Collier Strong: MIT’s Sean Collier Memorial sets structural-engineering milestone

On March 31, MIT Architecture and Engineering Professor John Ochsendorf orchestrated a chorus of construction workers, students and faculty armed with sensors, monitoring levels and laptops to achieve an engineering feat traditionally reserved for mathematical models and ancient Roman aqueducts. An expert on masonry vaulting structures, Ochsendorf conducted the crew to lower an elaborate scaffolding system supporting a 190-ton granite monument millimeter-by-millimeter.

After eight hours of tedious calibrations, the massive central keystone on the Sean Collier Memorial in Cambridge, Mass. was supported by the force of five half-arches anchoring the structure — an engineering effort as equally head-scratching as the millennia-old Roman vaults. The 11-foot tall monument is a fitting tribute to the MIT police officer killed in active duty after the Boston Marathon bombings two years ago.

The Collier Memorial evokes an open hand covering a fist to not only symbolize strength through unity, but also to create a void underneath the arches that represents the loss of the patrol officer shot by the Boston Marathon bombers. Located on Vasser and Main Streets near the site of Collier’s death, the memorial that features 32 solid granite stones was officially dedicated and opened to the public during a ceremony and picnic on Wednesday, only a year after the project commenced.

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More than just a pretty façade: Innovative terracotta rainscreen comes to life on Fenway apartment building

Boston’s famed Fenway neighborhood might be best known for the city’s hometown nine, but the baseball-centric community is undergoing a building boom that includes six projects under construction and another six already approved by the Boston Redevelopment Authority. Amid the boom, one project sets itself apart from the Fenway field — Viridian Boston  — with an innovative terracotta façade system that bridges the gap between Boston’s old-school-brick buildings and the sleek modern ones sprouting across the city.

About 90 percent of construction waste on this project was recycled or diverted from landfills. Click here to see more of the Viridian’s sustainable stats.

The 21-story apartment building with 10,000 square feet of ground-level retail features Agrob Buchtal’s rainscreen façade noteworthy for its rapid installation, durability, and an enormous selection of colors and design possibilities. The largest project in the United States to feature the Keratwin K20 Engineered Terracotta Façade System, Viridian’s facade has six different panel colors with three different finishes: smooth, grooved and stripy. The nearly 27,000 individual panels have 63 different lengths and were arranged by architect Bruner/Cott & Associates in seemingly random patterns.

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Green like Fenway Park: Viridian Boston sustainable stats

Designed to achieve LEED® Gold in one of the most walk-able and transit-orientated neighborhoods in the city, Viridian Boston will be nearly as green as the grass it overlooks in Fenway Park.

The Viridian features Agrob Buchtal’s Keratwin K20 Engineered Terracotta Façade System, which insulates a building much better than brick and has tiles that rarely have to be replaced. Adding an HT coating to the tiles can also introduce an air-purifying property that breaks down pollution.

“It’s a bit like having a little forest around your building,” said Dave Traino, a sales consultant at CB Products, Buchtal’s U.S. rep. “For every 10,000 square feet on the building it’s like having 60 or 70 trees around it providing fresher air.”

So in honor of Earth Week, here are the most sustainable attributes of Viridian Boston by the numbers:


Shower/changing room for employees who bike or jog to work instead of driving


Charging stations for electric cars


Percent of projected reduction in actual energy usage compared to a building built with required energy standards


Percent of reduction in post-development site runoff


Percent of reduction in water use due to ultra low-flow faucets, toilets and showerheads


Roughly the percent of construction waste recycled or otherwise diverted from landfills


Bike spaces in the underground garage in addition to a dozen bike racks outside the building on Boylston Street

Source: Bruner/Cott & Associates LEED & Sustainable Design Consultant Erica Downs

“Cocoon” wraps construction sites in safety

With the Prudential Center and John Hancock building on the horizon, 90 to 100 construction workers briskly built the superstructure for the 21st floor of the luxury tower that is filling the former crater at Boston’s famed Filene’s site. The crew installed reinforcing steel, formwork and raised heavy materials as an air-horn’s sporadic blast warned workers to look out for a giant crane hoisting loads overhead.

Despite being a hair-raising 280 feet above ground, the team worked as confidently and efficiently as if they were on the ground. Their sense of safety is provided by a series of steel mesh screens wrapping the Millennium Tower Boston like a Christmas present. The giant yellow apparatus bordering their workspace is the ultimate safety tool for high-rise construction projects.

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Nicknamed the “cocoon” and manufactured by Peri-USA, the Lightweight Protection System, or LPS, is slotted into a rail system that allows the panels to rise with the building — protecting construction crews as well as their materials and tools from falling overboard. Its mesh design allows natural light to illuminate work areas while protecting workers from the elements. Continue Reading ›

Leading safety indicators

As Massport’s safety manager in the mid 2000s, Gary Cunningham had a rough introduction to the burgeoning world of analytics.

Cunningham, who started working as Suffolk Construction’s National Safety Director almost two years ago, couldn’t wrap his head around the idea of a “leading indicator” as opposed to a “lagging indicator.” The terminology first came up when a Massport business analyst named Scott Milam asked him how Massport’s new executive director should judge Cunningham’s performance.

“I said to him ‘Injury experience of course,’” Cunningham recalled recently. “He said ‘No that’s a lagging indicator. An injury has already taken place. He wants leading indicators.’ This is going to sound stupid today, but honest to God I met with him like six times and he must have thought I was the stupidest person he ever met. He would say ‘No, no I’m looking for leading indicators, what are the things before an injury takes place that tell you if somebody is working safely.’”

“I couldn’t grasp it. I could not get it.”

Eventually Cunningham had an epiphany.

“I finally got it,” he said. “I thought ‘Oh my gosh he’s talking about what are the things that I can see up front that tell me if a contractor is safe?’ I swear it was like opening the fridge and the light went on.”

Ever since Cunningham has been a self-described numbers zealot. And when he arrived at Suffolk in January 2013 he implemented the one-of-a-kind Safe Contractor Observing Tracking system known as SCOT. Cunningham said he originally wanted to call it a SPOT check before his colleague Mike Lindblom convinced him it should be SCOT since it’s about contractors.

“It’s purely coincidence,” Cunningham said of the SCOT system sharing Scott Milam’s name. “The circle is unbroken.”

Nevertheless, SCOT tracks leading indicators of safety such as wearing hard hats, safety glasses and high visibility vests that allow Cunningham to determine not only how safe a subcontractor is, but also how well they perform overall. Cunningham said there’s a direct correlation to safety and performance.

“If you can’t do those very basic things on safety, then you are not going to do well on the more challenging esoteric things,” he said. “There are a handful of things that, in general, can tell you if it’s a good sub or not. And there’s a loose correlation between SCOT scores and injuries experience. We find the subs that do better on their SCOT scores have fewer injuries and the subs that do poorly on the SCOT score have a lot of injuries.”

“Again, it’s a little wrinkle that not everybody does.”

The implementation of the SCOT system has put Suffolk’s overall safety score trending in a positive direction.

“Last year we had a really great year,” Cunningham said. “We reduced injuries year over year by 40 percent, which is really significant.”

Cutting concrete’s carbon footprint

Emitting up to five percent of man-made carbon dioxide on earth, the cement industry is the second largest greenhouse gas emitter worldwide behind power generation. So it stands to reason that finding a more sustainable alternative to standard concrete, which typically contains 10 to 15 percent cement, could have far reaching impacts.

A groundbreaking company based in Halifax, Canada has done just that. CarbonCure Technologies has developed a proprietary technology that allows concrete manufacturers to produce a concrete that sequesters waste carbon dioxide during the manufacturing process to reduce emissions by about 10 to 15 percent on average.

Let that sink in for a second: a concrete that captures carbon dioxide. Continue Reading ›