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The Building & Design Blog is the place for conversation and discussion about building projects, tools and equipment, materials and hardware, and environment & energy. Here, you'll find everything from application ideas, to news and industry trends, to hot topics and cutting edge innovations.

ArchiTech: from CAD to BIM to AR and VR

Posted June 05, 2017 11:00 AM by MaggieMc

Architectural design has come a long way from hand drafted plans, but it will likely go much farther after the inaugural Tech+ expo that took place on May 23, 2017. The expo welcomed 500 architects, designers, and tech experts to “get the low-down on how technology is shaping the built environment.”

According to the expo’s host, The Architect’s Newspaper, the exposition was aimed at “discussing and showcasing technology that is developing a role within the design process of numerous firms and enhancing client-architect relationships.”

Clients often struggle to visualize plan and section views, especially if they have little practice exercising their spatial ‘muscles.’ Google plans to help resolve this issue as Aaron Luber, who leads content partnerships and business development for Google’s AR/VR “Daydream/Tango” team, discussed at the conference. Luber expects almost all Android phones to be running Tango by 2018, which would be able to work with AutoCAD and computer aided drawing (CAD) or building information modeling (BIM) software to “allow clients to view their projects on site” via an additional software called “Trimble.”

While Trimble functions as more of an augmented reality (AR), many virtual reality (VR) firms showcased their latest products at the show.

Starbucks Japan has already demonstrated a version of VR in their design processes in 2016. While the client-architect relationship for Starbucks is internal, they still feel VR allows them to collaborate more smoothly.

In 2009, Starbucks Japan’s designers converted from 2D CAD software, moving to Revit, a 3D BIM software. At the time, each designer jumped into the program without training discovering their own work method, according to Mayu Takashima, head of the design team. The process later became more cooperative as they attempted to align the different designs.

This shift made it much easier to get “the money shot”—a 3D representation of the design—for their colleagues on the business-operations side of the company since the 2D plans had been much more difficult for non-designers to comprehend.

Now, with the implementation of VR, it will be even easier for their internal beneficiaries to comprehend their vision.

Luckily for those who find plans and models to be more their forte, Graphisoft, known for sparking “the BIM revolution” with ArchiCAD in 1984, revealed how their software can convert section and plan drawings to 3D models, making it possible for the client to be involved in the design process while it’s happening. It also allows 3D models to be shared via smartphone.

All in all, it seems architecture will be taking a much more virtual approach—at least until the real structural and construction work begins.

Still, as someone who was enamored with getting graphite and watercolors on my hands as I bent over her mayline ruler, I have to wonder if we are losing something to the technology. For now, I’ll have to embrace it and just wait to see!

Image credits: ArchDaily and The Architect's Newspaper

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How Technology Has Changed the Construction Industry

Posted May 27, 2017 12:00 AM by Engineering360 eNewsletter

To say that the construction industry has changed due to technological advances is an understatement. Once expensive and time-consuming, construction projects are now happening much more quickly and for a lot less money.


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1 comments; last comment on 06/01/2017
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The Birch Could Evolve as a Construction Material

Posted May 15, 2017 3:30 PM by MaggieMc

The silver birch (Betula pendula) is one of the major trees for forest products in the Northern Hemisphere, according to biologist Victor Albert, who just co-led a Finnish-funded project that hoped to illuminate the evolutionary history of the birch. Birch is among the more widely used woods for veneer and plywood worldwide. Silver birch, which was the focus of the study, is used in everything from plywood and interior trim to boxes and turned objects. According to Albert, “[o]thers, like spruce, pine and poplar, all have genome sequences, but birch did not—until now.”

The research team, including Jaakko Kangasjärvi, Ykä Helariutta, Petri Auvinen and Jarkko Salojärvi of the University of Helsinki in Finland, discovered gene mutations that could prove quite valuable to multiple industries.

Together they sequenced about 80 individuals of Betula pendula, more commonly known as the silver birch. The silver birch is native to Europe and southwest Asia, so the team sampled populations of the species “up and down Finland, down to Germany, over to Norway and Ireland, and all the way up to Siberia.”

Thanks to the 80 genomes sequenced, the researchers were able to identify genetic mutations that could potentially benefit multiple industries. To do this, the researchers searched for distinctive stretches of DNA within the genomes called “selective sweeps” that identify genetic regions that are critical to the survival and development of the species.

The team found sweeps that influence tree growth—important for increasing production—in addition to selective sweeps associated with environmental conditions. “The selective sweeps we identified may be the basis for local adaptation for different populations of birch,” Salojärvi stresses. “Trees in Siberia are under different selective pressure from trees in Finland, so genes are being tweaked in different ways in these two places to allow these plants to better adjust to their environment.”

The researchers hope that, as Helariutta said, “[a]n understanding of these natural adaptations can facilitate genetic engineering and artificial selection,” making their research “very useful for forest biotechnology.”

Image credits: The Woodland Trust and Marcye Philbrook

15 comments; last comment on 05/22/2017
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Five Reasons to Become a Civil Engineer

Posted May 08, 2017 12:00 AM by Engineering360 eNewsletter

Bridges, roads, dams, canals — each of these landmarks are built through the efforts of a civil engineer. Civil engineers have a unique opportunity to build structures that allow them to leave their mark on the world. If that appeals to you, consider these five reasons to become a civil engineer.


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6 comments; last comment on 05/13/2017
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Wasteland—From Waste to Architecture

Posted April 24, 2017 11:00 AM by MaggieMc

The Guess the Architecture post for last week was of a rather unique house by Lendager Arkitekter. The Upcycle House, as it’s called, was an experimental project “aimed at exposing potential carbon emission reductions through the use of recycled and upcycled building materials.”

This house was built by the Lendager Group, the same architects who recently curated Wasteland – from waste to architecture, an exhibit at the Danish Architecture Center (DAC) in Copenhagen. The exhibit, like the Upcycle House, is comprised of used building materials. The Lendager Group describes the exhibit as “showcasing the not so distant reality where residues and wastes are no longer seen as waste, but as the primary building materials in the development of our cities, homes and communities.”

The Lendager Group takes this stance in response to the fact that “right now, the built environment accounts for a large share of the global CO2 emissions and resource and energy consumption.” They see this as a problem that is going to grow exponentially since (using their statistics) the global population is currently growing by:

· Five school classes per minute,

· One packed metro train every two minutes, or

· An entire village with 10,000 inhabitants per hour

The exhibit itself is more than the pile of carefully arranged rubble that it appears to be, according to ArchDaily. The exhibit also contains a laundry list of information regarding the planet and the waste that we, as humans, produce. Wasteland is also a tactile experience, allowing you to move through the exhibit more freely, able to appreciate the components with all of your senses.

There are four main themes to Wasteland: cement, plastic, metal, glass, wood, and brick. Paired with each of these categories is a building project—one of which is the Upcycle House that started this post. Regardless of what you think of the style of this architecture—I know, I know, it’s modern—it does make you think about the waste produced in the building process, which is something engineers and consumers alike can appreciate.

For an old house kind of person, I’m surprisingly fond of the corkboard floor; perhaps one will show up in my home someday (albeit in a very, very tiny room). Feel free to donate a cork or two.

Image Credit: ArchDaily—I suggest taking a look at the full gallery!

15 comments; last comment on 04/27/2017
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