Tag Archives: construction

Building robots building robot buildings…

Behold the potential future of building; construction workers, you may want to start training for your second career NOW.

Oh, so you’re not impressed by that? OK, so imagine large swarms of smaller versions of those quadrotor critters assembling constructions which themselves are autonomous, modular, quasi-sentient and self-repairing

From BotJunkie, via George Dvorsky; cheers, George. 🙂

Industrial strength fungus: mycelium as building material

I usually try very hard to think up my own headlines when passing on items like this, but sometimes you just have to concede that the one you found can’t be improved upon. So, enter the newest candidate for the ultimate in environmentally-friendly building materials – fungal mycelium [via MetaFilter; image by James Jordan].

Mycelium doesn’t taste very good, but once it’s dried, it has some remarkable properties. It’s nontoxic, fireproof and mold- and water-resistant, and it traps more heat than fiberglass insulation. It’s also stronger, pound for pound, than concrete. In December, Ross completed what is believed to be the first structure made entirely of mushroom. (Sorry, the homes in the fictional Smurf village don’t count.) The 500 bricks he grew at Far West Fungi were so sturdy that he destroyed many a metal file and saw blade in shaping the ‘shrooms into an archway 6 ft. (1.8 m) high and 6 ft. wide.


A promising start-up named Ecovative is building a 10,000-sq.-ft. (about 930 sq m) myco-factory in Green Island, N.Y. “We see this as a whole new material, a woodlike equivalent to plastic,” says CEO Eben Bayer. The three-year-old company has been awarded grants from the EPA and the National Science Foundation, as well as the Department of Agriculture–because its mushrooms feast on empty seed husks from rice or cotton. “You can’t even feed it to animals,” says Bayer of this kind of agricultural waste. “It’s basically trash.”


Ecovative’s next product, Greensulate, will begin targeting the home-insulation market sometime next year. And according to Bayer’s engineering tests, densely packed mycelium is strong enough to be used in place of wooden beams.

There are so many possible punchlines that I think I’ll leave you to pick your own…

The demise of the humble bricklayer

R.O.B. bricklaying robotVia Chairman Bruce comes bad news for anyone hoping for a lasting career at the manual-labour end of the construction industry. A trailer-mounted bricklaying robot (imaginatively named “R.O.B.”) will be building its second stylishly curved wall on Pike Street, New York later this year. [image lifted from linked post at Dezeen]

OK, so it’s a little large and ungainly at the moment (and probably has a price tag to match), but that will change – plus it won’t take breaks, go home to sleep, wolf-whistle at passers-by or attempt to form a union, which will doubtless add hugely to its appeal to corporate buyers.

Perhaps you’re thinking that concrete-and-rebar specialists will still be able to find work? Don’t forget that buildings can be 3d-printed now, too…

Epic engineering: It still lives

hooverThis Arizona Republic item put me in mind of William Gibson’s early story “The Gernsback Continuum,” a rumination on the golden age of mega-construction. I saw this engineering marvel on a recent drive to Vegas (bookie, debt, showgirl–long story) and it’s an awe-inspiring sight.

A quarter-mile downstream from Hoover Dam, two fingers of concrete stretch toward each other from sheer cliffs, suspended nearly 900 feet above the Colorado River.

In a month, the fingers will meet, an 80-foot gap will close and the longest concrete arch in the Western Hemisphere will be complete.

The union will mark a major milestone in the nine-year construction of the Hoover Dam bypass bridge, scheduled to open in late 2010.

But even incomplete, the overpass, officially known as the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, evokes a sense of wonder. Towering columns perch on naked rock. The arch is held by tendons of steel cable…

The $114 million bridge project has been a challenge. Accidents delayed it by two years and claimed one life, as workers battled intense heat, dangerously high winds and perilous heights…

Work crews had to build foundations for the arches midway up two sheer cliff faces, hundreds of feet above the river.

Temperatures as high as 120 degrees strain workers and heat up wet concrete. Crews use liquid nitrogen to keep the concrete cool so blocks don’t develop fatal cracks.

[Nevada side of the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge under construction at the Hoover Dam. Taken May 3, 2009 by squeaks2569]

Flexible concrete

flexible self-healing concreteI try to avoid doing posts that just go along the lines of “hey, look – cool invention!”, but I thought flexible self-healing concrete was interesting enough to warrant a bending (arf!) of the rules

A handful of drizzly days would be enough to mend a damaged bridge made of the new substance. Self-healing is possible because the material is designed to bend and crack in narrow hairlines rather than break and split in wide gaps, as traditional concrete behaves.

“It’s like if you get a small cut on your hand, your body can heal itself. But if you have a large wound, your body needs help. You might need stitches. We’ve created a material with such tiny crack widths that it takes care of the healing by itself. Even if you overload it, the cracks stay small,” said Victor Li, the E. Benjamin Wylie Collegiate Professor of Civil Engineering and a professor of Materials Science and Engineering.

Ten kudos points and a Futurismic gold star to the first commenter with either a potential disaster scenario involving flexible concrete, or a design-fiction repurposing of it. Go! [via Technovelgy]