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).


Mai multe informatii aici.

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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?

Friday, February 6, 2015

Self-healing concrete aims at turning potholes into relics of the past

How many times did you get angry or even worse, take your car to the garage for expensive repairs caused by potholes? The answer is most probably: too many times. The good news is that potholes could soon become a relic of the past due to futuristic plans to produce self-healing concrete.

Self-healing concrete
The development of self- healing concrete is also aimed at improving the durability of structures and eliminating the endless traffic jams caused by manual repairs to structures. Structures made of self-healing concrete have an inherent healing mechanism that becomes active when a crack appears, thus rendering manual crack repair completely obsolete.

Scientists are experimenting with various groundbreaking new materials to find the ideal formula for to solve this issue.

Self- healing concrete
PU precursors have shown great potential

For the efficient healing of cracked concrete, the use of encapsulated PU-based precursors has already shown great potential. So far, results have shown a good regain in mechanical behavior and liquid-tightness. In proof-of-concept tests, glass tubes were used as encapsulation material. 

However, to up-scale the technique and make it compatible with conventional concrete production and placing methods, polymeric spherical microcapsules would be more suitable. Therefore, research is ongoing to optimize the encapsulation technique. Moreover, PU-based precursors are adapted to increase the resistance of the healing agents to cyclic loading, so that also the healing of dynamic cracks can be considered.

Using sunlight to fix concrete cracks

Researchers have demonstrated a sunlight-induced, self-healing protective coating designed to fix cracks on the surface of concrete structures before they grow into larger ones that compromise structural integrity.

The new coating contains polymer microcapsules, filled with a solution that, when exposed to light, turns into a water-resistant solid. The idea is that damage to a coated concrete surface would cause the capsules to break open and release the solution, which then would fill the crack and solidify in sunlight.

Bacteria as healing agent

Also bacteria can be used as healing agent.  Scientists are experimenting with the groundbreaking new material, which uses special bacteria to plug gaps and cracks opened up by bad weather.

Researchers at the University of Bath, Cardiff University and the University of Cambridge created the concrete blend, which is full of bacteria hidden in tiny capsules. As soon as water seeps into a crack, the bacteria quickly burst out their cases and produce limestone, sealing the gap up before it can widen and become a pothole.

Lower CO2 emissions and 50% lower costs

The scientists believe the technique could vastly increase the life of concrete, remove the need for repairs, and reduce costs by up to 50%.

Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere would be lower because there would be no need to constantly replace roads. More than 7% of the world’s CO2 emissions are due to cement production.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

How tall could a wooden building rise? Experts say the sky is the limit and talk skyscrapers

A nice wooden cottage with a lake view; a wooden chalet in the mountains where you could sit in front of the fireplace with a good book and watch the snow fall on the window; or a small log cabin in the woods, where you could enjoy your breakfast on the porch every morning, listening to lovely bird songs, these are the types of buildings that you most probably imagine whenever you think of wood buildings. But could you envisage working in a wooden skyscraper? Hardly.

130 years after the world’s first skyscraper- the Home Insurance Building- was built in Chicago by American engineer, William Le Baron Jenney, the construction methods and by-products associated with such large scale infrastructure has inevitably led architects and engineers to seek new ways of building taller and faster without having such a drastic impact on the environment. And that has seen them revisit the most basic building material of them all: wood.

Not any wood is suitable for such a concept though. A type of super-plywood, called cross-laminated timber (CTL) has been created to maintain the strength of high-rise constructions. This effect is achieved by gluing the layers of low-grade softwood together to create stronger timber panels. Softwood panels are usually made of cedar, Douglas fir, pine, or redwood.

Reducing the environmental impact of architecture

In his book, “The Case for Tall Wood Buildings”, Vancouver- based architect, Michael Green explains how wood will be able to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.  Unlike conventional materials like concrete, wood can be used as it is. Natural resources like coal and gas don't need to be burnt to produce it, so less carbon ends up in the air. Since it is healthier for us, and for the planet, why not make the best of it?

Timber stores 0.8t of carbon dioxide within 1 cubic meter. In comparison, the production of both concrete and steel are one-way energy intensive processes that release large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.  A 10-storey building could absorb as much as 1,600 ton of carbon, in comparison to a concrete building’s comparatively low 600 tons, according to the Canadian architect.
Michael Green proposed 20-storey (60-metre) structures made from cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels. CLT is a durable and solid-wood material developed European technology, to replace all structural elements above ground level.

Untreated timber has the potential to rot when exposed to moisture and air over extended periods of time, but CTL buildings are designed with a rain screen façade to effectively manage moisture exposure.

Stadthaus Building- London
How long will a CTL building last for? Apparently it can last as long as a concrete or steel building. CTL has been certified for a minimum 60 year lifespan by Building Research Establishment in the UK, which is the equivalent of concrete or steel.

Moreover, wood is natural, warm (intrinsic thermal properties means lower heating and cooling costs), compatible with other materials, non allergic and healthy to inhabit and has attractive natural colors.

Stop cutting trees and beware of fire!

The benefits of wooden skyscrapers are clear for all to see.  Criticisms regarding cutting even more trees down to aid the trend have also been refuted, with there now being a use for trees already damaged. Similarly, trees can also be grown in nurseries.

But while timber advocates such as Green hope to sow the seeds of change in the minds of policymakers worldwide, building regulations still put a low-rise lid on the height of timber buildings. This is based on wood’s historic reputation as kindling for a great city fire.

Roaring fires have ravaged city streets, in London, Chicago or San Francisco, to only mention a few cities, wiping out great examples of grand architecture and razing urban history to the ground. But today’s engineered timber develops a protective charring layer that maintains structural integrity and burns very predictably, unlike steel, which warps under the intense heat.

Europe leads the way in the concept’s innovation

Until now, America’s conservative building regulations and a lack of interest from developers and their customers have meant few interesting wooden buildings have been built there. In contrast, Europe, Australia and especially Canada are embracing the emerging technologies.

Forte Building- Melbourne
So far two high- rise buildings made of wood have been erected in the world: nine-storey Stadthaus in London and the 10-storey Forte Building in Melbourne.  Also in Bergen (Norway), a 14-storey wooden building is currently under construction.

Forté, the world's tallest timber apartment building, raising 10 floors above the ground only includes 23 apartments and was built in 16 weeks.

With so much controversy around this subject we are obviously not going to see the first wooden high-rise building city in the near future. Until then you might just want to have a look at Michael Green’s video “Why we should build wooden skyscrapers”.

Friday, January 16, 2015

What if you could 3D print your dream home in one day?

What if your dream home was ready in one day (Yes, one day!) and it only cost 5.000 USD? As unbelievable as this may seem, printing homes is possible today, according to international media. This would be a breakthrough with profound implications for housing affordability and customization. It would also be nice to see concrete replaced by a more sustainable material, which would truly reduce the carbon footprint of this type of construction.
Chinese company Win Sun New Materials showed that this was possible. The company successfully printed 10 houses in one single day. The reported cost for each house printed by the Chinese company Winsun was just 5,000 USD.

Rather than printing the homes in one go, Winsun’s 3D printer creates building blocks by layering up a cement/glass mix in structural patterns. 

The diagonally reinforced print pattern leaves plenty of air gaps to act as insulation. These blocks are printed in a central factory and rapidly assembled on site.

You may want to see how this was done:

In Amsterdam, a team of architects has started construction of the 3D Print Canal House, using bio-based, renewable materials. The site is both construction site and public museum.
Canal House Amsterdam
The Canal House is a symbol of Amsterdam. When the canal belt was built 400 years ago, Amsterdam was a prime example of innovation.

“It is indeed a very interesting and revolutionizing approach to construction. I wonder however what would be the costs of operation: heating and cooling of these homes? The enormous advantage is the incredible customizability. Although an interesting use of robotics and waste materials, I believe it is important to look at all aspects of housing (energy required for operation, weight, seismic requirements, fireproofing, etc.) before decisions are made to move forward with this concept. Still - very flexible possibilities now that the machine is built and working. I will certainly look forward to seeing what they do with it next.“ says engineer Gheorge Bitca, head of OCTAGON's tendering department.
What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of 3D printing a building?

One great advantage of 3D printing over traditional building techniques (such as prefabricated concrete) is the possibilities of using a high level of detail and ornament and variation. Rather than using standardized elements, 3D printed designs can each be modified and customized to fit the user's needs and taste. It will no longer be more expensive or more labour intensive to add details to, for example, your façade and it is easy to create unique objects.

3D printing is an additive manufacturing technique. That means the process goes straight from the raw material to the final product, thus eliminating waste. There are no transport costs, as designs can simply be transferred digitally and printed locally.

In terms of disadvantages, it is obviously a huge challenge to create a building that complies with all the current building regulations. There is the question of insulation, fireproofing, wind loads, foundations, as well as the possible materials to print with (using this printer). All theseaspects are currently being researched and investigated.

Printing one house in a run, still challenging
A gigantic 3D printer, able to print whole house in a single run, from its structure to its electrical and plumbing systems has not been created yet, so the houses are printed piece by piece for the time being.
For the last seven years, Loughborough’s University researchers have been developing 3D concrete printing technology for commercial purposes. They came up with a system that is made up of a gantry and robotic arm, which they are still perfecting. This device uses very exact computer control to extrude cement-based mortar into layers and create building components that can then be joined together into a larger structure.
The researchers are certain that this technology already allows for the building of complex structures that would prove a challenge for traditional construction. In fact, their 3D concrete printer could potentially print whole sections of a building with all the electrical and plumbing spaces already in place. This would cut down on the building time considerably, even when the project is a large, multi story structure.
Stay tuned, a revolution in traditional construction is well underway!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Two landmark projects built by OCTAGON, made public debut in 2014

With lots of projects under development and new investments on the pipeline, 2014 was certainly a dynamic year for the office segment. And developers rolled the dice in favor of OCTAGON. The company made the best of the market opportunities and managed last year to deliver two major office buildings, both of them located in Bucharest: Green Court Bucharest – building B and Hermes Business Campus- building B.

How did we do it? It was not easy, but we somehow managed to master extremely tough site conditions, we put in a lot of hard work and used the latest technologies in building processes. Below are highlights from each project.

As green as it gets

What did the real estate giant Skanksa envision when they decided to develop the office complex Green Court Bucharest? Large open office spaces, easy to reach from any area of Bucharest, with lots of green elements, in order to create a healthy comfortable working environment.

Green Court Bucharest - building A

How did this concept translate into design? The project includes three office buildings stretching over 52,000 sqm, built in Bucharest’s office hub, at the crossroads of Barbu Văcărescu Blvd and Pipera Road, within five minutes walk from Aurel Vlaicu metro station. Skanska also thought of making the project as green as possible and thus implemented  “green” solutions, such as glass façade with low heat transfer, natural lighting in over  85% of the working areas, power stations for electric cars charging, bicycle parking areas and facilities such as showers and locker rooms.

OCTAGON was hired to build the infrastructure and superstructure of building A and the superstructure of building B and successfully delivered both projects in 2013 and 2104.

Building A has a GLA of 19,500 sqm, 12 floors and is 91% leased by clients such as Schneider Electric România, Orange România, LS TRAVEL RETAIL Romania. The building was acquired by real estate investor Globalworth Real Estate Investments Ltd for 44 million euro.

Building B has a total GLA of 18.000 mp, 12 floors and 3 underground parking levels, with 315 available parking spaces. The second phase of the project also features sustainable solutions to minimize the impact of the building on the environment and to significantly reduce operational costs.

Modern technologies such as energy efficient double façade, efficient lighting systems, equipped with movement and intensity sensors, were used.

Beating the odds

In 2010 Belgian developer Atenor Group decided to build their first project in Romania, right across Pipera metro station. Building a 78,000 sqm office complex in a moment when the market was on a downward path seamed, at the time, extremely ambitious. Four years later, the first of the three buildings was delivered by OCTAGON and the company is now working on building the second one.

It sure was and still is a challenging project, but so far, it has beaten the odds. Hermes Business Campus started in a moment when the entire real estate market was on a downward path and few companies were thinking of relocating or leasing spaces in large scale office schemes.

Hermes Business Campus- building B

While building the first office unit of the complex, Austrian general contract, Alpine Bau, went bankrupt and OCTAGON, which was Alpine’s subcontractor, took over the project and continued the works.

Building B covers 37,000 sqm, has eight floors above the ground plus technical floor and is fully leased.  The Embassy of Netherlands, Xerox, SNC Lavalin and Synevo IT are among the tenants of the building.

On the western façade photo voltaic cells were installed, thus ensuring 7% of the entire energy consumption for one year.

OCTAGON used 31,000 cm of concrete and 3,600 t of metal fittings for the construction of building B. Three hundred people worked on the construction site and the project was delivered in June 2014.

The office building is currently being BREEAM certified with Excellent rating on-design and post-construction, which represents the best certification a building can obtain in terms of sustainable and green features.

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