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When Builders in Maui Came Together to Help Build Tiny Homes for Man’s Family, it Grew into Growdfunded Rehousing Project

in Housing/People 394 views

Buried under the 24-hour news cycles of the last few months, recovery in Lahaina is progressing, one tiny house at a time.

William Fincher, an owner of two restaurants in the historic Maui town which tragically burned down this August, is receiving help from neighbors and friends to build a pair of tiny homes for his family of a wife, two kids, and two dogs.

Fincher lost both restaurants and his home in the fires, but within three or four days, local builder Juan Ricci was ordering materials to help the Fincher family construct the tiny houses. He did it all from his own pocket until the build team, including Fincher, Ricci, and some more friends had to set up a GoFundMe to look for the money.

Javier Barberi, a close friend, told Good Morning America in no uncertain terms that Fincher was Lahaina through and through, and he simply had to stay in order to help rebuild and recover the spirit of the town. Barberi gave Fincher space on his land to build.

With Barberi’s help and Ricci’s instruction, the tiny homes started coming together. Fincher knew a bit about woodshop, but laying insulation, framing doors, and roofing, were all skills he didn’t have. Ricci and his workers provided free labor and instruction.

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Work resumes on Masonic Temple in downtown Watertown

in Local News 260 views

The slow moving renovation of the historic Masonic Temple on Washington Street is once again back on track.

Work recently resumed in the back parking lot as a construction crew began creating new steps for the landmark’s entrance.

The workers cast the new steps in the back; they will be moved to the front and installed today.

Other work that is resuming this fall includes two longtime projects: reconstructing the portico roof and renovating the deteriorated column on the front of the building at 240 Washington St.

Co-owner Robert J. Campany said Friday that the goal is to complete the $2.7 million in renovations by the end of the year next year.

“We’re chipping away at it,” he said, calling it “painstaking work.”

So far, he and his partner, Augusta Withington, who co-own Fourth Coast Inc., a renewable energy company in Clayton, have invested about $700,000 in the renovations.

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Across Florida, Buildings Are Quietly and Quickly Being Assembled with Real-Life LEGO Bricks

in Housing 281 views

A Florida construction firm is seeing fast adoption of its intuitively-made building blocks that work like real-life LEGO bricks.

The interlocking blocks made of a mineral composite and reinforced with glass fiber can be quickly and quietly assembled into walls, floors, and even roofs, with a special adhesive and a rubber mallet being the only tools workers need to get the job done.

By using a process similar to injection molding, Renco USA can take the material and turn it into a variety of shapes, from the standard LEGO bricks to roofbeams and joists. No heavy cutting, welding, or masonry is needed on the job site, and contractors installing plumbing, ventilation, or electrical work can treat the finished block walls like normal concrete.

In Palm Springs, a $21 million, 96-unit housing complex near West Palm Beach is being built by just 11 workers using the blocks and adhesive. Without any cranes or lifts, and no bench saws or metal cutting equipment, the neighbors heard only the muted thud of the rubber mallets.

According to industry reporters, ongoing labor shortages and volatile markets in both steel and concrete are making America’s go-to building strategy for over 100 years more and more difficult to budget for.

Renco’s building system combines standard materials from other industries, like methyl methacrylate glue used in heavy vehicle manufacturing, and recycled glass fiber to reinforce the stability of supply chains and make costs lower and more predictable.

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More ramps coming to Watertown street corners

in Local News 240 views

Dozens of orange construction cones have popped up at street corners this construction season.

It’s part of an ongoing effort to install ramps at street corners in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

But there are more of the ramps getting installed this year because it’s a busy road construction season for the city.

With four major street construction projects underway, 150 new ADA-compliant “detectable warning” ramps — a bumpy surface that allows blind people to know they’re entering an intersection — are getting installed this year.

The bumpy ramps cost $4,000 each. They are paid through a variety of city, state and federal funding sources.

City planner Geoffrey T. Urda said the city has focused on the program for at least the eight years he’s worked for the city.

“It’s important to make the city inclusive for everyone,” he said.

Thomas M. Maurer, an engineer in the city engineering office, said it’s been the city policy to install new ramps whenever the city completes a street project in order to meet current ADA standards.

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Road construction hits high gear in Watertown

in Local News 232 views

City Manager Kenneth A. Mix says there hasn’t been this much road construction going on in the city in decades.

The $3.9 million streetscape project, $8.3 million in construction of the Court Street Bridge, and milling and paving on Academy, High and Mill streets are just some of the major projects underway.

And then there’s a half dozen or so water main projects and the run of the mill annual paving getting done.

“This is the most that I can ever remember,” Mr. Mix said.

Earlier this week, drivers were disrupted by the closing of the Court Street bridge on Tuesday and rerouted to Vanduzee Street.

One lane had been closed since the work began this spring. Vehicles were able to get back through the next day.

The project will continue on replacing the deck. The bridge’s other lane must still be done, said Thomas M. Maurer, an engineer in the city engineering office.

Luck Brothers, Plattsburgh, the general contractor on the project, is expected to finish the bridge work by the end of the year.

Sure, all the construction around the city might be a headache for motorists, but some of the projects have been planned for years, Mr. Mix said.

For several weeks, Pratt Street was ripped up a bit for a water main project, Mr. Mix drove on the street a few days ago and noticed the road has been repaved.

“It got done,” he said.

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Construction on Watertown’s northside pool project to start this summer

in Local News 276 views

The City Council will have one more crack in two weeks at voting to borrow for the new $3.9 million pool at North Elementary School.

But no one expects that approval will happen.

In the same 3-2 vote as previous votes for the project, council members decided to use $3.9 million in the city’s fund balance to replace the William J. Flynn pool at North Elementary School on the city’s north side.

As they have done right along, council members Cliff G. Olney III, Lisa A. Ruggiero and Patrick J. Hickey again supported moving forward with the pool project, while Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith and Councilwoman Sarah V. Compo Pierce continued to oppose it.

They had three options for how to pay for it on Monday night.

But votes on whether to bond for the pool and to use American Rescue Plan Act funding never made it to the floor.

No one introduced the ARPA funds option and Mayor Smith stopped it from a vote by refusing to agree to unanimous consent.

However, bonding for the pool will now automatically come up for a vote during council’s June 19 meeting. It would need four votes for approval, when only three council members support the project.

“I saw the importance of bonding,” Councilwoman Ruggiero said afterward. “Also, I always believed in the north side.”

Like he has said in the past, Mayor Smith reiterated his belief that the city doesn’t need a third pool and cannot afford the project, adding that the city will have a $17.7 million deficit in just a few years.

The city is “foolishly spending on something that it doesn’t need,” he said.

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New Lachenauer Plaza taking shape in downtown Watertown

in Local News/Place 277 views

City officials are looking forward to when Lachenauer Plaza will be a nicer — and safer — place to gather after the downtown urban park reopens this summer.

The plaza is undergoing a major facelift as part of the city’s $3.85 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative streetscape project.

Lachenauer Plaza — a little-used public meeting space at the conjunction of Arsenal, Court and Arcade streets with Public Square — had just one entry way and was dominated by overgrown shrubs.

People may have felt unsafe because the shrubs prevented them from seeing into and out of the urban park.

But the plaza is becoming more open by removing the overgrown bushes and replacing them with small trees. It’ll have a more inviting appearance, city planner Geoffrey T. Urda said.

“It’s going to be much more visible,” he said, “with a 360-degree view in the park and out.”

The new Lachenauer Plaza incorporates a semicircular wall with benches, a grassy area, improved lighting and expanded pedestrian space along Arcade Street.

Some uninviting black pavement along Arcade Street will be replaced with pavers with the same kind of look as the crosswalks in Public Square. That section of Arcade Street will be shared by vehicles and pedestrians, Mr. Urda said.

“With all these changes being done, we hope people use it,” he said.

The redo of Lachenauer plaza is costing $600,000. CCI Companies Inc., Canastota, is the general contractor on the plaza and downtown streetscape project.

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US Startup Makes Building Materials Out of Fast-Growing Grasses to Capture More Carbon Than Trees

in Enviroment 233 views

A startup looking to find better ways to mass-produce lumber for construction has swapped trees for grass.

It turns out that with sophisticated laminating and molding machines, the fibers of certain grass species can be just as strong as wood, but lighter, and orders of magnitude faster to produce.

Entrepreneur Josh Dorfman founded Plantd with two former SpaceX engineers. Their flagship product is a seemingly-regular pressed wood panel for homebuilding, but one that’s made from a fast-growing species of grass which nevertheless can absorb 30 tons of carbon dioxide via photosynthesis throughout its lifetime.

Capable of being harvested three times in a season, rather than once in 20 years as in the case with pine wood, the potential is there to drastically lower the cost of lumber for homebuilding, and increase the carbon-capture potential of the timber industry.

“We see the greatest opportunity to lock away the most carbon when we make a superior product than what exists today,” Dorfman told Fast Company. “And do it in a way where that end customer can still build exactly the same way… they don’t have to change in any respect.”

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These Guys Make Edible Cement From Food Waste – And You Can Literally Add it to Your Gingerbread House

in Food/People 215 views

A pair of Japanese researchers have launched a startup that turns food waste into cement with 4-times better bending resistance.

The potential applications are endless, and as well as being potential building material, the cement can produce any kind of simple object like tea cups or chairs; but it’s also edible, and aromatic, and biodegradable.

Tokyo University’s Kota Machida and Yuya Sakai are the brains behind Fabula Inc, a project to reduce food waste, help curb global warming, reduce pressure on landfills, and offer a new way of looking at production with their method of turning common types of food waste into cement that’s edible and strong.

Cement production, according to the UK thinktank Chatham House, produces 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, or around 3.5 times as much as the airline industry, and while modern “bio” or “green” cement usually incorporates wood ash, coffee grounds, or another previously-living substance into normal cement mixtures, Fabula’s product is 100% biological.

It took years of development but the method is simple. Food waste is dried, turned into a powder, and then heat-pressed into a mold. The difficulties originally arose from the fact that every food item needed different temperatures and pressures to correctly solidify.

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