History of Innovation

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Archive for the ‘Material Technology’ Category

2008: Masdar City – Masdar, United Arab Emirates

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Image Source: 1 2

Innovation:  Masdar City (first/only zero-carbon zero-waste city)
Location: Masdar, UAE
Year:  2008-2025
Architect: Foster and Partners

Masdar is a planned city located in Abu Dhabi, UAE, targeted to rely entirely on renewable energy sources with a sustainable zero carbon zero waste ecology [1]. The city consists of 2.3 square miles of homes and businesses for 50,000 residents with 60,000 daily commuters budgeted at US$19.8 billion. The intent for the city was to become a central location for cleantech companies and model of inspiration for a future energy conscience world. Masdar will accomplish its energy goals through the use of one of the first 40-60 megawatt solar power plant (Conergy), rooftop solar panels, wind farms, waste incineration, and hydrogen power plant [2]. A solar powered desalination plant supplies the water needs, recycling approximately 80% of water. Masdar City was designed and operated to provide the highest (healthiest) quality of life with the lowest environmental footprint. It is a global center of future energy. [3]  `

Web links: 123
Video: Masdar City


Written by Charys Clay

October 8, 2008 at 11:29 pm

2006: Apple Store, New York City – Structural Glass

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Image Source: [1][2][3]

Innovation: Structural Glass
Location: Apple StoreFifth Avenue, New York City
Year: 2006
Architects: Bohlin Cywinski Jackson
Structural Glass Engineering: Eckersly O’Callahan

The iconic 90 paneled 32 foot structural glass cube of the Fifth Avenue Apple Store was created to enhance Apple’s retail brand and has since been patented by Steve Jobs. The cube is an entrance to the retail space below which visitors descend to on a circular all-glass stair or elevator. The store uses the strongest grade structural glass in the world that at the time could only be produced by Seele GmbH & Co. in Germany. During the design process, finite element analysis software was used to test the stresses and deformations present in the structure resulting from the vertical and horizontal loads. With the analysis focusing on its weakest points at the edges and corners, which are somewhat relived by the use of vertical fins. [1]

Structural glass is the result of laminating technologies that introduce flexibility and strength to the material along with shatter and UV resistance. Laminated glass has in internal thermoplastic material layers that hold the two surrounding layers together during high impacts. This is the same technique used in car windshields. The outer layers consist of annealed glass which strengthens the materials by allowing some internal stresses to be relieved [2].

The New York store was the first to include a cylindrical stair encompassing an elevator. The design had to consider seismic loads, foot-traffic, sound vibrations and fire-coatings. Here they used the titanium double grip system from the original San Francisco stair case, but this time they had to account for the 60 degree sloping stair on curved panels as opposed to horizontal treads [3].

As a result of this technology, structural beams, columns and other members can be made out of glass.`

Sources: [1][2][3]

Articles: Patented Structural Staircase (2002), Glass Structure from Seele

Video with more views of the Apple Store

Written by Hannah James

October 9, 2006 at 2:30 pm

The New York Times Building – Manhattan

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Images: [1][2][3]

Innovation: Passive Shading – Ceramic Sunscreen Curtain Wall
Location: 620 Eighth Avenue, Midtown Manhattan, New York
Year: 2000
By: Renzo Piano Building Workshop
Architects: Renzo Piano Building Workshop & FXFOWLE Architects
Exterior Wall Consultant: Heitmann & Associates, Inc.
Size: 52 stories/1.5 million-square-feet

The New York Times selected Piano’s design for its energy conservancy and representation of the companies transparent philosophy. In his design, Piano proposed the first ceramic sunscreen to be built in the United States. The exterior framework consisted of 185,000 strategically placed ceramic tubes for optimal standing and seated views that welcomed the penetration of natural light. The aluminum silicate rods hang 18 inches out from the building creating a second skin to absorb heat which reduces the heat load by 30% and energy costs by 13%. Furthermore, the skin reduces the harshness of the buildings edges, so it fades into the skyline. [2]

In addition, a complementary lighting system , SolarTrac, is used that adjusts according to solar exposure using programmed window shades. This active system reduces the lighting load by 30% and creates an organic experience that adjusts with the elements [1]. The SolarTrac system was developed by MechoSystems and the Lawrence Lab at Berkley, and opens up possibilities for future buildings to implement this technology with typical shading curtain walls such as aluminum, wire-mesh, wood or terra-cotta [3].

Sources: [1][2] [3]

Building Website. Window Shading System
More Images by Annie Leibovitz chronicling the building construction
Videos: Interview, Ceramic Rods, Energy Reduction

Written by Hannah James

October 4, 2000 at 8:57 pm

1959: Palmira Chapel – Cuernavaca, Mexico

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Image sources [1] [2]

Innovation: Palmira Chapel

Location: Cuernavaca, Mexico

Year: 1959

By: Felix Candela

The chapel highlights Felix Candela’s astute understanding of structural design, geometric concepts, and clean architecture aesthetics. The chapel’s structure takes the form of a hyperbolic paraboloid which allows for compression and tension forces to act on particular areas of the structure [1]. The surfaces are anticlastic, meaning that the principal curvatures of the form have opposite signs at any given point,  which reduces shear forces and bending. [2] This reduction in bending allows for dramatically reduced materials, in this case, concrete. Thin shell concrete roofs can be as thin as 5/8 inches wide, and do not rely on interior columns or buttresses for support. In fact, thin shell concrete structures are very strong, and are particularly excellent at withstanding earthquakes.

Candela’s work with thin shell concrete paved the way for many famous structures such as the TWA Flight Center and the Sydney Opera House which blend architectural aesthetics with engineering innovation.

Weblinks: [1] [2]

Written by kathleen hetrick

January 1, 1959 at 12:00 pm

1958: Seagram Building – New York City, New York

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Image Sources: 1, 2, 3

Innovation: Seagram Building
Location: New York City, New York
Year: 1958
Architect: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Philip Johnson
Structural Engineer: Severud Associates

As an example of functionalism and modernism, the Seagram Building has been very influential on American architecture. Mies van der Rohe loved the aesthetic of exposed structural elements and utilized them as external decoration on this building[1]. However, these exposed vertical I-beams aren’t actually structural. The structural steel frame had to be encased inside concrete in order to meet building codes, so Mies added decorative bronze-cladding to an additional set of steel beams on the surface to mirror the inside structure. These beams were welded to the tinted glass curtain wall, markedly the first true curtain wall, providing floor to ceiling lighting and establishing a view of the expansive granite plaza in front of the building[2].

This building set the standard for skyscrapers in America. At 38 floors, it was the first tall building to use high strength bolted connections, vertical truss wind bracing system, and it was the first to employ a composite steel and concrete lateral frame. Upon completion, the Seagram building became the most expensive skyscraper per square foot at that time[1].

More about Seagram design
More about vertical truss system

Written by Emily Lamon

October 8, 1958 at 3:09 pm

1956: TWA Terminal – New York City, New York

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Image Sources: 1, 2, 3

Innovation: TWA Terminal
Location: New York City, New York
Year: 1956
Architect: Eero Saarinen
Structural Engineer: Amman and Whitney

The construction of The Trans World Airlines Terminal, which was designed by Eero Saarinen as part of the JFK International Airport in New York, began in 1956 and was completed six years later. Saarinen’s abstractly bird-shaped design was intended to celebrate the spirit of flight that everyday citizens had just recently begun to enjoy[1]. The most prominent feature of Saarinen’s extremely futuristic design was the 1.4 acres of reinforced concrete that formed the thin shelled roof of the main volume of the building. In his original plans, this expansive roof was one continuous, undulating slab, but engineers from Amman and Whitney suggested that he separate the roof into four separate slabs connected by joints, because of the shrinking that would inevitably occur in the concrete[2]. This shrinking occurs in large concrete applications due to a temperature difference between the initial layer and each subsequent layer of concrete as older layers begin to cool off [3]. This structure is only supported by four pillars, which gives the form an even more discernible connection to flight.

The TWA Terminal didn’t only look futuristic. It was the first terminal to have enclosed passenger jet ways, baggage claim carousels, electronic schedule boards, baggage scales, and a central PA system[1].

Written by Emily Lamon

October 4, 1956 at 7:27 pm

1939: World War II

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Innovation: Computers, Synthetics, Radar
Location: North America, Europe, Asia
Year: 1939-1945
By: United States, England, Germany, Japan, Russia

Although World War II is the most infamous war in modern history, it paved the way for some of the most important technical innovations of our time. Originally used for locating and tracking enemy equipment, radar and sonar have proven vital to investigating the geology of strata below. Helpful especially in earthquake engineering, these tools allow us to see what kind of natural materials are under the ground, calling for various types of pads and bases to be laid before construction of buildings can begin. By mid-1942, Japan controlled nearly all of Asia, the world’s main rubber supply. Seeing as how equipment such as boots and tires were in such high demand, the United States was forced to engineer ways of producing quality synthetic rubber.  Currently, rubber is fitted into glass, steel, plastics, sealants and all types of construction materials. The greatest innovation to come out of WWII is the computer. While taking up entire rooms, computers were used by the US to calculate artillery firing tables. Allowing us to create building structures and simulate load patterns, engineering would not be what it is today without the use of these super machines.

Sources: [1], [2]

Written by Jason Harlan

September 1, 1939 at 7:41 pm