Jim Kollaer's blog

What goes into the structural design of the skyscrapers being built around the world today? A better question might be, “Who designs the structure of those skyscrapers to withstand the heat, winds, earthquakes and hurricanes that pummel those towers we live and work in every day?” The answer is that there are some really talented engineers who study, design, test and retest the possible solutions to meet those challenges.

Tom Curwen and his team of reporters are tracking the design and construction of the Wilshire Grand Center in LA in a series of amazing articles that documents some of the unsung design, engineering and construction heroes responsible for the 900 room hotel and office building at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Figeroa Street.    Read more » about Wilshire Grand Center – Being Built to Survive the Next Big LA Earthquake

Most of us drive by skyscrapers in major cities without ever thinking about how they stand up. In Los Angeles and most other major cities, they have to stand up to the politics, the winds, the storms, the earthquakes, and an occasional change of developer, owner and/or General Contractor, especially in landmark $1 billion projects.

On the new Wilshire Grand Center in LA, almost all of those factors came into play over the years before construction even began. What started with a handshake in true Texas style between two USC graduates is now becoming the tallest tower west of the Mississippi River, but that journey has been quite turbulent at times.

Last week, we posted a commentary on the outstanding writing of Thomas Curwen at the LA Times on the chronology of the Big pour, the record setting 18-foot deep concrete and steel mat placed five stories below street level that will support the new Wilshire Grand Center, scheduled for completion in 2016. Before the old hotel could be torn down and the city block excavated, lots of turbulence had already occurred. Curwen tells several stories in the second article that are intertwined into an interesting plot that made me wonder whether and how the building would come alive. 

The original project, designed by Chris Martin’s firm A.C. Martin, planned to tear down the existing hotel and to build two towers: a hotel and an office tower. The original developer selected by the owner Yang Ho Cho, CEO of KAL, for the project was Thomas Properties.    Read more » about There Is More To The Story Than The Tower

The main stream media isn’t well known for covering construction stories, especially in depth, but Thomas Curwen and his colleagues at the LA Times did an outstanding report on the construction of what will be the tallest building west of the Mississippi in the Wilshire Grand Center construction. The five part series written by Curwen augmented by photos from his associates focuses the complexity and challenges during the planning and construction of a major project on a downtown constricted site that are usually not talked about openly in the press or outside of the owner, designers and construction teams.

The first article in the series documents the logistical nightmare that was the largest continuous concrete pour since the 1999 Venetian pour in Las Vegas.    Read more » about Tall Tales of a New Tower

According to an article in DeZeen Magazine, the ten tallest skyscrapers under construction for completion of core and shell in 2015 are located across the globe, but only one of them is in the US – 432 Park Avenue in New York City, which will be “the tallest all-residential building in the world.”

Others of note are the Vostok Tower in Russia, the Shanghai Tower in China, Capital Market Authority Tower in Saudi Arabia, and the Marina 101 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Read the full article to check out the stats, the designers and the engineering marvels that are being used to achieve new heights.    Read more » about The Top 10 Tallest Skyscrapers of 2015

The Second Avenue subway line currently under construction in New York City is one of the largest infrastructure projects under way in the United States.

According to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) information,

The Second Avenue Subway will be New York City’s first major expansion of the subway system in over 50 years. When fully completed, the line will stretch 8.5 miles along the length of Manhattan's East Side, from 125th Street in Harlem to Hanover Square in Lower Manhattan. In addition, a track connection to the existing 63rd Street and Broadway Lines, will allow a second subway line to provide direct service from East Harlem and the Upper East Side to West Midtown via the Broadway express tracks.    Read more » about Amazing Photos of NYC's Second Avenue Subway Line Under Construction

We’ve talked about drones flying over and through construction sites, but what about 30 of them flying in unison to create a light show by “painting” on the night sky?

Time Magazine quotes Ars Electronica, a technology and art firm based in Austria, about their LED-equipped drones which they call “Spaxels” and which are designed to create this visual show.  From the Time article:

“Spaxels (a portmanteau word from space pixels) are LED-equipped quadcopters. They make up a drone swarm that can “draw” three-dimensional figures in midair. They create an extraordinary visual experience and open up an unprecedented new dimension of aesthetic expression.”   Read more » about Drone Light Show [VIDEO]

Software Advice, a Gartner company that connects buyers with software vendors in the construction industry, recently released the results of a study they conducted on the Impact of Job Roles on Construction Software Purchasing Decisions.  Software Advice surveyed over 800 owners, project managers and IT professionals about their software buying habits in the face of pressure from the construction market to get it done “faster, cheaper, and with fewer change orders and do-overs.”

The annual survey concludes that your reason for buying software depends on your position in the firm, especially in small and mid-sized construction firms.

According to the results of the survey, 36% of those owners were buying new software to increase accuracy in the systems that they deploy.   Read more » about Why Contractors Buy New Software

A recent study prepared by NRG Research for the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of British Columbia (ICBA) reveals that 59% of the respondents were unaware of how to get into the trades because of misperceptions of the construction trades.  The study also showed that less than 50% of the respondents saw the construction trades as a long-term career.

Most of the respondents (British Columbians aged 18-29 years old) ranked construction jobs and skilled trades at the bottom of the list of possible jobs.  The study concluded that the industry has not done a good job of defining a road map for careers in the skilled trades in construction.

The poll, according to Philip Hochstein, president of ICBA, also showed that the top factors for candidates in seeking a crafts trade as a career are: discovering that they love the work, making more money, having job security, and having the opportunity for career advancement.

In summarizing the task ahead, Hochstein said that, “As an industry, we have some work to do to change the way young people perceive skilled trades.  ICBA and the open shop construction industry are rolling up our sleeves to make sure we do.”   Read more » about Misperception of the Construction Trades as a Career is a Global Issue

A recent article in Equipment World called Eyes in the Sky: How drones and UAVs are already affecting construction jobsites is very revealing.  For those of us who built and flew model airplanes in our teen years, this new grown-up sophisticated model aircraft can be fun to fly, but more important, it has already proven its value by flying where no man or woman can go with survey crews, inspection teams, flying over toxic sites, pipelines and even nuclear disasters.

The article highlights the various models of drones being experimented with by three different companies.

First, Richard Evans of SpawGlass called the “Tinkerer” by the author, because he grew up building and flying model airplanes.  Today he uses drones to inspect and fly construction sites At SpawGlass in Houston.   Read more » about Drones Flying on to Construction Sites


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