Modernist Houses Galore! [visual candy for architects]

candyDo you like modern architecture?  Is Frank Lloyd Wright someone you wish you could have met?

If so, then you’ll want to check out the new “Masters Gallery” of the North Carolina Modernist Houses (NCMH) group.  With changes and additions announced this week, it’s Gallery is America’s largest open digital archive of Modernist houses, as well as the internationally known Modernist architects who designed them.

Currently, the Gallery showcases over 30 architects with extensive house histories and over 10,000 photos.  The Gallery is extensive and searchable and includes, among many other notables, Frank Gehry and, of course, Frank Lloyd Wright.

To view the NCMH Masters Gallery, go to http://www.ncmodernist.org/ and click on “Masters Gallery” under the Archives listing.   Be careful, though, because NCMH founder and director George Smart, you can spend many addictive hours looking around.  Hey, at least this addiction doesn’t require a trip to the gym afterwords!

 Photo courtesy WikiMedia Commons.

Emergency Bridge Repairs at Bonner Bridge (News Note)

Bonner BridgeThe North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has shut down Bonner Bridge on the Outer Banks this week due to emergency safety concerns.  The life safety issues were discovered after routine sonar scanning identified excessive scouring (i.e., sand erosion) on the support structures of the bridge.

The bridge, erected in 1963, is the only road over Oregon Inlet, so the NCDOT is providing extended ferry service during the bridge repairs, which could take as long as 90 days.

The Bonner Bridge has been slated for replacement for several years following damage from Hurricane Irene, but legal challenges from environmental groups as to the location of the replacement have prevented DOT from breaking ground on a $215.8 million repair contract.

As of midday on Friday, December 6th, NCDOT engineers report the following:

· The dredge is on location and the anchors are set.

·  The crew has been developing ideas on alternate discharge pattern/configurations etc.

·  The Army Corps of Engineers 404 & DENR Water Quality Permits are issued.

·  Permit modification for enlarged discharge area to allow flexibility in using the tides & attack angles to assist in filling scour holes has just been issued.

To follow the dredging and emergency repair efforts, go to the NCDOT website and Facebook pages.

To read the positions and concerns of the environmental groups related to the bridge replacement, go to the Southern Environmental Law Center’s webpage.

Your turn:  Now that the bridge is back in the news, what is your opinion as to where the replacement bridge should be located?  Do the environmental groups’ contentions have merit?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Photo (c) Smkybear.

Why One World Trade Center is the World’s Most Expensive Project (guest post)

One World Trade CenterToday, we have a *very* informative guest post by Mike Freiberg.  Mike is a staff writer for HomeDaddys, a resource for stay-at-home dads, work-at-home dads, and everything in between. He’s a handyman, an amateur astronomer, and a tech junkie, who loves being home with his two kids. He lives in Austin.

It isn’t the biggest, or the flashiest—but it’s definitely the priciest

The new One World Trade Center (or Freedom Tower)  has been a difficult project to get moving since it was announced nearly twelve years ago. Numerous architects and dozens of possible designs were considered, and ultimately scrapped, as the project underwent one reinvention after another. The project was finally completed May 10th of this year, rising to a symbolic 1,776 feet, and running up a bill of just under $4 billion—making it (by far) the most expensive skyscraper ever built.

For comparison, the Burj Khalifa, currently the tallest building in the world, dwarfs One WTC by over 1,000 feet, and is much more lavishly appointed—but was built for less than half the price ($1.5 billion). So where did One World Trade Center’s nearly $4 billion price tag come from?

The world’s first fortress skyscraper

The Freedom Tower designers had to juggle several competing priorities. The tower shouldered a heavy rhetorical burden, as a symbol of fortitude and resilience—but it also had to meet the pragmatic needs of a global financial hub on an extremely valuable piece of real estate. It was a tall order; but by far the most expensive and challenging aspect of Freedom Tower’s design was security—demonstrating that the lessons of the 9/11 attacks would be taken seriously.

From the exterior, One World Trade Center looks like any other skyscraper. Inside, though, it’s built like a tank—and incorporating (and concealing) these features was the greatest source of cost overruns during the tower’s seven-year build. Here are a few of the most impressive innovations.

A towering concrete base

Unlike most skyscrapers, One World Trade Center is set on a 20-story, windowless podium of highly reinforced concrete, built to withstand a 1,500 lb. truck bomb of the type used in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. When completed, the podium will be sheathed in prismatic glass to conceal the blast walls. The podium uses 720,000 cubic feet of “iCrete”, an expensive designer concrete mixture capable of withstanding 14,000 pounds per square inch of pressure—nearly three times the compressive strength of normal high-rise concrete.

A colossal air-quality apparatus

While the exterior is fortified against explosions and impact, designers also considered the threat of biological and chemical attacks, as well as fire, sparing no expense for One World Trade Center’s internal air system. Each stairwell is composed of reinforced concrete, with a separate, pressurized air supply to keep them operational in the event of an emergency.

The building is also dotted with biological and chemical filters and detectors, as well as ventilation shafts that can quickly expel contaminants as soon as they are detected.

Fortified, secure elevator shafts

One World Trade Center’s elevators are encased in three feet of concrete, and serve as an internal “spine” for the building, to prevent collapse in the event that the steel exoskeleton gives way (as it did in the September 11th attacks). The tower contains 71 elevators, none of which have buttons—instead, the car identifies each passenger, and will only bring them to the floor for which they are authorized, at an impressive 23 miles per hour. It remains to be seen how smoothly this system will operate—the building will open late this year.

An integrated security and safety network

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Freedom Tower will feature over 400 closed-circuit surveillance cameras, networked security doors, temperature and air quality monitors, and automated elevators connected via a huge web of shielded communications cables. Security teams will have a constant stream of richly-detailed status reports from across the building, so that even minor problems like electrical failures or a buzzing smoke detector reach security instantaneously. Early on, this security grid will also incorporate airport-style checkpoints and electrified fencing on the tower grounds, but those measures will be phased out after several months of normal operation.

Of course, these mammoth security expenses have been highly controversial—what seems like an appropriate symbol of vigilance to some, manifests paranoia to others—but however you interpret them, it’s not all that surprising that One World Trade Center is now the world’s most expensive skyscraper.

Thanks, Mike, for the detailed information on the newest symbol in the NYC skyline. 

What do you think about the Freedom Tower?  Is it money well spent?  Over-engineered to death?  Share in the comments section, below.

 

LEED Lasts in Latest NC Bill (news note)

stack of woodAs many of you may be aware, the North Carolina legislature was considering a bill that would effectively take away the option of LEED certification for public projects.  In a misguided effort to protect the NC timber industry, the original bill would essentially take away the option of using LEED for public projects.

Thanks to the strong potests from many industry groups, and the great coverage of the issue by Bob Kruhm and the folks at his paper NC Construction News, the NC Senate passed an amended version of House Bill 628 on Monday night that retains the option of LEED certifciation for State construction projects.  Read the full story here.  [For the original bill and other versions, click here].

 

Infrastructure Defects: ASCE’s Report Card (Spoiler: America gets a D+) (news note)

How many bridges do you drive over on your way to work each day?  Probably a bunch, if you have the typical commute of 32 round trip miles per day.  Now, how many of them are *not* structurally sound?  Probably more than you realize.

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has just released its American Infrastructure Report Card.  Overall, the nation scored a miserable overall D+. Here’s the breakdown for the Transportation categories:

        Aviation        D
        Bridges        C+
        Inland Waterways        D-
        Ports        C
        Rail        C+
        Roads        D
        Transit        D

    In the breakout for North Carolina,

  • 2,192 of the 18,165 (12.1%) bridges in North Carolina are considered structurally deficient.
  • 3,296 of the 18,165 (18.1%) bridges in North Carolina are considered functionally obsolete.

The report has a ton of interactive information, including a nation-wide county by county deficient bridges look up, identifying infrastructure defects in detail.  Currently, much of the planned infrastructure improvements is in limbo while the sequester is in effect.  However, our nation’s system of deficient bridges must be a priority.  Will it take another event similar to Minnesota’s I-35 bridge collapse before we fix our nation’s infrastructure?  Let’s hope not.

Your turn.  What are your thoughts about the current infrastructure of America’s roads and bridges?

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