Using a lot of wood in new buildings has naturally raised concerns from some cities and their fire departments, which remember well the lessons of the last century, but through modeling and testing, engineers are increasingly convincing municipalities to amend their codes. As it turns out, heavy composite timbers are surprisingly resistant to fire due to their thickness. Depending on the types and sizes of the supports, steel beams and columns can start to heat up and fail much sooner while wood chars more evenly and slowly. Like any building material, mass timber has its drawbacks, but as architects and engineers consider the environmental impacts of their projects, it offers another option in the material toolbox.
Everything we manufacture has a hidden climate impact in the form of carbon emissions resulting from resource extraction, production, manufacturing, and logistics. Depending how it was made, one steel beam may have much lower embodied carbon than another one that looks and performs the same. EC3 reveals the embodied carbon of the materials going into our buildings, empowering architects, engineers, and contractors to make informed choices, selecting those materials that have the lowest environmental impact—providing transparency for a more sustainable built environment.
To learn more and check out the EC3 for yourself, you can visit buildingtransparency. I noticed that a lot of this episode was dedicated to pointing out the problems that other countries have, while precisely skirting around talking about American consumption. I personally will find myself frustrated in many episodes with the way that 99 Percent Invisible will handle discussion of other countries.
- Lunatic Fringe (Tales of the Pack Book 1).
- Built on Sand.
- Petition on Sand Mining | Coastal Care.
- Around the Field Volume 0!
However, when 99 Percent Invisible does not directly address issues that the USA has, ones that seriously impact the story that 99PI is telling, the show feels flat, shady, and Ameri-centric. Why dont Sand Miners get their sand from the ocean floor? Of course you would have to find a good balance where it is far ebough offshore but not too deep so that the soil isnt sand anymore.
Also you would need to find a spot with not alot of endangered sea life. But based on the amount of sand needed the ocean would be a great source, also with rising sea levels it may help mitigate that problem by lowering sea levels by taken out all that sand. There is also an developing movement aimed at a fundamental re-imagining earthen based construction material as a basic multi-dimensional structural, thermal resilience, IAQ low-carbon material. Only issue I had is when he talked about Americans would be happier with less.
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- Up the Main (Coastal British Columbia Stories Book 2).
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Yes Please! Previous in Playlist. And no trip to the seaside is complete without the sand. But that is just the beginning of the wonders of sand. Sand is all around us— in tall concrete skyscrapers, computer chips in your smartphones. If you feel the Earth move under your feet, it might be sand. Did you know that not all sand is created equally? The highest quality sand, the kind used to make computer chips, comes from a special mine in North Carolina. And our need for sand has created sand cartels, black markets for the grain.
Sand thieves in Jamaica stole part of a beach right off the island. My next guest says that sand is the most important solid substance on Earth and is at the core of our daily lives. And you can read an excerpt from this book on our website, sciencefriday.
How does sand form?
Welcome to Science Friday. We know about the sand on the beach. What is the definition of sand? So it means that sand can be crushed up shells. It can be crushed up volcanic rock.
It can be lots of things. But most sand in the world and the sand that we use so much of is mostly quartz sand, silicon dioxide. There are different grades of sand. Tell us about that. What makes the mine in North Carolina so special for making computer chips? So the stuff that we use the most, like I said, is quartz sand, which is very abundant.
You find it all over the world. We can use that stuff for concrete, which is the number one thing that we use sand for by far— is concrete. The next step up is sand that you use for glass making.
The Beach Builders
It all comes from this small county in rural North Carolina. Back when the tectonic plates were moving around to form North America, you had a plate under the Atlantic Ocean coming into contact with the one that underlies the American continent. And at this particular spot, they run into each other at a particular depth. About 9 to 15 miles below the ground, they grind against each other and create enormous, enormous heat. And between that heat and the fact that in this particular spot there was very, very little moisture, it created this incredibly, incredibly pure quartz, which over millennia, got lifted up much closer to the surface and is now close enough where we can mine it.
Is that the same kind of sand that we get over here? Is it a different kind of sand? Is it unique?
So again, most of the sand that you find in there is quartz. So desert sand, unfortunately, is completely useless to us as human beings for construction. So in the desert, those grains tumble and tumble and tumble over thousands of years, getting smashed, just banging full force into each other, which rounds off their corners and their angles and makes it quite a bit rounder and smoother than the sand that you find in the bottom of rivers or the bottom of lakes, which tends to be sharper and more angular.
So that desert sand, ultimately, is too round to stick together to build something out of. I could talk about concrete forever, as my listeners know, as they yawn as I talk about it. And sand is a major part of concrete, right? This stuff is so underappreciated. Like most people, I had never even thought about it before I started doing the research for this book.
But concrete is literally the foundation of our modern civilization. A lot of people mix up concrete and cement. You mix up cement plus a whole lot of sand and gravel and let it dry, let it cure. And that gives you concrete. I had no idea that people steal sand right off a beach. We need sand. Like I said, concrete is the thing that our modern civilization is really made out of, right? Every building, every shopping mall, apartment block being built anywhere around the world is made at least partly out of concrete.
Also, all the roads, all the highways that connect all those buildings— also made of thousands and thousands of tons of sand.
Built on Sand - 99% Invisible
And we are using it at an unbelievable pace. But in fact, it is deadly serious business in India. And they get away with it by doing the same thing organized crime does everywhere. They pay off judges. They pay off police to leave them alone. And if you really get in their way, they will kill you. Hundreds of people have been murdered over sand in the last few years, mostly in India, but also in other countries around the world. In Kenya, in Indonesia, a bunch of other places— tremendous violence connected with the sand trade. There is considerable environmental damage that happens here in the US.
But really, the worst stuff is happening in the developing world. I can tell you I get calls all the time now from reporters around the world who are starting to become aware of this issue and starting to look into it. One is, yeah, you can smash down concrete, crush it up, and reuse it to a certain extent.
And that makes them unfit for certain purposes. We have to take a break. Stay with us.
This is Science Friday. And when I rudely interrupted Vince, he was telling us about recycling sand, recycling concrete to bring the sand out of it. So as I was saying, three reasons. We can recycle it. Imagine all the power, all the energy that it takes to run a machine that can smash concrete down into grains.
So really, that sand, most of the time, is taken permanently out of circulation.
Lots of folks with calls. Mike in Mount Vernon, Washington. Hi, Mike. How does the sand vary from that like in outer space or in Mars, like asteroids? Is it the same thing? Can you use that stuff on Earth? Is it just the same, or is there a difference if you know? You know what? I wish I knew. Think about sand mining. If sand is so scarce, we go out and pull in an asteroid and get the sand off it or something like that.
Are we in danger, then, of losing glass? You said that the second most common use of sand is for making glass. Let me change that to say is different kind of glass made with different kinds of sand? Or is it all the same sand? The sand there is very, very pure. The real problem is just your garden variety, everyday construction sand, because that is the stuff that we are using just in unbelievable quantities. I have a question for Mr. Here in Northwestern Iowa, it was real pretty up in there, called Little Switzerland.