December 28, 2017
Another record year for high-rise construction

Each year, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) publishes a study that examines all 200-meter-plus tall buildings that were completed during the preceding year. 

This year’s report, published on Dec. 13, details the 144 high-rise towers that were completed in 2017, including the 1,965-foot Ping An Finance Center in Shenzhen, China, and the 1,823-foot Lotte World Tower in Seoul, South Korea. It was the busiest year on record for high-rise construction, besting the previous record of 127 completions in 2016. 

This brings the total number of 200-meter-plus buildings in the world to 1,319, increasing 12.3% from 2016, marking a 402% increase from the year 2000, when only 263 existed. 

A total of 15 supertalls (buildings of 300 meters or higher) were completed in 2017, tying with 2015, the first year to match this record. The total number of supertall buildings worldwide is now 126, up from 111 in 2016. This fact is even more extraordinary considering that much of the activity has been in the past few years. The 2017 figure represents a 66% increase in just four years. In 2013, there were 76 buildings 300 meters or higher.

Notably, 2017 was also the most geographically diverse year in terms of the number of cities and countries that completed 200-meter-plus buildings, with 69 cities across 23 countries represented in the data, up from 54 cities across 18 countries in 2016. Twenty-eight of these cities and eight countries completed their tallest building.

December 4, 2017
Iconic Bridge Project Connecting Hong Kong to Zhuhai and Macau Adopts BIM Methodology, Reducing Construction Costs by 12%

The Leighton-Chun Wo joint venture standardized on a BIM methodology to drive consistency on this large multi-discipline design project that will connect Hong Kong, Macau, and Zhuhai. This revolutionary project includes 50 kilometers of bridges and tunnels and will create a distinctive entry point to Hong Kong. Leighton Asia conducted the civil, electrical, mechanical, structural, subsurface, and building work as the lead contractor for this ambitious project. The 130-hectare site will include site formations, roads, bridges, clearance buildings, footbridges, steel roofs, and various public facility buildings. Despite the challenge of a project team spread across several countries using a range of software applications, Leighton Asia provided consistency and uniformity for the design, survey, and construction of this transportation gateway, scheduled for completion in 2018. For this USD 4.6 billion project, Leighton Asia leveraged Bentley technology to meet a variety of construction challenges. By standardizing on MicroStation’s DGN format, architects, engineers, contractors, and surveyors had simplified access to their design models and associated data. For the roadway design, the team used OpenRoads for conceptioneering the proposed designs. It then cross-referenced against the as-built, which ensured accuracy and improved error resolution. iModels were used as the data exchange format to ensure fidelity and integrity of engineering data. Bentley Navigator was used for clash detection and analysis, which resolved errors and issues prior to construction, reducing construction costs by 12 percent. Moreover, the team used ProjectWise as the connected data environment ensuring the engineering data could be access by a distributed project team. Implementing BIM processes enabled a new method for working, which created a new culture within the organization that improved efficiency and streamlined workflows. By following BIM processes, project participants were trained using the same comprehensive modeling environment and BIM applications. Additionally, surveyors and design teams used Bentley’s reality modeling solution to capture and enliven digital photographs and point-cloud data of the existing site conditions. Leighton Asia contracted The Earth Solutions for technical and training support to integrate the reality mesh into the engineering environment, ensuring 3D BIM models could be cross-referenced with continuously surveyed models. This coordination reduced the cost associated with surveying by 15 percent by streamlining their workflows and adding expertise.“Bentley’s civil BIM advancements bring BIM to the next stage by multiplying its benefits, especially in challenging and large-scale infrastructure projects. This platform has enhanced our collaboration with various stakeholders to import, acquire, and exchange valuable information.”Sr. Michael Kin Wong, Survey Manager, Leighton Asia

November 30, 2017
Review: CL3VER 3D

Greg Corke gets hands-on with a new browser-based tool for presentations and collaborative design review that places a big emphasis on visual quality and has a one-click workflow from Revit, SketchUp, Rhino and 3ds max

There are a whole host of AEC collaboration tools out there, but most place an emphasis on geometry and BIM data rather than visual fidelity. At the same time, most design viz tools – real-time and those that generate photorealistic stills and animations – are mostly about the creation of the asset with little to no attention paid to how that asset will be for collaborative design review.

Collaboration with viz-focused AEC assets often boils down to simple file exchange, whether that’s sending an attachment via email or sharing a game engine executable over Dropbox. AEC software developer CL3VER takes a different approach by providing a browser- based workspace for sharing, viewing and commenting on visually rich interactive models that are rendered in real time with ray tracing, global illumination and reflections.

The company’s new software release, CL3VER 3D, is billed as an interactive presentation tool, but the software also allows collaboration over the web using simple annotation tools.

The beauty of CL3VER 3D lies in its simplicity. It features a push-button workflow, so can be used by literally anyone. There is no need for any specialist design viz knowledge. All of the scene preparation is done in the background, as the software automatically brings across geometry, cameras, materials and lights, as defined in the 3D authoring tool.

November 24, 2017
Building the Louvre Abu Dhabi

THE spectacular Louvre Abu Dhabi is the first major building to be constructed in what is one of the most ambitious cultural masterplan’s ever undertaken.

The first international outpost of the famous French museum, the Louvre is set to become one of the cornerstones of Abu Dhabi's new district. As part of the Emirate’s long term strategic plan to attract tourists and diversify its local economy, Abu Dhabi is spending USD $27BN creating an "international cultural destination".

The district will bring together some of the biggest names in architecture including five Pritzker Prize winners.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi - designed by French architect Jean Nouvel - will be closely followed by an outpost of the Guggenheim designed by Frank Ghery, which is currently under construction along the coast; the National Museum of the UAE, designed by British architect Norman Foster, which will tell the story of the country’s founder; a futuristic performing arts center designed by the late Zaha Hadid; and a maritime museum, that will celebrate the country’s connection with the sea, designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando.

The 10-square-mile development of Saadiyat Island also includes a campus of New York University, 30 hotels, three marinas, 8,000 villas and 38,000 housing units spread along some 12 miles of coastline.

Originally announced in 2007, the Middle eastern Louvre museum has been eagerly anticipated for over decade and does not disappoint. Extending out into the Persian Gulf the USD $650M museum’s key architectural feature is its impressive and intricate dome that seemingly floats above the water.

November 24, 2017
Lighting Analysis in BIM - Workshop

Learn more about Lighting and Daylighting Design here.

Lighting analysis software and rendering tools can help you simulate lighting and daylighting in your building.

Both quantitative and qualitative analysis are important. Learn how to use Autodesk tools like Revit for lighting analysis here.

Daylight Analysis in BIM

You can understand and quantify the amount of the sun’s light in your project with daylighting analysis. This can help you create comfortable and beautiful spaces, reduce lighting loads, and reduce cooling loads. There are many ways to measure and visualize light, and you may use different tools depending on which question you’re trying to answer. This page has decision tree to guide you to the right metrics and tools.

Artificial Lights in 3dsMax

Using 3D Max Design, artificial lighting units can be placed into the model and simulated to determine the best possible configuration for lighting within your building project.

Photorealistic Rendering

Learn the basics of rendering in 3D Studio Max with this series of tutorials.

July 7, 2017
Vertical transportation concept allows city dwellers to cycle up skyscrapers

Designed by Royal College of Art graduate Elena Larriba, Vycle is a pedal-powered, vertical transportation system that offers a space-saving alternative to lifts and stairs.

The design, which resembles the front half of a bike attached to a vertical rail, can be fitted to the side of buildings, scaffolding or cranes.

"There are currently two main methods for vertical transportation that have prevailed for the last 100 years, the stairs and the lift," explained Elena Larriba, who studied in the Royal College of Art's (RCA) Innovation Design Engineering masters programme.

"Stairs are bulky and unattractive, especially in high rise buildings where people don't often use them, and lifts require a lot of energy in order to move one person a couple of meters up. This carves out an area of opportunity that sits between the two."

Powered by a continuous cyclical movement, the system is balanced with counterweights, leaving the user's body as the only weight to overcome. A gearing system, similar to a bike's, allows the user to decide how much effort they want to put into ascending or descending.

In densely populated and rapidly growing cities such as those in China, where it is estimated that by 2025 the country will have built 50,000 new skyscrapers, Vycle could be used in new buildings where space is at a premium or where there is no space for a full-sized lift shaft.

Larriba also suggested that Vycle could be used during the construction of tall buildings.

June 6, 2017
Graphene: Everything You Need to Know About the ‘Miracle Material’

Graphene's unique properties make it one of the world's most exciting materials, and it’s hard to think of an industry or technology that wouldn’t be transformed if it lives up to the hype.

Graphene, the thinnest and strongest material on Earth, is just one atom thick yet 150 times stronger than the same weight of steel. A square meter of graphene is 1,000 times lighter than a piece of paper and more flexible than rubber. Graphene conducts electricity more than 200 times more efficiently than silicon and is made entirely of carbon, the fourth most-abundant element in the universe. Since 2004, when researchers first isolated a single-atom-thick sheet of graphene from normal graphite — a feat that won them the Nobel Prize in physics in 2010 — some of the loftiest hopes of the technological world have been heaped on the shoulders of this “miracle material.” Viewed at atomic scale, graphene is a two-dimensional matrix of carbon atoms arranged in hexagonal bonds like chicken wire. If you held a piece of graphene in your hand, it would be perfectly flat, 97-percent transparent and gossamer. But its unique physical properties make it one of the most hyped materials on the market. Graphene, some predict, will usurp silicon as the backbone of our electronic circuits, enabling leaps in processing speeds well beyond Moore’s Law inside devices that are lighter, thinner, and more flexible. Others dream about graphene-boosted batteries that pack many times the energy density of today’s lithium-ion technology, greatly extending the range of electric vehicles and charging our phones and laptops in seconds. In the near future, lightweight circuits printed with graphene ink might be embedded into product packaging, clothing, and even temporary tattoos right on your skin. These cheap and efficient wireless circuits will drive the Internet of Things, some acting as sensors (think of biosensors embedded into clothing to track your health) and others as “smart tags” that transmit useful product information to your phone. Graphene’s lightweight strength will be used to create next-generation composites that will help us engineer lighter, faster, and safer vehicles and aircraft. The same composite materials and coatings will benefit from graphene’s exceptional electrical conductivity, turning a simple coat of paint into a heat sensor or wireless transmitter. In fact, it’s hard to think of an industry or technology that wouldn’t potentially be transformed — or at least significantly impacted — if graphene lives up to the hype. Andrea Ferrari is a nanotechnology professor at the University of Cambridge and director of the Cambridge Graphene Center, one of the leading academic research centers into the properties of and commercial applications for graphene. In an interview with Seeker, he said that “you can go on and on naming the possible applications for graphene.” But it’s also hard to believe that any single material will really be as disruptive and game-changing as the graphene evangelists dream it will be. If the history of material science is any indication, graphene may very well trigger leaps in technological innovation — including entirely new products and unimagined applications — but we might have to wait a few years (or many years, in some cases) to see it happen. So the question is: When will we actually see the miracles promised by the world’s most novel material?

May 18, 2017
Elon Musk's Boring Company plans to beat traffic with underground "car skates"

Elon Musk has revealed a plan for easing city congestion that would see an underground network of tunnels transporting cars on high-speed skates travelling at 130 miles per hour.

The entrepreneur and Tesla founder presented his vision for The Boring Company along with a video during a TED Talk last week in Vancouver. He founded the company in late 2016 after becoming frustrated with the Los Angeles transportation network.

"One of the most soul-destroying things is traffic," he said during the talk. "It affects people in every part of the world. It takes away so much of your life. It's horrible. It's particularly horrible in LA."

"We're trying to dig a hole under LA, and this is to create the beginning of what will hopefully be a 3D network of tunnels to alleviate congestion."

While recent proposals for traffic alleviation have been airborne, such as Airbus' flying car and Lilium's electric jet plane, Musk proposes submerging vehicles below the roads into an underground network made up of layers and layers of tunnels.

The video shows this process beginning when a car pulls into a specific bay. This bay then transports the car underground, where it becomes a "skate" and propels the vehicle through the tunnel at speeds of up to 130-miles-per-hour.

"You have to be able to integrate the entrance and exit of the tunnel seamlessly into the fabric of the city," said Musk.

"So by having an elevator, sort of a car skate that's on an elevator, you can integrate the entrances and exits to the tunnel network just by using two parking spaces."

May 4, 2017
A Guide to Technology for Construction Companies

With the right technology, you can better control your upcoming construction projects.

The construction industry has, historically, not been one to rapidly adopt new technologies. However, shifts in employee demographics, combined with a cutthroat competitive market, means the construction industry is poised for massive disruption.

"As more young people enter the construction industry, they expect technology,” said Christian Burger, principal and owner of Burger Consulting Group, Inc., an IT construction industry consulting firm that works nationally and internationally with commercial, civil and specialty contractors to develop objective IT solutions. "Estimating, project managing, (and) scheduling using state of the art tools (are) all they've ever known. There's pressure from within the company to automate and adopt new technologies. You can't compete otherwise."

In addition to a younger generation of employees that expect advanced software and tools, contractors receive external pressure from clients. For construction companies to surpass the competition and thrive in such a turbulent industry, they may want to consider investing in these seven types of software applications.

Building Information Modeling, or BIM, is changing the way contractors operate. BIM enables architects, project managers, and contractors to design, plan, and construct buildings. It's a single plan that lays the framework for how your project will unfold.

April 6, 2017
Portugal’s MAAT could become the world’s most exciting venue for art and architecture

The Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT) is a new exhibition space created for EDP, a Portuguese foundation in Lisbon. The building opened in October of 2016 and just created its first curated exhibition. I had an opportunity to visit its exhibit Utopia/Dystopia: A Paradigm Shift in Art and Architecture and it provided an opportunity to see how the new structure functions and is being programmed.

Designed by British architect Amanda Levete’s firm AL_A, The MAAT operates as a ‘Kunsthalle,’ with no permanent collection of artifacts, but as a space to promote and stage cross-cultural or interdisciplinary experimentation. The building has several functional exhibition galleries, but its focus is an enormous, 13,000-square-foot, centralized elliptical space, ringed with steep inclined viewing ramps made for theatrical performances and temporary installations. The ramps are meant as viewing platforms but the steepness of the slope propels viewers down and then up and around the central ellipse. This constant movement by viewers can allow them—if curated properly—to be part of the action or to become the event itself. It’s an interactive public space for an age more familiar with digital and VR images on a screen than in a physical gallery.

The low, long profile of The MAAT’s exterior appears like a slightly opened oyster shell set in the mud along the facing Tagus river and estuary. If one imagines the shell opened ever so slightly, this is where Levete has placed the entrance into the building. Up a curving set of long, narrow steps, with a hovering deep overhang meant to capture the dappled reflection of the river, the public is pulled in a short entrance into the lobby and then into the grand open performance ellipse. Its facade is covered in 15,000 “crackle glazed three-dimensional” tiles that give it a fish scale like dimension on the cityscape and honors the city’s many tiled facades. When these ceramic rectangles catch beams of natural dappled or artificial light the building magically glows like a light bulb.