“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.
A new 21-story apartment building proposed for Milwaukee, Wisconsin as received unanimous approval from the City Plan Commission. If built, the new tower could possibly be North America’s tallest mass timber building.
The USGBC recently released their 2018 ranking of the Top 10 US States for LEED construction, which is sorted by Gross Square Footage per Capita. That ranking system allows them to get a fair comparison of states, despite differences in population and number of buildings.
Tall buildings made with structural timber have been on the rise in Canada and European countries in recent years, but the United States has been slower to adopt the method due to code restrictions. The state of Oregon recently released an addendum to their building code to allow taller mass timber buildings in the state and an upcoming International Code Council (ICC) vote could encourage more states to follow suit.
You may have been sitting in your house or office one day and noticed the distinct sound of a bird hitting the window. It’s pretty common, as it’s estimated that as many as 988 million birds die in the US each year by colliding into glass. The new arena that will house the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks has incorporated some design elements that will reduce the amount of birds killed by the massive structure, allowing it to be dubbed the “World’s Most Bird Friendly Sports Arena.”
Dubai has been on the bleeding edge of pushing the boundaries of construction for over a decade. The famous Burj Khalifa, the current World’s Tallest Building, but the United Arab Emirates on the map. Since then, the country has poured money and resources into the construction industry and have sets their sights on a new challenge: 3D construction printing.
Across the United States, any mass timber building designed to be taller than six stories high has to receive special approval from the building codes department. After a recent addendum was added to the Oregon’s building code, the state has become the first in the country to allow high rise mass timber buildings without receiving any special considerations.
Last summer, Tesla announced that the first of their solar roof tiles had been installed on test houses. However, as has become customary with many Tesla products, the company is experiencing significant manufacturing delays.
Since the dawn of green buildings, these projects have always been synonymous with LEED certification. The process of obtaining that LEED certification has not always been an easy one for contractors; there is a ton of paperwork and documentation that needs to take place in order to prove all LEED credits have been rightfully earned. A new construction standard, called BREEAM, is hoping to disrupt the United States’ green building certification world with its impending New Construction Standard Release in 2019.
One of the biggest hassles of site work in construction is the hauling away of spoils. It’s costly and time consuming to bring in truck after truck to take unneeded soil off to an unknown dump site. When Elon Musk and his team, The Boring Company, started digging a tunnel for a HyperLoop system in Los Angeles, they knew there had to be a better way to handle to soil than to haul it away.