Tomorrow's Buildings: Construction industry goes robotic: VIDEO

By Jane Wakefield

The building site of the future is going to look very different to the one we are all used to today.

Instead of men in high-visibility jackets and hard hats, there are going to be drones buzzing overhead, robotic bulldozers and 3D printers churning out new structures.

That at least is the hope of those making technological solutions.

But first they have to convince the traditionally risk-averse construction industry that such change is necessary.

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Listen to Michigan NPR podcast featuring Brindley Byrd's views on bringing new workers into the trades


June 20, 2017

The Michigan Construction Foundation has a smart idea - talk to the audience in the language they understand.

Videos produced by the foundation take familiar pastimes such as gaming and build the messege about construction as a career into the story. Watch:


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Construction of 57 Story NYC Skyscraper That Looks like a Jenga Tower [Timelapse] 

June 20, 2017 Shane Hedmond

Standing 821 feet (250m) in the New York City skyline, the new 57-story residential tower, called 56 Leonard Street, has opened its doors to residents.  The 145 condos that inhabit the high rise range in size from 1,418 square feet to 6,400 square feet and in price from $3.5 million to $50 million.  Amazingly, even with those staggering prices, the developer told the New York Times that 92% of the units had sold in 2013, even though the tower was completed last year.

The architect, Herzog & de Meuron, designed the building to look like individual homes stacked on top of each other, giving the building its Jenga-like qualities. Only 5 of the 145 floor plans were the same, in order to break out of the sense of repetition that most traditional skyscrapers have.

“A careful investigation of local construction methods revealed the possibility of shifting and varying floor-slabs to create corners, cantilevers and balconies – all welcome strategies for providing individual and different conditions in each apartment,” the architect explained on their website.

Construction started on the tower in 2008, but was delayed by the US recession at the time. In 2012, construction began again before being completed in late 2016. 

EarthCam recently released a timelapse video of the construction process, beginning in March 2014 to December 2016, amounting to around 33 months of footage.  You can watch the video below:


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Atomexpo 2017: Amid ebbing popularity, making a case for nuclear sustainability

Rosatom currently has eight reactor units in Russia and 36 nuclear reactors in various stages of planning and construction in more than a dozen countries (the largest internationally) and eight in Russia.

Against the broader global narrative that increasingly points in the direction of a failed ‘nuclear renaissance’, the latest edition of Atomexpo in Moscow offers an emphatic counter. While there may be no denying that nuclear is in trouble, triggered first by the Fukushima incident in Japan and then tumbling natural-gas and solar prices have called into question the economics of nuclear energy itself. The latest sucker punch has come in the form of the fall of some of its pedigreed flagbearers — Toshiba’s recent decision to pull its US nuclear subsidiary Westinghouse out of the construction business, French utility Areva’s struggle with a €10 billion accumulated loss and Exelon, the largest nuclear operator in the US, facing a near 60 per cent drop in its share value compared with its peak in 2008.

In Moscow, at the ninth international nuclear industry forum Atomexpo 2017 that started here on June 19 — an expo of hi-tech solutions and products of over 90 leading international nuclear power enterprises that focus on safety and cost competitiveness — the overarching message was a reaffirmation that the nuclear business is still recession-proof in this part of the world. The forum organised by the Russian state atomic power corporation Rosatom — the largest international expo and business platform in the world — partly reflects the continuing robustness of the Russian nuclear industry that has bucked the downturn across most other geographies. India too is part of the nuclear growth story, considering that it accounted for a tenth of the 10 GW nuclear capacity added globally last year.

Valery Limarenko, the president of JSC Atomstroyexport, which is building the Kudankulam project, indicated that while work is progressing well for setting up a third and fourth reactor units at the coastal Tamil Nadu site. He said the proposed reactors to be set up at the recently signed fifth and sixth units at Kudankulam would be identical to the VVER-1000 units deployed earlier at the site. He also said he expects the Indian side to propose another site where another six reactors can be set up. India had earlier proposed the Haripur site in West Bengal, but the proposal was dropped in light of land acquisition hurdles expected in the state.

The Russian nuclear industry at the expo is represented by over 40 companies under the fold of its umbrella nuclear organisation Rosatom — not surprising considering that it comes at a time when Russia has been working hard on increasing its competitive edge in the nuclear plant construction market through serial production of new reactors across markets, including in India. Rosatom currently has eight reactor units in Russia and 36 nuclear reactors in various stages of planning and construction in more than a dozen countries (the largest internationally) and eight in Russia. These include in Jordan, Hungary, Egypt, Iran, Finland, Turkey and Argentina.

The Russian participants include Rosenergoatom Concern, TVEL Fuel Company of Rosatom, Atomenergomash group and JSC Atomstroyexport while those from abroad include the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, Rolls-Royce of the UK, China National Nuclear Corporation, National Atomic Company Kazatomprom of Kazakhstan, Areva NP and Schneider Electric (both French).

This year, the main focus of the forum is on ‘Nuclear technology – its safety, ecology, stability, with a plenary session on the ‘atom as a basis for zero carbon energy future’. Not surprising, since the biggest threat to nuclear is perhaps not internal but from outside — solar and wind increasing the move towards grid parity that could critically knock off nuclear from its perch as the most viable non-fossil fuel-based ‘green’ option.

For Russia, the expo this year is pretty much a show of strength. This year’s edition is expected to top the economic potential of the agreements and memorandums signed on the sidelines of Atomexpo 2016 worth $10 billion.


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Engineers put brakes on Chinese-Thai rail plan

Thai side demanding technology transfers from China as part of the deal, which junta in Bangkok has vowed to push through via its special powers

19 June, 2017

Laura Zhou

s have demanded technology transfers from China as part of a joint deal to build a high-speed rail line between the two countries, raising uncertainty over the massive project despite the Thai military government pledging to clear away obstacles.

The demand by Thanet Veerasiri, president of the Engineering Institute of Thailand, came after Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, said he would use “special powers” to push the project ahead.

The Thai authorities are having discussions with the engineering institute to speed up implementation of the 250km Thai-Chinese project connecting Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasima.

Thanet said on Sunday that the institute had reservations over some aspects of the deal, Thailand PBS reported.

No Thai engineers are involved in the project, suggesting that there would be no technological transfers from the Chinese engineers to their Thai counterparts, who would be responsible for maintaining the line.

The project has been called off and resumed several times because of disagreements over issues such as cost, investment-sharing and development rights.

Prayuth lead the 2014 military coup in Thailand.

Last week, he said he would invoke Section 44 of the country’s interim charter – a controversial law that allows him to execute any administrative order in the name of national security – to clear away legal restrictions that have delayed the project, the Bangkok Post reported.

Zhou Fangye of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said that by pledging to use such powers, the junta was sending a message to Beijing that it took the rail project seriously, even though it might not be appropriate for Thailand to resort to such an extraordinary measure.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha may not want to approach the upcoming BRIC summit without “concrete progress”, a Chinese expert has said. Photo: Reuters

“In the long run, it is not very appropriate, but this has shown the government’s determination and a political position [motivating it] to push its transport minister to take a broader approach,” Zhou said.

But Zhou said that unless real progress was made to address the hurdles to the rail project, Prayuth’s pledge was only symbolic.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a professor at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, said Thailand hoped the rail line could give it a bigger role in China’s “Belt and Road Initiative”.

A Section 44 order to address five issues that are holding the project back is under draft and will be reviewed by the Thai cabinet.

The five issues include the employment of Chinese architects and engineers, who, under local regulations, would not be allowed to work in Thailand unless they passed an examination to obtain a licence.

A train runs on the Jinshan Yellow River Bridge in north China. Bureaucratic inertia in Bangkok has been partly blamed for problems with a planned high-speed rail link between China and Thailand. Photo: Xinhua

Thailand’s procurement law also requires that any projects costing more than 5 billion baht (HK$1.15 billion) must be scrutinised by a procurement committee before construction starts.

The biggest challenge, however, is building on designated farmland that cannot legally be used for any other purpose.

Some analysts believe invoking special powers could cost the junta government its credibility.

“Many Thais think imposing Section 44, which is tantamount to [using] absolute power without accountability, to please the Chinese, could end up undermining Thailand’s national interest,” Thitinan said.

Additional reporting by Kristin Huang

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TU Eindhoven and BAM team up to 3D print a bicycle bridge, 15 Jun 2017. Photo: Screenshot / YouTube / Royal BAM Group

By Janene Pieters on June 19, 2017

The Technical University in Eindhoven, working with construction company BAM, started 3D printing a bicycle bridge this weekend. The bridge is the first of its kind in the world and is printed with pre-stressed and reinforced concrete, according to NOS.

TU Eindhoven professor Theo Salet called the process very exciting and stressful. "Stressful because the work you do is being put into practice for the first time. It must be safe." He said. "A lot has been done to investigate how the material behaves and how it will behave if it forms a real construction. So this step, from the laboratory to something that is used in practice, is very beautiful, but also stressful."

The structure is printed in parts and put together on site, using a special concrete mortar, Salet explained to NOS. "If you pour normal concrete, it runs away on all sides. That is the intention, so that it spreads well in the mold. But this is very special material. If I lay it down, it stays in place. Compare it with toothpaste or mayonnaise. It does not lose form." That also means that less of the material is used. "The printer puts down much less", the professor said to the broadcaster.

The bridge wil form part of a roundabout at Gemert, which will connect the N605 and the N272.


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RTA flies into action with Volocopter to launch Autonomous Air Taxis in Dubai

The Autonomous Air Taxi has a maximum flight time of 30 minutes and a maximum airspeed of 100km/h

TRANSPORT Monday, June 19, 2017 
Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has signed an agreement with Germany-based Volocopter – a specialist in the manufacture of Autonomous Air Vehicles (AAV) – to launch the first AAV capable of carrying two passengers.

The RTA has also extended the test run period of its first ever manned Autonomous Air Taxi (AAT) developed by Volocopter in order to meet safety and security requirements for this particular type of aerial vehicles. The trial operation of the air taxi will begin in the fourth quarter of 2017.

“The test run of the first Autonomous Air Taxi capable of carrying two passengers is in implementation of the directives of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to transform Dubai into the smartest city worldwide,” said Mattar Al Tayer, Director-General and Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of Roads and Transport Authority (RTA).


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LS Cable wins high-voltage cable contract in Singapore


LS Cable & System Ltd., Korea’s leading cable maker, announced on Monday it has secured a contract to install high-voltage cables in Singapore, the biggest deal ever signed by the company. 

The project, worth 370 billion won ($326.6 million), amounts to nearly 12 percent of the company’s total revenue last year. 

LS Cable said the contract was won on a turnkey basis, meaning the company is responsible for the entire construction from design to completion. 

The Singapore government has currently embarked on a large-scale national power grid project to ensure stable energy supply across the city-state. LS Cable beat out rivals from China and Japan. 

The 230-kilovolt (kV) cables will be installed 60 meters below ground and cover five sections of Singapore by 2020. The underground cable will be as long as 360 km. 

High-voltage cables are cables that run a voltage of up to 66kV, 300 times higher than the standard household voltages of 220V. Currently they have been commercialized up to 550kV. Because of their expensive cost, they are mainly used in transmission substations downtown or near cities. The high entry barrier also makes them a high value-added technology in the cable industry, along with submarine cables. 

LS Cable is also making an aggressive foray into the global market. The company is seeking to expand investment in Myanmar via LS Cable Asia, the current leader in Vietnam’s cable market. It has also established a power cable production unit in the U.S. and a communications cable unit in France.

By Moon Ji-woong


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Brazil-China fund to invest $20 billion in Brazilian infrastructure

Brazil will invest one-third of the money, and China two-thirds

Brazil Business By plus55 on May 16, 2017

A binational Brazil-China fund will invest $20 billion in infrastructure projects. Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the investment project on his visit to Brazil two years ago. The fund originally promised $50 billion in investments, but has since scaled back.

The fund launches May 30th during the Brazil Investment Forum, which brings together CEOs from large international companies. The event will announce the list of 30 projects that will receive backing from the fund.

One such project is the Ferrogrão, or “Grain railway”. The rail will connect the grain production region of Sinop, Mato Grosso to the port of Miritituba, Paraná. In addition to infrastructure, the project will invest in agribusiness, technology, and manufacturing.

For every Brazilian dollar invested, China will put up three dollars. Operating China’s side of the money is Claifund, a fund for investment in Latin America.

China also pressured Brazil into including the Bi-Oceanic Railway, which would connect Brazil to Peruvian ports. However, Brazil has resisted, claiming that the project is expensive and its viability uncertain. Connecting the Atlantic to the Pacific would cost up to an estimated $80 billion.

No public resources

The fund will not include public resources. Brazil will have its financing from the federal Caixa bank, using money from the National Economic Development Bank (BNDES) and the FGTS. The Banco do Brasil has also expressed interest in participating in the fund.

China will bring in money through Claifund, using 85 percent international funds and 15 percent from the Chinese Development Bank. Three advisors from each side will council the fund to select the participating projects and banks. While China has many international investments, this will be the first one in which joint decisions regarding the funds will be made.


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Grenfell Tower fire: Police say at least 58 missing as No 10 says each family to get £5,500 – as it happened

Follow the latest developments as government announces each household left homeless by the tower block fire will receive money from emergency fund

A photograph released by the Metropolitan police showing one floor of Grenfell Tower after fire engulfed the 24-storey block. Photograph: AP

We are going to close this blog now, thanks so much for reading. For all of our coverage of the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower, you can visit our dedicated page.

Here is the latest Guardian report on the number of missing, presumed dead:

Grenfell Tower tragedy: police expect number of missing to rise above 58

Met releases images of destruction within the tower, as residents begin to receive £5,500 emergency payments from the government


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