Posts tagged with "Concrete":

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New 3D-printed, crash-proof benches debut in Times Square

This May, designer Jou Doucet x Partners, working with the Times Square Design Lab (TSqDL), debuted a 3D-printed concrete alternative to the now-common heavy concrete planters, bollards, and more traditional “Jersey” barriers that surround public places and prominent buildings across the country. Anti-terror street furniture is the often ugly urban peripheral that plugs into our cities to add a new feature—specifically the capability to stop speeding vehicles and other terrorists attacks. Doucet’s design offers what he calls “a different, humanist approach to security.” The project was commissioned for the second annual TSqDL initiative, which was created to bring new design ideas to the public realm—specifically, New York's crossroads of the world that is visited by nearly half-a-million people daily. On display and in use since May, the Rely Bench comprises gently rounded, interconnected concrete platforms that each weigh over one ton. With its modular components connected with steel rods, the benches are designed to almost act like a net, catching a vehicle and absorbing its impact. The design is nice enough, but the real innovation is in the method used to make it. The Rely Bench is the first product to be manufactured through HyCoEx, a fully digital production method that street furniture company Urbastyle believes will “revolutionize the concrete furniture market”. Little information has been made available about the technology other than it uses an extrusion technique powered by a 3D printing robotic arm developed by Concrenetics and produced by UrbaStyle in partnership with Autodesk, ABB and Cementir Group. Though extrusion is common with plastics, HyCoEx is the first method to adopt it for concrete; other methods primarily use deposition, layering concrete to build the final form. The benefits of 3D printing over traditional concrete casting include lowering production costs resulting from reduced waste material and the lack of required mold. Indeed, Urbastyle believes that the HyCoEx method “may one day completely replace mold production.” Perhaps most significantly, HyCoEx empowers designers to efficiently create any form or surface pattern they can imagine. The company sees it as a type of “artisan” technology that removes the separation between design and fabrication. The Times Square installation was just a prototype of the design and technology, but prepare to see more of both soon. The Rely is currently being tested against international crash barrier standards.
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Zeller & Moye mixes up Mexican rural life with Casa Hilo housing prototype

Mexico City-based studio Zeller & Moye has developed a sustainable, modular housing prototype made specifically for warm, rural locales. Casa Hilo, a 2,900-square-foot single-family home, features a concrete framework that can be arranged in a variety of configurations and with spaces interconnected without a central spine.  The adaptable architecture is inspired by the way low-income Mexican families in countryside communities interact with the land—and other locals—surrounding them. Zeller & Moye collaborated with social housing group INFONAVIT to study the living conditions of these areas and then shape their design to create a series of homes across Coquimatlán in Mexico. Completed in May, Casa Hilo’s base layout includes a set of individual box-shaped rooms—each a separate space with its own front door and roof terrace—with open green patios between them. This prototype includes two bedrooms, one kitchen that doubles as a dining room, and a bathroom. The outdoor spaces making up the garden, where residents might grow their own plants for food or sale, are slightly shaded by the modular structures and provide a pleasant microclimate for communing. The design team added an outdoor tub, wood fire stove, benches, and another dining table for nice days.  During the hotter months, the adobe blocks that make up the solid walls within the concrete frame cool the interiors by absorbing extra humidity. The windows and doors are made of large bamboo lattice structures and dually provide air circulation as well as shade when opened up to the exterior. According to the architects, the residence can be expanded based on the needs of the family, though Casa Hilo only has four rooms.  Chrisoph Zeller and Ingrid Moye, principals of Zeller & Moye, led the experimental development of Casa Hilo. Both architects formerly worked at SANAA and Herzog & de Meuron. Previously completed works by the firm include a remodeled 1930s townhouse in Mexico City and several furniture collections. 
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Renzo Piano crowns the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures with a sweeping glass dome

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When it opens in 2020, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, located in the heart of Los Angeles, will be the world’s premier museum dedicated to movies. Designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW), the building consists of a renovation and restoration of the 1939 May Company Department Store—now known as the Saban Building—and a new, concrete and glass spherical addition.
  • Facade Manufacturer Saint Gobain Group
  • Architect Renzo Piano Building Workshop
  • Executive Architect Gensler
  • Facade Installer Josef Gartner Permasteelisa MATT Construction
  • Facade Consultant Knippers Helbig
  • Consulting Engineer Knippers Helbig
  • Structural Engineer BuroHappold Engineering
  • Location Los Angeles, CA
  • Date of Completion 2019
  • System Permasteelisa Gartner system
  • Products DIAMANT Eckelt
The project was inspired by the capacity for cinema to transport viewers to a new world, and the architects think of the 45,000-square- foot sphere as a spaceship. More specifically perhaps, the project evokes the TARDIS—Doctor Who’s time-and-space-traveling police box that’s famously bigger on the inside than appears possible from the outside. As Mark Carroll, partner at RPBW notes, “We didn’t want it too large, because it could overpower the Saban Building. So we tried to keep it small and compact but still big on the inside.” The sphere’s two primary programs drove its design: the spacious 1,000-seat David Geffen Theater and the Dolby Family Terrace. The majority of this cinematic starship is clad with 680 precast-concrete panels attached to a shotcrete structural frame. The concrete is the visible part of a “box in a box” assembly that was designed to acoustically insulate the theater from within and from without. Behind the precast shell, a floating gypsum box completely encloses the space to provide additional soundproofing. Atop the sphere, a glass dome covers the Dolby terrace, which offers expansive views toward Hollywood to the north. The dome comprises exactly 1,500 overlapping low-iron glass shingles set over a graceful steel frame—a solution arrived at after “many interactions,” according to Carroll. Among the 146 unique shapes of shingles are glass vents, arranged at the top of the dome to help keep the open-air terrace cool. To ensure the structure stays rigid during a seismic event, cables crisscross the frame’s 4-inch structural supports, which span 120 feet across the roof and over the dome, casting dynamic shadows onto the curving facade. RPBW carefully coordinated the construction of the glass and concrete elements, which were cast with openings to attach the dome’s “egg cutter” structure. The project is the latest blockbuster building on L.A.’s Miracle Mile, joining a collection that includes RPBW’s additions to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The futuristic dome is not only an apt addition to the neighborhood but to the original structure, whose Streamline Moderne design offers an optimistic vision of the future from another era. As Piano said, “The Academy Museum gives us the opportunity to honor the past while creating a building for the future—in fact, for the possibility of many futures.”
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UCCA Dune Museum burrows into a Chinese beach

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On a beach in northern China, light cannons emerge from the tops of a dune, hinting at a structure buried beneath the sand like a lost Courbusian villa. But the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art Dune Museum (UCCA Dune) is neither lost nor buried, but carved into the sands of Bohai Bay by the Beijing-based firm OPEN Architecture.
  • Facade Manufacturers & Installers South Lion Establish Group (CurtainWall Manufacturer and Installer)
  • Architect OPEN Architecture
  • Facade Consultant CABR Technology Co., Ltd.
  • Location Qinhuangdao, China
  • Date of Completion 2018
  • System Burrowed concrete shell
  • Products Silent Gliss International Sunshades
Inspired by children digging in the sand, the building is defined by a series of interconnected organic spaces that seem scooped from the ground. There’s a raw, handcrafted feel to the rooms because they are, in fact, crafted by hand. Local workers and former shipbuilders shaped the complex geometries of the museum’s concrete shell using formwork made from small linear strips of wood, and other, more elastic materials. The architects deliberately retained the rough texture left by the formwork, allowing traces of the building’s construction to be felt and seen. Natural light from generous light wells fills the central gallery, casting shadows that accentuate the interior’s rough concrete texture. Creating this handmade aesthetic required some technological support. The architects and structural engineers shared digital models to optimize the building’s form and calculate the thickness of the concrete walls. “Fine-tuning this geometry was a back and forth process between structure and architecture,” notes founding partner Li Hu. Even with these calculations, the realities of the unusual site required the architects to adapt their design in the field, simplifying things and changing details like the enormous opening that faces out toward the sky and sea, which could only be installed from the inside rather from without, as had been initially planned. These field adjustments were challenging, “but on the other hand,” Hu says, “they were also the sources of great excitement, as they pushed for innovation and improvisation, which lead to unexpected results.”
A sense of craftsmanship carries through the entire building, which features custom furniture and fenestration—all made by hand. The final element of the enclosure is, of course, the dune itself. As a green—or rather, brown—roof, the sand improves the building’s performance by dramatically reducing the energy required to cool it during the summer. But as the dune protects the building, so too does the building protect the vulnerable coastal ecosystem. The presence of the museum ensures the preservation of the dunes, from large oceanside real estate developments.
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Steven Holl's Kennedy Center expansion dampens sound with crinkled concrete

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Steven Holl Architects' (SHA) expansion of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.—titled The REACH—is expected to open to the public at the beginning of September.  The $250-million expansion consists of a 4.6-acre complex with three semi-submerged pavilions rising with bright-white cast-in-place concrete and opaque glass facades. Notably, SHA's design features crinkled concrete sound-dampening walls that could potentially be used on facades. The use of concrete integrates the addition with the material palette of the preexisting Edward Durell Stone–designed complex, albeit the new buildings break from the rectilinearity of the older pagoda-like buildings by using soaring curves.
  • Facade Manufacturer Fitzgerald Formliners (Rubber Molds) Lane Construction (Cast-in-place concrete)
  • Architect Steven Holl Architects BNIM (Associate Architect)
  • Facade Installer Lane Construction
  • Facade Consultant Reg Hough (Concrete Consultant) Silman (Structural Engineer)
  • Location Washington, D.C.
  • Date of Completion 2019
  • System Structural Concrete
  • Products Custom-fabricated rubber molds.
A significant aspect of the Kennedy Center expansion is the insertion of performance and rehearsal spaces to increase the Center's cultural offerings. The challenge? The hardness of concrete, combined with its flush surface, inherently hurts acoustic performance. To solve this quandary SHA Senior Partner Chris McVoy and Senior Associate Garrick Ambrose got to work in the studio's in-house workshop. "The process started with making small one-foot by one-foot crinkled metal samples in our shop to determine the appropriate size and depth of the crinkle pattern that worked best visually and acoustically," Ambrose said. "After the pattern was finalized, we took a large 10-foot by 4-foot sheet of aluminum, thin enough to form by hand, and crinkled it in our shop. The crinkled metal panel was then fastened to a wooden framework and sprayed with foam insulation on the back to freeze the pattern in place before it was sent to Fitzgerald Formliners in California where elastomeric rubber molds were created." One of the challenges of the early prototyping was sourcing pieces of aluminum large enough to reduce seams across the surface whilst still being hand pliable. Luckily, manufacturer Alucoil donated the firm a large roll of aluminum. The research phase, from the creation of small mock-ups in-house to the first concrete pours on site, took approximately two-and-a-half years. SHA worked closely with acoustician David Harvey to determine the optimal depth of the relief, which ultimately settled between one-and-a-half and two inches. Following fabrication, the rubber molds were transported to the construction site and fastened to the rest of the formwork prior to the concrete pour. To avoid the visible repetition of the crinkled pattern across the performance spaces, the construction team flipped and rotated the rubber molds. The result is a remarkably detailed concrete finish with laps of light and shadow that not only acoustically dampens the space but is integrated into the complex's overall structure.
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Brooklyn-based startup is using robots for rebar assembly

Two Brooklyn-based construction entrepreneurs began their business with a simple observation: steel rebar, used in concrete construction throughout the world, isn't always easy to work with. Ian Cohen and Daniel Blank noticed this when they were watching wind turbines being erected. “Watching the process of people manually moving these huge, heavy objects looked dangerous and difficult,” Cohen explained. Often made from scrap metal, rebar is a “really sharp, dirty material for humans to interact with.” They pivoted their URBAN-X accelerated startup, Toggle, which they founded two-and-a-half years ago with a focus on renewable energy, to the even more fundamental work of making the production of reinforced concrete faster and safer through automation. Rebar steel is “traditionally manually picked up and erected into cages and shaped to hold reinforced concrete structures in place,” explained Cohen. These cages may be as long as 50 feet. That’s hard work for humans but is exactly the kind of job robots are suited for: taking very heavy things and moving them precisely. Using customized industrial robots, Toggle made modifications that allow the automated arms to “achieve bespoke movements.” The design-to-build process is also streamlined, with custom software that takes a design file, evaluates types of cages needed, then derives a build sequence, and goes straight into digital fabrication. Currently, Toggle, which is in the early stages of its technology, is using a “cooperative process”—a human and robot working side by side. The robot does the dangerous work and heavy lifting, picking up and manipulating the bars, while the human does just the final wire tying. Toggle is in the process of automating this step as well, aiming to increase productivity over all-human rebar processing by as much as five times while halving the cost. The two also plan on adding a linear track that would allow the robot to produce larger meshes, though currently, they are operating at a fairly substantial maximum of 20 feet. No mere experiment, the robot is currently being put to work, fabricating rebar for projects in New York City and the surrounding area. Part of the plan is to develop a system that works something like vertical farming, Cohen explained, where production happens close to where there is need, minimizing the logistical demands and long-distance transportation and “allowing civil infrastructure to be developed and constructed in the societies that need them most.” New York, of course, is a perfect testing ground with its constant construction. Currently, global labor shortages, including in the U.S., make infrastructure construction expensive according to Cohen. Toggle’s goal is to “reduce cost and accelerate construction projects around the world, all while maximizing safety.” The intent, Cohen says, is not about getting rid of human labor but about “taking work away from humans that is not suited for them and putting them in jobs that are better for humans.”
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The Gaia House is a 3D-printed prototype made of biodegradable materials

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WASP, a 3D printing studio based out of Italy, recently produced a full-scale residential prototype out of soil, rice products, and hydraulic lime. Measuring approximately 320-square-feet in plan, the project was completed in 10 days and was built in the town of Massa Lombarda in the region of Emilia-Romagna. The project, named Gaia House, aims to establish a template for mass-produced biodegradable and structurally efficient structures. The building rises from a circular concrete foundation, relying on a team-developed computational design to reduce the total quantity of materials while imprinting geometric variation across the facade.
  • Facade Manufacturer & Installer WASP
  • Designer WASP
  • Location Massa Lombardo, Italy
  • Date of Completion 2018
  • System Computationally-designed
  • Products Raw soil, straw, rice husk, lime
For the fabrication of the residential prototype, WASP used a 3D printer suspended from a crane, aptly titled Crane WASP. The mixture, composed of 25 percent soil, 40 percent chopped rice straw, 25 percent rice husk, and 10 percent hydraulic lime, was dispensed onto successive layers with a series of triangular cavities placed between the primary interior and exterior courses. Rise husks were poured into the cavities to insulate the structure. Although the biodegradable material is suitable for use as an enclosure system, the principal load-bearing elements for the overhanging octagonal roof are wooden columns placed along the interior of the structure. For the interior of the structure, WASP softened the rustic materials by treating them with clay lamina and linseed oils. "Gaia is a highly performing module both in terms of energy and indoor health, with almost zero environmental impact," said the design team. "Printed in a few weeks, thanks to its masonry it does not need heating or an air conditioning system, as it maintains a mild and comfortable temperature both in winter and in summer." Currently, WASP is collaborating with the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia to develop a 3D-printed earthen wall with embedded floor and staircase systems, and is seeking to reduce construction time via the use of multiple printers working in tandem with each other.
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Matter Design and CEMEX conjure monumental concrete constructs for TED 2019

TED 2019, a week of speaker sessions, workshops, and conversations about the directions technological and political progress are leading society, has touched down in Vancouver. Appropriately enough, the Cambridge, Massachusetts–based firm Matter Design and CEMEX Global R&D have used the event to unveil the fruits of their concrete research. Matter Design is no stranger to experimental stonework (nor is CEMEX, for that matter). Engineering tightly-interlocking slabs and complex concrete forms have been a constant in their research, and both Janus and Walking Assembly take their explorations to the next level. Janus was originally revealed simultaneously last year at the American Academy in Rome and on the campus of MIT. Matter Design and CEMEX teamed with composers Federico Gardella and Simone Confort to create a multi-sensory experience that demonstrates how heavy masses can still move with a rollicking sense of joy. In a video of the display of Janus, a crescendo of whispers draws the crowd’s attention to the stage, where they’re presented, in both senses of the word, with an enormous box mocked up to resemble Rome’s four-gated Arch of Janus. The blue, orange, and pink box slowly flops over to reveal that it’s simply a wrapper, and from it emerges a massive concrete wrecking ball, or kettle ball–shaped object. Emphasizing the split nature of the Roman god that Janus takes its name from, the concrete object, a solid ball with a hollow handle on top, wobbles and spins but always returns to an upright position. Walking Assembly continues on the theme of playfully rocking solid concrete masses with another historical twist. How did ancient peoples move the Moai of Easter Island? One theory is that these massive statues were designed to be “walked,” or gradually rocked, into place. Walking Assembly, seeking to divorce the concept of masonry’s scale from that of the humans placing it, returns to these preindustrial construction techniques. These massive masonry units (MMUs) are designed to be moved and fit into place without the help of cranes or other construction equipment. Using rounded edges, handle points, and by pouring variable-density concrete to control each MMU’s center of gravity, the components can be easily rocked, tilted, and rolled into place. Both projects, through using computer modeling and advanced fabrication technology, force the objects themselves to do the heavy lifting and free the user, or construction worker, to play around with the components. It's a fitting tie-in for a conference probing where technology can take us.
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Swiss researchers develop high-tech floor that minimizes concrete use

Global construction continues to steam ahead, even while seemingly mundane building materials (like sand) become rarer and more precious, and construction industry's carbon dioxide emissions contribute to global climate change. The building industry seems to be demanding new solutions, but scalable alternatives remain scarce. Enter the Block Research Group at ETH Zurich. The group, which is based out of the Institute of Technology in Architecture at the Swiss school and is led by Philippe Block and Tom Van Mele, takes a “geometry-based approach” to assessing and attacking engineering problems using technology like algorithmic design and 3-D printing. Most recently, at ETH’s pavilion at the World Economic Forum, which took place earlier this winter in Davos, the group unveiled its solution to building in an age of tightening resources: a "functionally integrated funicular floor." The flooring solution builds on the group's rib-stiffened funicular slab system, which was inspired by tile vaulting and was on display at the Beyond Bending exhibition at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale. It relies on doubly-curved shells to bear loads and uses up to 70 percent less concrete than typical construction methods. The structure also minimizes stress even in the thinnest areas, making it possible to build with weaker materials, like recycled concrete, which the lab is currently using. It also permits space to embed pipes, wires, and mechanical systems in space created in the floor. Currently, the lab is collaborating with the Architecture and Building Systems lab at the university to see if HVAC systems can be placed within the flooring. https://vimeo.com/312082531 However, despite its significantly decreased use of concrete, the complex geometry could make for expensive and wasteful formworks, which themselves require intensive labor to build and remove. The Block Research Group is also collaborating with the Digital Buildings Technology lab to investigate the use of 3-D printing to mitigate these challenges. This year, the research group is gearing up to use its new floor system and other technologies in the ongoing experimental NEST HiLo (high performance, low energy) project, a prototype two-bedroom apartment for ETH visiting faculty that features an array of cutting-edge construction and environmentally conscious technologies, being constructed in Dübendorf, Switzerland.
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Bendable concrete could make infrastructure safer—and cheaper

Bendable concrete is one step closer to hitting the market. Bendable concrete or Engineered Cementitious Composites (ECC) were originally developed in the 1990s by Victor C. Li at the University of Michigan, whose research was in part inspired by how animals like abalone produce the inner nacre of their shells. However, cost, supply chain concerns, and technical factors have prevented its widespread adaptation in the construction industry and its use has been limited to just parts of a handful of projects in Japan and the United States. However, a new development by Gabriel Arce, a construction management research associate at Louisiana State University is hoping to change that. Arce led a multi-year project titled “Evaluation of the Performance and Cost-Effectiveness of Engineered Cementitious Composites Produced from Region 6 Local Materials,” which experimented with an array of locally sourceable materials to develop a more cost-effective, scalable bendable concrete. The material, which comprises a PVA fiber, fine grain sand from the Mississippi river, and locally-gathered fly ash, costs more than conventional concrete but much less than existing ECC. “The cost of our material is approximately 2.5 times that of regular concrete; typical ECC cost can be more than four times that of regular concrete,” said Arce in a university publication. Considering the fact that structures using ECC can be built with less material and require less upkeep and repair, the gap in cost may actually be negligible. Bendable concrete is filled with small fibers, generally polymer-derived, organized into a microstructure that helps give the material increased ductility in comparison to traditional concrete, which is prone to cracking and failure under strain and long-term use. Where standard cement only has a strain capacity of around .01 percent, bendable concrete’s can be as much as 7 percent, meaning it is hundreds of times more flexible. Its fibrous structure also means it breaks in a safer, slower way—generating many “microcracks” instead of the large cracks seen in traditional concrete. This means wear leads to smaller deformations, rather than full-on shattering or structural failure. This is critical as most failures in concrete structures, are due not to a lack of compressive strength, but tensile strength, as Li explained in an article he published this past year in The Conversation. Traditional concrete simply can’t bend or give without breaking. Besides making infrastructure and buildings unsafe, these cracks, which can occur after a few years of use, require substantial amounts of time, material, and carbon output to repair. Over time this adds substantially to the financial and environmental cost of the building. Arce, whose project was funded by the Transportation Consortium of South-Central States (Tran-SET), an association of several universities across the southern half of the U.S., hopes to see bendable concrete used to help alleviate problems with this country’s decaying, and often poorly maintained, infrastructure. This past October he put the new ECC to the test, using the material to repair a section of Baton Rouge sidewalk—it's not building a bridge, dam, or tower, but it was hopefully a step towards building a safer, more durable, and more sustainable world.
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This winery holds its own with a self-supporting limestone facade

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With a wine-producing history stretching back three millennia to Greek colonization in the 6th century B.C., the French region of Provence is nearly synonymous with viticulture. Winemaker Les Domaine Ott Chateau de Selle has called the region home since 1912 and last year completed a full-scale revamp of its facilities by Paris-based Carl Fredrik Svenstedt Architect (CFSA) featuring a facade of self-supporting one-ton blocks of local stone. The 47,000-square-foot winery is partially nestled into the hillside, rising from a stepped concrete foundation. The two primary elevations of the structure run adjacent to each other, with that to the east following a gentle curve. Each stone block of the facade is approximately 3 square feet in area and 1.5 feet in height, stacked to reach a total height of nearly 33 feet. Each stone block weighs approximately a ton, allowing for the insertion of certain load-bearing elements into the blocks for interior slabs and beams.
  • Facade Manufacturer Carrier De Provence Poggia Provence
  • Architects Carl Fredrik Svenstedt Architect
  • Facade Installer Printemps de la Pierre
  • Location Taradeau, Provence, France
  • Date of Completion 2017
  • System Self-supporting limestone facade with a concrete core
  • Products La Pierre du Pont-du-Gard limestone Soleal Evolution Technal aluminum window frames
The arrangement of the self-supporting stone blocks dilates and contorts according to interior function; the central body housing dozens of stainless steel and wooden wine barrels must be guarded from UV rays, while gaps in the imposing elevations crop towards the north and south for office spaces and screened courtyards. For French vineyards, the concept of terroir, or the unique qualities of local mineral and environmental conditions, is directly credited for the final palette of each vintage. For CFSA, it was imperative that the design of the new winery similarly reflect the surrounding geography. To this effect, the design team procured the beige limestone blocks from quarrier Carrières de Provence who source from local a limestone quarry dating back from the Roman era. The large-grain stone, known as La Pierre du Pont-du-Gard, was first roughly harvested from the quarry and subsequently fashioned in an on-site workshop with diamond disc rotors. “Using stone quarried nearby was coherent for the insertion of such a large building into the landscape,” says Carl Fredrik Svenstedt, “at the same time the stone has fantastic thermal properties for a winery in a hot climate, with great mass inertia and hygrometry, while also being very accessible financially.” Following fabrication, the stone blocks were transported 125 miles from Carrier de Provence's facilities to the construction site and craned into position atop the perimeter of the concrete shell. Joinery of the blocks was fairly straightforward: they are held together by gravity and mortar. Since Provence is located in an active seismic zone, CFSA added two key elements to boost earthquake resistance: every sixteen feet, the stone piers were hollowed to facilitate the insertion of a vertical concrete pier directly to the foundation, while strategically placed pins are used to the same effect for areas with significant openings. Similar to historic wineries that rely on a system of vaults to allow for flexible interior floor plans, the great halls of the facility are supported by a system of precast concrete beams and columns. CFSA relied on rebar and infill concrete between limestone columns and the core to tie the stone and concrete elements into a cohesive structural system.
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Concrete production produces eight percent of the world's carbon dioxide emissions

Concrete is perhaps the most prolific and malleable construction material in the world, but our continued dependence on it may be contributing to climate change more than was previously known. The English international affairs think tank Chatham House recently released a report that attributed approximately eight percent of the planet’s annual carbon dioxide emissions to concrete production. The chemical processes used to create cement, burning limestone and clay in a high-temperature kiln and grinding the result, contributes the greatest share of emissions (though the collection of sand, a commonly used aggregate, has its own problems). With the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) complete, a “rulebook” for enacting the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change was agreed on by the 23,000 international delegates present. Even with a guide in place for reducing carbon dioxide emissions, the problem with concrete is that demand is only expected to rise. Currently, the world produces 4.4 billion tons of concrete annually, but that number is expected to rise to over 5.5 billion tons by 2050 as poorer countries rapidly urbanize, according to the Chatham House report. For the concrete industry to fall in line with the Paris Agreement’s targets, emissions will need to fall 16 percent from current levels by 2030. The report argues that target is already an ambitious goal. The production of Portland cement, the kind most widely used today, has remained largely the same since the 1800s. Limestone and clay combine in the kiln to form carbon dioxide and “clinker,” a substrate then mixed with limestone and gypsum to create cement. According to Chatham House, research into “alternative clinker” and low-carbon production methods has thus far been slow going. Less energy-intensive kilns, new types of clinker, carbon capture technology, and switching to renewable energy during the production process will all be necessary “to achieve CO2 reductions consistent with at least a 50 percent chance of limiting the average global temperature increase to 2°C above pre-industrial levels by 2100," according to the BBC. Timber, which sequesters the carbon dioxide absorbed by trees over their life, has slowly but surely made strides in replacing concrete in some projects. High-rise timber buildings have gotten a green light in Oregon, and continued research into carbon-neutral (or negative) projects is continuing apace.