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Liquid metal discovery paves way for shape-shifting robots

Archinect - Fri, 04/17/2015 - 10:17

[Researchers at Tsinghua University] discovered that an applied electrical current causes the gallium alloy to drastically alter its shape. Changing the voltage applied to the metal allowed it to 'shape-shift' into different formations. When the current was switched off, the metal returned to its original drop shape. [...] they realized that bringing it into contact with a flake of aluminum caused a reaction creating hydrogen bubbles that allowed it to move of its own accord.



The metal alloy in question is made mostly of gallium, which is liquid at <30 degrees Celsius. Researchers think that the material could have profound implications for medical science, in particular the delivery of drugs into the blood stream. Professor Liu Jing, leader of the research team at Tsinghua University, believes the discovery could lead to a "robot for the veins".

See the material in action below: 

Categories: Design Feeds

Artificial leaf can make oxygen in space with water and light

Inhabitat - Fri, 04/17/2015 - 10:04

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It seems like we are constantly getting a little bit closer to being able to live in outer space, but one teeny-tiny little detail keeps holding us back: oxygen. Plants just don’t like zero gravity environments, and toting around an indefinite oxygen supply isn’t really feasible. Enter the Silk Leaf: a manmade “plant” that can actually create endless oxygen using light and water.

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Categories: Building Green

2016 Cadillac ELR plug-in hybrid gets power upgrades and a lower price

Inhabitat - Fri, 04/17/2015 - 10:01

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The Cadillac ELR was released for the 2014 model year as a more luxurious alternative to the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid, but unfortunately sales haven’t taken off. Cadillac has now unveiled a host of upgrades to the 2016 ELR that will make it more enjoyable to drive, with the best part being that the pricing has also been reduced by $9,005 compared to the 2014 model.

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Categories: Building Green

Washington State Rep wants to turn old aircraft carriers into a massive floating bridge

Inhabitat - Fri, 04/17/2015 - 10:01

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First-term Republican Congressman Jesse Young, who represents the 26th District in the Washington State Senate, is attracting significant attention for an unusual detail in his transportation budget: he’s included $90,000 to conduct a feasibility study into building a massive floating bridge from decommissioned aircraft carriers. The bridge, Young proposes, would span the Sinclair Inlet and connect two of the towns he represents, repurposing old military equipment to create new infrastructure and a distinctive tourist attraction. But, alas, the proposal does have one or two issues that suggest it may be rather less than… feasible.

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Categories: Building Green

Revit MEP - Circuit Length Calculation

RevitOpEd - Fri, 04/17/2015 - 10:00
I received an email asking if I thought it would be possible to use a Line Based family to calculate wire length for circuiting purposes. It was prompted by reading an earlier post about using them for Egress Path calculation and documentation. I think it's a reasonable approach for Egress Paths because there is no such tool or concept already in Revit.

Electrical circuits on the other hand do calculate their length already, granted it does so simplistically. It combines the X/Y/Z distances of the devices from the panel (and each other) to arrive at a total circuit length.


A friend some years ago sent me a PDF that showed a bunch (a couple shown above) of different equipment and device layout schemes he did to better understand how Revit arrives at a value for Circuit Length. What it shows is that Revit does nothing to factor in obstacles which force the wiring to go up or down or around the things that are more than likely going to increase the total circuit length.

To be fair...how could it really? How detailed is the model? How long do we want the software to interrogate the model, the linked models to do a better job? It's a bit like requiring all conduit to be modelled, even 3/4" conduit feeding single gang boxes in a wall when there isn't a single stud in the model. Like with so many things in life, it's about context.

It's one thing to put a single gang box on a wall to indicate one is required here and another thing entirely to run conduit to all the way to it when you can't be sure it can really go there. Or like showing a pair of outlets back to back on a demising wall in a residential project where fire rating and sound attenuation would require them to be separated by a minimum distance.

Some things are still conceptual (schematic) in nature even in fairly detailed models. If we start modeling every stud then perhaps it becomes more reasonable to expect more system detail too. Then again if I have to create a run of (15) 3/4" conduits across a wall or ceiling I probably ought to model that situation because it's going to take up a lot of space and everyone else ought to be aware of it.

It's also been my observation that no matter how good software gets at a task there are always outliers that dismiss its results as still wrong. That written, it does matter and Revit should improve how it does calculations and how much say we have in the outcome because the length it calculates is also used internally to contribute to other calculations like wire sizing and voltage drop.

Setting aside how circuit length should be calculated (it might surprise you to know that engineers don't always agree on this), I'd consider this approach if my task was to determine how much wire was needed, a little closer to actual requirements than might show up in the circuit properties. I'd create a schedule focused on Electrical Circuits.


What you see above: I created a couple panels and added a bunch of duplex outlets. I assigned them to circuits. The schedule's second column is Revit's calculated length, no more effort on my part than placing devices, creating circuits and choosing a panel.

I sorted the schedule by Panel and then Circuit, provided a header for Panel and footer for totals. I added a parameter for Length Factor (a number) and then a Calculated Parameter for Total Estimate (a length) which uses a formula of Length Factor * Calculated (column 2).

Then I consider each circuit's circumstance and enter in a factor that increases or decreases Revit's own calculation according to how easy or hard the actual wire run or routing will be...or at least what I think it will be. A factor of 2 doubles the length etc. This calculation doesn't factor into load calculations like for Voltage Drop...but then neither would using a line based family.

This doesn't account for situations that might share a neutral (or ground) or runs that are comprised of individual conductors in conduit (like THHN or THWN) or a wiring combined into a common jacket like Cerro's NMB (a typical household wiring product).

That's the risk/difficulty of automatic calculations, the closer you examine situations the more outliers there are. It can be a bit like arguing about something being 99.6 percent correct. If it costs another $1000 to get to 99.9 or 100%...is that difference worth it?
Categories: Revit/BIM

Benefits of organic food go far beyond vitamins and minerals, despite study results

Inhabitat - Fri, 04/17/2015 - 09:15

organic food, health benefits, Annals of Internal Medicine, stanford university of medicine, organic farming, pesticides, fertilizers, food production, vegetables

It makes sense to this writer that organic food is a healthier option than convention produce, which is grown with synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Take away those harmful chemicals, and organic food ought to be better for you, right? I am not alone in this line of thought, and as such, the organic food market is a $29 billion industry. That said, a study is pouring cold water on this theory, suggesting that research into organic food has found “scant evidence of health benefits”… but is the new study missing the point?

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Categories: Building Green

Lawler: Texas Employment Declines (Housing Impact)

Calculated Risk - Fri, 04/17/2015 - 08:58
From housing economist Tom Lawler: Texas: Non-Farm Payoll Employment Fell in March

The Texas Workforce Commission reported that non-farm payroll employment in the Lone Star State declined by 25,400 (or -0.22%) on a seasonally adjust basis in March, the first monthly decline since September 2009 and the largest monthly decline since August 2009. Declines were broad-based from an industry perspective, with mining and logging, construction, manufacturing, and the service-producing sectors all experiencing a monthly dip in employment.

From the end of 2013 to the end of 2014 non-farm payroll employment in Texas increased by 3.6%, easily outpacing the 2.3% growth for the US as a whole.

In 2014 single-family building permits in Texas were up 8.7% from 2013 compared to 1.5% for the US as a whole. In the first two months of 2015 single-family building permits were up 6.7% from the comparable period of 2013, compared to a YOY gain of 5.6% for the US as a whole.

CR note: As Lawler points out, single family building permits (and housing starts) have increased much faster in Texas than in the U.S. With the slowdown due to lower oil prices, employment is now falling, and building will probably slow.

Pratt GAUD Exhibition 2015 by SOFTlab

Archinect - Fri, 04/17/2015 - 08:17

This year Michael along with Ryan Whitby worked with a group of students to produce Pratt Institute’s Graduate Architecture & Urban Design exhibition of student work in the Hazel and Robert H. Siegel Gallery. Each year the course produces an installation that explores digital fabrication methods as while showcasing the previous year’s student work. The opening of the exhibition coincides with In Process, the annual publication of student work. The curatorial component of the exhibition is meant to contrast the more traditional way of indexing the work through In Process.

This year’s GAUD exhibition grouped the visual work of the previous year in a large hanging installation. The collection of work takes the form of a field of hanging panels that have been precisely rotated to form a spatial catalog of the work. The panels are rotated in a way to both visually reveal and obscure slices of the work as visitors move around the floating volume forming a three dimensional lenticular effec...

Categories: Design Feeds

Why does OMA produce successful offspring? What is their secret?

Archinect - Fri, 04/17/2015 - 07:59

It is like OMA has monopolized the field. If you don't work or have close connects at OMA the odds are stacked against you. What kind of ritual witchcraft is going on behind the scenes there specifically? There is such a long list of successful OMA alumni. You don't see that for other firms. 

Also, how can I get my foot in the door there as an intern? Can anyone show me examples of accepted portfolios? Do you  need to know someone to get in or do you have to have a certain work style? Help me crack the code please. Regards

Categories: Design Feeds

60 Minutes previews “TED’s excellent adventure”

TED Blog - Fri, 04/17/2015 - 07:52
On Sunday night, 60 Minutes will take a look at what they call “TED’s excellent adventure.” In a segment to air on April 19 at 7pm ET/PT, the powerhouse television newsmagazine will talk to TED speakers to find out exactly what happens when their big ideas are shared with the world for free. In the first []
Categories: Design Feeds

In Maryland, Tesla’s competition could help them get back in business

Inhabitat - Fri, 04/17/2015 - 07:46

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Tesla’s been fighting for the right to do business in a number of states recently, but the electric car maker has gained some footing in Maryland, thanks to an unusual ally. The Maryland Automobile Dealers Association, which is essentially a collection of Tesla’s competitors in the state, has supported a measure to allow Tesla to continue their direct sales model without relying on a third-party dealership. Like many states, Maryland has laws that bar car makers from selling directly to the public, and those laws help dealerships take a slice out of the auto-buying business. In states where Tesla has won the ability to continue their sales, new legislation has been enacted to create an exception for electric car makers like Tesla, typically with a few caveats. In Maryland, a similar bill has already passed the state’s house and senate, and Governor Larry Hogan could sign it into law as soon as April 28. Having the backing of the largest dealership association in the state won’t hurt Tesla’s odds of getting their cars on the road in Maryland.

Via Autoblog

Image via Tesla Motors

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Categories: Building Green

Apple to protect 36,000 acres of forest lands, and is building 2 new solar farms in China

Inhabitat - Fri, 04/17/2015 - 07:22

north carolina forest lands

The Apple logo might have gone from rainbow to black over the years, but the company is getting greener every day. This week, Apple made two announcements that impressed environmentalists around the world. In the first, the iPhone maker shared the news that it has purchased 36,000 acres of forest land for the express purpose of protecting it from future development. The other announcement was about two new solar farm projects which are already under construction in China, duplicating clean energy efforts the company has already made here in the U.S.

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Categories: Building Green

Preliminary April Consumer Sentiment increases to 95.9

Calculated Risk - Fri, 04/17/2015 - 07:03
Consumer Sentiment
Click on graph for larger image.

The preliminary University of Michigan consumer sentiment index for April was at 95.9, up from 93.0 in March.

This was above the consensus forecast of 93.7. Lower gasoline prices are probably the reason for the increase over the last several months.

Quick Filter Add-in for Revit

Revit Add-ons - Fri, 04/17/2015 - 06:30
From the Autodesk Exchange Apps website...

The plug-in Quick filter allows the selection of elements in the current view or the entire project by applying selection filters on the parameter values.

Elements matching the criteria can be added or removed from the current selection set.


The plug-in is available in a 15-day trial version. During this evaluation period, you can use and test for free, without limitation, all the functionalities offered by the tool. At the end of the trial period, the application will be automatically locked.

You can purchase an annual license at any time through the functionality provided for this purpose in the application.

The Quick Filter add-in is brought to you by AriCad.

There's more information available on the Autodesk Exchange Apps website.
Categories: Revit/BIM

Rocket Lab’s new rocket is 3D-printed and powered by batteries

Inhabitat - Fri, 04/17/2015 - 06:20

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Add “rocket” to the list of things you can print with a 3D printer. Space company Rocket Lab revealed the Rutherford engine, made from parts created in a 3D printer. Capable of 4,600 pounds of thrust, the engine will power both stages of Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket. a 20-meter (66-foot) rocket made out of carbon composites.

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Categories: Building Green

Owner Standards Check Add-in for Revit

Revit Add-ons - Fri, 04/17/2015 - 06:00
From the Autodesk Exchange Apps website...

The app provides a tool to check the model for formatting compliance with company or owner standards.  The tool consists of Quick Checks - a series of basic checks for project information (file name, project name, project number, address) and Format Checks - more detailed review of model elements to ensure compliance with standard shared parameters, omniclass numbers, family naming, workset naming, floor plan names, and wall types.  The tool will generate a report for each Format Check that can be exported to .csv format for review.




The Owner Standards Check add-in is brought to you by SouthEastern Technical Services, LLC and is priced at USD 50.00.

There's more information available on the Autodesk Exchange Apps website.
Categories: Revit/BIM

BLS: CPI increased 0.2% in March, Core CPI increased 0.2%

Calculated Risk - Fri, 04/17/2015 - 05:32
From the BLS:
The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 0.2 percent in March on a seasonally adjusted basis, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months, the all items index declined 0.1 percent before seasonal adjustment.

The index for all items less food and energy rose 0.2 percent in March, the same increase as in January and February.
emphasis added
I'll post a graph later today after the Cleveland Fed releases the median and trimmed-mean CPI. This was lower than the consensus forecast of a 0.2% increase for CPI, and at the forecast of a 0.2% increase in core CPI.

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