Posts tagged with "Building Materials":

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AIA calls for blanket ban on asbestos after online uproar

In response to a rush of online outrage on Tuesday, the American Institute of Architects has issued a formal statement detailing its stance on the U.S. Environment Protection Agency’s Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) on asbestos. Today the organization submitted its comment in opposition to the recent decision via the EPA’s online public commentary portal. The comment takes the form of a letter from Sarah Dodge, the AIA’s senior vice president of advocacy and relationships, to acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler. In it, the AIA urges the agency to “establish a blanket ban” on asbestos in the country and phase it out of use. “Either by existing authority or through a significant new use rule, the EPA should review and eliminate the use of asbestos in domestic or imported materials,” the letter says. Dodge explains that it’s the responsibility of architects to ensure the inclusion of healthy materials within building projects, and in instances where hazardous substances already exist inside renovations, it’s up to design professionals to guide involved parties in the safe removal of those toxins. AIA 2018 President Carl Elefante, FAIA, released a separate statement reiterating Dodge’s letter:
The EPA has offered no compelling reason for considering new products using asbestos, especially when the consequences are well known and have tragically affected the lives of so many people. The EPA should be doing everything possible to curtail asbestos in the United States and beyond—not providing new pathways that expose the public to its dangers.
Wheeler wrote in a tweet yesterday that the recent hype regarding the SNUR has been inaccurate. He noted that the SNUR would actually restrict new uses of asbestos, not encourage it. According to the FAQ linked in the tweet, the potential uses for asbestos that would be banned from the market through the SNUR include asbestos-reinforced plastics, extruded sealant tape, millboard, roofing felt, vinyl-asbestos floor tile, roof and non-roof coatings, and other building products. Items such as corrugated paper, rollboard, and flooring felt have already been banned outright in the United States. The FAQ doesn't quite hold up to recent reports on the Obama administration's involvement in restricting these toxic substances and the subsequent products. Under the 2016 amendment to the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TCSA), the EPA began the process of evaluating the first 10 toxins listed in order to decipher whether or not they should be banned entirely or further restricted. This week's frenzy over asbestos comes directly from the EPA's May report indicating how the agency would move forward in evaluating those chemicals.  As of yesterday, 154 comments were submitted to the EPA regarding the SNUR. Today, that number has increased to 698. You can still submit a comment to the EPA through tomorrow, August 10. Thereafter the agency will review all comments and further evaluate the initial toxins up for review in the TSCA. Final details of their deliberations and a new version of the rule will be released in December of next year.  

ARCHITECT@WORK – Canada – Where A+D meets INNOVATION!

An exclusive tailored event focusing on innovations for Architects, Interior Designers and Specifiers.  With over 500 innovative products and services showcased by manufacturers and distributors. All exhibitors go through a strict selection process with an external juding panel, ensuring the presence of high caliber innovations. FEATURES include: Keynote Speakers, Accredited Seminars, Materials Exhibit, Project Wall, ART Installation. We offer complimentary catering all day to our exhibitors and attendees, so they can focus on networking and conducting business.    
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Katerra promises to transform the construction industry without sacrificing design

“Every building shouldn’t be a one-off prototype.” That’s an underlying and provocative premise behind Katerra, a technology company that’s on a mission to optimize the way buildings are developed, designed, and constructed. Truth be told, the industry is primed for an overhaul. Construction companies traditionally invest less than 1 percent of revenue in new technologies—lower than every other major industry, according to the company’s literature. As a result, simultaneous productivity decreases and cost increases during the last several decades have created a quandary that requires fresh thinking and outside-of-the-box solutions. “The one thing that’s become very apparent is that—and this is typical in an up-cycle—it’s very difficult for architects and contractors to keep up with material costs, with cost escalation in these upturn markets,” explained Craig Curtis, FAIA, Architecture, Interior Design at Katerra. “And if you couple that with the fact that the skilled labor shortage is becoming more and more critical, where we’re headed right now as an industry I think is kind of a train wreck.” To help avert such a debacle, Katerra is completely rethinking the existing construction model and replacing it with technology, design, and supply chain innovations that aim to revolutionize the world of architecture and construction.

 The Silicon Valley Approach to Building

“What we’re trying to do is take on every aspect of the entire process as the Silicon Valley way of looking at an industry so that it’s not just focused on supply chain, which is where we started,” Curtis explained. “We’re really looking at from initial site concepts to own the process all the way through design, through component design, manufacturing drawings, offsite manufacturing, and final site assembly—the entire package all in one with one hand to shake.” [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OyoTBNLaXAg] For those who cringe at the term “mass customization” and shudder at the thought of a skyline full of banal, indistinguishable prefabricated structures, take heart: Katerra is, at its core, a company in the business of preserving and improving the design process, rather than dismantling it. “We’re a design-first company here,” Curtis noted. “This is not a company that is producing cookie-cutter-looking buildings; the cookie-cutting part of what we’re doing is all stuff that can easily be redundant without affecting the beauty of the architecture,” he continued. “So, we’re really concentrating on making sure that everything we do allows for that customization of not only the experience inside, but also how the building fits into a particular culture or climate or place.” In other words, Katerra does not build prefabricated modules or completed hotel room pods, for example, and truck them down the highway on a flatbed. Rather, Curtis said the company takes a cue from global furniture giant IKEA to flat-pack building materials and interior components to improve logistics and reduce shipping costs. By doing so, it offers greater flexibility in the final look and feel of a building and allows architects to do more of what they do best—not less. “By optimizing a lot of the interior and the systems that are within these buildings, we’re actually finding that as architects, we have more time to spend instead of less time to spend on the thing that really matters and that’s: What does the building look like and how does it fit into a community?” Curtis said. “We’re not spending all that time redrawing bathrooms or mechanical systems or electrical layouts because that’s done; it’s repetitive. A lot of that work can be done in the computer,” he added.

Executing the Design

Katerra operates under another premise as well: “A transformative approach to building begins with design.” As such, the company developed a novel building system to strike a balance between standardization and configuration. Based upon a standard kit of parts, Katerra’s design system utilizes structural building components and curated interior products and finishes to create a multitude of elegant, custom configurations, according to company literature. Katerra’s BIM modeling links directly to its global supply chain through proprietary technology to ensure ease of ordering, tracking, and manufacturing. Its integrated logistic network, global product sourcing, and manufacturing teams reduce the number of suppliers and manufacturers, creating aggregate demand that establishes negotiating power to the benefit of clients.  The company’s end-to-end building process mimics the process of precision-sequenced product assembly, moving labor from the job site to its factories, promising improved schedule and product quality assurance. “We have customers who are very interested in having a partner who can create a more systemized approach to what they do and just streamline the process from the very beginning,” Curtis explained. “Instead of every single project being bespoke and starting with an entire new team, which is what the industry has been forever, we can become their partner and help them develop their systems, building tools, and custom assemblies suited for their operation and what they do and what they do well, and help them execute that faster and cheaper.”
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Eight border wall prototypes are unveiled along the U.S.–Mexico border

Eight prototypes for President Donald Trump's border wall were unveiled this week on the U.S.-Mexico border, not far from Tijuana and San Diego. The prototypes stand up to 30 feet tall. Four are constructed from concrete while the remainder are each constructed of a different material, including corrugated steel and brick. The contractors who built the prototypes are Caddell Construction, ELTA North America, W.G. Yates & Sons, Fisher Sand & Gravel/DBA Fisher, Texas Sterling Construction, and KWR Construction. On Monday morning, a media tour of the prototypes was led by Roy Villareal, the deputy chief patrol agent of the U.S. Border Patrol's San Diego sector. Two of the designs feature a slatted base through which the other side can be seen. A rendering released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection showed that the more transparent wall designs are intended for the Mexican side of the border, with the concrete and solid wall types used on the northern, U.S. side of the border. Former border patrol agent Rowdy Adams told CNBC that visibility is also important in identifying potential crossers, "whether it's 10 people or 30 people with ... rifles." Additionally, environmentalists had raised concerns that a solid wall would impede the migration of small animals. Since Congress hasn't yet demonstrated any serious commitment to appropriating the nearly $21.6 billion required for the border wall, it is unlikely any of these prototypes will go into mass production in the near future. However, Villareal suggested that the border patrol might implement some of the designs to replace older, worn-down sections of the existing wall. Even if the wall were to gain full funding, it remains steeped in controversy. Several manufacturers have stated their refusal to supply materials for the wall's construction, including concrete suppliers Cemex and LafargeHolcim. Additionally, three of the six firms selected to build prototypes have previously defrauded the government or otherwise been steeped in controversy. Testing of the wall prototypes will occur in late November by a private contractor that border patrol agents declined to name. The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) is committed to regular, rigorous coverage of the border wall and the controversy that surrounds it. To that end, AN has partnered with El Paso, Texas–based AGENCY to bring readers Border Dispatches, “an on-the-ground perspective from the United States-Mexico border.” Each month, the series explores a critical site or person shaping the mutable binational territory between the two neighboring countries. For more news, opinion, and information on the border wall, visitarchpaper.com/tag/border-wall.  
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A transparent border wall? Trump administration picks 4 firms for prototypes

Five days after Donald J. Trump took the presidential oath of office, he signed an executive order ordering the construction of a massive border wall, intended to be the cornerstone of his anti-immigration policy as promised throughout his 2016 presidential campaign. Even before the order shifted from rhetoric to reality, architects have been responding to the question of whether they should participate in such a project and what such a massive piece of infrastructure could look like—including Mexican firm Estudio 3.14, which released renderings of a perplexingly aestheticized, Luis Barragán–inspired pink wall to much criticism in October. Now, nearly eight months later, some scattered logistics are falling into place. Last Thursday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection awarded contracts for non-concrete prototype walls to four firms at a sum of about $3.6 million, adding to the four firms already selected to build concrete prototypes. The firms are: Caddell Construction (of Montgomery, Alabama), KWR Construction (of Sierra Vista, Arizona), ELTA North America Inc. (of Annapolis Junction, Maryland), and W. G. Yates & Sons Construction Company (of Philadelphia, Mississippi). Caddell Construction and W. G. Yates were also picked in the previous round of contracts for concrete prototypes. This latest development seems to correlate with Trump's request earlier this summer that the wall be, of all things, transparent. His reasoning? “As horrible as it sounds, when they throw the large sacks of drugs over, and if you have people on the other side of the wall, you don’t see them—they hit you on the head with 60 pounds of stuff? It’s over,” Trump told reporters on July 13. “As crazy as that sounds, you need transparency through that wall.” Sanho Tree, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, responded: “Over a 2,000 mile border, I think you’d have a higher chance of getting hit by a meteorite than a bag of drugs.” The Washington Post even took the accusation seriously, spoke to some experts, and discovered that a casual toss like the one Trump described would likely require a catapult or other medieval military device. While Trump the architect may lack a basic understanding of physical dynamics, Trump the politician seems to be unhesitant about carrying through on his promise to build the wall. We await to see how this transparency (or lack thereof) evolves.
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Chicago recycled an old rapid-transit station and sold its pieces at public auction

More than 800 people flocked to Chicago's premier recycled building materials clearing house, the Rebuilding Exchange, last week in search of a piece of Chicago history. The nonprofit was auctioning off chunks of the Chicago Transit Authority's (CTA) Madison-Wabash CTA El Station, which will be replaced next year. Buyers included an ice cream parlor, a theater company, an art studio, and various individuals intrigued by the defunct station's benches, signs, railing sections, pressed tin sheets, and vintage doors. “We did not auction off the facades—those are being stored here for up to two years until a history museum can take them,” said Caitlin Grey, outreach coordinator for the Rebuilding Exchange. “Almost everything sold the night of except for some screens, decking, joists and doors. Over the weekend almost everything else sold. We still have a door, decking and joists.” Chicago recycles as much as two-thirds of its construction and demolition debris, but other municipal recycling programs are lagging. As for what will become of the old station's downtown location, renderings show a clean white plane sheltered by rows of knife-like brise-soleils. The so-called “Gateway to Millennium Park” will replace both the Randolph-Wabash and Madison-Wabash stations, and is designed by Chicago-based expformerly known as Teng + Associates.
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Mycotecture: Exploring the Potential Materiality of Mushrooms

While the idea of living in a house made of mushrooms might conjure up visions from the Smurfs or one of a handful of whimsical houses across the country, artist/inventor turned mycologist Phil Ross is using mushrooms as the buildings blocks for a new construction material with some distinct advantages. Ross has dedicated his career to the organism, recently discovering that its root-like network lying just underground is quite similar to concrete when dried, but actually stronger. The dried mycelium can be shaped into a brick, or almost any other form, and is fire, water and even mold resistant. Currently Ross is building a lab at The Workshop Residence in San Francisco where he's growing fungi for a series of stools and chairs (see gallery below). He has previously presented his research into "Mycotecture" in the form of a six-foot-tall arch in Germany, appropriately serving mushroom tea at the reception. The arch was formed from the ganoderma lucidum fungus grown at a farm in Monterey, California. The mushroom fungus was shaped into hard, lightweight blocks that can tolerate a variety of glossy finishes and lacquers. Ross is continuing his research with a goal to create a shelter that can house up to 20 people with more complex geometry. [Via Treehugger.]