Best of the Build Smart Blog 2015

Since launching our Build Smart Blog in February, we’ve enjoyed sharing the most unbelievable feats of engineering and innovation in the AEC industry. We’ve written about some of the most talented designers, engineers, architects, trade partners and visionary owners in the business and are amazed by how much they accomplished in 2015.

Highlighting everything from carbon-capturing concrete to a 3D-printed bridge in Amsterdam and Elon Musk’s Hyperloop, we have never been more excited about the future of construction. As we get ready to ring in 2016 we are taking stock of this year’s posts.

Before we sign off for the year, we’d like to share five of our favorite posts from 2015 that you might’ve missed:

1. Hardly a day at the beach: Building an underground parking garage on the Atlantic Shore: The first ever post on the Build Smart Blog dives deep below Miami’s shallow water table to tell the story of an underground parking garage that sits right on the ocean. This is unheard of in South Florida.

2. Harnessing solar energy with windows: By far one of our favorite posts this year was the story of companies turning windows into solar panels. Imagine if One World Trade Center in New York was basically a giant solar panel. How cool is that?

3. California water crisis spurs innovation: All the news media coverage of the drought in California this past summer got us thinking about what the construction industry can do to help. Turns out a lot. Our video about the benefits of using a membrane bioreactor to recycle water within a building is a good start.

4. Lean like Duggan: With the 17th Annual Lean Construction Institute Congress being held right in our backyard this year, we decided to highlight one of our trade partners that has fully embraced Lean manufacturing. E.M. Duggan is a lean, mean prefabrication machine. See for yourself.

5. The sky’s the limit for maglev elevators: For our money, the most exciting innovation to take a major leap forward in 2015 was maglev elevators. We posted about the unveiling of a 1:3 scale model of these cable-free elevators last month, but in May our intrepid writer, Dan Antonellis, explored this groundbreaking technology in full.

We look forward to another amazing year of innovations in the construction industry. You can share your innovations with us in the comment section below or email them to Justin Rice at jrice@suffolk.com.

Happy New Year!

Watch: 3D printed bridge in Amsterdam

It’s not yet feasible or cost effective to erect a 20-story building with a 3D printer, but printing a bridge is certainly a good start.

A Dutch startup is close to completing that exact feat.

MX3D will use its specialized printer to build a steel footbridge across an Amsterdam canal. Robotic arms will essentially draw 3D metal in midair to create a steel structure. If you can’t wrap your head around that right now, check out this video: 

Mounted with specially developed welding heads, the robots could be positioned in one of two ways on the bridge. One scenario would place two robots on the same side of the bridge but on opposite sides of the footpath. Alternatively, the robots could be placed at opposite banks and meet in the middle like the kiss scene in The Lady and the Tramp. The robots could print their own support structures as they move along or they could be mounted on moored barges in the canal.

“The final strategy has yet to be decided,” MX3D Co-founder and CTO Tim Geurtjens told us via email. “We will most likely reveal the final location of the bridge next month.”

The effort is a collaboration with Autodesk, the Dutch construction firm Heijmans and the Swiss robotics maker ABB.

Check out this story in The Economist for more information and see a collage of MX3D’s photos below.