Upbrella turns conventional construction on its head

Ever since you started building, you’ve erected buildings from the ground up. Whether it was your first set of Legos or your first high-rise tower, you basically started at the bottom and worked towards the top. It’s hard to imagine that bedrock of conventional construction being turned on its head. It’s hard to imagine reversing that order by installing the roof first, and then erecting the rest of the structure later. It seems crazy. Well, it’s not.

Montreal-based Upbrella Construction is taking exactly that top down approach to building. And their patented system doesn’t just represent a new way of thinking, it’s also safer and more efficient than traditional construction.

Under my Upbrella

Growing up in Montreal, Upbrella Construction founder Joey Larouche was one of those kids building Legos from the ground up. But after working as a mechanical engineer that developed lifts for heavy machinery on automobile assembly lines, he realized those principles could be applied to construction.

“I like to come up with ideas that are simple, can be used very widely in the world and are extremely different from what was being done before,” Larouche told us. “That’s the way I do business.”

So how does Upbrella actually work?

Here’s the high-level explanation: The foundation and first floor of the building are built conventionally. Then the roof is temporarily perched on the columns of that first floor, so it can be raised by a special lifting system as additional floors are constructed. The synchronized lifting system — which features customized hydraulic cylinders similar to elevators — is also used to hoist the individual floors into place

Before a new floor is lifted, its steel structural beams and decking are assembled on top of the previously poured concrete floor. The new floor is then hoisted to its final height so columns can be installed underneath it. Once the floor is raised and resting on its permanent columns, the concrete is poured and cured. It takes less than an hour to lift the floor and roof so that the crew can continue working. The process is repeated until the building’s desired number of floors are completed.

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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!

Lean like Duggan

With the 17th Annual Lean Construction Institute Congress wrapping up last week in Boston, we’ve had Lean on our minds. The following post highlights how Lean was successfully implemented at E.M. Duggan’s prefabrication warehouse in Canton, Mass.

Working for one of the oldest family-run plumbing contractors in the country in the early 1980s, Mike Eakins was brought up in the industry the old school way.

Eakins and his E.M. Duggan colleagues did a lot of housing jobs where equipment and materials were stored in trailers on the jobsite and the last thing loaded into the trailer at the end of the day had to be the first thing unloaded the next morning. Back then, many plumbing systems were assembled on the site before being installed.

“It was a lot of unnecessary work,” Eakins, who is now Duggan’s facilities manager, told us. “That’s just the way that jobs went.”

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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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