“You make a better door than a window!” I’m sure your parents hollered that at you all throughout your childhood as you were unaware that you were obstructing their view of their favorite TV show. That phrase may surprisingly not make sense to future generations with the recent discovery of a process that can make wood transparent. Seems crazy, I know.
Wood isn’t the only thing scientists have figured out how to make transparent, recently, as we found out about transparent solar cells that could turn windows into energy sources. That discovery landed on our 2015 list of most promising construction technologies. Solar cells are relatively new to the world, but wood has been solid and opaque since the first tree sprouted. The secret to being able to see through wood, says Lars Berglund, a professor at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, is to chemically remove a component of wood’s cell wall, called lignin. Removing the lignin turns the wood white and a transparent polymer is then added to the material to allow you to see through it. The full report, created by Yuanyuan Li, Qiliang Fum Nin Yan, and the aforementioned Lars Berglund, was published under the title “Optically Transparent Wood from a Nanoporous Cellulosic Template: Combining Functional and Structural Performance.”
Transparent wood is an important discovery, because wood is a low cost and renewable resource, that is available throughout the world. As we slowly transition into more eco-friendly buildings, wood will prove to be a major player, as it also has excellent thermal properties. We’ve seen recent evidence of that with Canada’s newest tallest wood building, 12 stories high, set for construction. Adding transparency to the material allows it to be used in a variety of other applications, including windows, solar panels, and even semi-transparent facades. Even if it never catches on in those ways, it will, at the very least, lead to some interesting architectural uses.
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.
Green building is no longer something that can be ignored. According to the USGBC, green building will account for ⅓ of all construction projects by the year 2018, which is now only 1 short year away. Construction is one of the leading industries in regards to the production of greenhouse gases, most notably due to the production of cement, which produces an estimated 5% of all carbon dioxide emissions alone. There are many companies throughout developing new techniques and building products to help reduce the industry’s impact, so here’s a list of 6 products that caught our eye in 2016.
Green building is big business these days and it’s expected to account for 1/3 of all construction projects in the United States by the year 2018. LEED, being the poster child for green construction and the world’s most widely used green building rating system, is expected to directly contribute to 386,000 jobs by 2018, as well. Though green building is a concept used significantly throughout the world, as seen in projects like the world’s first zero energy hotel, the United States absolutely dominates the industry with respect to LEED.
Concrete is one of the world’s favorite building materials; it’s strong, simple to mix, and generally widely available. Its dirty little secret has always been centered around one of its main ingredients: cement. To make cement, crushed rock and other ingredients are fed into a kiln that heats the components at temperatures reaching 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit. Those extreme temperatures cause large amounts of carbon dioxide to be released into the air and, combined with the carbon dioxide that’s produced just to burn the fossil fuels to heat the kiln, it makes cement one of the largest producers of greenhouse gases in the world, 5% in total.
One of the toughest aspects of construction in heavily populated or close-quarters areas is the control of noise and other pollutants. The public’s worries about these items can stall or kill projects before they begin. If and when they project actually begins, complaints can roll into the governing agencies causing project delays and/or fines.
Arup, a design, engineering, and consulting team in the United Kingdom, has been developing a living wall system, which they think can reduce the noise and improve the air quality surrounding ongoing construction projects.
World’s fairs have been held in varying locations across the globe since 1844 and are responsible for some of the most memorable buildings and structures that still stand today. The Eiffel Tower in Paris was originally built for the 1889 Exposition Universelle, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge was built to coincide with the 1939 World Fair, and Seattle’s Space Needle was designed and built for the 1962 World’s Fair (you can check out photos of the construction here), just to name a few.
At the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago, 16 homes were constructed for display to promote new building products and materials to the fair-goers.
Billions of dollars are spent by cities and countries to prepare for summer and winter Olympics. Many stadiums, housing and other infrastructure are built to not only be able to handle the games, but also the enormous amount of people that will eventually inhabit the city for a few weeks. But, that’s just it, it’s only for a few weeks. What happens after the games are over and there’s no longer a need for an International Broadcast Center or a handball venue? In the past, the answer has been to let the area rot away and be a hotbed of vandalism, but Rio has taken a different approach.