Ned Trainor has been telling us about his product information and submittals website BuildSite.com for several years and it seems to keep getting better. With information on more than 20,000 products (primarily materials rather than equipment or tools), BuildSite is a great source for product data sheets, MSDS, and product comparisons. This information can be assembled on the website for use in contract submittals. BuildSite recently introduced new software that allows easier access via mobile devices. “We believe in ‘BIM to field’ and know that mobile is the platform of the future for construction,” says Trainor.
We’ve heard of self-consolidating concrete and even self-curing concrete, but now some researchers in Belgium and the Netherlands are working on biological self-healing concrete. This process starts with bacterial spores embedded in the concrete with calcium lactate or urea. When cracks develop in the concrete, the bacteria are exposed to water and oxygen and begin to metabolize the calcium lactate or urea into calcium carbonate (limestone), which fills the cracks and prevents moisture intrusion. Other researchers at the University of Michigan have developed self-healing concretes that rely on strictly chemical processes with extra portland cement.
We always enjoy the really creative tools and materials. In some cases, they don’t pan out, but sometimes they do. For example, at the World of Concrete a few years ago, I bought a CreteSheet (www.cretesheet.com)—a plastic sheet with handles on the corners used to mix up a single bag of concrete. My wife and I used it to mix concrete for some little footings for a shed I was building. It worked like a charm! Another new device I saw recently is the Elephant Trunk 2000 (www.concreteplusandaccessories.com): a rubber device with handles that is attached to the end of a concrete truck chute and used to direct the flow of concrete. Clever, safe, and hopefully time saving, too.
David Shepard, director of sustainable development at the Portland Cement Association, Skokie, Ill., recently told us about two new ultra-efficient federal government buildings using concrete: the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) Research Support Facility and NASA’s Sustainability Base.
The NREL’s Golden, Colo.-based building includes a concrete labyrinth in the basement that captures the heat of the day or the cool of the night and slowly releases or absorbs thermal energy to maintain the building’s temperature. “As the air goes through the maze, there’s greater contact with the mass—thousands of tons of concrete,” says NREL’s project manager Eric Telesmanich.
NASA’s Moffat, Calif., building is the ultimate in earth-based spaceships, conserving every conceivable bit of heat and using concrete cladding for the external shell. “If so much of our audience claims to disdain concrete for its environmental footprint,” says Shepard, “what do these rocket scientists know that the architecture world doesn’t?”