10 Trends to Watch - part 4 of 4

Concluding Our 4-part Series on Developing Systems and Methods That Are Shaping the Future of Construction.

 9. Dynamic Structural Performance Monitoring
The safety of a structure can be jeopardized by accidents, extreme loads, hidden construction flaws, wear and tear, and other vicissitudes. Until recently, the only way to tell how a structure was performing was to observe changes in the length or shape of individual structural components and calculate if they were within safe design assumptions. This could require instrumenting scores or even hundreds of locations on the structure, and a time consuming effort to collect and interpret data. Another drawback is that movement within a few components may not accurately reflect performance of the structure as a whole.

Dynamic structural performance monitoring is a fundamentally different approach. It uses precise accelerometers to measure building movement in three axes, and algorithms that tease out movement patterns, oscillations called standing waves. These oscillations are fundamental properties of the structure; wave frequencies that are determined by the size, mass, and flexural performance of the structure's elements. They can reveal weaknesses and behaviors that do not match the predicted behaviors of the design, and then are used to characterize and locate problems.

Instead of placing strain gauges or accelerometers at hundreds of monitoring points,  STRAAM reads structrual performance with this one instrument called a Strukturocardiograph(TM), placed at a handful of points in a building, on the deck of a bridge, or on top of a dam or other structure. 

After 30 years of research, dynamic performance monitoring is being commercialized by STRAAM LLC. Once STRAAM has recorded a baseline dynamic signature of a building's movement, the STRAAM system can provide nearly instantaneous alarms if the structure's dynamic signature changes. It can be used to assess existing structures, for periodic or event-driven (blast, accident, natural disaster) check-ups, or to continuously monitor critical structures. It is being used in buildings, bridges and other structures around the world.

Recommendation:  Who else knows how to do the same thing you do, better than you do it now, and how did they get there?

10. Light in a Bottle

While our ten-best list is full of high-tech wonders, there are many places where shelter concerns are far more basic. For millions of people, the best new building product in the world might be a used 2-liter plastic soft drink bottle.

Light transmitted by a 1-liter plastic water bottle inerted through the roof

With little or no access to electricity, they live in dark housing. A hole in the roof admits only a concentrated shaft that spreads little usable illumination throughout the interior. However, a water-filled plastic bottle inserted through the roof gathers sunlight and diffuses throughout the interior below. Alfredo Moser from Brazil is credited with pioneering plastic bottle skylights, and non-government organizations like A Liter of Light are spreading the light.

Recommendation: When we think about progress, it is important to consider not only the leading edge, but also the trailing edge.