Best of the Build Smart Blog 2016

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Before we pop the bubbly and close the book on year two of the Build Smart Blog, let’s take a look back at some of our favorite posts of 2016. In case you missed them the first time around, here are five stories that captured our imagination, revealing ways that tomorrow’s built environment might take shape, and delving into the advances in architecture, engineering and construction that make these visions attainable.

Super Bowl shuffle: Stadiums of the future will feature interactive and civic spaces: Putting the brakes on your tailgate party to go watch the game? So early 21st century. Future fans will enjoy tailgating inside the stadium. That stadium, by the way, will expand and contract depending on the size of the event, for year-round use.

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Office space of tomorrow: Millennials and “accidental encounters” drive future of office design: Say goodbye to static rows of cubes. Open plans, smart technology, and greater attention to collaboration and wellness are driving changes in the corporate workplace. What does this mean for designers and builders?

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Throwback Thursday: Turning the first sod: For a new twist on an old ceremony, Suffolk set the bar high with its “virtual groundbreaking.” But what’s the story behind groundbreakings? When we dug into it (no pun intended), we discovered the ancient roots and colorful past of this familiar construction tradition.

MIT students win Hyperloop competition: Elon Musk’s audacious Hyperloop—a magnetic transit system taking passengers between Los Angeles and San Francisco in 35 minutes—will require a massive infrastructure build. And when it comes to making the Hyperloop train go, the smartest engineers in the room might be a team of students from MIT.

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High-tech timber erected at UMass: This ain’t your great-grandfather’s wood construction. Cross-laminated timber makes for a building that is sustainable, fire resistant, and versatile. See why this story remains one of our most popular.

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We look forward to bringing you more stories about cool stuff happening in the construction industry in 2017! Got your own story ideas? Send them to Patrick L. Kennedy at PKennedy@suffolk.com.

MIT celebrates 100 years of innovation in Cambridge

Recently, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology celebrated the 100th anniversary of its move from the original MIT campus in Copley Square in Boston across the Charles River to Cambridge. The elaborate day-long ceremony was complete with fireworks, music, artistic performances, mobile art sculptures, robots and a quirky procession (over land and water) that pitted 30 teams against each other to see who could come up with the best parade contraption based on creativity, speed and MIT spirit.

But the eccentric party was about paying tribute to MIT’s spirit of innovation and invention as much as it was about recognizing its campus move across the Charles River back in 1916. But most importantly, the celebration was also an opportunity for school officials, alumni, students, inventors and citizens of the surrounding communities to recognize the incredible impact this prestigious institution has had on the region. And the world.

To acknowledge this historic milestone for MIT, in this post we celebrate one of the most groundbreaking inventions in construction, which was first conceived and tested on MIT’s Cambridge campus — reinforced concrete.

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Arguably, MIT’s most enduring construction invention was its development of reinforced concrete, which is concrete embedded with wire mesh andiStock_000017471545_Medium
steel bars to dramatically increase its strength. In fact, reinforced concrete was first tested and implemented on the MIT Cambridge campus during the construction of some of its earliest buildings, which means the campus itself was an active and operational incubator for ingenuity and ideation.

Before MIT inventors conceived this brilliant idea, buildings relied on masonry-bearing arches with steel infill that couldn’t hold much weight, relegating buildings to only five stories in height.

“Reinforced concrete changed all that,” said Gary Tondorf-Dick, program manager for Facilities’ Campus Planning, Engineering and Construction Group. “MIT architects and engineers were basically leading the design of this new type of concrete. It was perfected in the implementation of these buildings. It evolved in the 1920s and 1930s and was architecturally reinforced in the 1950s and 1960s. It was all designed here.”

This one invention helped open the door to the high rises and skyscrapers we see in cities throughout the world today. And the reality is that reinforced concrete hasn’t evolved or been improved much since the original concept was unveiled, which is yet another tribute to the thoughtful and innovative solutions that have been shared by the MIT community.

“MIT is about innovation and it’s a campus built for innovations,” said Tondorf-Dick. “There’s a whole series of MIT innovations that involve construction and the evolution, design and engineering of future construction materials that will change the industry.”

Look for more construction innovations coming out of MIT, including green incandescent light bulbs that conserve energy through “light recycling” and vacuum insulated glass that provides the thermal performance of modern double-glazed windows with the same thickness as a single pane of traditional glass. Stay tuned, and congratulations MIT!

This post was written by Suffolk Construction’s Vice President of Marketing and Communications Dan Antonellis, who can be reached at dantonellis@suffolk.com. Connect with him on LinkedIn here and follow him on Twitter at @DanAntonellis.

MIT students win Hyperloop competition

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In November, we posted a story about SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk’s proposed supersonic transportation network called Hyperloop. This past weekend, Musk’s dream for the Hyperloop took another important step toward becoming a reality.

Elon Musk’s futuristic Hyperloop transportation promises to rocket pods through an above-ground steel tube at speeds of more than 750 miles per hour, allowing passengers to travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco in just 35 minutes. That’s faster than the one-and-a-half hour flight and nearly six-hour drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco. 

But how will these pods actually look and move through the tube, and how will they hit these incredible velocities without their passengers feeling any sensations of speed? Last year, Musk decided to leave these not-so-minor details to some of the world’s most innovative and forward-thinking colleges and universities as he launched a world-wide competition for the best pod design.

The judging took place this past weekend … and we have a winner!

Congratulations to the team of 25 brilliant and innovative students from MIT who took home the first place prize in the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition at Texas A&M University on Sunday.

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MIT’s winning pod design features “a passive magnetic levitation system that incorporates two arrays of 20 neodymium magnets,” according to the team’s website. (Photo courtesy of MIT)

 

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The 25-member MIT team includes students specializing in aeronautics, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and business management. (Photo courtesy of MIT)

The MIT team’s pod design beat out 160 competing teams from 27 universities charged with creating the future capsule for the Hyperloop system. The remainder of the top 5 finishers included Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, University of Wisconsin, Virginia Tech and University of California (Irvine).

“It’s great to see our hard work recognized, and we are excited to have the opportunity to continue to push this technology one step closer to reality,” members of the MIT Hyperloop Team told the Boston Globe.

The judges were impressed by MIT’s 551-pound pod covered in carbon fiber and polycarbonate sheets. Accelerating at 2.4 Gs, the pod is designed to use magnets so it can levitate 15 millimeters above the track as it glides on a cushion of air. A fail-safe braking system was incorporated into the design, “meaning if the actuators or computers fail, the system will brake automatically,” the team wrote on its website.

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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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