Construction

  • InfrastructureUsing more wood for construction will reduce reliance on fossil fuels

    A new study has found that using more wood and less steel and concrete in building and bridge construction would substantially reduce global carbon dioxide emissions and fossil fuel consumption. Despite an established forest conservation theory holding that tree harvesting should be strictly minimized to prevent the loss of biodiversity and to maintain carbon storage capacity, the study shows that sustainable management of wood resources can achieve both goals while also reducing fossil fuel burning.

  • DisastersNIST issues final Joplin tornado report

    The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has released the final report on its technical investigation into the impacts of the 22 May 2011 tornado that struck Joplin, Missouri. The massive storm was the single deadliest tornado in the United States in the sixty years that official records have been kept. The NIST Joplin tornado study was the first to study scientifically a tornado in terms of four key aspects: storm characteristics, building performance, human behavior, and emergency communication — and then assess the impact of each on preventing injury or death.

  • Nuclear powerRussia leads, U.S. lags in construction of nuclear power reactors around the world

    Has a new cold war developed between Russian and the United States in the twenty-first century? Many argue that it has — but with a more unconventional front of commercial nuclear energy contracts with developing countries. Russian companies are building 37 percent of new nuclear reactors around the world; U.S. companies build only 7 percent of new nuclear facilities.

  • Flood defenseUnsupervised robotic construction crew to build flood defenses

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    On the plains of Namibia, millions of tiny termites are building a mound of soil — an 8-foot-tall “lung” for their underground nest. They do so without a supervisor, foreman, or CEO to tell them what to do. During a year of construction, many termites will live and die, wind and rain will erode the structure, and yet the colony’s life-sustaining project will continue. Harvard researchers, inspired by the termites’ resilience and collective intelligence, have created an autonomous robotic construction crew. The system needs no supervisor, no eye in the sky, and no communication: just simple robots — any number of robots — that cooperate by modifying their environment. In the future, similar robots could lay sandbags in advance of a flood, or perform simple construction tasks on Mars.

  • RailTesting vibration caused by high-speed trains

    New high-speed train lines are likely to be built as cities grow, and one problem planners have foreseen is vibrations in the ground caused by trains passing at speed. While these vibrations would probably be too small to damage buildings, they could disrupt the work of buildings such as a hospital by affecting sensitive equipment. Scientists have developed a new model to predict how much a new high-speed railway would shake the ground around it, and the effect this could have on those living near the line.

  • Coastal infrastructureCoastal areas must adapt to sea-level rise and storm surges or suffer massive damage

    A new study presents, for the first time, comprehensive global simulation results on future flood damages to buildings and infrastructure in coastal flood plains. Drastic increases in these damages are expected due to both rising sea levels and population and economic growth in the coastal zone. Asia and Africa may be particularly hard hit because of their rapidly growing coastal mega-cities, such as Shanghai, Manila, and Lagos.

  • EarthquakesQuake-vulnerable concrete buildings in Los Angeles area identified

    Researchers have identified nonductile concrete buildings constructed before roughly 1980 in the Los Angeles area. This category of buildings is known from experience in previous earthquakes to have the potential for catastrophic collapse during strong earthquakes. Nonductile concrete buildings were a prevalent construction type in seismically active zones of the United States before the enforcement of codes for ductile concrete which were introduced in the mid-1970s. A companion study estimates that approximately 17,000 nonductile reinforced concrete buildings are located in the most highly seismic areas of California. More than seventy-five million Americans in thirty-nine states live in towns and cities at risk for earthquake devastation.

  • EarthquakesIsrael considering earthquake-proofing important Biblical-period structures

    Israel is located in one of the world’s earthquake-prone areas, along the friction point of the African and Arabian tectonic plates.Officials in Israel are taking preventative measures to protect the country’s most important ancient sites from earthquake damage. Engineers from the University of Padua in Italy have installed sensors throughout the Tower of David, one of Jerusalem most important historical sites, to determine what sort of earthquake-proofing may be needed. Some experts opined that in the event of an earthquake, Jerusalem’s most ancient structures might actually be the city’s most dependable. “If they still stand after so many earthquakes during the last 2,000 years, they must be good structures,” one of them said.

  • EarthquakesNew L.A. fault map threatens Hollywood development projects

    The state of California recently released new geological maps which reveal the presence of an active earthquake fault along the path of major developments in Hollywood. The maps established a zone of 500 feet on both sides of the fault, and state law will require new developments within the zone to conduct underground seismic testing to determine whether the fault runs beneath planned development sites. Building on top of faults is prohibited. Three prominent Hollywood developments — the Millennium Hollywood skyscraper project, the Blvd6200 development, and an apartment project on Yucca Street — are within the 500-foot fault zone.

  • Disaster recoveryUsing building “belt” cheaply, quickly to repair of earthquake damage

    Four years after the January 2010 earthquake, 145,000 people still remain homeless in Haiti. Researchers developed a cheap and simple technology to repair earthquake damaged buildings to help to reduce these delays by quickly making buildings safe and habitable. The technology involves wrapping metal straps around each floor of the building, which are then tensioned either by hand or using compressed air tools. Unlike other repair methods, it does not require expensive materials or a high level of technical knowledge, making it ideal for use in the developing world.

  • Infrastructure protectionNIST: Joplin tornado highlights need for building design, construction standards

    Nationally accepted standards for building design and construction, public shelters, and emergency communications can significantly reduce deaths and the steep economic costs of property damage caused by tornadoes. That is the key conclusion of a two-year technical NIST investigation into the impacts of the 22 May 2011 tornado that struck Joplin, Missouri. Report and recommendations released for public comment.

  • DisastersList of most-at-risk L.A. buildings to be released

    Scientists have compiled a list of concrete buildings in Los Angeles which could be at risk of collapsing in a major earthquake. The list identifies about 1,500 concrete structures built before 1980 which need further study to determine their risk level. Structural engineers insist that hundreds could die if any of the buildings collapsed.

  • Safer buildingsA 34-story wooden skyscraper to be built in Stockholm

    A Swedish architectural form is building a 34-story wood skyscraper in downtown Stockholm. Solid wood will be the predominant material in the building’s pillars and beams, while inside the apartments, walls, ceilings, fittings and window frames will be also constructed of wood.The firm says that wood is not only cheaper than either steel or concrete, but is also more fire resistant than both. This is due to 15 percent of wood mass being water, which will evaporate before the wood actually burns. In addition, logs get charred which protects the core.

  • Infrastructure protectionMan-induced quakes to help in building safer, sturdier buildings

    A team led by Johns Hopkins structural engineers is shaking up a building in the name of science and safety. Using massive moving platforms and an array of sensors and cameras, the researchers are trying to find out how well a two-story building made of cold-formed steel can stand up to a lab-generated Southern California quake.

  • Resilient buildingsMotivating businesses to adopt building resiliency standards

    Increased resilience for buildings in the face of hurricanes, earthquakes, terrorism, or cyberattacks has been a major national security focus over the past decade. Such resilient buildings not only would be less susceptible to damage and work interruption but could become community gathering places in a general crisis. It will not be easy, however, to secure voluntary adoption of resiliency standards by industry and builders without adequate justification.