Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Why living in a straw bale house is worth considering

There is nothing as calming and beautiful as a straw bale wall in a home. Straw bale walls are gorgeous and houses made of this agricultural by- product will save you money year after year. Besides, working with straw is fun.

If you have never thought before about living in a straw bale house maybe now it is the time to consider this option for at least the two reasons mentioned above. There are more advantages though and experts are optimistic about this construction trend, but they also show the downside of this type of building.
First of all straw bale construction is affordable. Straw bale homes cost almost exactly the same amount of money to build as traditional stick-frame homes.

Straw bale homes are more fire retardant than traditional stick-framed homes. The idea behind the material’s resistance to fire comes from the concept that the bales are so tightly packed that oxygen cannot enter in between the straws and fuel a fire. However, there are still numerous factors that will allow a straw bale house to burn, especially during construction.

Building with straw helps the planet in many ways. For example, straw is a waste product that is either burned or composted in standing water. By using the straw instead of eliminating it, we reduce either air pollution or water consumption, both of which impact the environment in general. Straw is an annually-renewable resource, not at all like lumber which can take decades to produce.  It takes almost no extra energy to harvest bales, as opposed to the transportation costs of lumber. Compared with other building products like wood, concrete or steel, bales are extremely light and easy to transport from the field to the construction site.  And unlike lumber, concrete and steel, straw is produced in almost every state of the union, thus saving fuel costs and less travel time to a work site.

Straw houses will save you money, year after year. A well built straw bale home can save you up to 75% on heating and cooling costs. The walls are thick and will give you a cool house in the summer, a warm house in the winter.  It has a natural “trombe” effect, in other words it soaks up the coolness or the heat of the inside and stores it and releases it like a giant heater or an efficient refrigerator.

Well insulated homes

Although it may seem difficult to believe, straw bale walls are very well insulated, when built correctly. The quality of insulation that a straw bale wall provides depends on a number of factors including the way the bales are stacked, the way the bales mesh with the roof’s insulation, the type of post-and-beam structure, the type of plaster used, the quality of the plaster work, and the design of the house itself, among many others. But if the bales aren’t stacked properly, there can be small gaps in the walls that create thermal break-points in the otherwise well insulated walls.

The use of straw as insulation means that the standard insulation materials are removed from the home. Standard fiberglass insulation has formaldehyde in it, a known carcinogen. Bale walls also eliminate the use of plywood in the walls. Plywood contains unhealthy glues that can off-gas into the house over time.

The other side of the coin

Building with straw is not fully-accepted as method of construction in many countries.It may take more time to acquire a building permit for a straw bale structure than it would for a conventional one.This is more to do with the social conception of the material, rather than the material itself.

Straw bales will harbor both insects and mold. Of course, a conventional house will also easily host insects and is susceptible to mold, too, if not built right.  But straw is more sensitive to such things than wood-constructed and fiberglass-insulated structures.

Because of the thickness of the bales, you will lose square-footage inside a home. So that extra-thick wall will indeed eat up some of your interior space. But designing the house a bit bigger will add some costs to the construction of the house: you’ll need some extra concrete in your foundations, for example, and you’ll need to make your roof trusses a bit longer.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Is Dubai's ambitious construction projects putting a strain on the environment?

Burj Al Arab
Dubai has been in the past 15 years one of the most exciting holiday destination for those fascinated by architecture and construction.The desert state has built a name for itself by housing some of the world’s most ambitious projects. This year's project pipeline includes a rainforest in the desert, the world’s largest shopping mall and the tallest twin towers on earth.

On the one hand this is good news as it suggests the city will become even more appealing and it shows strong consumer demand. It also shows that Dubai's construction industry is supported by solid foreign investment and loans. But on the other hand the large number of projects in the pipeline raises a big question: What is the impact of Dubai's ambitious construction projects on environmental footprint? Nowadays when construction companies are encouraged to build as green as possible, finding the answer to this question should not be ignored.

13 years of highs and lows

Dubai's construction boom started in 2002 when foreigners were allowed to buy properties. Many
were sold off-plan almost immediately, with few regulations in place. In 2009, following the global financial crisis, hundreds of construction projects were abandoned or suspended as credit dried up. Property prices fell by 30-50 percent.In 2013 a second construction boom occured. Property prices raised by over 30 percent supported by the news Dubai will host Expo 2020.

Princess Tower
On the one hand the average person in Dubai uses about double the amount of water than the global average, produces 2.5kg (5lb) of waste a day, and is among the world's worst carbon dioxide polluters. On the other hand gas turbines produce most of Dubai's energy and as a fuel source, this is a pretty clean option, as the grid's carbon emissions are only 60 percent of the world's average. Furthermore, the distribution of gas is also twice as efficient when compared globally, so the infrastructure is not the problem.
Home to world's tallest skyscrapers

The history of skyscrapers in Dubai began with the construction of Dubai World Trade Centre in 1979, which is usually regarded as the first high-rise in the city. At the time of its completion, it also stood as the tallest building in the Middle East.

Since 1999, and especially from 2005 onwards, Dubai has been the site of an extremely large skyscraper building boom, with all 73 of its buildings over 200 metres (656 ft) tall completed after 1999. In less than ten years, the city has amassed one of the largest skylines in the world. It is now home to the world's tallest building, the world's tallest residence, and the world's tallest hotel. As of 2012, 363 new skyscrapers are under construction in Dubai; additionally, there are over 640 active high-rise developments that have been proposed for construction in the city.
Burj Khalifa
The tallest building in Dubai is the Burj Khalifa, which rises 828 metres (2,717 ft) and contains 163 floors. The tower has stood as both the tallest building in the world and the tallest man-made structure of any kind in the world since its completion in January 2010. The second-tallest building in Dubai is the 414-metre (1,358 ft) Princess Tower, which also stands as the world's tallest residential skyscraper. The skyscrapers of Dubai are, for the most part, clustered in three different locations. The land along Sheikh Zayed Road was the first to develop, followed by the Dubai Marina neighborhood and the Business Bay district.

The future looks bright
One step the government has already taken is to ensure all new public and private buildings are constructed according to a far-reaching set of green building regulations introduced last year. Saeed Al Abbar said: "Over 800 buildings have complied with the regulations so far at the design stage, which is a tremendous achievement.
Marina Towers
Dubai's rulers are keen to improve the situation. They want 15 percent of electricity from renewables, with 30 percent less consumed per head, by 2030 and this renewable target looks achievable. Saeed Al Abbar, chair of the Emirates Green Building Council, told the BBC that "awareness of sustainability issues has definitely increased significantly over the past few years".

The real challenge is in ensuring that the code requirements are fully incorporated in the completed constructions through rigorous quality control measures."
The first steps towards building a healthier environment have already been made. For the moment we can only wait and hope the positive effects will show sooner than later.

Friday, June 12, 2015

How long does it take to build a 57-storey skyscraper? Only 19 days

A Chinese construction company is claiming to be the world’s fastest builder after erecting a 57-storey skyscraper in 19 working days in central China.The company now has ambitions to assemble the world’s tallest skyscraper, at 220 floors, in only three months, according to the international media.

Broad Sustainable Building, a prefab construction firm, put up the rectangular, glass and steel Mini Sky City in the Hunan provincial capital of Changsha, assembling three floors a day using a modular method.
The record-breaking building is designed to be connected by sky bridges to a larger Sky City complex yet to be completed. This first step in the grand scheme is this mixed-use structure featuring 800 apartments and office space for 4,000 workers with a total of over 185,000 square meters as well as 19 giant atrium spaces.
Producing many of the component parts in advance in factories, including entire truss systems, saves
time and energy on site and also reduces pollution associated with busy construction sites and cast-on-site concrete.

Its builders at BSB estimate a reduction in output of carbon dioxide by 12,000 tons thanks to these techniques as well as other environmental benefits, including a decrease in dust and particulates in the air around the building site.

“With the traditional method they have to build a skyscraper brick by brick, but with our method we just need to assemble the blocks,” the company engineer Chen Xiangqian said.

Modular methods have been used for high-rise apartment blocks elsewhere, including in Britain and the US. Some critics say the method could lead to cityscapes with overly uniform architecture.

Broad Sustainable Building spent four and a half months fabricating the building’s 2,736 modules before construction began. The first 20 floors were completed last year, and the remaining 37 were built from 31 January to 17 February this year.

The company is awaiting approval for its 220-floor building, called Sky City, which will also be in Changsha.

Friday, May 15, 2015

OCTAGON a semnat contracte in valoare de 24 mil. Euro in primul trimestru al anului, dublul cifrei de afaceri din 2014


OCTAGON a semnat contracte in valoare de 24 mil. Euro in primul trimestru al anului, dublul cifrei de afaceri din 2014

BucurestiCompania Octagon Contracting & Engineering, unul dintre cei mai importanti competitori locali pe segmentul de antreprenoriat în construcţii, incheie primul trimestru al anului 2015 cu un portofoliu de contracte semnate, in valoare 24 milioane Euro, dublul cifrei de afaceri raportata la finalul lui 2014. Printre clientii pentru care compania va executa lucrari de constructii se numara dezvoltatori imobiliari si constructori cu experienta vasta la nivel international, precum Atenor Group, NEPI, Danya Cebus  si Six Management.  Octagon isi continua activitatea si in Iraq, tara unde si-a extins activitatea in 2011, semnand  un  nou contract pentru constructia unui spital cu o capacitate de 100 de paturi in Bagdad.
OCTAGON a castigat contractul de executie a lucrarilor de arhitectura, instalatii, electrice, sanitare si HVAC pentru cladirea C din cadrul  complexului de birouri Hermes Business Campus, situat pe Blvd. Dimitrie Pompeiu Nr. 5- 7 in Bucuresti. Contractul semnat cu dezvoltatorul Belgian Atenor Group are o valoare de 12 mil. Euro. OCTAGON construieste in prezent structura cladirii C, iar in 2014 a livrat cladirea B din cadrul aceluiasi complex. 

Hermes Business Campus

Un alt proiect important contractat de OCTAGON la inceputul acestui an este extinderea City Park Mall Constanta. Constructorul este antreprenor de lucrari geotehnice pentru fondul de investitii sud-african New Europe Property Investments (NEPI), in cadrul acestui proiect si executa pereti mulati, grinda de coronament si ancoraje.
                                                                                 City Park Mall Constanta

OCTAGON realizeaza lucrari geotehnice si pentru proiectul Timpuri Noi Building Complex, situat pe Splaiul Unirii Nr. 165, in Bucuresti, unde antreprenor general este compania israeliana Danya Cebus.
                                                                              Timpuri Noi Building Complex

Ansamblul rezidential One Herastrau Park Residence, situat in Bucuresti pe Str. Caramfil, este un alt proiect pentru care OCTAGON a fost desemnat antreprenor de lucrari geotehnice, anul acesta. Compania executa lucrari de incinta si excavatii.
In plus fata de contracetele semnate deja, compania anunta ca de la inceputul anului si pana in prezent a livrat oferte si poarta discutii pentru lucrari in valoare totala de 15 mil. euro.

OCTAGON CONTRACTING & ENGINEERING ( ) este o companie fondata in 2005, cu sediul central in Bucuresti si o sucursala in Bagdad (Irak).  Cu o cifra de afaceri de 13 milioane de euro in 2014, proiecte de anvergura in Romania, Irak, Grecia, Turcia si Bulgaria, OCTAGON este unul dintre principalii jucatori din domeniul constructiilor civile si geotehnice din Romania.

Printre lucrarile de referinta executate de OCTAGON in Romania se numara: complexul de birouri Green Court Bucharest (Str. Gara Herastrau- Bucuresti), cea mai inalta cladire de birouri din Bucuresti Sky Tower (Blvd. Barbu Vacarescu), cladirea de birouri Olympia Tower (Blvd. Decebal- Bucuresti) si Centrala Electrica cu Ciclu Combinat 867 MW OMV- Petrom (Brazi- Prahova).


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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Looking for spectacular new holiday destinations? How about visiting world’s first city built in a glacier?

There are few places on earth, where the population feels so connected to their natural environment. Iceland is one of these places. This country counting only 320,000 Icelanders surviving and thriving in a land like no other, blessed with jaw dropping natural splendour and unique features, has a reputation for pioneering, innovation and creativity. Among these innovations there is an interesting construction/excavation project going on over in Iceland right now: an artificial tunnel and cave complex being dug into the Langjökull Glacier- Europe’s second’s largest glacier.
In 2010, one of Iceland’s leading consulting engineering firms had an idea, that resonated with some of Iceland’s most experienced adventure tour operators.  They had a bold and daring vision, to take people not just around, but also inside the heart of the remote and extraordinary glacier ice cap, to see the magnificent “blue ice” which is buried deep beneath the surface. Bringing tourists nearly 100 feet below the surface of the glacier, the structure is expected to become semi-permanent, lasting through the summer months for years to come.

When complete, the publicly accessible infra-glacial facility will consist of numerous nooks and dens which will house exhibitions, information, restaurants and even a small chapel for those who would like to marry deep within an ice cap.

The so-called "Icecave" is set to open later this year, and is not far from Reykjavik. For now, its entrance consists only of some understated plywood framing. But tunnels, bays, and side chambers are currently under construction, being chipped down by excavation equipment and drills, and then further shaped by hand tools.  Lights are now being installed in the walls, giving the place an otherworldly glow that comes from within the structure itself.

Meanwhile, huge ducts like something out of a frozen warehouse cross the frozen ceilings and extend deeper into the glacier.

The Ice Cave Iceland tour

Glacial ice is made up of compacted snow that has fallen over thousands of years. Visitors to the attraction will see stripes of subtly different coloured layers of ice that represent different periods of snowfall.

Whiter layers formed when the weather was particularly cold, because air was trapped within the ice crystals, which is reflective. Layers that are darker or bluer in colour were created by snowfall in warmer or wet conditions when little air was trapped in the snow.

The weight of the snow build-up compressed the layers and the air trapped within them, causing ice at the heart of a glacier to appear a brilliant blue.

Tourists visiting the attraction will see large caves beneath the glacier, the beautiful blue ice and will also be able to sit inside man-made rooms with ice furniture.

People embarking on the tour will travel up the glacier to the ice cave, on eight-wheel drive super trucks. Tours will run between March and October depending on the weather.

While there are other natural caves in Icelandic glaciers, they are seasonal, forming in warmer months and lasting in winter.

Monday, February 23, 2015

X-ray of Green Court Bucharest Office Complex

Location: North of Bucharest, 12 Gara Herastrau Street

  •   3 modern office buildings
  • 12 floors above the ground
  •   52,000 sqm of leasable space
  • 837 underground parking spaces

Developer: Skanska Development Romania

Infrastructure and structure contractor for buildings A & B: Octagon Contracting & Engineering under Skanska Construction Romania

Developer’s testimonial about the contractor:
Skanska Construction appointed Octagon as construction partner for foundation and structural works on the Green Court Bucharest.  The cooperation was excellent and Octagon performed the works professionally and diligently meeting all of our expectations in terms of health and safety, quality and delivery time.” says Richard Burleigh, Country Manager, Skanska Construction Romania.

Biggest challenges faced by the contractor:
“The biggest challenge in the execution of this project was meeting the deadline, which was very tight.  But despite the schedule constraints, which were also amplified by technical issues that are unavoidable in any project, we managed to focus on our main targets and deliver the works on time.“ says Max Ene- OCTAGON’s  project manager for Green Court Bucharest.

Construction works performed by OCTAGON:
  • Concrete works for infrastructure and superstructure of building A (3B+ GF+ 11F)
  • Excavation;
  • Diaphragm walls D 600;
  • Anchorages;
  •  Infrastructure works for building B;
  • Concrete works for the superstructure of building B (3B + GF+ 11F)

GREEN features:
  • energy efficient façade with high performance which reduces solar heat gains, the building’s heating up being significantly limited;
  • natural daylight- over 75% of the building space has access to the daylight. Automatic lighting control system adjusts the lights according to the intensity of outside light resulting into lower energy consumption;
  • containers for segregated waste;
  •  solar panels- located on the roof of the building, used for domestic hot water;
  • electrical plug- in for cars

Estimated benefits:
  •  Lower utility bills- 50% less water consumed
  • A healthier, more productive workplace-  30% more fresh air in the office
  • More efficient lighting- 32% less energy consumed
OCTAGON’s staff involved in the construction of buildings A & B: 160 people.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Tired of noisy neighbours? Move to a building with green walls!

An emerging trend in green design, consisting in vertically sprawling gardens of green is springing to life across the world on the exteriors of skyscrapers, in hotel lobbies, office reception areas and more. Aesthetics is the main reason why building owners are so keen on following this trend: living green walls are a sure way to enhance a building’s visuals with life-renewing greenery. They also improve air quality as the plants work as a natural air-filtration system.

But besides the aesthetic benefits have you ever thought that wall comprising plants could be used as acoustic insulation? Researchers have concluded that green walls offer great potential for absorbing noise, but do not deny the fact that they can be both costly and difficult to maintain.

Living walls are made up of plant modules: the plants are inserted into polyurethane boxes and are maintained by means of organic irrigation, in other words, they are fed and watered by means of a system similar to the hydroponic one used in greenhouses. It is not easy to grow plants this way or to insert them into a wall.

A noise absorption test was carried out in a reverberation chamber - a chamber the walls of which are fitted with materials that reflect noise of the same type in all directions- using a range of frequencies. Green walls have thus been found to perform very well in high as well as low frequencies with respect to noise reduction, whereas other materials used in buildings only perform well at either high or low frequencies.

The way green walls may behave as acoustic insulation was also studied: plant modules were fitted onto a laboratory wall and the level of noise insulation was measured. The conclusion reached was that with some slight improvements, like increasing the mass of the modules or covering the space between them, the system can be made more effective and, as a result, the green walls could be suitable for acoustic insulation.

Improved air quality

Living green walls are natural air-filters, creating a cleaner, more invigorating environment. People are often exposed to air toxins in their work or living environment such as formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and benzene. Living green walls metabolize harmful toxins while releasing oxygen into the workplace air, much like plants but on a much larger scale.

Protect building façades

Green wall systems can help to protect a building’s façade and extend its life, acting as an effective shield to heavy rain and hail and helping to protect from the damaging effects of UV light.

Moreover, in areas where graffiti is a potential problem, green walls can act as an effective deterrent, making the application of graffiti to the building structure almost impossible.

Energy cost reduction

The interior and exterior living green walls function to cool the air in the warmer summer months by a process known as “evapotranspiration.” A green wall used on appropriate elevations can reduce energy costs by both providing an additional layer of insulation in the winter (keeping heat in) and acting as a screen to the sun in the summer (keeping the building cool).

Exterior living green walls can reduce wall surface temperatures by as much as 50 degrees °F, according to researchers, resulting in significant energy savings and air conditioning costs.

Earning green certification points

The installation of living green walls can earn buildings Green Certification points which, in turn helps to increase a property’s value by creating a favorable perception of a structure with an improved carbon footprint.

They provide a greener image of towns and cities, improve the life quality of citizens, save energy, increase biodiversity, control rainwater, to lessen city noise and minimize waste and pollution. Besides they are attractive and cool. It is true that they are not exactly cheap to build and maintain, but with so many benefits, would you still mind paying an extra buck to live in a building with at least one green wall?