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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.

Living in a Pig: Mitchell Joachim’s In Vitro Meat Habitat

Posted August 22, 2017 11:00 AM by MaggieMc

A month ago when I wrote about structures grown from mushrooms, I imagined I’d found myself the strangest potential future for grown buildings. I was so very wrong.

In 2008, Mitchell Joachim, co-founder of Terreform, a nonprofit organization for philanthropic architecture, urban, and ecological design, imagined and designed a house made of meat.

Luckily, such a building does not consist of Joachim huddling in a Tauntaun carcass in a land far far away (or even in the above field, surrounded by cows). Instead, this “house” would be victimless, a 3D printed structure of extruded pig cells. For the small-scale prototype (right), the pig cells covered a polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE) scaffold. Sodium benzoate was used as a preservative to kill yeast, bacteria, and fungi, while the remainder of the model matrix was composed of an amalgam of thickening agents, salts, gelatins, and cochineal—presumably to dye the structure naturally.

Actual details regarding the proposal are hard to come by, but Joachim envisioned the concept would move from what he admits was a “very expensive fitted cured pork or articulated swine leather with an extensive shelf life” to a complex organic home where “tissues, skin, and bone replace insulation, siding, and studs.”

A “window detail” provided with the project proposal on Terreform’s site articulates the placement of everything from muscle fibers, to derma papilla, to … sphincter cavities. Those particular cavities would act as fenestration, creating doors and windows capable of opening and closing.

TED journalist Patrick D’Arcy indicates that Joachim understands many Terreform projects probably won’t be realized. Instead, Joachim explains, “[t]he more interesting the idea is, the more provocative the idea, the more it resonates historically—it becomes an important piece of the puzzle, eventually leading towards the solution.”

In the same article, Joachim indicates the meat house idea is less about building a house out of meat, rather about designing new technologies and materials for large-scale construction. That being said, aren’t there less extreme ways to promote new technology than living in a house made of jerky? Even Terreform’s earlier grown Fab Tree Hab is a much easier concept to wrap one’s brain around.

While this idea may never come to fruition, imagining Joachim and his team growing pig carcass after victimless pig carcass in their lab certainly puts other seemingly radical construction techniques into perspective. Perhaps with that mindset, we really will be able to change architecture at the cellular level.

11 comments; last comment on 08/22/2017
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Taking the Pop Up to the Next Level

Posted July 13, 2017 11:00 AM by MaggieMc

This crazy little pre-fab ‘builds itself’ at the touch of a button, in less than ten minutes. Termed a “dynamic property asset” by its creators at Ten Fold Engineering, this mobile structure is aimed at a variety of industries, with applications from mobile homes, offices, and clinics, to shops, exhibitions, restaurants, and schools.

“Ten Fold” seems an appropriate name for the U.K.-based company when you watch the origami-like structures unfold from a compact box. It reminds me of creating folded paper building templates for elementary schoolers.

These designs, of which there are many presented on the site, are patent pending. However, the concept is intriguing despite its proclaimed simplicity, and the videos that provide proof of concept tests for the individual joints are impressive to watch (at least in my humble opinion).

The systems operate without complex drive systems and use very little power, instead relying on their “‘family’ of pin-jointed linkages that preform specific useful movements repeatedly, precisely and reversibly … with each element counterbalancing the other.”

Ten Fold Engineering minimized manufacturing costs by designing linkages that can perform multiple movements depending on the position of the fixed bar. Another aspect of uniformity multiplies the cost-saving benefits, as each standard design uses just three different bar-lengths throughout the structure.

Without an on-site power requirement, the fully deployable units can be “built” anywhere, making them uniquely suited for emergency services or remote locations. Of course, as Ten Fold Engineering reminds us in their graphic above, the opportunities for these structures do not end there.

At a starting price of £100,000, they may not be perfect for your next camping trip, but given a few years, you may be able to get an affordable Ten Fold Pop Up mansion.

11 comments; last comment on 07/19/2017
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12-story Wooden "Plyscraper" to Grow in Portland District

Posted June 23, 2017 12:00 AM by Engineering360 eNewsletter

The 90,000 sq ft structure will rank as one of the tallest timber high-rises to be built in North America. The building will be constructed primarily of cross-laminated timber components, in conjunction with glue-laminated beams and columns.


Editor's Note: This news brief was brought to you by the Building & Design eNewsletter. Subscribe today to have content like this delivered to your inbox.

9 comments; last comment on 06/27/2017
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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.


Editor's Note: This news brief was brought to you by the Building & Design eNewsletter. Subscribe today to have content like this delivered to your inbox.

1 comments; last comment on 06/01/2017
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