Thursday, July 28, 2016

Hierarchical Metallic Metamaterial Invented For Use In Architectural 3D Printing

The following story was all over my news feed last week so I thought I’d break it down here for our readers: Researches at Virgina Tech have invented a new material with several interesting characteristics, combining stiffness, strength, low-weight, and high flexibility. These desirable characteristics are normally associated with the aerospace industry but are easily transferred when used architecturally. The notable behaviour results from the material reacting hierarchically depending on the forces applied. Nano-scale materials engineering allowed designers to print the material in such a way that regions of the lattice react differently depending on how the piece is intended to resist applied forces. Nature has already provided us with a versatile material that mirrors this behaviour in bone. Here 3D printing is really key to the development of this metallic metamaterial since rarely in the past have human-made materials allowed for such fine control of the nano- and macro-scale structure. The article goes on to stress that one of the major benefits of this process is its scalability. One of the major hurdles in the development of graphene was the fabrication of pieces useful on a human scale. Researches are confident this process can delivery much larger pieces. Will this a material help build the perfect architecture of the future?

Monday, July 25, 2016

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Rock n’ Roll Lives of General Contractors: A Mini-Financial Analysis

In an effort to model the steps in a preliminary economic analysis of an industry and highlight the role of the general contractor in design and construction we describe below the economic characteristics of the general contracting industry:

On any given project of considerable size the flow of money to the general contractor will dwarf the design costs of the project. This has implications for the design fee structure negotiated which are usually ranges between 5-10% of total construction costs. From the Engineering News Record database we learn the top two international general contracting firms by revenue are France’s Vinci and Spain’s ACS Group with annual revenue of 53.7 bil. (in CDN$ 2011) and 55.9 bil. (in CDN$ 2012) respectively. These are massive companies grown through acquisition which glean most of their revenue through infrastructure projects but as one can see they are much bigger than even some of the world’s largest construction projects.

Moving toward more regional players for contrast, Edmonton’s PLC Construction and Calgary’s Graham Construction are two of the biggest companies in the province with revenue of $8 bil. and $2 bil. in 2014 respectively. For comparison, removing oil and gas projects, the top four infrastructure projects currently under construction in Alberta are the Valley Line LRT in Edmonton at $3.2 bil., the StoneGate Landing development in Calgary at $3.0 bil. and the Anthony Henday Drive Expansion in Edmonton at $1.8 bill. Falling just outside the top ten, the next architectural development down the list Calgary’s new airport concourse at $1.4 bil. As one can see, even a billion dollar company can be exposed to risks associated with a project representing a significant portion its annual revenue. After-tax profit margin is estimated to be in the single digits. Ultimately for these companies, controlling construction costs is central to giving gross profit margins the space to cover company overhead. 

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Thursday, July 07, 2016

REVIT Safe Mode

As complex a tool Revit is to build with, sometimes the problems encountered are even more complex. Throwing Revit power users a bone, design firm Stantec created a great problem solving tool that allows one to basically start Revit in Safe Mode. Third party add-ons and extensions are popular for increasing productivity but also have a history of creating discrepancies and conflicts which might freeze or otherwise corrupt your model. Stantec’s utility allows for the precise control of what’s on when Revit starts up. This can greatly decrease the number of possible conflicts when trying to troubleshoot a model. I posted it here because I thought the tool might come in helpful for some of our readers in the future and as a way to thank Stantec for sharing their work with the community.