Posts Tagged 'Construction'

Autonomous Quadcopters Work Together To Build Structures

Clay Dillow writes in Popular Science (1/19), “Whenever a new video emerges from UPenn’s GRASP lab (that’s General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception), it’s usually awesome, and this one is no exception.” The video features a team of autonomous quad-rotor helicopters “working from a preset algorithm…constructing a cubic tower structure using specially designed parts that snap together via magnets when placed in the proper arrangement.” The quadcopters “can even judge the quality of their own construction, checking to make sure a piece is properly in place before moving on to the next segment.” Considering potential uses, Dillow writes, “Beyond the obvious applications in automated construction processes, swarms of construction ‘bots could be launched from naval vessels to autonomously construct shelters in disaster-stricken areas or to set up a forward operating base before live troops arrive in a combat zone.”

Reposted from the 1/20/11 ASEE First Bell

Carbon Footprint Calculator

Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) has unveiled Green Footstep, a free online carbon calculator for reducing carbon emissions in building construction and retrofit projects. 

While many carbon calculators are available online, none address multiple building emissions over the building lifetime. “Green Footstep makes it easier for design professionals to set the design targets theyll need to achieve a carbon neutrality that includes not just operation, but also embodied carbon and others,” said Victor Olgyay, AIA, principal at RMI.  “Just as a life cycle cost analysis of a green building design shows the operating costs you are saving over time, Green Footstep shows you the saved carbon.” 

Green Footstep also shows designers how to comply with specific design goals such as LEEDs energy credits and the 2030 Challenge, the organization that has challenged designers to make all new buildings carbon neutral by 2030.  Edward Mazria , founder and executive director of Architecture 2030, says, “Rocky Mountain Institute’s Green Footstep is an extremely valuable goal-setting and evaluation tool that will help building designers assess a project’s carbon emission impacts with regard to site, construction, and operations.  Because the 2030 Challenge is integrated into the program, this tool can also help designers in their efforts to meet or exceed the 2030 Challenge targets.” 

The Green Footstep tool can be used on residential and commercial new and retrofit building construction projects, from pre-design through occupancy. The tool 

  • Assesses your design’s total carbon footprint due to site development, construction, and operation
  • Helps designers and other project stakeholders set carbon emissions goals and design targets
  • Reveals the most effective levers that you can use to meet the Architecture 2030 Challenge, earn credits in green building rating systems, and achieve other goals
  • Compliments a financial model (based on life cycle cost analysis) to provide the most comprehensive support for building design decisions.

Try out Green Footstep or learn more about its capabilities at

(Portions of this post excerpted from a November 11, 2009 ACRL Science and Technology Discussion List posting by Frederick Stoss.)

Bridge in a Backpack

Reposted with permission from “The Infrastructurist: America Under Construction” by Jebediah Reed, 8/19/09:

Read the full article and see more pictures here.


The structure itself is the brainchild of an engineer named Habib Dhagger, who devised a process for building a bridge out of things that look like giant carbon fiber socks. When it’s time for construction to start, one simply inflates the socks, treats the fabric with a hardening epoxy resin, and then fills the resulting tubes with concrete. Voila!, you’ve got the skeleton of your bridge. You essentially just throw on a plastic deck, pave it, and you’re ready to go. With Dagher’s technology, it’s suddenly possible to construct highway bridges in a few days, instead of a few weeks or months as those tedious old non-backpack bridges require.

One of these backpack bridges–so named because a carbon sock can fit in a backpack–was put up in rural Maine earlier this year, and was much celebrated there as something that might bring lots of jobs and other peoples’ money to the state. Now it is in the news again because on Monday our Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, went up to Maine pay homage to it. (Though, sadly, he didn’t blog about it.)

Not unimportant in these days of government red ink: Dagher expects the backpack bridge will eventually cost about 20 percent less to build. Admittedly, the one that’s already been built–a 44-foot span near Pittsfield–came in $581,000, which was merely “comparable” to a regular bridge. (In the lexicon of homo economus, that tends to mean “somewhat more expensive.”)

On a lifetime basis, though, it would seem to be a great bargain even at that price. Dagher estimates that his bridge will last two or three times as long as regular bridges. Primarily this is because the concrete isn’t exposed in elements. Also, there’s no steel rebar or structural steel–which are expensive and also degrade–required because the carbon socks are very strong.

As Dagher told a local paper: “You know what happens to concrete and rebar with the environment in Maine. Water gets in there and it cracks, it freezes, and breaks up the concrete. Now water can’t get in there. The concrete is completely protected from the environment so bridges can last quite a bit longer.”

We tried to reach Dr. Dagher in Maine to get more juicy quotes like that, but apparently he’s out of the country and can’t talk to us.

From other media organizations though we know that Maine is considering building a 500 foot bridge using a version of this technology as well as several other smaller ones around the state. Massachusetts is also sniffing around and might be a buyer.

For those intrigued by the process, here are more pictures of the construction process for these newfangled bridges. We will note sadly, though, that there aren’t any pictures that actually involve putting one of the unhardened carbon molds into a backpack.

Database of the Week: CSA / ASCE Civil Engineering Abstracts

CSA / ASCE Civil Engineering Abstracts provides citations, abstracts, and indexing of the serials literature in civil engineering and its complementary fields, including forensic engineering, management and marketing of engineering services, engineering education, theoretical mechanics and dynamics, and mathematics and computation.  This database provides comprehensive international coverage as well as numerous non-serial publications.  Sources covered include over 3,000 periodicals, conference proceedings, technical reports, trade journal/newsletter items, patents, books, and press releases.  You can learn more about this database from its Factsheet or begin searching the database at CSA Illumina.

The CSA / ASCE Civil Engineering Abstracts Database is one of many information resources brought to you by the Brown Science and Engineering Library!  Ask for a demonstration of this database or about other resources that can help you work faster, smarter and better!

(Use of this database from this address restricted to University of Virginia users only.  Please contact a librarian for assistance, if you are having trouble connecting.)

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July 2020