Remote-control vehicles keep construction workers out of harm’s way

indexRemember the remote-control truck you had as a kid? You could barge into the sand box, toggle your way back out, crash unexpectedly and reverse just as quickly, all while staying out of harm’s way. Today, construction workers have the option to use remote-control equipment from outside the cab, so they can do dangerous work more safely and efficiently.

The latest advancement in these wireless technologies is a collaboration between Caterpillar and TORC Robotics known as RemoteTask. Made available for purchase in North America this month, the remote-control system operates several Cat machines from up to 1,000 feet away.

RemoteTask provides a health benefit by giving workers the opportunity to stand up and walk around, rather than sitting in a vehicle’s cab for hours on end. But the biggest benefit is that it can prevent injuries by removing the operator from the machine while keeping control in their hands.

It’s important to note that remote-control vehicles could give operators a false sense of safety. But there are several types of accidents that would be less damaging to the operator if the driver is not in the cab. The most common hazard is toppling over while working around trenches or on a steep slope. There’s also the danger of a load-bearing wall falling on a vehicle working in a trench or inside a room. Falling debris, materials or infrastructure such as concrete slabs or steel beams could also crush the cab, killing or badly injuring the driver.

Approximately 100 employees are fatally injured and approximately 95,000 employees are injured every year while operating powered industrial trucks according to OSHA. 

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New York’s tallest modular, micro-apartment building meets Manhattan’s housing needs

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Carmel Place is located at 335 East 25th Street in the Kips Bay neighborhood of New York City.

Modular construction is by no means new to New York City. Neither are small apartment units (see: 90-square foot apartment)But Carmel Place is proof that modular and micro-unit construction can be successfully rolled into one building in the middle of Manhattan.

The $17 million, nine-story structure slated to open in February will be the city’s tallest modular building and first apartment complex comprised entirely of micro unitsBut unlike older buildings with funky apartment layouts wrapped around airshafts and dumbwaitersthe Monadnock Development project maximizes the efficiency of its tiny quarters by being the first micro building in the city built with modern design in mind.

“And by modern design I mean having simple things like an adequate amount of electrical outlets in the room,” Tobias Oriwol of Monadnock Construction told us, “or big, clean walls to put a TV on and space for a queen-size bed or dining room table. Our units are small but comfortable and easily furnishable, which is something that is unique in the city.”

The 55-unit project formally known as My Micro NY will offer market-rate rents ranging from $2,650 to $3,150 for apartments with an average of 304-square-feet.

A 750-square-foot one-bedroom apartment in New York City currently rents for approximately $3,400.

Courtesy nARCHITECTS/Ledaean

Micro units in Carmel Place feature a living space, kitchen and bathroom. Twenty-five of the units come furnished, complete with a Murphy bed. (Photo courtesy nARCHITECTS/Ledaean)

Designed by nARCHITECTS, the building has several common areas such as a gym, small lounge, community room, shared roof terrace, bicycle and tenant storage and an outdoor garden. Most of the floor plans in Carmel Place feature about 240-square-feet of open living space as well as a 30-square-foot bathroom and 30-square-foot vestibule. Twenty-five units come furnished complete with the Murphy bed-sofa combo seen below.

“Much of the project focuses on livability of a space despite size limitations,” nARCHITECTS Designer Tony Saba-Shiber told us via email, “and maximizing usable area through intelligent and efficient design.”

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Transformable apartments maximize limited space

Imagine rearranging your living space so you can throw a dinner party for 20 of your friends in the same room where you normally sleep. Or transforming your cozy home office into an elaborate home theater for family movie night. And doing all of that with just the wave of your hand or the sound of your voice.       

The home or apartment unit you are living in today, with defined rooms, static walls and immovable appliances, may soon become a thing of the past. Innovative urban planning experts and researchers are designing and prototyping new “transformable” units that will maximize limited square-footage and allow people to easily personalize their space layouts for their changing needs. Transformable units could soon become popular in cities that are facing affordable housing crises and “brain drain” because residential square footage is limited and far too expensive for working class families and young prospective talent.

In many cities such as Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami the limited inventory of available residential units are either the most expensive and spacious units or the units that are too compact to accommodate the needs of the people who work and live in town. But there are innovative researchers who believe that size isn’t everything and that the square footage of a residential unit shouldn’t determine its usefulness or value. What if the appeal of a residential unit had nothing to do with the actual size of that unit, but rather the flexibility that space could offer?

Apartment transformations “out of the box”

The Changing Cities team at MIT Media Lab is currently working on a project called CityHome that might just meet that urgent need for housing by helping residents make the most out of the space they can actually afford. CityHome is a slick mechanical box that is roughly the size of a closet and sits inside an apartment. The box stores everything from a bed and dining room table to a cooking range, kitchen surface and closet for extra storage. The CityHome contains all the essential components from various rooms in a traditional apartment unit, all in a single cube.

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