AEC Pros

Pay Attention Span: Smart Bridges

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The various blogs I follow send me newsletters, and one article regarding new smart bridge technology caught my attention last Friday. A “smart bridge” is probably better labeled as a talking bridge – one that communicates its status to those who are listening for follow-on interpretation. Baseline measurements of critical strain, deflection, and corrosive conditions can be established with the structure following project completion, then monitored throughout the bridge’s service life.

Not Your Grandfather's Locomotive: High-Speed Rail

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In President Obama’s State of the Union address on January 27th, he mentioned Tampa’s upcoming high-speed rail (HSR) project and his subsequent trip there on January 28th. As was mentioned in his speech, Tampa’s new HSR line is not the only rail project addressed in the recent American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA). Several other states are slated to receive federal funding for rail line improvements, totaling $8 billion. The Florida project will receive $1.25 billion to connect Tampa to the Orlando International Airport. California will receive $2.25 billion to begin a HSR line between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Racing to a Quieter Solution: Cooper Stadium

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The residents and businesses of Columbus, Ohio have another chance to capitalize on an incredible opportunity. The Columbus Dispatch recently reported that NASCAR racer Jeff Gordon will team up with Arshot Investment Corp to propose plans for a racing facility at the existing vacant Cooper Stadium. Cooper Stadium has been vacant since the Columbus Clippers moved to their new home at Huntington Park at the end of the 2008 season. There is no doubt this project will provide the economic jump-start that this part of town needs.

The Aesthetic of Rust: Weathering Steel

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Weathering steel, more commonly referred to by the U.S. Steel tradename Cor-Ten™, is a group of steel alloys that develop a stable oxidation requiring no additional coating. Upon exposure to normal environmental stresses, it acquires a dense, dark brown colored barrier layer that protects it from further oxidation.

Many people like the natural appearance and simple maintenance that weathering steel fabrications provide. In addition to being used in structural framing, roofing and siding panels, weathering steel is often used for decorative fabrications, including signage and sculptures.

Theater Machine : REX + Koolhaas' Wyly Theater

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Most buildings are content to be four walls, a floor, and a roof, existing only to provide shelter and warmth for their inhabitants. A few, though, endeavor to be tools, ready at a moment's notice to serve the changing needs of their constituency. The new Wyly Theater at the Performing Arts Center in Dallas, Texas is a facility that embraces this subservient role to the point that it was designed as a ‘theater machine.’ The facility, opened in October of 2009, was designed by Rem Koolhaas | OMA and Joshua Prince-Ramus | REX and provides a new home for the Dallas Theater Center. Literally an assemblage of moving parts capable of transforming seating arrangements and orientation, the Wyly Theater redefines the meaning of "flexible space."

Case Study: BGSU Roof Replacement

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Having provided 43 years of service, the Ice Arena at Bowling Green State University is a popular venue on campus that serves the BGSU students and faculty as well as the local municipal community. Currently operated by The Department of Recreation and Wellness, the Ice Arena was originally designed in 1965 and contains the main ice sheet, sized at 200’ X 85’. It also houses a studio ice sheet that is 80’ X 40’ and a curling ice sheet at 150’ X 57’, as well as a lounge and other supporting facilities.

How Can We Avoid Greenwashing?

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Barbara McHatton speaks about her experiences avoiding what we are now calling the Greenwashing affect. We want to knowledgeably see past skewed claims to find those products that are legitimately green.

Confused about what makes a green building product “green”?

So am I.

With all of the labels out there touting “green” and “environmentally friendly” products, it’s no wonder we’re so mystified. If a product is manufactured using recycled materials, it’s considered green—if it saves energy, it’s considered green—if it is manufactured using non-toxic materials, it’s considered green.


U.S. Infrastructure: Drinking Water

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This is the fifth article in Buildipedia's series on U.S. Infrastructure, following the January 8, 2010 feature on dams, "It’s About Dam Time!"

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) assigned the United States’ DRINKING WATER infrastructure a grade of “D-” on their 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure. Easy access to fresh water is a modern convenience that we might take for granted in our daily lives.

Dig It: Mean Green Machines

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The Caterpillar 938H

Caterpillar presents a new H-Series Medium Wheel Loader 938H available with enhanced performance, greater versatility, ease of service checks and an engine that is built to be better for the environment. An overview of the specific upgrades include: a new axle system, a larger holding capacity bucket, easier access for regular maintenance checks, an innovative engine that passes US EPA Tier III emissions standards from the 1990 Clean Air Act, better functionality for the operator, a larger variety of working tools available, provisions to keep the engine free of clogging debris, ergonomic improvements for the operator’s seat and gears, and increased power controls for the operator.

The North–South Water Transfer Project: Ambitious Chinese Midstream in River Rerouting

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As the world’s most populated nation, China does things on a massive scale. Apparently not lacking in construction dollars, China has undertaken what’s been labeled the modern world’s most expensive construction project ever: The South–North Water Transfer Project. China is mounting an effort to divert the Yangtze River, the world’s third longest river, from three locations in China’s southern provinces to industrial northern regions where water is becoming very scarce and where pollution and conflicts over water access are rampant. Various articles on the South–North Water Transfer Project estimate a potential cost of approximately $60 billion USD across its three component routes and project completion times that vary by several decades, up to 50 years.

sustainaBULLS, Brooklyn's Green School

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Green-focused schools are popping up across the country, from New York City to California. The Green School in Brooklyn, who call themselves the sustainaBULLS, states the following goals for their green educational core values:


  • Sustainable Self - Individuals in the school community are given the opportunity to develop their individual interests. Importance is placed on individual growth and physical and emotional health of all students.
  • Sustainable Relationships - Meaningful relationships among students, parents, teachers, school administration and key members of the community are developed through advisory, community work, internships and peer education.
  • Sustainable Community - All members of the school work to develop a learning community that promotes academic excellence, democratic decision making and individual responsibility.
  • Sustainable Society - Students have the opportunity to explore careers that promote a healthy society through internships and apprenticeships.


Let the Daylight In

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There are two different ways to harness the power of solar energy: active solar systems and passive solar systems. Solar panels and other solar energy collectors are considered active systems. Generally, their purpose is to collect, store and distribute solar energy to heat water or air inside a building. The term ‘passive solar’ refers to the process of constructing and orienting a building to take advantage of sunlight as a source of light and heat without the use of solar equipment. The goal, aside from the healthy benefits of natural light, is to reduce overall dependence upon mechanical systems.