Tougher, stronger and longer: Building for the future
When it comes to construction, there are a number of ways residential homebuilders are building longer-lasting, safer homes.
From single-family homes to condos and apartments, durability is a top priority for builders across the country.
Here are just a few ways homebuilders are building stronger homes while saving money in the process:
Steel Bones are Better than Wood
A home is only as strong as its bones, which is why homebuilders are using steel framing instead of wood in residential construction. There's nothing wrong with 2x4 lumber framing, but steel is stronger and lasts much longer than wood.
Light-gauge steel framing is sweeping the nation because of its durability and versatility. Steel framing can do just about anything wood framing can, except it's impervious to termites, warping, and shrinking.
This results in stronger homes and condos that are roughly the same cost as traditional wood construction.
What's sandwiched in the walls and framing of a home can help strengthen the structure as well. That's why many homebuilders are using structural panels instead of traditional fiberglass insulation in interior and exterior walls.
As the article “">How is America paying for their home improvement projects?” looks at, by choosing materials that will pay off in the long run, it is a win-win situation for both the builder and the resident.
Structural panels do just that by using rigid foam to strengthen the structure while also providing superior insulation for homes in just about any climate.
Onsite construction has dominated the homebuilding world since the beginning of time, but modular construction is changing all of that.
Instead of building a home that's at the mercy of the exterior elements, modular homes are built in a warehouse and assembled onsite. This gives builders the opportunity to build better, stronger homes with all of their building and fabricating equipment at their disposal.
The assemble-on-site technique is a huge benefit because it allows residential construction companies to build homes faster and more efficiently, which results in better built homes at a fraction of the cost.
Although concrete is mainly used in commercial construction, many homebuilders are beginning to use insulated concrete block in residential homebuilding.
Insulated concrete block come in pre-fabricated structural forms that are assembled onsite and filled with concrete for reinforcement. This results in unparalleled strength and durability.
Building Affordable Homes
Constructing a strong, durable home is one thing, but building an affordable home is something else entirely.
From single-family homes to condos and boutique apartments, homebuilders are using low-cost techniques when constructing new homes.
For starters, builders are using energy efficient windows, doors, siding, and central air conditioning systems that don't cost much upfront, but help keep the cost of home ownership down overtime.
Likewise, homebuilders are choosing designs with open floor plans.
Open floor plans result in fewer building materials and actually make smaller homes feel larger.
With that said, residential construction companies are also reducing the square footage of new homes, which helps save on building costs as well as energy costs.
When it comes to affordable, longer lasting residences, more homebuilders are keeping durability and cost in mind.
Adam Groff is a freelance writer and creator of content. He writes on a variety of topics including construction and budgeting.
Why engineers must always consider human-induced vibration
Human induced vibration, or more accurately vibrations caused by human footfall, often conjures images of Millennium Bridge-style swaying or collapsing buildings.
But in reality, the ‘damage’ caused by human-induced vibrations is less likely to ruin a structure and more likely to cause discomfort in people. Though not as dramatic as a structural failure, any good engineer wants to make sure the people using their structures, be it bridges or buildings or anything in between, can do so safely and comfortably. This is why human-induced vibration must be considered within the design process.
Resonance v Impulse
There are two ways that human-induced vibrations affect structures: resonant, and impulse or transient response. Put simply, resonance occurs when Object A vibrates at the same natural frequency as Object B.
Object B resonates and begins to vibrate too. Think singing to break a wine glass! Although the person singing isn’t touching the glass, the vibrations of their voice are resonating with the glass’s natural frequency, causing this vibration to get stronger and stronger and eventually, break the glass. In the case of a structure, resonance occurs when the pedestrian’s feet land in time with the vibration.
On the other hand, impulse or transient vibration responses can be a problem on structures where its natural frequencies are too high for resonance to occur, such as where the structure is light or stiff. Here the discomfort is caused by the initial “bounce” of the structure caused by the footstep and is a concern on light or stiff structures.
Engineers must, of course, design to reduce the vibration effects caused by either impulse or resonance.
Potential impacts from human induced vibration
Human induced vibration can lead to a number of effects upon the structure and its users. These include:
- Interfering with sensitive equipment Depending on the building’s purpose, what it houses can be affected by the vibrations of people using the building. Universities and laboratories, for example, may have sensitive equipment whose accuracy and performance could be damaged by vibrations. Even in ordinary offices the footfall vibration can wobble computer screens, upsetting the workers.
- Swaying bridges One of the most famous examples of human-induced resonance impacting a structure occurred with the Millennium Bridge. As people walked across the bridge, the footsteps caused the bridge to sway, and everybody had to walk in time with the sway because it was difficult not to. Thankfully, this feedback can only occur with horizontal vibrations so building floors are safe from it, but footbridges need careful checking to prevent it.
- Human discomfort According to research, vibrations in buildings and structures can cause depression and even motion sickness in inhabitants. Tall buildings sway in the wind and footsteps can be felt, even subconsciously by the occupants. It has been argued that modern efficient designs featuring thinner floor slabs and wider spacing in column design mean that these new builds are not as effective at dampening vibrations as older buildings are.
- Jeopardising structural integrity The build-up of constant vibrations on a structure can, eventually, lead to structural integrity being compromised. A worse-case scenario would be the complete collapse of the structure and is the reason some bridges insist that marching troops break step before crossing. Crowds jumping in time to music or in response to a goal in a stadium are also dynamic loads that might damage an under-designed structure.
How to avoid it
As mentioned, modern designs that favour thinner slabs and wider column spacing are particularly susceptible to all forms of vibration, human-induced or otherwise, but short spans can also suffer due to their low mass. Using sophisticated structural engineering software is an effective method for engineers to test for and mitigate footfall and other vibrations at the design stage.