Posts tagged with "Construction":

GreenerBuilder 2019

Hosted by the Pacific Region communities of the U.S. Green Building Council, GreenerBuilder is a one-day conference and expo for green building professionals. The annual event unites all of the key players in greening the Pacific Region’s built environment—including architects, engineers and contractors—to discuss industry trends, new research and emerging technologies. GreenerBuilder is where you can get the strategies and tools to help create a more sustainable future in the region.

BuildingsNY 2019

EXPERIENCE THE FULL BUILDINGS LIFECYCLE

BuildingsNY is sponsored by ABO (Associated Builders and Owners of Greater New York), CHIP (Community Housing Improvement Program), The AIA, NYARM, ASHRAE LI, and a host of other industry supporters. BuildingsNY is the single source, full product life-cycle solution to safely and cost-effectively operate your buildings with a unique combination of an exhibition, no-cost accredited education, partnership opportunities, and networking events.  

WHAT WILL YOU FIND AT BUILDINGSNY

  • 5,500 + Building industry professionals
  • 300+ suppliers
  • 35,000 square feet of event space offering state-of-the-art innovation technologies, goods and services to reduce costs for your building
  • Industry leaders and subject matter experts offering the opportunity to share their extensive knowledge with new codes & industry trends
  • Free accredited education
  • MORE innovation & technology, goods and services
  • MORE State-of-the-Art product launches than ever before
Learn More

WHAT'S IN STORE FOR 2019

  • All education sessions will be moved to the show floor, creating three Learning Theaters.
  • Updated Advisory Council consisting of building professionals who shape the industry.
  • New partnerships with a wide range of media, as well as strengthening the relationships with current supporters.
  • Back by popular demand! Tech Tank Pavilion will feature new buildings technologies. Source the next big product or service that can revolutionize building operations as we know it.
  • Unlimited access to the complimentary Lead Retrieval App, which allows you to easily collect, qualify & download the contact details of the customers you meet at BuildingsNY.
  • Education Sessions for 2019 will focus on profitability, compliance and managerial excellence. You'll leave with a fresh perspective on how to solve problems, increase efficiencies, unlock saving and keep your buildings at their peak.
  • Attorney Advice Center: Powered by NYARM – During 15-minute intervals, attorneys and attendees will meet one-on-one focusing on important areas of practice (April 2 and April 3, 2019 | 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.| Located at Booth #231
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Cornell symposium looks at architecture and construction post-waste

Can you imagine a world without waste? A world where the leftovers of today are easily turned into a delicious dinner tomorrow? Can such a world be designed? Such was the premise and the promise of the symposium Wasted: Design for the End of Material as We Know It, held at Cornell University’s College of Architecture, Art, and Planning on March 8 and 9. The event’s organizer, Caroline O’Donnell, challenged practitioners, educators, and students not to wait until the end of a product’s life to passively recycle it. Instead, the entire lifecycle of materials could and should be accounted for at the beginning of the design process. In response to this prompt, the audience was treated to a wide variety of methods for reducing the production and consumption of new architectural resources. These were often framed and diagramed in the context of a “circular economy,” a system of exchange where the refuse of one practice becomes the raw material or capital for the next project or investment. Some proposals echoed the efficient forms and goals of modernism; Peter Van Assche, Sabine Rau-Oberhuber, and Billie Faircloth showed projects where the disassembly and reuse of building components were integral to the design. These schemes recalled the logic and the style of the Eames House, and of Walter Gropius’s General Panel Corporation from the 1940s. Juliette Spertus’s investigations into a faster, cleaner mode of moving garbage in cities via pneumatic tubes directly updated the systems approach to planning of the 1960s. Even Michael Ghyoot and The Living’s David Benjamin references to spolia, the ancient practice of mining elements from otherwise obsolete buildings, was positioned via the optimizing framework of digital cataloguing techniques. Other examples, like Meredith Miller’s “Post-Rock” project, presented a more playful if not more menacing vision of what living in a world made out of other people’s garbage might be like. Similarly, the strange, slumped, and bio-degradable designs shown by Maria Aiolova and David Benjamin offered an uncanny version of planned obsolescence, one that challenged the architectural myths of stability and perpetuity. The mycelium-based materials they have developed are designed to disappear back into the earth, literally nurturing it rather than defiling it. All present seemed to agree that what needs to be thrown away is the idea of waste as an inevitable byproduct of the design and construction process. Instead, waste was consistently repositioned as a resource to be creatively used. Clearly, there are many ways of designing with waste; some ways can make do with DIY tools and software, while others will need large capital investments. Also shared was the ethos of not taking no for an answer—not from city planners, or industrial and material engineers, or from business managers and consultants. Changing the status quo requires the development of even more optimistic acts of architectural disobedience. Surely, more of these can be imagined and designed.
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NYU launches center for construction innovation at Brooklyn campus

This past month, New York University's Tandon School of Engineering unveiled its new Institute of Design and Construction (IDC) Innovations Hub. The research center, located at NYU’s engineering school in Brooklyn’s MetroTech Center, will promote safety, sustainability, and productivity within the construction industry, as well as educate executives and organizations in the field on how to find solutions to challenges in construction project management. Construction companies have had a history of resisting change and new technologies, especially when it comes to financial and safety concerns. But within the past few years, advancements in construction technology have pushed companies toward modernizing their practices, integrating 3D printing, data analytics, artificial intelligence, laser scanning, modularization, and robotics into their latest projects and developments. Staff members and researchers at IDC Innovations Hub will push innovation in the industry by offering advanced seminars, providing training, hosting networking events, and helping members solve design and construction issues. Its goal is to prepare a new generation of engineers to tackle the challenges of tomorrow's industry. Heading the IDC Innovations Hub as chairman is engineer Michael Horodniceanu, once president of New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority Capital Construction. Horodniceanu has over 40 years of experience in transportation planning, design, and construction management, and hopes to use the IDC to foster a network of people—including students, graduates, and industry professionals—that will grow together and overcome challenges with one another. As the school semester continues, the IDC Innovations Hub will reveal additional details regarding the center’s structure and operations, including its staff members, board of directors, and advisory committee.
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Construction industry launches campaign to diversify national workforce

The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), a group that represents thousands of construction workers and contracting firms nationwide, is launching a campaign to diversify its predominantly white and male workforce. Stephen Sandherr, the CEO of the AGC, announced his plans to introduce professional construction training to high school students in an attempt to attract more minorities and women to the trade in order to better reflect America’s evolving and increasingly diverse workforce, according to The New York Daily News. According to the AGC, very few minorities and women enter the construction industry due to their lack of familiarity with it, therefore the business is overwhelmingly white and male. By familiarizing high schoolers and college students with vocational training, some of which will be paid for by the AGC itself, the association hopes to boost the diversity of the industry. The group also hopes to attract more skilled workers in general to the stagnant industry, where nearly 80 percent of employers claim to lack experienced or qualified contractors, according to a recent AGC survey. But critics say that this new initiative could prevent poor and minority students from attending college or learning the professional skills necessary to build a business in the trade. While the AGC has launched previous initiatives aimed toward bringing minorities and women into the construction workforce, few have made a substantial impact. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women composed about 9 percent of the 2017 U.S. construction workforce, with the number of Asians at 2 percent, African Americans at 6 percent, and Hispanics at almost 30 percent.
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Film Forum’s extensive renovation becomes art in new photo book

The following is excerpted from Film Forum: Under Construction 2018.

The images that you see here were captured on a worksite for the expansion of Film Forum, a place where people gather with a group of strangers to watch a story unfold —something that is increasingly unusual these days. They are a celebration of an ancient ritual married to a modern technology. The technology develops but the ritual decays.

What do these photographs say about watching movies? What do they recall and what do they suggest? How is it that beneath the formal pleasures of their design, their abstraction, and their use of color, they conjure something concrete about shared experience? Like a lot of abstractions, and certainly like many of Jan Staller’s photographs, these pictures are not only about a surface but the materiality below the surface. In this case the materials are the brick and mortar of the theater itself and the steel and brittle celluloid of projectors, reels and filmstrips—objects that look now like sacraments of the earliest technology of the art form. They are evocative because they are tactile. My first exposure to the movies was more sterile and electronic. It took place alone, in a dark room, late at night in front of a television set. In this respect, it was closer to the way that most people watch movies today. As I got older I went to movie theaters, spending hours of my youth in palaces called The Orpheum, The Lyric, and more prosaically (and appropriately), The Suburban World. There was something fundamentally different about going to a theater. The impact of the experience was magnified literally by the scale of its presentation and emotionally by the act of sharing it with a community. And just as importantly, by its appeal to the sensorium, something that most modern technology abjures. The theater was itself a machine, one that you entered, was turned on, and then would grind into action. Its constituent parts were hidden but somehow felt.  That’s part of what these photographs evoke, but for me they also evoke memories of my early days as a film editor, when you felt the film in your hands and heard the clack of the sprockets as it ran through the machines. But before waxing too nostalgic about the older ways of doing things, it may be useful to think about two movies that I saw for the first time at Film Forum. They were both by F. W. Murnau, a German filmmaker who came to Hollywood in 1926. The first, Sunrise, was made in 1927 and is certainly one of the greatest movies of the silent period. It was a huge success, and William Fox, the man who had brought Murnau to America and who was the producer of Sunrise, asked him to do another movie. In his youth, Murnau had been something of a gear head—he was fascinated by cameras and new technology. In the interim between Sunrise and his next film for Fox, The City Girl, sound had been introduced. The new technology was alien to Murnau as an older man. He couldn’t reconcile it with his taste or his process and The City Girl was made and released as a silent film with title cards instead of dialogue. Watching it now one wonders what it would have been like otherwise. A cautionary tale about aging out of your era. The movies are wedded to technology, and for better or worse as the technology advances it changes not only how they’re made, but what we actually see and how we watch them. At a certain point resistance seems quaint and misguided. The opportunities in most cases outweigh the things we lose. The sensual pleasures of pre-digital machines are probably lost forever, but the act of gathering to watch stories, to be part of an audience, would be dangerous to lose. It is ancient and fundamental. So let’s celebrate one of the few institutions that continues to expand that opportunity. These pictures do, and they do something else—they get under the skin.
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Extreme architecture: The great lengths (and heights) of high design

Throughout history, many great works of architecture both large and small have been made possible only through incredible feats of engineering and construction. In today’s world—where office and residential towers reach ever-increasing heights, new cities appear in an instant, and stringent safety and structural requirements make building arduous and time-consuming—architects must draw on their experience and know-how to bring innovative new projects to life. Three recent projects by American architecture firms highlight the lengths designers can go (and heights they can achieve) in pursuit of great design. Seattle Space Needle Olson Kundig The Space Needle in Seattle is a superlative building through and through. Built in 1962, the flying saucer-shaped observation tower was recently renovated by Olson Kundig and a daring team of contractors and engineers, including Hoffman Construction, Arup, Fives Lund, and Magnusson Klemencic Associates. To achieve their goal of modernizing the structure, the project team had to work delicately to make sure the weight of added and subtracted materials balanced out, while also ensuring that the majority of the new components could be transported up the needle’s two passenger elevators. Beyond these exacting specifications, crews also dealt with a job site located some 500 feet up in the air as they worked to install new panes of glass around the Space Needle’s flying saucer-shaped Top House. For the project, Hoffman and associated contractors erected a giant covered platform directly underneath the Top House to stage construction activities. The massive structure was lifted into the sky and built out from key hoist points, according to Bob Vincent, project manager at Hoffman. The platform, designed to function more or less like an oil rig deck, was used to stage construction so that workers could access the Space Needle’s Top House from below. The stage created something akin to a massive cocoon around the base of the Top House, and its associated enclosure kept workers protected from the elements. Vincent said, “With the full enclosure, the workers weren’t freezing and materials didn’t fly around too much. It kept wind and elements out, too. When we were done with the project, we dismantled the ring by bringing in all the components from the edges toward the middle.” Embassy in Chad Moore Ruble Yudell Architects A new American embassy campus in N’Djamena, Chad, by Santa Monica, California–based Moore Ruble Yudell (MRY) posed a different set of construction and site limitations. Located in a remote region of the country with a small pool of skilled labor, it fell on the design team to create a state-of-the-art building that could be constructed using locally available materials and building techniques. The approach for the technically complex and decidedly low-tech project was to blend simple finishes and off-the-shelf components with the aim of creating lively but humble buildings. The complex was erected using site-poured concrete walls and modular roof pieces, elements that helped meet the strict security and functional requirements for the embassy. The cementitious walls were then wrapped in exterior rainscreen paneling made up of thin-shell concrete and metal latticework. The lightweight panels, available in standard sizes that could be shipped easily to the site, were chosen to add color and patterning to the pragmatic buildings. In certain areas, including between the main lobby and the cafe, lightweight canopies were strung to create shaded outdoor areas and to collect rainwater. A new, centralized energy plant connected to solar panel arrays was also included in the off-the-grid project. Alexander Residence Mark English Architects While working on extensive renovations to an existing five-story cliffside home in the San Francisco Bay, Mark English Architects (MEA) was only able to deliver construction materials and remove debris via floating barge. With the closest road nearly 200 feet away from the waterfront home and accessible only by steep stairs and a cable car funicular, the design and construction team had to rent several barges to undertake the project. Located on the bayside face of Sausalito, MEA’s Alexander Residence is conceived of as a getaway spot for a client with an extensive art and furniture collection. For the renovation, MEA and GFDS Engineers worked to open up the 1970s-era home by removing some of the unnecessary interior partitions that marked its original pinwheel design. Along the lowest level, for example, facing the house’s private dock, a closed-off bedroom and living area were combined to create a studio apartment. Farther up, a home office, living room, and kitchen were united to form a great room–style arrangement with an elevated dining room, pass-through kitchen, and living area oriented around multimillion-dollar views of downtown San Francisco, Angel Island, and Alcatraz. “We rebuilt the house from inside out,” principal Mark English explained. “Everything we demoed, including the roofing, old doors and windows, and drywall, had to go out through the dock by barge.” The same was true for all of the replacement materials coming in, including new lengths of structural steel that were added for seismic resiliency and to transfer loads over some of the new window openings. For these elements, the contractors added a crane to the barge that was then used to lift the steel beams into place. English added, “We talked to two or three builders before settling on Landmark Builders. The others would inevitably bring up how difficult and expensive it would be to do this project. Luckily, we eventually found someone who thought it would be interesting to take on this out-of-the-ordinary project.”
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Global logistics firm Farren moves building components around the world

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Farren International, a one-stop-shop logistics operation founded in 1959, has carved a niche for itself shipping extra-extra-large items. Operating across most of the European Union, North America, and the United Arab Emirates, the outfit transports over one million tons per year globally by plane, train, and automobile (and a significant number of cargo ships). The company’s principal storage facility, a 400,000-square-foot warehouse in Ledgewood, New Jersey, is littered with shrink-wrapped Chinook helicopters, stacks of Yamasaki motorcycles, and 30-foot power turbines, among other items. Over the last decade, Farren International has embedded itself in leading mega-developments across New York City, transporting all of the facade cladding for towers such as New York’s Freedom Tower, and 15 and 55 Hudson Yards. With a fleet of 75 heavy-duty brand trucks, such as Oshkosh, Peterbilt, and Kenworth, Farren International has established itself as an expert in the transport of superloads—an indivisible load surpassing 16 feet in height and width, 125 feet in length, and in excess of 200,000 pounds—or as CEO and president of Farren International, Phil Antonucci, puts it, cargo that is “high, wide, and heavy.” The herculean task of corralling facade components from across the globe is often overlooked in the construction process: It includes the warehousing of thousands of tons of material in an orderly fashion and ultimately shipping components to construction sites. An in-house workshop at the New Jersey facility—hidden behind countless shelves and mountains of cargo, including enormous turbines and transformers—is charged with customizing flatbeds and other means of specialized transport for particular items. Considering the sheer lumbering mass of these transports—formats include tandem trucks hauling up to 140-foot-long modular trailers—plotting routes is akin to planning a minor military campaign. Scouts armed with measuring instruments and high poles spend up to one month at a time surveying potential routes, testing corners and overpass heights to ensure that convoys arrive at their location undamaged and on time. 15 Hudson Yards Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s recently completed 15 Hudson Yards is a 910-foot-tall residential skyscraper clad in a multitude of facade materials. For the project, Farren International collaborated with Related Companies–affiliated New Hudson Facades to transport curtain wall panels to the construction site. Assembled just south of Philadelphia, the panels were first trucked more than 100 miles to Farren’s multi-acre storage facilities in New Jersey. Over the course of two years, Farren shipped approximately 36 panels a day to the construction team on the ground for erection, with the panels weighing between 3,000 and 5,000 pounds each. Transformer Transport When Farren International is not transporting hundreds of tons of facade components or hulking military equipment, the logistics operation is moving crucial infrastructural components across the globe. In 2016, the team plotted the journey of a 415,000-pound transformer from a manufacturer in Brazil to Port Newark in New Jersey. From this juncture, the team loaded the transformer onto a barge that was pushed up the Hudson River and through the Erie Canal to Rochester, New York. Once on land, the transformer was lifted onto a Goldhoffer trailer, pushed forward by two tandem Oshkosh trucks, and installed at a local electrical substation. Chinook Helicopters The CH-47 Chinook is a 99-foot-long heavy lift helicopter with a potential payload of over 10 tons. When decommissioned by the United States Armed Forces and other purchasers of Boeing’s military-industrial wares, Chinooks begin new lives as civilian aircraft. Since 2014, Farren International has transported dozens of these double-rotor helicopters—2,500 miles on land from Meridianville, Alabama, to Columbia Helicopters in Oregon—on their fleet of flatbed trucks with an in-house-designed set of fittings and equipment, including customized nose and wheel cradles and upgraded lifting devices. In addition to the Chinook, Farren International transports a motley crew of smaller aircraft, including the Sikorsky S-92, the UH-60 Blackhawk, and even decommissioned Air Force Ones.
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Construction is N.Y.C.’s deadliest industry, according to annual reports

Construction is one of the most dangerous occupations, especially in New York City, home to some of the world’s tallest skyscrapers. While construction accidents are commonplace, statistics collected over the past ten years demonstrate that construction tops the charts as New York City’s most lethal industry, with more injuries reported last year than any other year following the post-recession building boom, as reported in the Commercial Observer. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of construction-related deaths in New York City has remained steadily high over the past few years, with a slight decrease from 21 to 20 annual deaths in 2017. The most recent construction fatality, according to the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB), occurred in November 2018, when a worker was crushed by a forklift on the site of a six-story residential condo in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. One month prior, a worker repairing the facade of a 20-story co-op in Kips Bay, Manhattan, died after a fragment of the building collapsed on top of him. Despite these gruesome accounts, there are still incidents that have yet to be reported, as the DOB only tracks deaths related to a violation of the city’s construction code, rather than tracking all work-related injuries on the job site. There are at least a half-dozen more fatalities that occurred in 2018 than the 12 cases reported by the DOB, bringing the actual number closer to 20. Although the annual death toll has remained constant in recent years, construction accidents surged significantly in 2018. According to the DOB, 761 construction workers were injured last year, which is a 13 percent increase from the 671 incidents that were reported in 2017. Due to the elevated injury rates, the City Council has implemented a number of measures aimed at protecting construction workers and reduce accidents and deaths on job sites. Among them was a law passed in September 2017 mandating construction workers to attend at least 40 hours of safety training by September 2020. The rise in construction-related accidents since then may indicate that employers are not taking these safety precautions seriously, and that the city is not doing enough to protect construction workers from deadly mishaps.
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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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The U.S. mass timber industry is maturing while it branches out

This article originally appeared as part of our January 2019 print issue in the timber feature.

President Donald Trump’s tariffs, enacted in November 2017, have not yet made a significant impact on the U.S. mass timber industry. But if Trump chooses to take more aggressive action in the next two years of his administration, this could dramatically change. This urgency, coupled with the recent global obsession with building tall wood structures, newly motivates American wood manufacturers to become independent of foreign suppliers. This would entail American manufacturers catching up in machine technology and production capacity to bolster domestic trade and support innovative architecture sourced from home.

What’s clear is that U.S. demand for wood buildings is there. The country’s largest producer of cross-laminated timber (CLT), SmartLam, has experienced such rapid growth since opening six years ago that it is building a new headquarters in Columbia Falls, Montana, and planning a second facility in Maine to supply what the industry thinks will be an influx of midrise construction in New York and other cities along the Eastern seaboard.

“The expansion here is simply driven by need,” said SmartLam CEO Casey Malmquist. “There’s always been a grassroots support for CLT in the U.S. and a recently increased interest in research and testing. But now we’re no longer speculating about whether it will work—it’s going mainstream.”

While similar Pacific Northwest companies like DR Johnson and Katerra, as well as firms such as LEVER Architecture and Michael Green Architecture, have long led the field, production is growing in uncharted territories. South Carolina–based LignaTerra is adding another plant in Maine, while Canadian leaders like Nordic Structures in Montreal and Structure Fusion in Québec City, which already supplied CLT to projects across the country, are now focusing more attention on supplying the eastern U.S. market. Production is even swelling in the South with Texas CLT LLC, which is reopening a mill in southwest Arkansas.

But pioneering European companies, which have historically dominated the market and supplied American developers, are now putting down roots in the U.S. Austrian giant KLH is partnering with International Beams’ new factory in Dothan, Alabama, by supplying it with glulam blanks. Having opened this past September, it is the first plant east of the Rocky Mountains to produce CLT in the country and will primarily utilize the unique Southern Yellow Pine native to the region.

These investments show that the race to build such production facilities is vital to the U.S. market becoming competitive with other countries. But many experts say we need to increase cultural acceptance of mass timber as well as get investors on board before the industry starts churning up a sizable profit.

“The real strategy is that the big manufacturers in Europe are focused on making franchises here,” said Alan Organschi, principal of Gray Organschi Architecture in New Haven, Connecticut. “They can produce higher quality products cheaper, even with overseas shipping, than manufacturers can in the U.S. and Canada.”

Organschi’s firm has been at the forefront of timber innovation for 20 years. He is confident the market is growing and will prove that by designing 6- to 14-story buildings, the sweet spot for mass timber construction. Dominique Briand, general manager of Canadian structural engineering firm Structure Fusion, is also optimistic about North America’s future, but feels certain that product-specific issues still need to be addressed before wood can match the quality of other structural materials like steel and concrete.

“The problem is the tools are not there,” Briand said. “There’s not enough manpower or knowledge to make or sell mass timber in the United States. Plus it’s a disorganized market, which creates a big gap between the product and the project.”

Briand believes that as long as timber is trendy, it will take young U.S.-based companies about five to ten more years to be competitive with Europe. In the meantime, architects, engineers, and educators are working to imagine groundbreaking designs at modest scales to ramp up domestic interest and encourage policy changes.

Many U.S. states are using financial incentives to entice manufacturers to locate to their respective regions. In Maine, both the state and federal governments have provided funding for the University of Maine’s extensive research to advance timber assemblies. Russell Edgar of the university’s Advanced Structures & Composites Center says the ultimate goal of this work is to organize the state’s supply chain in order to make Maine viable for these companies.

“People are talking a lot about South Carolina and Georgia since they grow trees like corn at such rapid rates,” he said. “But in Maine, we have proximity to these huge markets in New York and Boston, so we’re busy trying to find ways to get these companies here now.”

Sourcing timber products within 250 miles of a project is a huge advantage to practicing sustainability and boosting regional economies—not to mention a reason for rarely crossing borders for building materials. But a little competition is healthy, especially for lumber producers who want to bid in a fair marketplace.

“The more people there are, the better it will be,” said Briand. “I only worry that because we’re such a fast-evolving industry, a lot of companies will build huge facilities and focus solely on making and selling products. It’s not just about the products; it’s about creating strong business plans so the investment pays off.”

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Texas judge halts school construction after 95 bodies unearthed on site

Last week, Texas judge James Shoemake ordered the Fort Bend Independent School District to halt construction after the remains of 95 black prisoners were unearthed on a property it was building on. The site, once known as the “Hellhole on the Brazos,” was the former Imperial State Prison Farm, the infamous home of numerous prison camps and sugar cane plantations where slaves lived and worked in hellish conditions before their subsequent deaths. The property is located in Sugar Land, now one of the wealthiest and fastest-growing cities in Texas just southwest of Houston, but which once served as a graveyard for slaves. It was there, after the district broke ground for a new school, where archaeologists exhumed a massive, 19th-century graveyard of nearly 100 bodies that had been concealed five feet beneath the soil in dilapidated pinewood caskets for decades. According to NBC affiliate KPRC, Judge Shoemake ordered the school district to halt construction so that the human remains could be examined and investigated at the site. “This find is very different from any other,” Judge Shoemake said in an interview with KPRC. “We have a history that’s different. I want some more effort. This is important stuff. Families and communities are affected by this. You came here for permission [to build]; I’m not going to give you permission.” Sugar Land has a unique and shocking history. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, the town, located along the Brazos River, served as the epicenter of the country's sugar industry. The convict-lease system flourished throughout the region, targeting former slaves who were leased by the state to private businesses and forced to work in coal mines, plantations, railroads, and state projects. According to The Washington Post, the black “convicts” were imprisoned into the system for offenses as minor as homelessness, flirting with white women, or petty theft, yet they were made to work from sunrise to sunset in the fields, occasionally until they “dropped dead in their tracks.” The Fort Bend Independent School District’s construction site encompasses land that was called “Imperial State Farm Prison Camp No. 1.” Conditions were so horrific that prisoners wrote songs about how they would rather die than live another day of beatings, whippings, and slaving under the hot sun. Private contractors did not care about the health and well-being of their workers. According to W. Caleb McDaniel, a history professor at Rice University in Houston, the convict-leasing system experienced tremendously high levels of disease and mortality. If a prisoner died, a contractor would simply demand a replacement prisoner from the state. More than 3,500 prisoners of ages ranging from 14 to 70 years old died between 1866 and 1912 when lawmakers finally outlawed convict leasing out of utter shock at the death rates. This past summer, a team of archaeologists requested permission from the Texas Historical Commission to conduct a more thorough investigation of the human bones salvaged from the cemetery. Their main goal is to perform DNA testing on the remains in order to identify the prisoners. The Fort Bend Independent School District shares this ambition, telling KPRC that “our sole mission is to educate students and we only exist to learn. The more knowledge we have the better. We want DNA testing. We want answers, we want to connect the body with the name, and we want to tell the story of an individual.” As of last week, Judge Shoemake said he hopes to reconsider his decision to halt construction by March 2019.