Sunday, May 28, 2023

Self-Healing Technology for High-Performance Coatings

Gerald Wilson, Ph.D president and CEO of Autonomic Materials explains the concepts underlying the technology of self-healing high-performance coatings.

The Willamette Valley Chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute continues to produce well-attended “Lunch & Learn” continuing education opportunities. The latest edition featured a fascinating presentation on self-healing technology for coatings by Gerald Wilson, Ph.D, president and CEO of Autonomic Materials, Inc.. Self-healing materials are a class of smart materials that have the capability to repair themselves after damage.
Corrosion is a costly and ubiquitous problem. According to Gerald, the global cost of corrosion damage exceeds $2 trillion per year. Typical protective materials suffer a performance deficit after damage. Exposed substrates corrode, which leads to shorter lifecycles of metal assets, costly maintenance, downtime, and in the worst cases catastrophic failure. Moreover, the highest performing of the conventional protective coatings tend to be bad for the environment, generating 2 million tons of volatile organic compounds and 15 million tons of CO2 equivalents per year in the U.S. alone. The new self-healing technologies eliminate the tradeoff between high performance and low-VOC properties.
In a nutshell, the concept of self-healing coatings draws inspiration from biological systems and mimics their ability to regenerate and heal. The concept is based on the ability of smart, self-healing compounds to react to physical damage by dynamically triggering the recovery of protective or aesthetic properties. Self-healing coatings are not reliant upon human intervention to activate their protection.
In a biological system, injury (damage) to organic tissues sets in motion a cascade of biochemical events to repair the damage. Platelets (thrombocytes) delivered through the vascular system aggregate at the injury site to form a fibrin clot. Self-healing coating technologies of the type pioneered by Autonomic Materials emulate this process. They maintain corrosion-resistance of metal assets through the delivery of microencapsulated liquid healing agents (dicyclopentadiene plus neat or wax-protected Grubb’s catalyst) carried in an epoxy resin matrix.
The tiny microcapsules (10 microns or less in diameter) rupture when damage occurs (such as caused by a scratch, abrasion, or weathering), releasing the healing agents to the damage site. The healing agents, which may be liquid or solid form, flow into the affected areas. They fill the voids and restore the coating’s integrity by polymerizing and healing the damage. This action occurs autonomously, without the need for external intervention. Self-healing coatings can repair multiple cycles of damage throughout their lifespan, enhancing their durability and providing sustained protection.
When the damage to the coated substrate is too large for the self-healing agent to completely repair, the agent will still reseal the edges of the damaged zone, preventing loss of adhesion and subsequent delamination of the coating. As a result, the coating will remain on the substrate for longer and the scope of damage needing a repair during a maintenance event will be smaller.

Autonomic Materials is at the forefront of the development of self-healing technology for high-performance coatings. Its potential application for the protection of metal assets is very broad. Among the markets the company is targeting for use of its products are the oil & gas, transportation, military, industrial, and infrastructure sectors. Of course, self-healing technology for high-performance coatings shows great potential for building construction applications. By incorporating self-healing coatings into construction materials, it is possible to enhance their durability, extend their service life, and reduce maintenance and repair costs.
Two obvious applications for the technology in building construction include the protection of concrete structures and in metal coatings.
  • Corrosion of steel reinforcement can lead to structural damage and reduce a building’s lifespan. Self-healing coatings on the reinforcing steel can be formulated with corrosion inhibitors and encapsulated healing agents to neutralize the corrosive environment and prevent serious damage.
  • Self-healing coatings (primarily employed in the form of primers) can provide improved resistance to UV radiation, moisture, chemicals, and physical abrasion on metal substrates used on various building surfaces, among them wall claddings, roofing, metal railings, and more.  
The implications of the widespread application of self-healing coatings are clear. Enhanced durability, and reduced maintenance and repair costs are key attributes of interest to building owners, but perhaps more importantly, self-healing coatings minimize material waste and environmental impact. With extended service life and reduced maintenance requirements, the demand for new construction materials decreases, resulting in resource conservation.

T-1000 (screen shot from Terminator 2: Judgment Day)
My immediate reaction as Gerald described self-healing technology is that science fiction is becoming fact. Perhaps it’s a product of my overactive imagination, but the remarkable properties of the self-healing chemistry brought to mind the T-1000, the shape shifting, menacing antagonist from the iconic movie Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Just as the T-1000 could reform itself after being shot, slashed, or torn apart, self-healing materials demonstrate an analogous level of resilience and adaptability. Their autonomous healing process mirrors the T-1000’s ability to autonomously regenerate and resume its mission.
Self-healing technology is a rapidly evolving field, with ongoing research and development efforts optimizing its effectiveness and rapidly expanding its range of applications. As companies like Autonomic Materials further develop new materials and methods, we can expect self-healing coatings to increasingly be relied upon to improve the durability, performance, and sustainability of construction materials.    
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Big thanks to the CSI Willamette Valley Chapter for producing yet another successful Lunch & Learn presentation. Thanks too to the Eugene Builders Exchange for hosting the event, and to Nick Forrest of Forrest Technical Coatings for bringing Gerald Wilson to Eugene. I’m glad I attended this session and learned about a technology I previously knew very little about. Be sure to look for the next Lunch & Learn opportunity!

Sunday, May 21, 2023

The Architect’s Standard of Care

Photo by Daniel McCullough on Unsplash

I’m not an attorney, nor do I play one on TV. That said, as an architect—particularly one whose professional obligations include endorsing my firm’s projects and assuming responsibility for the accuracy and adequacy of their documentation—it is important that I understand my obligation to (at a minimum) exercise the professional skill and competence ordinarily provided under the same or similar circumstances by other architects possessing the necessary knowledge, skills, and expertise. This is the basis against which my performance may be measured in a legal proceeding—the so-called “standard of care”—to determine whether my actions may be regarded as professionally negligent.  
Generally, the courts hold architects like me, who stamp and sign construction contract documents, to a higher standard of care compared to others who don’t have this responsibility. By stamping and signing our drawings and specifications, I am certifying that those documents comply with applicable codes, regulations, and professional standards. This act signifies my professional endorsement of the project’s design and my assumption of responsibility for its accuracy and adequacy. There is professional liability inherent in the production of construction contract documents; consequently, I may be held professionally and financially liable for any errors, omissions, or deficiencies that lead to costly problems during construction of after the project’s completion.
The standard of care likewise applies to assorted key aspects of the practice of architecture:
  • Competence and Expertise:  Architects are expected to possess the necessary knowledge, skills, and expertise to perform their duties competently. This includes having a solid understanding of architectural design principles, building codes, regulations, construction techniques, and industry standards.
  • Professional Judgment:  Architects are required to exercise professional judgment based on their expertise and experience. This requires making informed decisions during the design process, considering such factors as client requirements, budget limitations, sustainability, and safety.
  • Client Communication:  Architects should maintain clear and effective communication with their clients, ensuring that the client’s goals, needs, and expectations are understood and addressed in the design process. Regular updates, consultations, and seeking client input are essential.
  • Design Quality:  Architects are responsible for creating designs that meet the functional, aesthetic, and technical requirements of a project. This means striving to produce work of high quality and innovation while adhering to applicable building codes, zoning regulations, and industry best practices.
  • Building Codes and Regulations:  Architects must stay up to date with relevant building codes, zoning regulations, and other legal concerns that govern the construction and occupancy of buildings. This entails ensuring their designs comply with these standards to promote safety, accessibility, and environmental sustainability.
  • Coordination and Collaboration:  Architects often work as part of a larger project team, including engineers, contractors, and other professionals. They should collaborate effectively, coordinating their work with other disciplines to ensure the project is well-integrated and meets the overall objectives.
  • Ethical Conduct:  Architects are expected to uphold high ethical standards in their professional practice. This includes maintaining client confidentiality, avoiding conflicts of interest, and acting in the best interests of their clients and the public. Architects should also consider the environmental impact of their designs and promote sustainable practices.
It’s important to note that the standard of care does not mean I must perform my professional duties flawlessly. Rather, my actions are judged against the standard of care. A failure to meet this standard is what constitutes legal negligence.

On its website, the American Institute of Architects Risk Management Program provides an extensive explanation of the standard of care and how it is applied. For a matter of negligence to exist, the AIA says four elements must exist within a claim:
  1. First, there must be a duty owed by the architect to the party bringing a claim against the architect.
  2. Second, there must be a breach of the duty owed. Meaning, there must be a failure on the part of the architect to act or perform its services within the applicable standard of care.
  3. Third, there must be actual damages. These damages may be purely economic, or they may involve personal injury or property damage. Without damages, even though there is a violation of the standard of care, there is no harm, no foul, and no liability.
  4. Fourth, there must be a causal connection between the architect’s failure to perform in accordance with the standard of care and the actual damages incurred. The damage must be a direct and proximate result of the architect’s breach of the standard of care. If the damages did not occur because of the architect's breach of the standard of care, there can be no liability.
Ultimately, the best way to avoid liability is to practice professionally and competently. If young architects embraced this goal from the start of their careers, the outcome would likely be a reduction in building failures and litigation. Capricious, ill-conceived designs would find little favor; instead, creative solutions founded upon sound building science would be the overwhelming norm. Understanding the duty to uphold or exceed the prevailing standard of care should be a critical component of every design professional’s education.
The bottom line is that as an architect I have the duty to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public, as well as providing assurance to my firm’s clients, the contractors who build the projects we design, and the regulatory authorities that our projects meet professional standards and are suitable for construction.

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Building for the Pacific Northwest

Me, along with fellow CSI Willamette Valley Chapter members Kayla Bundy (2022-2023 chapter president) and Sydney Mills (2023-2024 chapter president) at the 2023 CSI Northwest Region Conference in Bellingham.

I attended the 2023 Construction Specifications Institute Northwest Region Conference in Bellingham, Washington May 4 through May 6. The Mt. Rainier Chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute served as the most gracious host for the conference, which took place at the Hotel Bellwether, idyllically situated overlooking Bellingham Bay. Under the banner of “Building for the Pacific Northwest,” the conference renewed my faith in CSI’s mission and enthusiasm for the future of design and construction. 
It had been far too long since I last went to a CSI Northwest Region conference. Of course, COVID-19 threw a wrench in the works for large gatherings (notably resulting in the cancellation of the 2020 CSI Northwest & West Bi-Region Conference that the Willamette Valley Chapter was organizing). So, it was a treat to reconnect with CSI friends from around the NW Region I had not seen in years. The conference was well-attended and chock full of informative, interesting continuing education seminars. The prevailing sentiment was that it had been much too long since everyone had seen each other in person.
To merely say I am glad I attended is a big understatement. I was tremendously impressed with the high quality of the educational sessions, the insights of our keynote speakers, and the infectious energy and kind hospitality of the Mt. Rainier Chapter organizers. Most of all, I was thrilled to spend time with fellow members who share my enthusiasm for the Construction Specifications Institute and what it offers to every design and construction professional.
Speaking of the educational sessions, I attended the following seminars (there were many more), each of which were an hour in duration and uniformly excellent: 
  • La Conner Swinomish Library: A Case Study in Mass Timber
  • Panel Discussion: Pushing the Sustainability Envelopes Western Washington University’s new Kaiser Borsari Hall’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Building
  • The Emergence of Mass Timber in the U.S.
  • Firestop Specifications: What Architects Need to Know According to the IBC
  • Floodplain Design, Construction, and Impacts on Flood Insurance
  • Designing with Hardwood Veneer
  • Laser Scanning & Emerging Technologies
  • Electronic Moisture Leak Detection Testing, Standards, Science and Practical Applications
Matt Aalfs, AIA of BuildingWork describes his firm's design the La Conner/Swinomish Library.

Beth Stroshane, CDT, CCS, LEED AP, Jesce Walz, and Shanni Hanein, Assoc. AIA, LEED Green Associate discuss how their team pushed the sustainability envelope with the design of Kaiser Borsari Hall on the Western Washington University campus. 

Susan Jones, FAIA was Friday's keynote speaker. She discussed the emergence of mass timber construction in the U.S. 

I returned home convinced more than ever that CSI is the AEC organization best suited to lead the industry as it confronts a transformative and challenging tomorrow. Why? I’ve said it before: It’s because CSI is radically inclusive, welcoming members from all corners of the industry. It’s because it remains the most influential voice across the entire spectrum of construction communications. It’s because construction knowledge is only becoming more complex and necessary to master. It’s most definitely because of the people who comprise its membership. If you were there, you know
the 2023 Construction Specifications Institute Northwest Region Conference was the place to renew your faith in CSI’s mission and enthusiasm for the future of design and construction. 
Like many other professional membership organizations, CSI has seen its ranks decline precipitously in recent years. The reasons why this is occurring are not entirely clear to me. CSI has so much to offer everyone involved in all facets of design and construction. Hunkering down into discrete silos is anathema to CSI; the members of our organization are preternaturally disposed toward networking, breaking barriers, and crossing lines. If you charted the AEC industry as a Venn diagram, CSI would be located precisely where the intersection of all the sets occurs. Better than any other association, CSI fosters engagement and interaction between the disparate constituents of the building industry.
The conference bolstered my belief that CSI members are hands down the friendliest, most generous, and brightest agents of change when it comes to the goal of improving construction communication. The conference also underscored my certainty in the value of building relationships. The personal connections we establish are the most potent tools we can leverage in our professional lives. The key is connecting with those who share the common goals, determination, and chutzpah to make things happen. This spirit is best exemplified by the incredibly special people I have come to know as a member of the Construction Specifications Institute.

Sunday, May 7, 2023

Architecture is Awesome: #30 Connecting with Others

Rockefeller Center (my photo)

This is another in my series of posts inspired by 1000 Awesome Things, the Webby Award-winning blog written by Neil Pasricha. The series is my meditation on the awesome reasons why I was and continue to be attracted to the art of architecture.

As an architect, I’ve always been fascinated by the ways in which good design can bring people together. The best public spaces or places make our cities livable and vibrant, playing a crucial role in fostering connections between people. The composition and organization of these spaces facilitate movement, interaction, and a sense of community. Their size and shape, landscaping, the amenities they offer, the placement of furniture, the cohesive use of art, and other factors invite people to gather, relax, and engage with each other.

Millennium Park in Chicago is a fantastic example of how architecture can encourage social engagement. The park’s winding pathways and lush greenery encourage exploration and discovery. Its centerpieces are Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate sculpture (colloquially known as “The Bean)” and the stunning Jay Pritzker Pavilion, designed by Frank Gehry. These two iconic structures serve as gathering places for visitors from around the world, reflecting the diversity and vibrancy of Chicago itself. Millennium Park additionally features many other engaging spaces, among them the Lurie Garden—a five-acre oasis in the midst of the bustling city—and the Crown Fountain, an interactive public art installation that features two 50-foot block towers that display videos of Chicagoans. 

Rockefeller Center in New York is another example of how architecture can help people connect by serving as an open forum for people to encounter art, performances, and participate in the life of the community. This iconic complex of buildings, situated in the heart of Manhattan, is a hub of activity and a tourist magnet. The sunken plaza, where the famous Prometheus statue is located, is surrounded by shops and restaurants, making it an excellent place to shop, dine, and people-watch. Additionally, the seasonal ice-skating rink and elaborate Christmas decorations, or the stunning views from the Top of the Rock observation deck, Rockefeller Center offer a variety of experiences that invite people to come together and connect with one another. 

Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park (my photo)

What Millennium Park and Rockefeller Center have in common is their ability to create environments that encourage connection and interaction. The thoughtful design and careful curation of these public spaces provide platforms for people to come together, share experiences, and build a sense of community. Their compositions, sizes, shapes, and movement through them all crucially shape how people engage and interact. 

In a world where people are increasingly isolated and disconnected, the power of architecture to bring us together is truly AWESOME. Designers of our urban environments bear a responsibility to create spaces that not only function well but also inspire and foster human connection. 

Next Architecture is Awesome: #31 Taking it All In

Sunday, April 30, 2023

The Timelessness of Libraries

Booked for the Evening 2023.

The Eugene Public Library Foundation’s premier annual fundraising event, Booked for the Evening, took place yesterday evening at the downtown Eugene Public Library. In past years, the soiree took place within conference facilities or large ballrooms, such as at the Graduate Eugene Hotel or the Valley River Inn. The Foundation chose the downtown Library itself as the venue for Booked 2023. The reason? It’s been 20 years since the downtown branch officially opened. To help celebrate this milestone, the Foundation thought it would be fitting for me, being one of the architects who designed the building, to discuss its architecture and speak to the Foundation’s vision of Building for Generations.
I’m not a comfortable public speaker. My mind races with self-doubt and I become hyper-aware of every stumble or mistake I make. Despite my preparation and practice, the nerves always seem to get the best of me.
For this occasion, I would not have a PowerPoint presentation as a crutch to lean on. The Foundation asked me for an extemporaneous speech, with anecdotes about our process and how the design concept took its shape. Despite my awkward nervousness, I think I pulled it off without totally embarrassing myself. I am happy to have been a featured speaker at Booked for the Evening 2023, but I’m glad the experience is now behind me.
Here’s the transcript of my speech:
Twenty years. It’s hard to believe the “new” Eugene Public Library is already two decades old. It’s an understatement for me to say I was privileged to be involved with the Library’s genesis, design, and construction as the design team’s project manager. You need to understand how impactful and meaningful the opportunity for an architect to contribute toward such a project is. Libraries are special places. This one is especially so to all of us.
Think about how much has changed in our world during the past twenty years. Smart phones and social media were not yet the bane of our existence in 2003. Social equity, climate change, and political division were not as front and center as they are now. Throughout it all, our public libraries have adapted. 

I’m not going to tell you about the way forward, about what I think the library of the future should be. So much about the future is unknowable. Instead, I’ll focus on the timelessness of libraries. I’ll explain to you why libraries are important architectural opportunities, and why this library was and is important to me.
Let’s start with this room. I’m happy we’re here, now. I can’t think of a more appropriate place for this celebration. Look around. Look at the room’s size, its windows, how it makes you feel. 
Think about it for a moment. Think about its counterpart at the other end of the building, the rotunda, and the other reading spaces. Think about the potential of the Library’s expansion to the fourth floor above us, under a grand, vaulted roof. Think about why good rooms are important in a library.
One of the great and influential American architects of the 20th century was Louis Kahn. He said of the room: “The room is the beginning of architecture. It is the place of the mind. You in the room with its dimensions, its structure. Its light responds to its character, its spiritual aura, recognizing that whatever the human proposes and makes becomes a life.”
Kahn regarded the room as a place inhabited by the mind. He accommodated the realm of the intellect—learning, commemoration, and appreciation—in his innovative designs.
When our team—led by my firm, Robertson/Sherwood/Architects with SBRA Architecture (now Shepley Bulfinch) as our design partners—thought about what the new Eugene Public Library should be, we always envisioned it being an ordered collection of memorable spaces—of rooms. We wanted to create spaces that both welcomed and ennobled everyone who would come to use them.

Louis Kahn also believed that rooms should have a sense of monumentality and timelessness. He believed that architecture should be enduring and that a room should be designed to stand the test of time, both in terms of its physical durability and its ability to remain relevant and meaningful to its occupants.
A city needs its enduring monuments, so we also set out to design a building that would stand for many generations, immune to obsolescence. We didn’t want to design an architectural flash in the pan. We wanted to design a library that would never lose its broad appeal. Our senior partner, Jim Robertson, envisioned a building that would endure, one day being worthy of nomination for the National Register of Historic Places.
Another 20th century architect I consider influential was Aldo Rossi. He argued that monuments should be understood as part of a larger urban context, and that their meaning and value should be seen in relation to the city's historical and cultural layers. He believed that monuments should be designed as part of a larger urban system, and that their design should reflect the city's collective memory and cultural identity. Rossi believed that architecture should be accessible to everyone and that it should contribute to the common good of society.
So, we designed with monumentality in mind, but at the same time we wanted the Library to offer a sense of community and belonging, foster social interaction, and promote lifelong learning and personal growth. We wanted it to provide a communal space outside of the home and workplace where anyone can engage in social, cultural, and educational activities—a so-called “third place.” We wanted it to help build social capital and create a sense of community. Our challenge was to achieve these goals by architectural means. 
Change is a constant in our lives. While our architecture should be mutable and adapt to change, we should also provide anchors in the form of memorable rooms, spaces, and monuments that moor us within the urban fabric and give us refuge from the stress of our daily lives.
A library building is important to the city for the reasons I’ve stated. If it is timeless in spirit and form, it will become a monument. It is also more likely to last much longer if people care about it and invest in its maintenance and modernization as necessary. I’m hopeful this building will survive and thrive well beyond my lifetime precisely because this community has been inspired by its architecture and values its timeless qualities.
I know all of you value everything the Eugene Public Library has to offer. On behalf of everyone who was involved with the design and construction of the main branch, thank you for your continued support and the opportunity to speak with you this evening—it’s been my honor.
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Do help support literacy and enrichment in Eugene by donating to the Eugene Public Library Foundation. The Foundation responsibly manages contributions from individuals, businesses, and foundations to build community support for the Eugene Public Library.