A concrete example

30 January, 2008

There’s an article in the current issue of New Scientist about this fantastic new type of concrete being made right here in ol’ Melbourne town.

It is essentially concrete without Portland cement. The stuff is called ‘e-crete’ (my goodness words with randomly added e’s at the beginning annoy me) and it is made by a company called Zeobond. Instead of regular cement it uses fly ash or mineralogical slags for the required bonding of the concrete. The problem with cement is that to make it you need to cook the hell out of limestone (calcium carbonate), which not only requires a huge amount of energy, but the chemical reaction that occurs when you cook the limestone results in not only the quicklime (calcium oxide) that you need for the cement, but carbon dioxide, which as well all know is a greenhouse gas.

Cement production worldwide accounts for about 4-5% of total man made greenhouse gas emissions. For each kilogram of cement produced, approximately 800 grams of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere with the majority of this, about 500 grams, coming from the actual chemical reaction itself and the rest from fossil fuels used to provide the heat to drive the reaction.

But the Zeobond stuff uses geopolymers (like fly ash) instead of Portland cement, which don’t release anywhere near the amount of carbon dioxide and don’t require heating either, hurrah!

Unfortunately you can’t specify this for a slab just yet. At the moment e-crete is only able to be used in non-structural applications. Still, it’s something to look out for in the (hopefully near) future.

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Carfeul with the flashing kids…

28 November, 2007

So I’m sure we’ve all heard about the whole MIT-sues-Gehry-because-their-building-is-leaking shamozzle, but apparently it is a bit of a beat up.

mit

According to none other than Bill Mitchell however: “It was all about insurance, of course, an uninteresting wrangle over how to pay to fix some routine construction problems that inevitably arose in a large, ambitious and complex building.”

Importantly he points out that MIT are happy with the design, because several crusty old and not-so-old curmudgeons have been opportunistically using this incident to get stuck into Gehry’s design and have a big old “I don’t like it” whinge.

There is of course always the possibility that the efflorescence and cracking are the fault of the engineer or contractor. I remember reading that Steven Holl used the construction of the Pratt Institute as a teaching exercise for the archi students there, notably making a point of getting local and Canadian contractors to provide concrete and showing all of the students the difference between them. The local contractor’s concrete was pretty bad, so I wonder if this says something about the quality of construction in the north east USA?

Then again, perhaps it was all due to a badly written contract, shouldn’t responsibility for rectification be sorted out before building goes ahead?? Who knows, but I’m feeling a pull to get back to that box gutter I’m working on…


Material Girl.

12 November, 2007

Went to lunch the other day with my girlfriend who writes for one of Australia’s national daily newspapers with a readership of around 800,000. She told me of her frustration in trying to get an interview with Cassy No-undies. Well at least Cassy admits to not wearing underwear (is this why she got the job off Sam?) which is more than I can say for a lot of male architects. I mean can you imagine what kind of undies Tom Kovac or Godawfullsell wear? And what about Allen Powell (is he still alive?)? I can just see him lolling about in a leopard skin g-string. Of course, down at Hassel’s South Park boxer shorts are all the rage. Me…well I prefer my male architects to keep it simple….anyway I digress so back to the Rhinogoss: After repeated calls to Cassies’ gorgeous male “assistants” not much really happened and my friend was increasingly frustrated and about to give up. All she wanted was to interview Cassy about her work and to promote architecture in general in a national daily. It really upset my friend because as she says “when Cassie was an unknown and starving RMIT graduate (and a not a very good one at that) she was as nice as platypusserypie and all over me to get published.” Amazingly, a few weeks later my journogirlfriend got an email from Cassy stating that she would only do the interview if she could be paid for it. So at what rate does Cassy charge herself out as? Unbelievably, her asking rate is $500 an hour. That’s a lot of lingerie even if you don’t wear undies. It makes me think that there is a lesson here for other woman of negligible talent ( I mean really…lets face facts that platypussery at Healesville is truly awfull..I mean whats the thing about oversized steel members ) is too just have oodles of girly charm, premium price your services and forget to wear your undies at the RAIA awards nights.

Of course the real moral of this sad story of material greed is to return phone calls to people who were generous enough to help you out when you didn’t have a job in the office.


Crap construction

24 September, 2007

Apparently a hell of a lot of newly built apartments/profit generating souless boxes popping up all over the place are in fact as badly built as they look.