“It was fine until the road caught fire”: What you said in 2019

Insight, humour and a degree of impatience were on display in GCR readers’ reactions to articles in 2019. As we take a break to prepare for next year, here’s a selection of what you said.

On our story "Dutch professor develops simple trick to make roads ‘self-healing'", Robert Shipp relayed a cautionary tale. 

"I am reminded," he wrote, "of a road which was built here in the US some years back. It was constructed out of pulverized old tires. Good idea? Not as good as initially thought. The tiny bits of steel wire (part of every ‘steel belted radial tire’) included in the road began to slowly rust. Rust is oxidation and oxidation releases heat. The thermal mass and heat conductivity of the road was such that the heat built up until the road caught fire. Let us hope that the Dutch version of a ‘steel belted’ road uses stainless steel wires to cut back on oxidation and heat build up!"

In response to "‘Buy a shotgun’: Keith Clarke warns industry to heed science on climate change", Thomas Christoffersen was moved.

"Impressive speech that really made me think. Listen and start acting – you cannot ignore the facts presented. Engineering plays a key role in our attempts to reverse the rise in temperature."

But Geoff Taylor was less impressed. "It is not helpful to advocate buying a shotgun," he said. "To respond to the climate change agenda with a potentially violent stance does harm to the argument. It also frustrates the many dedicated property and construction folk who shoot seriously and who contribute to environmental enhancements all over the UK and overseas. I doubt if Mr Clarke would now pass the test to possess a shotgun."

In reaction to "Carrots make concrete stronger, study finds", Dave Holme wondered about the practicalities.

"Would this technology be available to the man in the street?" he asked. "I presume I couldn’t just mince carrots and add them to a concrete mix? It seems nano-tablets of carrot fibre are used, so would this technology only be accessed through a scientific intervention?"

Spiritual matters may have been on Sheila Anderson‘s mind when she observed, after reading "Hong Kong gets skyscraper church": "That won’t bring them any closer to heaven I’m afraid."

Steven Nagle was not surprised when a study warned of higher drug use among construction workers. "Hate to say it, but the rest of the world has known this for a very long time!" he said.

Our story on LafargeHolcim’s efforts to market soil bricks in Malawi elicited some wry reflections.

"I applaud the effort to build superior bricks from soil to improve the life of brick homes and conserve trees," allowed Michael Smith, "but 12 weeks to build a one-bedroom brick hut for $20,000 is hardly a breakthrough in the housing market."

John Morris reflected: "The concept of a compressed soil/cement brick has been around for some 25 years in South Africa. Hydraform has been building houses in Africa, Argentina, India and many other countries. The University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg worked with Hydraform to establish which soils were suitable, what the thermal performance of these bricks would be and many other aspects of their performance. I too find that 12 weeks for the construction of a house is inordinately long as Hydraform require no mortar and their bricks interlock (like Lego)."

And William (no surname given) took exception to our critical examination of Egypt’s new capital in the desert.

"Why the negative rhetoric?" he asked. "Developing countries need to rebuild and expand, why is it okay for countries in the west or other regions to be praised, though there is always negative wording and biased views. Their GDP is at 5.5% and growing. Can you perhaps be more positive and supportive, rather than be negative? Especially if your site is about construction, which should endorse all forms of construction from any country. Thanks and I do like your site, but just don’t like negativity."

We hope to hear from you more in 2020, and wish all readers a Happy New Year.

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