Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Tour of Canadian Cancer Lab

We change topics somewhat this week to learn a little bit more about the author of this blog. Regular readers not interested are invited to return next week for more architectural and structural engineering news and opinion.
Readers can catch themselves up on basics of the Birdsell Family and Friends Brain Cancer Research Fund through our team page, included is a YouTube video summarizing the fund’s mission.
I had the pleasure November 23rd of touring the lab of Dr. Mahoney, a immunology microbiologist at the University of Calgary Heritage Medical Research Building, by invitation of the Canadian Cancer Society. Though his research is not directly supported by the BFFBCRF’s initiative, our efforts in turn are supported by the Canadian Cancer Society which endeavors to connect donors with the fruits of their labour. 

Oncologic Immunology uses viruses, both natural and genetically modified, to 1) kill cancer cells and 2) trigger the body’s natural immune response to fight cancer. Much of Dr. Mahoney’s research focuses on how this chain of events occurs and he does it, in part, by leading an absolute all-out assault on the state-of-the-art in medical imaging. The tour unfortunately did not include what was described as the “Cadillac of microscopes”, even though it’s capabilities far exceed what one remembers from high school science class. Kept in the basement in a bio-secure area, along with the intrepid mice of science, it has the ability to stain different tissues in the sample different colours and film the response in real time (or time lapse). The images feel slightly abstract seen against a black background but with practice one can start to understand the behavior of the virus toward cancer in a live mouse model. It seemed with every new video clip presented Dr. Mahoney introduced a new discovery never observed before.

Next, touring the wet lab, outfitted just like a movie set would decorate a science lab, the theme of state-of-the-art technology continued. The automation of experimentation appears to be a boon for Dr. Mahoney’s lab, not only in the breath of testing possible but also in its exactly repeatable nature. So yeah, robots. The non-descript black box seen at the beginning of the clip is actually an automated microscope, something heretowith I’d been ignorant of. It can track, in total, over 20 000 tests. This is important when testing against the human genome. If I’m understanding the presentation correctly, there is a process by which each of the 20 000 genes is suppressed in sequence and then the whole thing run twice more for verification. The influence of big data and analytics was the biggest thing not seen on our tour. 

The BFFBCRF thanks the Canadian Cancer Society for organizing the event and wishes Dr. Mahoney and his lab the best of luck in their research!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Architectural Features Featured In 3D Printed Book

We celebrate this week a project which brings together a few this blog’s favorite things: architectural 3D printing, art history and books. “Twenty Something Sullivan” is a retrospective of ArchitectLouis Sullivan’s early work by Tom Burtonwood and Tim Samuelson (both of Chicago) who took examples of Sullivan’s architectural ornamentation in the public domain and 3D printed them in a unique book (pictured below).

I find this project exciting for a couple different reasons: Firstly, Sullivan’s work is beautiful (as typified by the above image of his Flatiron Building ca. 1900). Sullivan’s work marks the establishment of modern building techniques like steel framing but still retains the luscious organic ornamentation of age borrowed from neo-classical and beaux-art trends. I accept not everyone in the 21st century - with our clean lines and pure volumes – values rich ornamentation but hopefully that can be addressed somewhat by my second point: As stated previously on this blog I think the first wave of architecturally 3D printed products will be architectural features. This book is mostly there, falling short only in two areas; it’s a book of ornaments not used architecturally and it’s 3D printed in plastic – a fancy space age plastic to be sure – but with different materials now available for 3D printing, as referred to on this blog, other options might have been more desirous and interesting. I, for one, would love to see these reproductions completed in a cementitious material. 


Hesitating to give a full review to a book I have not read, I would love to see this book up close, especially given its ability to bring a tactile quality to presenting architectural ornamentation. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Foster and Partners Integrated Design Approach for Structural Engineering

I recently read the linked Institution of Structural Engineers article with great interest hoping to learn about Foster + Partners’ internal structural engineering program. Sadly the article was a bit thin on grand strategic vision instead focusing on Foster + Partners’ recently completed Ch√Ęteau Margaux in France. The wine making factory - given its Sir Normal Foster design credentials and nomination for a 2015 Structural Award in the commercial or retail structures category - make it one of the most expensive and elite wine-making facilities in the world. Custom details provided for the project like the “tree” columns (an image of which accompanies this post) must make the building a joy to work in. Unfortunately the subject of the article, Roger Ridsdill Smith, structural engineering program lead, had little to say on the topic of integration.
To be fair, Smith might have been very forthcoming during the interview but, for “journalistic” reasons, the interesting bits cut. The article for me boils down to Smith’s claim the best projects arise from a “totally integrated approach”. It’s 2015 and I just don’t think that statement is groundbreaking anymore. Isn’t multi-disciplinary integration assumed to be a best practice in building design? Are people making arguments to the contrary I’m not aware of? What I was really hoping for from the article was insights on how to best bring the project team together for common cause and what obstacles can normally be expected.

To that end, The Perfect Architecture Company blog invites Roger Smith to be interviewed here about integration in the building design process should he wish to share his thoughts on this important matter to a grateful audience. 

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

5 Challenges Facing Structural Integrity and Systems Performance

Lloyd’s Register Foundation - yes that venerable insurance company’s charitable arm – offers us their vision for future issues facing the structural engineering industry. Though the path to this information seems contrived - coming via Jakarta, Singapore, and Peru - some of the highlights I’ve pulled together below are legitimately insightful. As one reads the list I certainly believe the concerns of an insurance company do come through but real foresight is also contained within. The report frames their claims thusly: "The Foundation’s Foresight review of structural integrity and systems performance identifies the key safety challenges that exist in structural integrity and systems performance".

1. The safety of systems containing 3D and 4D additive manufactured parts, including:
  • The new field of 4D printing, where the shape of a 3D printed item can change by a self-activated process triggered by the environment.
  • Research into the mechanisms of in-service degradation to ensure long-term integrity of additive manufactured parts.
  • Ensuring appropriate recognized training exists for those operating and creating parts by additive manufacturing.
2. Engineering science challenges: advancing the state-of-the-art to maximize safety, including:
  • Complex loading – modelling how force is transmitted between environment and structures.
  • Residual stress engineering to increase fatigue life.
  • Assurance of long-term performance of coatings.
3. Development of an economic whole-system approach to demonstrate safety and integrity.

4. Data-centric engineering, including:
  • Designing for data, recognizing that embedded sensors, intelligent systems and data management will form part of engineering design requirements.
  • Promoting data availability for public use including academic research and system improvements.
  • Data analytics, coordinating with the work of the Alan Turing Institute to analyse data quickly and identify actions.
5. Minimizing the risks associated with maintenance and inspection, including:
  • Use of drones and robots to conduct inspection and/or maintenance.
  • Developing assets and systems that are able to monitor their own condition.
  • Design and build structures and equipment that require no maintenance or inspection.