For a Safer, More Comfortable and Enjoyable Modern Living: Construction Business and Beyond

            Land is only as valuable and worthy in the eyes of its owners as its organization, technical availabilities and appeal, which leads the construction sector to always push for new frontiers and continue its profitable operations. The sector itself is currently undergoing an internal transformation with respect to technologies, methods and project types, meaning that the future of the sector is already being shaped around the realities and demands of the fourth industrial age. Today, a civil engineer has a variety of tools at their disposal, whether it be access to three-dimensional planning and drawing software, a npt thread chart, an online CRM platform or state of the art communication devices for use on the field. However, technology is not the only important element in the given paradigm as design, sustainability and environmental awareness/compatibility are all significant constraints of success. On the consumer level, paying attention to changes in the market is crucial because options vary significantly and the only possible way to stay on top of trends and find the desired properties is by understanding the new definitions and applications of quality through research, observation and critical evaluation.

            When it comes to housing, one of the most dominant issues is the costs associated with the construction of residential buildings but the newly developing technologies might help bring prices down. Dan Doctoroff of Sidewalk Labs believes that transportation costs might easily be reduced by organizing the project in close proximity to future residents’ offices and preferred sites of visit/leisure. Otherwise, home buyers prefer popular areas where transportation options are vast, bringing up the prices for the buildings in such areas. In terms of the actual construction process, technology has a lot to offer with respect to new designs, materials and techniques as well. In many cases, the costs of constructing a building increase due to changes made to the design, incapability to find the right materials or the use of older techniques that require more man power than needed. In today’s construction world, designs can be controlled and checked numerous times before the project starts, materials can be found and bought in various different markets and automated techniques can substitute human labor. The zoning rules are also changing in today’s world where sensors and monitoring tools enable the construction of mixed-use buildings with lower costs of construction and no rigid zoning rules, bringing in more tenants, visitors and customers into such complexes. As a general trend, existent residents of an area or city restrict new projects because they do not wish to experience overcrowding. With new technologies that “reduce congestion, make parking more available [and] improve the way we use open space,” it will be a lot easier to convince such residents to allow new projects at reasonable prices.

            Construction jobs have always been popular among the general public, providing decent pay and working conditions for those both with and without degrees. A recent study by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce revealed that “good jobs in non-manufacturing blue-collar industries, such as construction and transportation, increased in 38 states” between the years 1991 and 2015 with the states of California, Texas and Florida having the largest gains in such growth. As of today, more than 3,477,000 people earn a living in the US construction sector with a median salary of $59,000, while several companies are forced to increase salaries to retain good talent due to lack of qualified personnel in the market. One of the reasons for such a reality is that most of the workers are middle-aged people with few younger people joining the work force. Another problem is that most people working in the industry have learned the trade but have not received an appropriate type of education and most companies take advantage of the situation, treating many employees, including managers, as disposable staff. The $100,000+ a year cost of a bachelor’s degree in the field opens new possibilities for high school students who enter the trade right away, encouraging them to pay more attention to finding the right companies to work with and push for managerial jobs. The mentioned labor shortage is expected to amplify in the future, meaning that young people with an ambition will find opportunities to rise up in the sector and build careers in construction to receive high salaries and enjoy other benefits of working for powerful corporations.

            In today’s construction world, building skyscrapers is a sign of wealth, power and prestige while even the under-developed countries of the world are entering the game with ambitious projects and buildings. In Morocco, the construction of ‘The Bank of Africa’ building, a skyscraper that will “stand at 820 feet tall (250 meters) and become the second-highest skyscraper on the continent behind The Pinnacle [in Nairobi, Kenya]” will start in December 2018 and finish in May 2022. The project’s architects are Rafael de la Hoz  and Hakim Benjelloun with BESIX Group and Travaux Generaux de Construction de Casablanca (TGCC) collaborating on the project together. The funding comes from Morocco’s BMCE Bank, with a striking price tag of $314 million, while the previous experiences of BESIX in construction business, including Burj Khalifa in Dubai and the Four Seasons Hotel in Bahrain will help the consortium proceed faster. China Railway Construction Corporation International has also been included in the tower’s construction project as a collaborator. The building has been emphasized as a critical player within the Bouregreg Valley Development project that operates under the city of Rabat’s modernization program. The project has been implemented to turn Rabat, ‘City of Light’, into Morocco’s ‘Capital of Culture’ while other projects such as ‘House of Arts and Culture’ and ‘Le Grand Theatre de Rabat’ will also included within the scope of the renovation project.  

            Fascinating developments are observed in civil engineering techniques and technologies such as a recent project by students at the University of Cape Town (UCT) that uses human urine “to create environmentally friendly bricks.” In addition to urine, sand and bacteria are also used in the process, yielding bricks that can solidify at room temperature, mimicking the process of coral formation in the ocean. Researchers have been harvesting urine from men’s toilets for this purpose, using such material within the ‘microbial carbonate precipitation’ process. The bacteria breaks down urea in human urine by producing a specific enzyme, while the resultant calcium carbonate “binds the sand into rock hard, grey bricks.” A single ‘bio-brick’ requires between 25 to 30 liters of urine to grow with its strength and shape being alterable. Currently, such bricks achieve similar rates of compressibility strength as a 40% limestone brick, while the produced by-product, ammonia, is converted into nitrogen-rich fertilizer. The resultant product completely loses is ammonia smell after 48 hours and poses no risks to human health. The initial production process occurs at extremely high pH levels and kills all the harmful pathogens and bacteria, taking between four and six days to complete, with the strength of the brick increasing when the product is left to dry for longer periods of time. Although synthetic urine has previously been used for the process in the United States, the UCT project is the first in history to use natural human urine.   

            Environmental damage has always plagued the construction business in modern times and the recent ‘Dakota Access Pipeline’ project has made headlines regarding the safety and continuity of Native American presence, as well as their natural habitat in the region. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe had previously requested to temporarily stop the construction in the area due to possible damages the landscape would endure as a result. The request was denied while one specific area was granted legal protection and the construction was immediately halted in the region by three federal agencies. The project’s route goes underground through the Missouri River near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, posing a treat to drinking water and sacred lands of the tribe. As a result, the tribe’s lawyers sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in July, which was overturned by the US District Judge, James E. Boasberg, last Friday. The judge believes that the Army Corps complied “with its obligation to consult the tribe” and that the tribe “has not shown it will suffer injury that would be prevented by any injunction the Court could issue.” The Justice Department, the Department of the Army and the Interior Department on the other hand, found plausible reason in the tribe’s request and stopped construction on lands bordering or under Lake Oahe. The decision was reached on the grounds that obscurity still exists regarding technicalities and further analysis needs to be completed with respect to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) as well as other federal laws. 

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