall to succumb to the flames. The requirement is 2 hours, but the CLT wall withstood 2192 degrees Fahrenheit for 3.5 hours.
The second test required a three story model of the condo’s elevator shaft to be build and a one story room attached to it was set on fire to see how the condo would react. Again, the design passed with flying colors, with no visible signs of smoke or temperature increase in the elevator shaft.
The secret of the fire resistance is the construction of the cross-laminated timber, also known as mass timber, panels. According to Nordic’s website, “The burning rate of wood structural elements depends on the species used and their thickness, the moisture content, and the amount of exposure to fire. Mass timber burns slowly since a carbon layer forms on the surface and impedes combustion. Its resistance is relatively unaffected by heat.” The tightly stacked layers of wood also provide a fantastic thermal barrier, with estimated savings of 40%.
This CLT building also has one other major benefit: it’s 45 percent lighter than similar non-wood buildings, which would have been too heavy for the soggy soils in the area, according to the Globe and Mail.
Many other wood buildings have been proposed, such as this 36 story tower in Paris, and an 18 story tall building at the University of British Columbia, so it’s not clear how long the Origine will actually hold the record.
Canada and Europe have certainly jumped on board the CLT train, we can only wonder when the United States will finally start taking it seriously.
You can read the full story from the Globe and Mail here.
There’s no shortage of company’s trying to improve the world’s roadways. Asphalt and concrete each have their own disadvantages, especially when maintenance environmental factors are taken into consideration. Plastic is a major problem for landfills, as well, as it can take an estimated 500 years to fully decompose. One UK company believes they can solve both maintenance and environmental problems through the use of recycled plastic.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is constantly researching ways to improve construction process and materials, like this material 10 times the strength of steel, or this solar cell that’s lighter than a soap bubble, or this “reversible concrete.” This time the Institute is showing off its autonomous robot that can spit out building structures on site within hours.
One of the most challenging issues with modular construction, of any kind, is the sheer size and weight of many of the components that need to be transported and lifted in place once onsite. That presents a specifically tough situation for jobsites that are not easy to get to. Arup, a design, engineering, and consulting team in the United Kingdom, has developed and successfully implemented what they say is the “world’s first modular glass-fiber, reinforced polymer bridge.” You may remember Arup from their testing of a “living wall” scaffolding cover that we wrote about last year.
Snow causes all kinds of travel nightmares and not just on the roads. Snow and ice can cause major airline delays and flight cancellations. Because of these issues (and the large amounts of money to be gained by solving them) several different groups of researchers have been hard at work figuring out ways to reduce and remove snow and ice from pavement without the need for chemicals and snow plows. The first technology to get a full scale test slab installed at an American airport, however, came from Iowa State University professor Halil Ceylan.
Maybe I’ve had my head in the sand for a while (forgive the pun right out of the gate), but I've recently found out that the world is suffering from a shortage of sand. The New York Times reports that the increasing demand of sand from manufacturing and construction in combination with rising sea levels and human development of shores is reaching crisis levels. Sand is used in plenty of construction activities, from mortar to concrete to brick and asphalt. We use a LOT of it. In fact, concrete production takes a whopping 80 percent of all the sand that is mined. So what can we do? One company says the answer is to drink more beer.
Solar roofs are an obviously popular choice for those interested in conserving energy, but traditional panels are extremely clunky and expensive. Tesla and CEO Elon Musk announced last year that they have solved that issue, which the impending release of Tesla Solar Roof, which look like a traditional roof shingle.
3D printing technology faces major issues when it is required to leave the shelter of a warehouse and step foot on a construction job site. 3D printers are extremely large, heavy, and rely on precise calibration for accuracy. Even the first 3D printed office building in Dubai, which was completed last year, had to actually have its components printed off site and assembled on site. But, Apis Cor, a 3D printing company, believes it has created the technology to print a full structure completely on site.
The concept of solar roadways has been in the news a lot recently. Using the millions of miles of roadways throughout the world to also create power seems like a no brainer, the asphalt and concrete we’re using now aren’t really accomplishing anything more than handling the traffic on the road. But, there’s also a very strong reason why those products are used: they’re strong, reliable, and relatively durable. Still, many researchers believe there is a lot of unharnessed potential for roads and the world now has a very strong test subject for the future of solar roadways in Tourouvre-au-Perche, France.
3D printed construction has been on top of the news the past few years, but we have yet to truly see many real world applications of the process. Last year, Dubai unveiled a completed 3D printed office building, which they say was built in only 19 days, but news has been pretty slow until the world’s first 3D printed bridge was completed recently.
It’s no secret that the United States dominates when it comes to LEED certified construction projects. The US actually has more total gross square meters and number of LEED projects than the the other top 10 countries combined, by almost 3 times, totaling 336.84 million gross square meters over 27,699 LEED projects! China, Canada, and India are ranked number 2, 3, and 4, respectively.
The US Green Building Council recently released their annual top 10 list of states for LEED construction in 2016.