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Slideshow: Architects Make Curves With Carbon Composites

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Rob Spiegel
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Outside the building box
Rob Spiegel   5/3/2013 9:26:31 AM
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How refreshing, Ann, to see these currvy buildings. I'd love to see more of this in the U.S. Is there any reason these materials are being used for buildings outside the U.S.? Is it because we're not building a lot of buildings these days

Cabe Atwell
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Cabe Atwell   5/3/2013 3:09:41 PM
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It is a fresh look. It's a shame it will be a dated look in the near future. Architects are renowned for pushing design boundaries. I wish other industries would attempt the same innovation.

C

Ann R. Thryft
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Ann R. Thryft   5/6/2013 2:02:18 PM
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Thanks, Cabe. Of course, fashion changes always make buildings look outdated sooner or later; remember all those "futuristic" styles of the 50s in industrial design, cars, and buildings?



Elizabeth M
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Re: Outside the building box
Elizabeth M   5/7/2013 3:51:53 AM
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Yes, Ann, you're right. Things that seem so cutting edge during one era seem completely outdated and strange 10 or 20 years down the line. With how quickly things move these days that time frame could be even sooner.

Debera Harward
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Re: Outside the building box
Debera Harward   5/7/2013 5:51:15 AM
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Yes, Elizebeth, you are correct these days technology is changing soo rapidly that after some times it completely seems to be outdated.What if some issues comes in a buildiing constructed with carbon composites after some years and ths technology becomes outdated then wht will  be the user doing in this case .

Debera Harward
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Re: Outside the building box
Debera Harward   5/7/2013 5:51:15 AM
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Yes, Elizebeth, you are correct these days technology is changing soo rapidly that after some times it completely seems to be outdated.What if some issues comes in a buildiing constructed with carbon composites after some years and ths technology becomes outdated then wht will  be the user doing in this case .

AnandY
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Re: Outside the building box
AnandY   5/7/2013 6:21:51 AM
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True, that technology get outdated within few years. But maintenance is also one of the major factor. In conventional structure maintenance is very less once constructed. Is this the same with carbon structures?

Cabe Atwell
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Re: Outside the building box
Cabe Atwell   5/10/2013 4:05:46 PM
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Ann,

I used to live in a vision of the future building, it seems. Designed in the 60s, it is so dated now.

C

Ann R. Thryft
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Ann R. Thryft   5/13/2013 12:29:24 PM
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Cabe, everything we make or build becomes dated eventually. Just wait til hip-hop and social media become passe. If we live long enough, we get to see this happen several times.

William K.
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Re: Outside the building box
William K.   5/13/2013 9:02:23 PM
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Ann, social media, at least of the facebook kind, has already gotten old and become a worthless collection of features, as far as I am concerned. Really, it is more like "spewing data" as opposed to sharing information, and very little of communicating insights is done, from what I see. I would not miss it one speck if it were gone some morning.

The various online discussion groups are different by quite a bit, and I enjoy the physics papers weekly publication and discussions as well.

Cabe Atwell
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Cabe Atwell   5/17/2013 4:03:40 PM
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Ann,

That is true. I suppose there is never a universal, timeless look. How come certain old looks are classics, and acceptable, and others not. I don't see many people going for the 1950's pastel color look. Maybe it was universally repulsive.

C

Ann R. Thryft
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Ann R. Thryft   5/23/2013 12:07:43 PM
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To me, "timeless" would be something that persists over several hundred (or even several thousand) years, not just a few decades. There are some women's fashions that would qualify such as long simple dresses. I agree about the unattractiveness of '50s pastels--they used to be called ice cream colors.

Charles Murray
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Re: Outside the building box
Charles Murray   5/3/2013 6:00:54 PM
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Even though these materials are being used in non-load-bearing applications, they must have considerable flexural strength. The structure in the secon slide looks like it would be subject to som high wind loading.

Rob Spiegel
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Rob Spiegel   5/6/2013 6:04:34 PM
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Yes, that occurred to me as well, Chuck. Even if the composites don't bear weight, they have weight of their own they need to support. One would guess this has been taken into consideration, including wind stress.

Ann R. Thryft
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Ann R. Thryft   5/7/2013 12:45:14 PM
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Chuck, I agree about the mechanical properties. I was surprised to see these materials used in this app, but I probably shouldn't have, seeing what's been done with them elsewhere: seawalls, pontoons, etc.



Elizabeth M
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Re: Outside the building box
Elizabeth M   5/6/2013 9:49:07 AM
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This is really cool to see, Ann. These buildings are much sexier than blocky buildings and it's interesting the composites are helping to make it possible. I was just in Sevilla, Spain, over the weekend and saw a similarly curved building that represents cutting-edge architecture for that city. (It really stood out from the other buildings in the city, which as you can imagine are quite old and ornate.) I don't know much about it but maybe now I will research it and find out if composites were used there, too. Maybe I missed it in the story, but does climate have anything to do with the use of composites? The climate in Sevilla is very dry and hot generally, just like the Middle East.

Rob Spiegel
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Rob Spiegel   5/6/2013 6:42:17 PM
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Yes, these curvy building are a relief from the typical blocks. I'm curious about whether the insides of the building are also curvy or whether what we're seeing is mostly a facade.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Outside the building box
Ann R. Thryft   5/8/2013 12:39:42 PM
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Rob, interesting question about the interiors--based on the fact that the curved roof panels are not load-bearing, I suspect that the curves may be a facade.



Rob Spiegel
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Re: Outside the building box
Rob Spiegel   5/8/2013 2:01:18 PM
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Facades can do a lot to make an ordinary building look extraordinary. We have an architect in Albuquerque who revamps buildings to look very spacy, while inside you have a traditional home.

He has created some that actually are unusual both inside and out as in these photos: http://www.bartprince.com/

 

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Outside the building box
Ann R. Thryft   5/8/2013 6:56:18 PM
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Thanks to Rob and Elizabeth for the links--those are some pretty far-out, curvy designs! Curves can certainly be carved in fine wood, although that's become a very expensive material.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Outside the building box
Rob Spiegel   5/9/2013 3:53:43 PM
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Ann, is the cost of fine wood the reason builders are using composites for their curvy buildings? I wonder if the availability of composites will free up architects to alter their designs.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Outside the building box
Ann R. Thryft   5/9/2013 5:31:08 PM
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Rob, I can't speak to others' tastes, but to me composites are no substitute for fine wood. I suspect they're actually cheaper than fine wood, though.



Cabe Atwell
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Re: Outside the building box
Cabe Atwell   5/10/2013 4:08:04 PM
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Glad to see the reduction of wood use in architecture. But, I think that is a "no-brainer." A cow in a barn destroyed the wooden version of Chicago. Now, it's all rusty steel. Not a single fire since. Though, the city now has a cold feel to it.

C

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Outside the building box
Rob Spiegel   5/13/2013 1:09:10 PM
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Ah, Chicago still feels warm to me, Cabe. But I know what you mean about steel. I think composites are still a mystery. We don't know yet whether they're going to catch on and we don't know the full range of applications we'll see with composites. It will be interesting.

Cabe Atwell
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Cabe Atwell   5/17/2013 4:06:57 PM
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Rob,

I was up in Traverse City Michigan, the wine areas. They had rustic buildings with plenty of wood for construction. Very quaint. They even had some modern steel warehouse wineries – they were pretty utilitarian – but pleasant. Returning to Chicago, I just saw how run-down it all looks. Rust is the city's color apparently. I suppose I should not have returned through Indiana's industrial area, the area may have tainted my view.

C

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Outside the building box
Rob Spiegel   6/5/2013 8:27:18 PM
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Having spent plenty of time in Traverse City over the years, I can understand how Chicago might look afterwards. Traverse really has become a delightful little city.

Cabe Atwell
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Cabe Atwell   6/10/2013 7:21:23 PM
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Rob,

That is an understatement. I prefer the wineries on the actual peninsula. Traverse City proper is just.. pleasant. Perhaps someday, 3D printing could reproduce the old style architecture... Just a thought.

C

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Outside the building box
Ann R. Thryft   5/28/2013 11:40:25 AM
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I think Rob is right about the future of composites, especially carbon composites. So much will depend on processes and getting their cost down.

Cabe Atwell
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Re: Outside the building box
Cabe Atwell   5/30/2013 12:09:26 AM
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Perhaps the real future is in 3D printed buildings?

Or so the creator wants to believe.

C

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Outside the building box
Ann R. Thryft   5/30/2013 12:59:14 PM
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3D printed buildings are already being tried, as both you and I have covered: http://www.ubmfuturecities.com/author.asp?section_id=262&doc_id=523906 http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=250614 Meanwhile, composites are also being designed for 3D printing uses in aerospace: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=248401 So--when will the two combine?

Cabe Atwell
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Re: Outside the building box
Cabe Atwell   6/10/2013 7:25:33 PM
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Ann,

I could see 3D printing becoming the premier way to build structures. I mean... brick laying is a perfect example. An industry perfect for a huge printer, using individual bricks as the media. I read of a brick printer that would build streets, in the Netherlands. It's going to happen.

C

Ann R. Thryft
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Ann R. Thryft   6/11/2013 12:43:29 PM
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I agree, Cabe, and thanks for that link. What a perfect app! It reminds me of the one NASA plans on using to print roadways and landing pads as well as structures on the Moon:http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=250614 One thing that's so cool about these building-scale 3D printing machines is the fact that they're designed to use materials other than plastic, often traditional building materials like cement and brick. The possibilities are huge.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Outside the building box
Ann R. Thryft   5/8/2013 12:41:59 PM
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Elizabeth, composites, either glass or fiber-based, are often used to achieve shapes that can't be done in steel or concrete, or can't be easily done. Fiberglass boats are a good example. That's interesting about the curved buildings you saw in Sevilla, although to my knowledge climate is not a factor in the use of composites in buildings.



Elizabeth M
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Re: Outside the building box
Elizabeth M   5/8/2013 3:21:06 PM
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Thanks for the clarification, Ann. Here's a link to a photo of the curvy building in Spain, just so you can check it out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Espacio_Parasol_Sevilla.jpg

Apparently, it's made of wood!

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Outside the building box
Ann R. Thryft   5/6/2013 2:01:36 PM
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I agree Rob, this is a very fun app for carbon composites. Good question about US use of composites in architecture. Does anyone know the answer?

Greg M. Jung
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Economics of new material
Greg M. Jung   5/3/2013 11:25:53 PM
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From the last paragraph it implies that Carbon Composites are still much more expensive than traditional steel or concrete processes.  Would this factor be 2X or more?  If so, then in the near future Carbon Composite techniques will still be limited to specialty applications where steel or concrete can't be used (unless a customer in a very wealthy location like Dubai wants to make a aesthetic statement and money is not the primary decision criteria).

Debera Harward
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Re: Economics of new material
Debera Harward   5/5/2013 6:43:18 AM
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Greg M Jung, you are correct their are still certain factors that keep us away from carbon fibre first one is the cost factor secondly there exist reliability issues.What if the crack or some damage occurs on particular object will it be repairable?

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Economics of new material
Ann R. Thryft   5/7/2013 12:46:08 PM
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Greg, carbon composites are still more expensive than steel or concrete, but the factor varies depending on a lot of different variables. Debera also has a good point about repairability issues which haven't yet been solved.

William K.
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Curvy buildings, today's fad application
William K.   5/6/2013 9:40:14 PM
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So the very most trendy architects are designing all sorts of curvy buildings for  the very rich. That is fine, but I wonder who will be the ones revising these buildings in five years when the fad has passed and a different style is in vogue. 

I also wonder about space utilization efficiency. which I guess does not matter yet in Duabi. Probably we would not see these in HongKong, at least not may of them, and none at all in tokyo, for certain.

But it is a good show of what can be done with the new materials. I wonder what they will look like after ten years of bright sunshine, though.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Curvy buildings, today's fad application
Ann R. Thryft   5/7/2013 12:53:22 PM
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I don't think the hospital shown in these photos can be classified as a building for the very rich. I find it interesting that some people are mentioning these curved building designs as fads that will pass--how is that different from the blocky building designs, which will also be a passing fad if curves take over? Each phase can be considered a fad; there are certainly a lot of curvy buildings in Shanghai.



William K.
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Re: Curvy buildings, today's fad application
William K.   5/7/2013 7:23:20 PM
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What about corrosion in those composites? I am aware that there is a concern about it in aircraft structures, so it may be a problem here also. At least woth checking up on. 

Ann, those blocky buildings were more from the "form follows function" era, where at least one of the primary goals was to keep costs down. I am not aware of weight being a big concern on the lower floors of buildings, although it certainly matters as the building gets higher. Not that I am defending some of those really ugly structures, but they did have a valid motivation for what they did.

The  posting is excellent though, it may have caught me at a time when I had just been dealing with some people to whom superficial appearance is EVERYTHING, with very little regard to such parameters as durability and functionality. "When style wins over substance, we all lose." That is a favorite saying of mine, it sometimes bothers some people a bit to hear it. At one job I had it posted in my office on the wall behind my seat so that all could see it clearly.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Curvy buildings, today's fad application
Ann R. Thryft   5/9/2013 5:29:49 PM
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William, I had the same question about damage, but I don't see why the wear problems would be much worse than what aircraft with carbon composite skins experience; in fact, they're probably not nearly as severe, since these buildings aren't speeding through the air and storms of hail, dust, and rain like planes do. Composites, of course, don't corrode like metals do.

William K.
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Re: Curvy buildings, today's fad application
William K.   5/12/2013 7:04:38 PM
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Ann, actually, from what I have read, composites do corrode, but differently from metal. 

The one other thing is that typically buildings are kept around a lot longer than aircraft or racecars, so that what happens after 30 years of weather matters on a building, while the race car is obsolete and the airplane is probably scrapped, or sold to the minor leagues.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Curvy buildings, today's fad application
Ann R. Thryft   5/13/2013 12:30:04 PM
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William, corrosion usually refers to what happens when metal breaks down. Composites can certainly break down, but "corrosion" is not the correct term. They delaminate, fragment, and suffer environmental stress cracking, as we've discussed here:
http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=238056
http://www.designnews.com/document.asp?doc_id=236816
http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1365&doc_id=238200



AnandY
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Carbon composite to strength pipelines
AnandY   5/7/2013 6:26:01 AM
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Can carbon composite sheets be used to provide strength to water pipelines which run underground? These pipelines face the problem like corrosion, breakage, etc. If these carbon composites in anyway strengthen the pipelines then it will be great.

bobjengr
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CARBON COMPOSITES AND ARCHITECTS
bobjengr   5/7/2013 5:56:02 PM
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Excellent post Ann--very informative.  The two stats you mentioned regarding weight reduction (85%) and additional strength (1.9 to 2.0 times steel) was eye-opening to me for this material.    I went online and pulled up the web site for Affan Innovative Structures and they seem to have cornered the market for this type of product.   Several years ago I was in Dubai and was astounded that every building looked about 20 minutes old.  They are at least well maintained.  Another very interesting fact was most high-rise buildings had their own power generation facilities; i.e. GE and Pratt & Whitney gas turbines running on natural gas.  I probably would not recognize the place now.  Again, excellent post.

 

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: CARBON COMPOSITES AND ARCHITECTS
Ann R. Thryft   5/8/2013 6:56:56 PM
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bobjengr, thanks for the feedback from your direct experience in Dubai. That 20-minute-old look came across in the photo/illustration essay from the designboom.com website we give in this article. In fact, I've seen some of these designs before, and was delighted to have an excuse to write about them :)  It's also very interesting that the high-rises have independent power generation sources, instead of a huge, complex, sometimes-aging grid like in this country, where a break in one part can cause sections miles away to collapse. I've experience this directly more times than I'd like to remember.

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