Posts Tagged: Construction

May 14

Austin Traffic: MoPac Improvements

For Austinites who commute to work each day, we often find ourselves at the mercy of Central Texas’ famous traffic congestion. There are two main traffic corridors serving the Austin area – IH 35 and Loop 1.  Both seem to be more and more congested each day.  Loop 1, better known as MoPac, is the focus of the long awaited MoPac Improvement Project, currently underway.


The steady growth trend in population here in Central Texas has turned this once viable alternative to IH 35 to one of the most congested traffic routes in the State of Texas.  As partners in determining options to improve mobility along this route, the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA), the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), the City of Austin, and Capital Metro (CapMetro) initiated a study in 2012. Their study determined that Express Lanes with variable pricing were the preferred option for this corridor to address congestion and long-term mobility issues.


In a nut shell, two (concrete barrier separated) toll lanes (one in each direction) will be added to the middle of the MoPac corridor beginning at Parmer Lane to the north and ending at Cesar Chavez to the south.


Different from traditional HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes, these lanes will have variable tolls based on the amount of congestion, raising the price when traffic is heavy and lowering the price when traffic is light. Overall, authorities believe this will help keep traffic moving more effectively while maximizing the use of this facility.


It’s a unique alternative for addressing traffic congestion and the first of its kind in Austin. Construction is expected to be complete in late 2015.


Mopac Map


For history on this project and up-to-date information on construction, please visit the MoPac Express website for more information. There you’ll find a Twitter feed of lane closures and delays, construction alerts and real-time congestion maps. You will also see a “Construction Progress” bar, and at the time of this blog posting, construction is 24% complete.


Also, if you visit the MoPacExpress YouTube channel,  you can watch videos that convey what it will be like to drive on MoPac once the toll lanes are complete.


Jun 12

Green Building at Its Finest

Imagine a world where city buildings are capable of self-cleaning themselves and the air pollutants around them. Sounds like something out of the future, right? Turns out, that future is already here!


ALCOA, a world leading integrated aluminum company, has developed a product called Reynobond® with EcoClean™. This proprietary process leverages HYDROTECT™ technology from TOTO® to apply a titanium dioxide coating, called EcoClean™, to the pre-painted aluminum surface of Reynobond®. The result is the first coil-coated aluminum architectural panel that cleans itself and the air around it by utilizing natural components like sunlight, water vapor and oxygen.



In the United States, carbon dioxide, a leading cause of smog, is the most common greenhouse gas emitted into the atmosphere. Nearly 40% of that comes from buildings alone, and according to experts, total U.S. carbon emission are projected to grow by 16% between 2006 and 2030. With numbers like that, it’s clear how valuable green technology like Reynobond® with EcoClean™ is becoming to the construction industry and society as a whole.


The Reynobond® with EcoClean™ process is so effective that 1,000 sqm / 10,000 sq ft² of it on your building can have approximately enough cleansing power to offset the smog created by the pollution output of four cars every day, which is the equivalent air cleansing power of 80 trees every day. Neat, right?


Here’s hoping this green technology soon shifts from an innovative idea to an industry standard.



Jan 12

Living Building Challenge

Could the Living Building Challenge soon be the new industry standard for green building?



Over recent years, the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program has emerged as the industry standard for rating green buildings. Though the program has been considered widely successful, there are many in the A/E/C community who have stressed that LEED simply does not go as far as it could. From these green idealists, the movement behind the Living Building Challenge was born.


What if every single act of design and construction made the world a better place? That question is what the Living Building Challenge (LBC) poses to all involved in the future of green building. The LBC was founded with the sole purpose of creating a higher level of sustainable building by expanding and improving upon current standards of green design and construction.


One of the main proponents behind the LBC is Jason McLennan, LEED AP, a Canadian-born architect who was involved with LEED from its early onset. McLennan, who served as Project Manager in the first 10 pilot LEED projects, began outlining the concepts behind living buildings in the late 1990s. By the mid 2000s he began devising the living building idea into a construction standard. In 2006, McLennan brought the intellectual property of the Living Building Challenge to the Cascadia Green Building Council and from this, later formed the International Living Future Institute (IFLI).



The ILFI describes the Living Building Challenge as “a philosophy, advocacy platform, and certification program.” The LBC founded its standards around seven “petals” which are: site, water, energy, heat, materials, equity and beauty. The first five of the seven petals match up with LEED’s current credit structure. Unlike LEED, however, teams cannot choose which petals to highlight, since there are no credits and just prerequisites.


The materials component seems to be the hardest petal to comply with since the LBC has a “Red List” of materials that cannot be used in any form of a project. However, individuals who have been involved in early LBC projects, like Stan Richardson, feel that “The materials component is the hardest to comply with, and it takes more time up front, but it will eventually be overcome.” In fact, there are hopes that manufactures will rise to the occasion and produce more materials that meet the Red List requirements.



So, the question remains. Will living buildings eventually replace the LEED program as the standard rating system for new green buildings? The answer is more than likely no. Most experts hope the LBC will emerge as a complimentary and not competitive program to LEED. In fact, according to architect  Dan Hellmuth, AIA “LEED is trickier for smaller projects and is better for $2 million and higher projects.” Pilot projects for the LBC have used LEED Platinum as a baseline and aimed for the LBC as the ideal goal.


For more information on the Living Building Challenge visit their website, or watch a few feature clips below.

Jan 12

Tablets in Construction

Construction companies have adopted the use of tablet computers to shave hours, days and potentially weeks off of their projects. With information at the “tap” of his finger, a superintendent can provide a client with a price quote, obtain client approvals, complete inspections, arrange logistics and manage complications…to name a few. Instant, important, calculated data available as-needed, at any time – without leaving the project site. Who would deny a streamlined process?
What’s even more intriguing is the unlimited and mounting value tablets are providing the construction industry. It seems that they may have only scratched the surface…

View this video done by ENR:

Six ways builders use tablets to manage construction operations

  1. Instant access to construction documents — Using file-hosting apps like Dropbox, builders can access virtually any construction documents from the field, including purchase orders, floor plans, site plans, selections, colors, and neighborhood plats.
  2. Jobsite inspections — For instance, superintendents can snap a photo of a problem area, write a note on it, and email it along with a copy of the plans.
  3. Face-to-face meetings remotely — Builders, supers, trade partners, and suppliers can have instant video-conference meetings using apps like Apple’s FaceTime and Skype.
  4. Installation videos and instructions — Instant access to streaming video and a large, crystal-clear screen allow builders to easily troubleshoot a product installation or double-check proper installation techniques while on the jobsite.
  5. Storm tracking — Apps from WeatherBug and the Weather Channel provide advanced weather data that allow builders to make better-informed decisions on construction projects.
  6. Remote access to enterprise data — For builders that use enterprise management systems like Sage, Builder MT, and Kova Solutions, tablets can tie directly into workflow, schedule, accounting, estimating, purchasing, and project management systems, providing a host of benefits.

For more information, visit:

Tablets Take Off in Construction

Touch, Zoom, Sell: How Builders are Using Tablets to Sell Homes

iPads in the Toolbox: Using Tablets to Manage Construction Operations

8 Ways to Use Tablet PCs