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.

March 22, 2017
BIM for small projects

What works for building the Crossrail project may not work for the development of an artist’s studio in Cornwall, but small and medium-sized projects can still benefit from BIM, writes architect Jacob Down

For architectural practices that work on projects of a predominantly small-scale nature, it’s easy to see why the adoption of BIM Level 2 may not be at the top of the agenda.

Take, for example, just a few of the key documents involved. There’s BS 1192:2007+A2:2015, PAS 1192-2:2013, PAS 1192-3:2014, BS 1192-4:2014, PAS 1192-5:2015. The list goes on, and you need to implement these alongside the Uniclass 2015 classification, the NBS BIM Tool Kit and the CIC BIM Protocol.

Despite all the industry hype surrounding BIM’s improved productivity, coordination and efficiencies, the sudden adoption of a myriad of standards, specifications and protocols could potentially be paralysing to any project without sufficient prior expertise, experience and knowledge.

That said, there are still many benefits to be exploited through the utilisation of BIM technologies on small projects without the need to delve deeply into the realms and complexities of BIM Level 2.

Through the simple adoption of a BIM software package, in lieu of conventional 2D drafting and 3D modelling software, architects and designers can quickly tap into some of its inherent advantages and efficiencies.

Over the last 18 months, there has been a fundamental shift in the tools and techniques used by surveyors to capture the spatial volumes and site features of landforms and buildings.

March 15, 2017
New perspectives

The combination of building information modelling and virtual reality has the potential to transform architecture, planning and construction around the world, says Nigel Alexander

Building information modelling (BIM) is the process of generating and managing digital representations of the physical and functional characteristics of places. Originally created to help improve the way we design and construct buildings and infrastructure, it enables everyone involved to understand a building or space using accurate digital modelling that draws on a range of data assembled before, during and after construction.

While the concept has been around since the 1970s, take-up has been inconsistent across the globe. The Nordic countries have shown the most advancement in the use of BIM, where it has been in use for the past 10 years. In Finland, for example, almost every building has some BIM elements attached.

In Europe, progress is varied. Spain and Italy are only at the beginning of introducing BIM requirements. By contrast, in the UK, it is already a legal requirement to use BIM in all centrally procured public sector projects and France is expected to introduce a similar public-sector requirement this year. Germany has a 2020 target for BIM-use across all construction projects. 

There’s also increased take-up in the Middle East thanks to the UAE making the use of BIM a legal requirement for all large and public sector projects. There is also significant adoption in Korea and Australasia, although we’re only now starting to see a rise in the use of BIM in China and Singapore. In the US, BIM is only now growing and its impact is starting to increase.

March 10, 2017

In the last few years, 3D printing has been subject to the rollercoaster effect, having gone from being relatively unknown to suddenly being touted as a revolutionary technology, and then fading from the spotlight as the current technological limitations became more widely understood.

But that may soon change, especially given the recent news that a company managed to 3D print an entire house in a mere 24 hours. The home in Russia measures 400-square feet and cost just over $10,000 t0 construct.

The company behind the home, Apis Cor, consists of 3D printing specialists based in Russia and San Francisco. The team built the house using a mobile printer on-site. The company noted that the walls of the building were printed and painted in a day.

Such news is likely enticing to people who want to build a home without spending a fortune in both time and money. Such an innovation makes it possible for homes to be built in remarkably short notice, and in places once unimaginable.

Apis’ approach to 3D printing is especially unique because, unlike the usual process where parts are created off-site and constructed later, Apis Cor uses a mobile printer to print their apartments on-site. For example, the world’s first 3-D printed apartment building was constructed in China, but the building was printed off-site.

As if the process seems hassle free as is, the Apis technique eliminates the need to transfer the printed blocks, making it even more revolutionary than 3-D printing a home itself.

February 15, 2017
Autodesk Project Quantum: the future of BIM?

In an exclusive interview, Martyn Day speaks to Autodesk chief software architect Jim Awe about the company’s vision of the next generation of BIM tools.

Revit turns 17 years old this year. Its heritage dates back still further, to an older system called Sonata. This makes it a senior citizen in the software world. On the plus side, it enjoys a significant pedigree. On the negative side, most software companies feel that most code has, at best, a tenyear lifespan.

So it’s no surprise that, for years, there have been hints that Autodesk was working on a successor to Revit, perhaps cloudbased, to match the company’s vision of software as a service and the web delivery of all its products.

With the arrival of Autodesk Fusion in 2012, the company took a fresh approach to product design for the manufacturing market – cloud-based with a new user interface, powerful new constraints-solving and, importantly, a platform-independent approach, in a sharp break from delivering only Windows-based applications. The aim was to replace Inventor, and more specifically, to take aim at the market-leading SolidWorks application owned by Dassault Systèmes, a company that was by then also hinting at a nextgeneration solution.

When software companies move to a new generation of applications, there are in general two ways to go. First, they can start afresh and not burden themselves with the constraints of supporting previous methodologies (see, for example, Autodesk Fusion.) The benefit of this approach is that the vendor is liberated from older applications and can freely begin introducing cutting-edge tools and processes. Customers of earlier products, however, may not be so happy.

February 9, 2017
BIM People – Emma Hayes, PM Group

She has 20 years’ experience in the architecture, engineering and construction industry in Ireland and the US and joined PM Group in 2002. In 2010, Emma was one of a small number of students to win a scholarship from Middlesex University, which are awarded to postgraduates for academic excellence. Emma recently spoke at the International Congress of Architectural Technology (ICAT) 2016 in Spain where she presented ‘The Virtual Interactive Relationship Between BIM Project Teams – Effective Communication to aid Collaboration in the Design Process.’

BIMIreland.ie talked to Emma about her work with PM Group and her BIM education and research.Can you tell us about your work as Group BIM Applications Manager at PM Group?

I have responsibility for driving the Group BIM strategy as well as the development and roll-out of BIM processes across the organisation’s network of 18 offices in Europe, Asia and the US. This involves communicating our Group BIM goals both internally with our operations teams and externally with our clients. The role is both challenging and exciting as it gives me an opportunity to get involved in a wide variety projects in different sectors and to engage with people across the organisation. The role also involves travel to our offices around the world, my last international trip was to our office in Singapore and I have more recently returned from a visit to our office in Wroclaw in Poland.