Semi-Hidden Damage

The photo above was taken in the stair of a school, between the cellar (the first level below grade) and the sub-cellar (the second level below grade). More accurately, the line representing the flood during Hurricane Sandy was 33 steps, or roughly 20 feet, below grade. Grade at this location (according to the topo map …

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Conflicting Goals

In the picture above, the older buildings mostly have brick or limestone-veneer facades, while the new buildings mostly have glass facades. That’s partly the result of changes in architectural styles over the course of the twentieth century, party the result of advances in glass technology, and partly the result of construction economics. What’s notably missing …

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Concrete, Part 3

Concrete has become something of a scapegoat for carbon emissions in building, but it’s amazingly difficult to pin down how bad it is, as a material, compared with other options. The problem, simply, is that it is difficult to make apples-to-apples comparisons of efficiency and carbon use across different structural systems. Let’s start with weight. …

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Concrete, Part 2

The first article I read in the Guardian’s Concrete Week series was last Monday’s piece “Concrete: the most destructive material on Earth.” It’s an odd piece in terms of its organization, jumping around a bit. Eventually I realized that the problem I was having is that the article is discussing several quite different topics, linked …

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It Depends On How You Look At It

At first glance, this article on how to reduce New York’s energy use seems fairly grim. But there are hidden bright spots. For example, if the cost of an optimal retrofit is twelve percent of a building’s value, that means that retrofitting is a lot less expensive than replacement. For example, if the problem is …

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