Thoughts on the Engineering Industry

A blog covering engineering, technology and business topics

Archive for the tag “construction”

3-D Printed Buildings Elements Created from Building Construction Waste


     Hello everyone, I hope y’all have been doing well.  Today I would like to talk about an improved application of 3D in building construction.  For a while now, 3-D printing has been applied to building construction on a smaller scale.  However, the large portion of the structure has still been constructed using conventional methods.  Experts in various fields of building design and construction have been researching applications that expand the usage of 3-D printing in building construction.  This is an area of building construction expertise in which China has recently lead the global market according to Brittney Stevenson.

In April 2014, WinSun Decoration Design Engineering Co. revealed that 10 homes were constructed entirely out of a 3-D printed, recycled concrete material – an advancement that surprised the engineering and construction community.  In January 2015, it was revealed that WinSun had made further advancements in the applications of this 3-D printed material.  A 6-story apartment building and home has been constructed and the apartment building itself has an approximately 1,100 square meter floor plan.

The 3-D printed elements were created by inputing a CAD file into a 20′ tall, 33′ ft wide, and 132′ foot long machine printed using a concrete mixture.  The concrete mixture includes concrete, fiberglass, sand and a hardening agent.  The usage of this material allows for improved reusage of general construction waste while also being flexible, self-insulating and resistant to earthquakes.  Reinforcement was used where further strength was required and some of the larger pieces were built off site and transported there.  Details of the of building construction process are listed in the article.  According to WinSun, they are able to save 60% of the materials required for home construction, construct the building in 30% less time than traditional construction and reduce the required labor by 80%.

These are impressive results if true.  I still wonder about the expense of owning and maintaining the machine might be a hindrance at first. And I would hope the cost of collecting the construction waste and creating the concrete mixture is included in those statistics.  I think this is a good innovation, especially for low rise buildings since the loads and stresses are lower (although I believe a 6 story building is pushing the limits of standard low rise construction).  I would be interested to see how the material ages in regards to long term durability as well.  Overall, there are several applications that this would be useful for in the building construction industry.

What your thoughts on 3-D printed building elements? What about the concrete mixture used?  Have you heard of any other building materials being used in relation to 3-D printing?  If you enjoyed the article, please like it and share it with your friends.  Thanks for reading and have a good week!


Brittney Stevenson, “Shanghai-Based WinSun 3D Prints 6-Story Apartment Building and an Incredible Home”, 3D Printer & 3D Printing News, January 18, 2015,


Application of 3-D Printing and Modular Design to Construction

Hello everyone, I hope you guys had a good weekend.  Today I would like to discuss a couple innovations which apply 3-D printing and modular design innovations to construction practice.  These are applications that were more common in manufacturing and prototyping initially but can be applied to construction as well according to the article by Business Review Weekly.

The first innovation is the application of 3-D printing to the creation of moulds for precast concrete.  Traditionally, other materials such as wood, foam or rubber have been use, and constructing these moulds could take months to construct.  The Laing O’Rourke Company has developed a method that 3-D prints a large scale wax substrate mould at a rate of 150 kg/hr using a robots.  They have applied this to common projects such as stormwater pipes and have achieved cost savings of 50% to 90%.  Additionally, this solves the waste problem because the wax mould is lifted off or melted away in a water bath after the concrete is cured.  The wax can then be filtered and recycled.

The second innovation is the use of modular components in hospital construction.  Hospitals are one of the most expensive areas of infrastructure because they are individually designed.  Hickory Group has developed a modular panel for use in reception and administrative areas.  These areas use what is referred to as “accommodation components” which constitutes up to 40% of the construction cost of a hospital.  By using the modular panel, construction time can be cut by 40%.  Furthermore, the panels are easily replaceable.  If a panel is damaged, the hospital  can simply order a replacement and have their maintenance worker install the new panel.

Both of these are very good innovations in my opinion.  They are taking methods that have been proven effective in several previously tested applications and expanded their usage.  Furthermore, a reduction in time of construction and cost of maintenance/construction has been achieved.  I would be interested in seeing a more detailed account of the numbers and statistics.   However, based on the information provided, these are great examples of low risk/high reward solutions that can greatly improve construction practices.

What is your opinion on these innovations?  Do you think they’ll be effective?  If you enjoyed reading, like the post and share it with your friends.  Thanks for your time and have a good week!


Michael Bleby, “BRW Most Innovative Companies 2014: Why Construction Companies Are Thinking Like Manufacturers”, Business Review Weekly, October 9, 2014,

Image Source

Anne-Mette Manelius, “Concrete After Dark – Is There An Afterlife for Concrete?”, Concretely, October 17, 2014,

Development of Transparent Concrete

litracon 1 Concrete Innovation Part 3: Design transparent inflatable Concrete Cement

Hello everyone! I hope the last couple of weeks has gone well.  I was preoccupied with a small vacation, school stuff, and having to get a new vehicle since my car was totaled.  However, I hope to get back on schedule after this.  Today, I would like to talk about a new development in concrete technology: concrete designed to be transparent.

According to the article by Giatec Scientific, the concrete mixture is modified such that 4 to 15 percent of the mix is fiber optics materials.  Ideas for transparent concrete since 1935; however, serious development had not been pursued until 2001 by Áron Losonczi for use in his architectural designs.  In 2004, production was started for other commercial usage as a type of concrete called “Litracon.”  Since then, other competitors have developed similar designs.  These products have been used with back-lighting or natural light.

I think the concept is very interesting.  It’s something I would probably enjoy working with or using in a design.  The aesthetics would be amazing to see and I like the idea that it could be used in circumstances where you need more stiffness than a big window could provide.  The situation would be similar to structures that use the glass masonry units.  There are however some issues I can see. One is when and where can it be used safely.  The article mentioned examples where it’s used in floors and floors can see a lot of loading in certain types of situations, i.e. stadiums or concert halls.  The other issue I see is behavior of over time.  Will the bonding of the cement hold up in a mixture with that much of a potential void ratio?  Even if it holds up in regards to it’s initial bonding, will the mechanical strength related properties such as creep and general durability such as cracking be reduced?  Along with that, I would imagine the aesthetics have to hold up as well.

What are your thoughts on the idea of transparent concrete?  Is it something that is practical to use in building design?  If you enjoyed the blog post, feel free to like it and share it with your friends.  Thanks for your time and have a good week!


Giatec Scientific, “Concrete Innovation Part 3: Design”,

Benefits of Reusing Composite Shingles in Asphalt Roadway Construction

Hello everyone! I hope y’all have been doing well.  Today, I want to talk about an interesting innovation I read about the construction of O’Hare Airport. (  They collected used composite asphalt shingles and used them as part of the asphalt binder in the runway and various road type structures for the facility.  In this post, I will outline the process and the benefits.

The process:
Old Shingles Are Collected:
First, shingles are collected for reuse in the system.  At first, there weren’t any incentives added to motivate people to recycle used shingles.  However, some incentives have been created through different programs in various locations – all them outlined in the article.  One of them is a ban on sending large amounts of shingles to the landfill.  Another concept is an increased charge for disposing of shingles as compared to providing them for reuse.  The only exception is shingles that incorporate asbestos in their production and various limitations are discussed for reducing that risk.  Overall, the incentives seemed effective in my opinion.
Shingles are mixed into a pure asphalt binder:
The next step is that shingles are ground up and melted.  Once melted, this product can be added to the pure asphalt binder to increase the volume of this asphalt binder product.  At O’Hare airport, the shingles made up a 3% percent portion.  This didn’t make a huge dent in the budget but depending on the project it could reduce costs more.  Statistics and comparisons are provided in the article.
Asphalt is Laid Like Normal:
The asphalt binder and resulting asphalt is used like before.  As long as any differences in material properties are accounted for, the design and construction remains the same.  This results in an easy implementation on the construction and design side of the process.
The Benefits:
Reduced Use of Oil:
Oil is a precious commodity; anytime it’s usage is reduced, I consider it a good thing.  Along with that, it is easier to get a hold of used shingles than oil.  For both of these reasons, I consider the reduced oil usage a considerable benefit.
Reduced Cost:
The cost of using reused shingles is lower than using a pure asphalt binder.  Unless the scale is large, it is a minimal cost difference.  However, considering the scale of infrastructure cost these days and the amount of repairs needed, the scale is large enough that it would make a difference.
Reduced Waste:
These shingles, if not used in this capacity, would most likely be going to a landfill.  The lack of landfill space and shear quantity of human waste going to landfills is a current issue and reducing the amount from the housing would be a large contribution towards reducing that waste.
What is your opinion on the usage of this mixed asphalt binder?  Does it provide enough benefits to outweigh the cost and effort of changing the process?  Are there any noteworthy drawbacks or additional benefits not mentioned?  Thanks for your time and have a good week!
Jon Hilkevitch, “Getting Around: Old Shingles Get New Life on O’Hare Runway”, Chicago Tribune News, June 30, 2014,
Image Source:
“Why Homeowners Should Choose Asphalt Roofing Shingles Recycling”, Asphalt Roofing Shingles Recycling, October 18, 2012,

Visual Project Management for Construction Managers Using Google Glass?

Hello everyone – sorry about the long break.  I’ve been in the process of moving the last few weeks and I didn’t get internet until about a week ago.  Now that I am almost back to full productivity I should be doing regular posts again.  And now I can look forward to writing some of these posts on my back porch which will be nice too.  Today I want to talk about an application in development for Google Glass which would allow a construction manager to see a visual of future building elements to aid in the construction process. (Article:

This application has a few benefits that I can foresee.  The main one is that the user can visualize what needs to be done and what it should look like.  I could also see how it would take a complicated construction drawing and help clear up any confusion as to what the specifications should look like.

However, I also see a lot of drawbacks.  The first one is location issues.  If there is any trouble in determining the user’s location, the visual provided will be inaccurate and that is worse than using less convenient methods.  Additionally, creating the model and making sure the users on site are familiar with the tech would be difficult as well.  And finally, I would think that if the application isn’t designed well, information overload and application management could be a hindrance that slows down the work to the point that it out weighs the benefits of having this visual representation.

The benefits gained by having the application aren’t worth the added issues in my opinion.  Combine this with the fact that construction managers should already be able to visualize and build the specifications from construction drawings cause this application to be more trouble than it is worth.  This is not to say that I think technology is not useful on construction sites.  I believe that being able to have a synced database for construction drawings and models would be very useful for a tablet application in a lot of situations.  However, there is only one time I see the Google Glass application being useful and that is for people inexperienced in construction/engineering such as owners to walk around an incomplete project.

What is your opinion on this application?  Are there some different applications for construction managers that would be good for Google Glass?  Thanks for your time and have a good week!


“Google Glass for Construction?”, ConstruTech, March 18, 2014,


Orson, Parmy, “Why You’ll See Google-Glass Competitors In Construction Zones Before Starbucks”, Forbes Magazine, March 11, 2013,

The Future of Timber Design: Mass Timber

Hello everyone! I hope your week is going well.  Nothing new is happening as far as work goes.  However, my blog has 25 followers which I’m happy about. If I was more dedicated to it I’m sure I would have more lol, but I appreciate the meager following I do have none the less.  Today I wanted talk about an increasing trend in timber design – the usage of mass timber.  I recently read an article talking about a firm and some of their designs they have applied it to in this article –

I won’t go into detail about the projects listed in the article itself because it isn’t so much about mass timber, but instead about the companies projects.  My goal today isn’t to do a description of the companies projects and applications but rather some of the benefits listed in the article.

Sustainability – Using timber, as most people know, has the benefit of being sustainable because it is created in nature.  This allows it to be the most energy efficient in regards to production and has the lowest pre-construction carbon emissions of all the materials .  Along with that, timber will continue to absorb some carbon from the atmosphere even when part of the structure.  One of the common concerns about the movement towards mass timber is the exhaustion of the timber resources.  However, the way mass timber is created combined with replanting operations for the trees that are chopped down can help with that issue.

Allows for Increased Building Height – Currently the IBC has building height limit of about 4 stories.  These improvements introduced by mass timber can allow for buildings to be built over this height which then means that a lot of buildings that required concrete or steel in their designs before could now be built with timber if applied correctly.  More time and research will be required to allow for change in the code, but the current research and applications seem promising in regards to that.

Fire Protection – Mass Timber also has greatly improved fire protection which is a critical element in regards to the IBC as well the building height limit.  More specifically, the article notes that mass timber doesn’t burn as easily as regular timber – my guess would be due to the size and treatment in the creation process.  Also, larger members such as mass timber and regular large size timber beams form a charring around it which helps add greater fire protection.

Increased Directional Strength – Mass Timber that uses the glulam process can increase strength in one direction very efficiently which could help with the lateral loads for wind and earthquake.  These loads become increasingly critical as a building increase in height and this should help in dealing with the larger wind and earthquake loads on taller buildings.

What are your thoughts on the Mass Timber innovation?  Have any of you seen this used in design practice and, if so, what advantages/disadvantages have you seen?  Thanks for your time and have a good week!

Can the World’s Tallest Building Be Built in 90 Days?

SH 117_#4 BIG

Hello everyone, I hope y’all are doing well.  Today, I want to talk about an article I found a while back.  In the article, the construction company building the next building slated to be the tallest building world claims that they will do it by the end of 2013.

At first, I thought this was not possible at all.  However, the company, Broad Sustainable Building, has previously built a 30 story apartment building in 15 days.  Apparently, the plan will be to prefabricate as much as they can off site in the 4 months before on site construction starts.  Since they just got their permit this June that means they should be done with that by the end of September.  This leaves them 3 months to do the on site construction if they want to finish in 2013.  According the article, the plan is to build five stories of the building each day.  Along with the quick construction time, the skyscraper will only cost $628 million; half the cost of Burj Khalifa.

However, as cool as this sounds, I have some skepticism about how this can be done and so does the author.  A 30 story apartment building has far fewer critical design issues than 220 story skyscraper.  In the article, Head of Structures for WSP Middle East, Bart Leclercq, believes that they will run into issues with the required use of on site concrete work which provides the extra stiffness needed.   In order to safely construct the building, adequate curing times are needed which would be hard to manage with the fast pace of construction.  The other concern that crossed my mind even though it wasn’t stated in the article is this – what will be done about inspections and oversight?  If a building is being erected this quickly, a lot of oversight and coordination will be required and I could see a lot of mistakes being made as rushed as the process would be.  What is your opinion on this project?  Do you think that this building schedule is attainable?  What about safety and risk in regards to the building schedule?  Thanks for reading and have a good weekend.

The Philadelphia Building Collapse in Regards to Responsibility in Building Design and Construction

Hello everyone.  Sorry I have been away for so long.  I haven’t felt particularly inspired to write blog posts lately, which is not a good excuse, but I am finally getting back around to writing some now.  Nothing has really changed in my professional career or school activities.  I am still looking for work and planning on taking the comprehensive exam to graduate.  On a fun side note, I have discovered that I lost some important notes over the years so I need to figure out what to do about that.  Other than that, everything is going smoothly.  Today, I would like to discuss an incident in which a building collapsed and causes several deaths and injuries in Philadelphia.

First of all, let’s start with a recap of what happened.  The construction worker, Sean Benschop, was demolishing a four story building and part of the structure collapsed onto the Salvation Army next door.  He will be charged with one count of risking a catastrophe, six counts of involuntary manslaughter, along with counts of recklessly endangering another person.  Benschop turned himself and this his attorney made this statement, “He and his family are extremely sympathetic and remorseful with respect to what happened. This was an accident. Mr. Benschop is not responsible and we believe that in time the facts will show that he is not responsible and the responsible party will be held accountable.” reports that there was marijuana and pain killers in Benschop’s blood two hours after the accident.  His attorney claims that Benschop was fully able to operate the backhoe in a safe manner.  In response to this incident, the city of Philadelphia has inspected hundreds of demolition sites and is planning to implement changes in building demolition regulations.

This incident illustrates an interesting topic that any engineer with a PE License should understand, the designer is held responsible when his or her structure fails.  And apparently, based on this specific incident, a construction worker can be held accountable if there are deaths involved.  However, I think there are important questions that need to be asked.  The first one is this: What is the building designers role in this?  Was there an on-site structural engineer that should have noticed the danger that structure next to it could be damaged?  The second is this: What is the construction managers role?  Should he be held responsible for allowing an operator to work in an unsafe manner considering the pain killers and marijuana is his system?  Would the construction manager be liable for the safety zone and structural concerns on site as well?  And finally: Was the construction worker ordered to do the work?  Is the work environment such that he can voice concerns for the safety conditions if needed?  It is my opinion that not enough investigation has been done into the operation of the construction project at the time of the accident.  I don’t think there will be an accurate picture of who is responsible and what actually happened in regards to the decision process if that isn’t done.  What is your opinion?  Who do you think is more responsible for the pedestrians deaths and why?  Thank you for reading and have a good week.

Source:  “Construction Worker In Custody For Phila. Building Collapse”, National Public Radio, June 8, 2013,

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