Friday, August 18, 2017

Building Another Masonry Prototype

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1547958.  Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

One year ago (late summer, 2016) I began working on a masonry prototype which would use the novel topological interlocking manufactured concrete arch block, described and discussed here.

I had been teaching a Senior Project engineering class at Alfred University's Inamori School of Engineering, and asked my students to help design this structure.  The students I had the pleasure of teaching include undergraduate students Pavel Boyuk, Patrick Byrne, Wanrui He, Nolan Jessop, Sanket Patel, Nick Roberts and Alex Wessner; under their professor Dr. Ehsan Ghotbi, and also graduate student Martin Monk under his professor Dr. William Carty.

Here are some of the drawings these students did for this structure.  The actual design was changed somewhat from these drawings to what was actually built. These changes include switching from a round profile to a catenary profile on both the main arch for the roof, and also on the flying buttresses which are located on either side of the building.  I also went from seven buttresses per side (as per the students' drawings) to six buttresses.  Finally, I also included two Gothic windows on one side of the main arch.

This building was erected on my own personal property in Alfred, New York. Site preparation began with felling several trees and clearing the logs from the site.  I'll just let the pictures tell the rest of the story, beginning with the building site as it was.

This is the retaining wall, built around the site.

Retaining wall behind, foundation (footer) in the front.

Lots of gravel for proper drainage, very important.

Vertical walls erected.

Those are the flying buttress foundations, on the left.

The slack chain hung in the picture below was used to create the catenary form for the flying buttress.  This is much stronger than a simple, round form.  This shape was traced onto a piece of plywood, the plywood was cut, flipped upside-down, and used as a guide form.

This shows my method for assembling the flying buttresses.  These went up quickly, each flying buttress took around one hour for me to assemble.

This shows the scaffolding, made from the trees which I cut down from this same site.

Here is a concrete block delivery truck, placing block on the scaffolding.  The scaffolding held around 50 tons!

Here is how I made the catenary form for the roof.  I traced the curve made from the slack hanging rope onto wood, and cut out that shape.  I then flipped this shape upside down, and used it as a guide to assemble the roof.

Gothic windows on the side of the structure.

I covered the arch in wood, so that I could apply conventional tarpaper and shingles.

Here is the inside of the structure.  It's an interesting space inside, very roomy.

Here is a concrete 'apron' for the beginning of the driveway.  This will have a pattern stamped concrete driveway, which is about to be made.

These trenches for drainage are 4 feet deep, and hook up to a large drainage pipe.

Here I am beginning to apply architectural shingles.  This building is almost complete.

This was an exciting and fun project.  Much was learned, this first prototype is somewhat crude, since it was a first attempt.  The arch span is over 25 feet, and the depth of the arch is over 30 feet.  The reader should also note that while I was building this, I simultaneously wrote and filed a patent, wrote a Phase II Proposal for the National Science Foundation (successfully, it was funded) and several other large tasks at the same time.  This building actually went up very quickly.  They will only get better!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Prototype progress

In a previous entry, Building a masonry prototype I discussed how a prototype was being made.

Here's another look, a little further along. I still have to install a kitchen counter and finish the bathroom.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1547958.  Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Monday, October 17, 2016

"Artsy" and their Bucky Fuller Page

Today I received an email from a fellow named Matt, from the website "Artsy."  Matt informed me that their site has a Bucky Fuller Page, and that they would like "to be included as an additional resource for your visitors via a link on your page."  This is an apparently obvious connection since my work is concerned with domes, which was part of Fuller's focus also.

I am happy to oblige, so with this brief entry I am providing a link to their Bucky Fuller Page.

I have written a small amount about Fuller's work here on my blog, below are a few entries where I talk briefly about Buckminster Fuller, his work, and how it relates to my own work.

When Fuller means Less: the weight is over.

I have over 300 blog entries, so if you'd like to see what my interests are, just navigate around the blog.  I apologize, in advance, for some of my silly poems.  I was challenged to write poems about masonry for NaPoWriMo (National poetry Writing Month) which I did for 5 years, so I have 150 poems about masonry, all done in the month of April, which is poetry month.

Bucky's followers are usually strict adherents to his philosophy of design, which states that buildings must be evaluated by how much they weigh.  I do not ascribe to this evaluation criterion, because it means that all masonry building is bad.  Sorry, Bucky followers, please don't hate me for disagreeing with you and your leader, I understand the concept of economy of design, and doing more with less.  Masonry is inherently massive, and sometimes massive is good.  I remain a fan and admirer of Buckminster Fuller and his work.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Building a Masonry Prototype

Over the past few months I worked on assembly of a masonry prototype which uses a recently designed, patented and manufactured proprietary topological interlocking concrete block.  This block design was discussed in my previous blog entry.  I think it may be helpful to share some of the steps involved in building this prototype.  I have some pictures showing the progress in chronological order below.  This prototype is not quite completed yet.  I'm about to start finishing the inside.

I was fortunate to have a proposal funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) "Topological interlocking manufactured concrete block."  I wrote this proposal at the beginning of this project (6/15) and received the award just as the masonry was finished (1/16).  My company Spherical Block LLC is working on engineering and marketing solutions for bringing this technology to market. And: This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1547958.  Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

First, I had a trench excavated for the foundation (my friend Martin Eddy was the man who ran equipment).  All trenches are at least 4 feet below the surface of the ground, to get below the frost line.

I used a concrete block system which is laid in the excavated trench, and each course is laid with two pieces of 1 inch rebar, both horizontally and vertically.  These block are simply 'dry-stacked' without mortar, and then the hollow cores are poured with concrete, to create a steel reinforced concrete foundation.  This was fairly quick and easy to do.

Here's my dog Bartleby wondering what I'm doing, and why.  Why?

Here's the plumbing being placed, to be cast in the concrete floor.

Here are the poured cores of the foundation wall.

I placed expanded polystyrene insulating panels on the floor, and ran plastic "pex" tubing for radiant heating of the floor.  This small test building has 3 loops of thermal pipe for radiant heating.

The floor was poured with concrete from a truck.  I used superplasticier to keep a low water-to-cement ratio (w/c) which makes better concrete.

My friend Chaz Curtis and his two sons, Tanner and Max helped place the concrete for the floor.

This is where the heating loops for the floor come out of the concrete.  A water heater will be installed to heat the floor, and the whole structure. Radiant heating will take advantage of the thermal mass benefits of this concrete test structure.

The dome section was then insulated, covered and shingled.

The walls were erected with standard concrete masonry units and mortar.  There are ~900 block, it took me 5 days to do the whole job, working alone (mixing mortar, moving block & laying block).

I made a custom slab for the roof over the entryway, to accommodate a small dome.

I built two rooms with arches, one on either side of the entryway.  These arches use the new block described in my previous blog entry.  These block were used for both the main arch, and for the small "gothic" windows.  #3 rebar was used for support and strengthening.  I built a temporary scaffolding to stand on while I lay the block for the roof.  Assembly was fast and easy.

Once the masonry was finished, stand-offs were attached to the outside of the building, as spacers for insulation.  By insulating the outside, thermal mass benefits are maximized.  The roof was finished with tarpaper and shingles.

I'll post more pictures as the last details are done; windows, painting, etc.  Finishing the inside starts now.