Thursday, February 26, 2015

Looking for spectacular new holiday destinations? How about visiting world’s first city built in a glacier?

There are few places on earth, where the population feels so connected to their natural environment. Iceland is one of these places. This country counting only 320,000 Icelanders surviving and thriving in a land like no other, blessed with jaw dropping natural splendour and unique features, has a reputation for pioneering, innovation and creativity. Among these innovations there is an interesting construction/excavation project going on over in Iceland right now: an artificial tunnel and cave complex being dug into the Langjökull Glacier- Europe’s second’s largest glacier.
In 2010, one of Iceland’s leading consulting engineering firms had an idea, that resonated with some of Iceland’s most experienced adventure tour operators.  They had a bold and daring vision, to take people not just around, but also inside the heart of the remote and extraordinary glacier ice cap, to see the magnificent “blue ice” which is buried deep beneath the surface. Bringing tourists nearly 100 feet below the surface of the glacier, the structure is expected to become semi-permanent, lasting through the summer months for years to come.

When complete, the publicly accessible infra-glacial facility will consist of numerous nooks and dens which will house exhibitions, information, restaurants and even a small chapel for those who would like to marry deep within an ice cap.

The so-called "Icecave" is set to open later this year, and is not far from Reykjavik. For now, its entrance consists only of some understated plywood framing. But tunnels, bays, and side chambers are currently under construction, being chipped down by excavation equipment and drills, and then further shaped by hand tools.  Lights are now being installed in the walls, giving the place an otherworldly glow that comes from within the structure itself.

Meanwhile, huge ducts like something out of a frozen warehouse cross the frozen ceilings and extend deeper into the glacier.

The Ice Cave Iceland tour

Glacial ice is made up of compacted snow that has fallen over thousands of years. Visitors to the attraction will see stripes of subtly different coloured layers of ice that represent different periods of snowfall.

Whiter layers formed when the weather was particularly cold, because air was trapped within the ice crystals, which is reflective. Layers that are darker or bluer in colour were created by snowfall in warmer or wet conditions when little air was trapped in the snow.

The weight of the snow build-up compressed the layers and the air trapped within them, causing ice at the heart of a glacier to appear a brilliant blue.

Tourists visiting the attraction will see large caves beneath the glacier, the beautiful blue ice and will also be able to sit inside man-made rooms with ice furniture.

People embarking on the tour will travel up the glacier to the ice cave, on eight-wheel drive super trucks. Tours will run between March and October depending on the weather.

While there are other natural caves in Icelandic glaciers, they are seasonal, forming in warmer months and lasting in winter.

Monday, February 23, 2015

X-ray of Green Court Bucharest Office Complex

Location: North of Bucharest, 12 Gara Herastrau Street

  •   3 modern office buildings
  • 12 floors above the ground
  •   52,000 sqm of leasable space
  • 837 underground parking spaces

Developer: Skanska Development Romania

Infrastructure and structure contractor for buildings A & B: Octagon Contracting & Engineering under Skanska Construction Romania

Developer’s testimonial about the contractor:
Skanska Construction appointed Octagon as construction partner for foundation and structural works on the Green Court Bucharest.  The cooperation was excellent and Octagon performed the works professionally and diligently meeting all of our expectations in terms of health and safety, quality and delivery time.” says Richard Burleigh, Country Manager, Skanska Construction Romania.

Biggest challenges faced by the contractor:
“The biggest challenge in the execution of this project was meeting the deadline, which was very tight.  But despite the schedule constraints, which were also amplified by technical issues that are unavoidable in any project, we managed to focus on our main targets and deliver the works on time.“ says Max Ene- OCTAGON’s  project manager for Green Court Bucharest.

Construction works performed by OCTAGON:
  • Concrete works for infrastructure and superstructure of building A (3B+ GF+ 11F)
  • Excavation;
  • Diaphragm walls D 600;
  • Anchorages;
  •  Infrastructure works for building B;
  • Concrete works for the superstructure of building B (3B + GF+ 11F)

GREEN features:
  • energy efficient façade with high performance which reduces solar heat gains, the building’s heating up being significantly limited;
  • natural daylight- over 75% of the building space has access to the daylight. Automatic lighting control system adjusts the lights according to the intensity of outside light resulting into lower energy consumption;
  • containers for segregated waste;
  •  solar panels- located on the roof of the building, used for domestic hot water;
  • electrical plug- in for cars

Estimated benefits:
  •  Lower utility bills- 50% less water consumed
  • A healthier, more productive workplace-  30% more fresh air in the office
  • More efficient lighting- 32% less energy consumed
OCTAGON’s staff involved in the construction of buildings A & B: 160 people.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Tired of noisy neighbours? Move to a building with green walls!

An emerging trend in green design, consisting in vertically sprawling gardens of green is springing to life across the world on the exteriors of skyscrapers, in hotel lobbies, office reception areas and more. Aesthetics is the main reason why building owners are so keen on following this trend: living green walls are a sure way to enhance a building’s visuals with life-renewing greenery. They also improve air quality as the plants work as a natural air-filtration system.

But besides the aesthetic benefits have you ever thought that wall comprising plants could be used as acoustic insulation? Researchers have concluded that green walls offer great potential for absorbing noise, but do not deny the fact that they can be both costly and difficult to maintain.

Living walls are made up of plant modules: the plants are inserted into polyurethane boxes and are maintained by means of organic irrigation, in other words, they are fed and watered by means of a system similar to the hydroponic one used in greenhouses. It is not easy to grow plants this way or to insert them into a wall.

A noise absorption test was carried out in a reverberation chamber - a chamber the walls of which are fitted with materials that reflect noise of the same type in all directions- using a range of frequencies. Green walls have thus been found to perform very well in high as well as low frequencies with respect to noise reduction, whereas other materials used in buildings only perform well at either high or low frequencies.

The way green walls may behave as acoustic insulation was also studied: plant modules were fitted onto a laboratory wall and the level of noise insulation was measured. The conclusion reached was that with some slight improvements, like increasing the mass of the modules or covering the space between them, the system can be made more effective and, as a result, the green walls could be suitable for acoustic insulation.

Improved air quality

Living green walls are natural air-filters, creating a cleaner, more invigorating environment. People are often exposed to air toxins in their work or living environment such as formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and benzene. Living green walls metabolize harmful toxins while releasing oxygen into the workplace air, much like plants but on a much larger scale.

Protect building façades

Green wall systems can help to protect a building’s façade and extend its life, acting as an effective shield to heavy rain and hail and helping to protect from the damaging effects of UV light.

Moreover, in areas where graffiti is a potential problem, green walls can act as an effective deterrent, making the application of graffiti to the building structure almost impossible.

Energy cost reduction

The interior and exterior living green walls function to cool the air in the warmer summer months by a process known as “evapotranspiration.” A green wall used on appropriate elevations can reduce energy costs by both providing an additional layer of insulation in the winter (keeping heat in) and acting as a screen to the sun in the summer (keeping the building cool).

Exterior living green walls can reduce wall surface temperatures by as much as 50 degrees °F, according to researchers, resulting in significant energy savings and air conditioning costs.

Earning green certification points

The installation of living green walls can earn buildings Green Certification points which, in turn helps to increase a property’s value by creating a favorable perception of a structure with an improved carbon footprint.

They provide a greener image of towns and cities, improve the life quality of citizens, save energy, increase biodiversity, control rainwater, to lessen city noise and minimize waste and pollution. Besides they are attractive and cool. It is true that they are not exactly cheap to build and maintain, but with so many benefits, would you still mind paying an extra buck to live in a building with at least one green wall?

Friday, February 6, 2015

Self-healing concrete aims at turning potholes into relics of the past

How many times did you get angry or even worse, take your car to the garage for expensive repairs caused by potholes? The answer is most probably: too many times. The good news is that potholes could soon become a relic of the past due to futuristic plans to produce self-healing concrete.

Self-healing concrete
The development of self- healing concrete is also aimed at improving the durability of structures and eliminating the endless traffic jams caused by manual repairs to structures. Structures made of self-healing concrete have an inherent healing mechanism that becomes active when a crack appears, thus rendering manual crack repair completely obsolete.

Scientists are experimenting with various groundbreaking new materials to find the ideal formula for to solve this issue.

Self- healing concrete
PU precursors have shown great potential

For the efficient healing of cracked concrete, the use of encapsulated PU-based precursors has already shown great potential. So far, results have shown a good regain in mechanical behavior and liquid-tightness. In proof-of-concept tests, glass tubes were used as encapsulation material. 

However, to up-scale the technique and make it compatible with conventional concrete production and placing methods, polymeric spherical microcapsules would be more suitable. Therefore, research is ongoing to optimize the encapsulation technique. Moreover, PU-based precursors are adapted to increase the resistance of the healing agents to cyclic loading, so that also the healing of dynamic cracks can be considered.

Using sunlight to fix concrete cracks

Researchers have demonstrated a sunlight-induced, self-healing protective coating designed to fix cracks on the surface of concrete structures before they grow into larger ones that compromise structural integrity.

The new coating contains polymer microcapsules, filled with a solution that, when exposed to light, turns into a water-resistant solid. The idea is that damage to a coated concrete surface would cause the capsules to break open and release the solution, which then would fill the crack and solidify in sunlight.

Bacteria as healing agent

Also bacteria can be used as healing agent.  Scientists are experimenting with the groundbreaking new material, which uses special bacteria to plug gaps and cracks opened up by bad weather.

Researchers at the University of Bath, Cardiff University and the University of Cambridge created the concrete blend, which is full of bacteria hidden in tiny capsules. As soon as water seeps into a crack, the bacteria quickly burst out their cases and produce limestone, sealing the gap up before it can widen and become a pothole.

Lower CO2 emissions and 50% lower costs

The scientists believe the technique could vastly increase the life of concrete, remove the need for repairs, and reduce costs by up to 50%.

Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere would be lower because there would be no need to constantly replace roads. More than 7% of the world’s CO2 emissions are due to cement production.