Interesting reading: Pyritic expansion

PyriteI have just read an interesting research paper, available on-line, about heave under houses caused by the pyritic expansion of unsuitable fill material. This is a huge ongoing problem, with tens of thousands of houses in Ireland alone affected.

The research details the results of experiments carried out to try to quantify the rate of pyritic expansion and study the influencing factors. This is important research.

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Firewood: Hardwood verses Softwood

Hardwood v softwood

Hardwood v softwood

I try and burn hardwood in my stove where possible. But recently I received a load of mixed softwood instead. It was interesting to note how quickly it burned in the stove compared with hardwood. This meant much more tending of the fire.

The end result is that I will always try and obtain hardwood where possible from now on.

Comparing wood. Generally all timber contains the same amount of heat energy per kg of weight. Therefore the density of seasoned timber indicates its potential heat output. Below is a list of various common seasoned timber densities. The difference between hardwood and softwood is immediately apparent:

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Satellite flares: Flashes in the night sky

Satellite Flare

Satellite Flare

There is one definite advantage of the long dark nights at this time of year. It is that you can see morning satellite flares without getting up early compared to the Summer months. But what are Satellite flares? These are spectacular flashes in the night sky that last a few seconds. They are caused by sunlight being reflected off the surfaces of satellites on to small sections of the earth’s surface. They can be predicted accurately for any given spot on the planet. They usually occur just before dawn and after dusk when the surface below is in darkness, but when the satellites above can still reflect the suns rays. The occurrences vary in brightness, but some can reach a startling brightness of -8 which is brighter than the planet Venus.

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Keeping rivers flowing

River viewKeeping rivers free from blockages is particularly important this time of year. The rain from Winter storms increases flows in our rivers while there is more wind blow debris in the rivers and channels. Blockages usually occur at restrictions of the river flow, at bridges, culverts and other obstacles.

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Comparing building sizes with Mapfrappe

Google Earth is an amazing programme, especially its measurement tools. I have compared measuring buildings on Google Earth with an on the ground measurement and the difference is usually less than one metre. In fact using Google Earth can be as good as pacing the building out by foot and a whole lot quicker. It has a number of drawbacks of course, but it is ideal for a quick check of the foot print of a building.

There is a website that uses Google Earth to allow you to easily compare the relative sizes of building footprints and much more. It is called Mapfrappe, click here for link.

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Winter Tips: A solution for slippy decking

Slippy decking

Slippy decking

In a previous post we discussed slippy decking, see link here . But the emphasis in that article was on building decking which prevented slips in the first place. However what happens when you have already installed decking and you need to make it less slippy, without removing it?

I had this problem. I installed my decking years ago. But in recent years I found it was prone to becoming slippy in the winter months, especially when it is covered in frost or snow.

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Remembering Peter Rice

Peter Rice

Peter Rice (1935-1992) -Source Arup

Ireland’s Peter Rice was one of the most talented Engineers of recent times. His work covered iconic buildings including The Sydney Opera House, The Pompidou Centre and Kansai’s International Airport.

Sadly this month marks the 21st anniversary of his death. To commemorate this, a number of events will be held in Ireland.

One of the most interesting is an exhibition of his work. This will be held at the National College of Art and Design in Thomas Street, Dublin. It will include lectures and a screening of a film about his career. But the bit that has really interested me is that there will be scale models of many structural details which Peter Rice designed. These were made by students from DIT, Dublin Institute of Technology.

For those who are interested in learning more about this great engineer and his work, the event is called ‘Learning from Peter Rice: Under the Skin’. It will run from the 17th to the 31th of October (2013).  Click here for more information on the event.

For those of you unable to attend, the film about his career which will be shown as part of the event is available on the Arup company website, click here to view. Click here for more information about his career.

Finally a quote:

“Rice was, perhaps, the James Joyce of structural engineering. His poetic invention, his ability to turn accepted ideas on their head and his rigorous mathematical and philosophical logic made him one of the most sought-after engineers of our times.”

Jonathan Glancey in an obituary to Peter Rice.

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