Greenbuild Demonstration Reminds Us To Look To The Future

By Scott Kriner, Green Metal Consulting

This year’s Greenbuild conference and expo (held in Chicago, November 14-16) showcased the usual products, systems, and technologies developed to help to lower carbon emissions and energy usage, while also reducing water consumption and waste.  In addition, the show provided education on Sustainability, Resilience and even Adaptability for roof system applications. Much of the education is done with actual case studies in the construction industry. Much of the information is applicable to the metal construction industry.

Among the vast number of exhibits in the expo, one in particular stood out to me as a “cool” eye-catcher.

Most of us know of Perkins+Will. The acclaimed architectural firm prides itself on looking beyond today and has a definite vision for the future of architecture and construction, so it should not be too surprising to see an exhibit from them showing a robotic arm constructing laminated wood beams and cutting them to length with all working steps robotically done. This demonstration comes from the Perkins Will Innovation Incubator project program. Their vision is to develop the next generation of net-carbon-negative, low-embodied-energy wood composite structural elements.

According to their website, the project team created composite fibers composed of a bio-based thermosetting plastic and fiber additives (carbon, aramid and two types of wood fiber). The materials were tested for tensile strength at the University of Southern California’s Material Testing Lab. A robot arm with a plastic extrusion gun is used to deposit fiber-reinforced plastics into continuous grooves cut into the laminated wood element to create an FRP wrap around the elements, thereby binding them to each other.

You may wonder what this process for creating laminated wood beams has to do with the metal construction industry.  The answer is nothing, but it does show that the wood industry, with the support from Perkins+Will, is looking at beyond today. We in the metal construction industry need to continue to do the same.

Scott Kriner is the president and founder of Green Metal Consulting Inc. He is a LEED Accredited Professional who began his career in the metal construction industry in 1981. His company is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, the California Association of Building Energy Consultants and the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET).

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