AEC Pros

Silly Engineers Create Massive Recreational Area in Southern CA

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I’d like to kick off my self-labeled “Water Week” with a historical tale about the potential hazards of allowing civil engineers to move rivers around.  In grade school, I remember hearing about a big sea in Southern California, the Salton Sea.  Its name sounded distinguished and venerable.  I always thought it held the non-evaporated water and denizens of some ancient body of ocean water.   However, up until 1905, it was a dry depression, an ancient sea bed in the stark desert of southern California between Palm Springs and Yuma, AZ.

A Linear Waste Disposal System On A Finite Planet?

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Annie Leonard, an activist and filmmaker from Seattle, Washington, finally got fed up with observing how her trash, whether recycled or dumped, completed a linear waste disposal system. So, Annie asked herself:

Hmm, if we continue to follow the waste process of extraction, production, distribution, consumption, disposal, we will most certainly deplete society of all of its natural resources that took billions of years to create underneath Earth's crust.

Leonard created a program that includes a website, blog, video, and data to support her efforts to stop the current Story of Stuff we experience in the U.S. and abroad today.

Building Automation Systems

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It's likely that most Americans got their first glimpse of Building Automation Systems in 1939, when the Wizard of Oz appeared from behind his black curtain, frantically pulling levers to remotely spread smoke, his green visage exposed to Dorothy and her pals.  Modern Building Automation Systems (BAS) are different than Oz’s in their focus, technology and desired outcomes, but similar in their concept of centralized remote monitoring and control of mechanical systems.

Caloric Energy of Earthquakes Would Feed Millions

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In the news Monday were reports of a 6.0 magnitude earthquake near Guatemala City, Guatemala.  This follows last Monday’s news of a 7.0 magnitude quake in Haiti, which I wrote about in my last blog.  Our first concern for Guatemala might be fear of a tragedy similar to Haiti.  After all, 6.0 is almost 7.0, or it’s at least 6/7 or 85% of the strength, right?  Fortunately (for the people of Guatemala City), that’s totally wrong in the context of the Richter scale.

How Can Hybrid Cars Change Green Architecture?

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Technology Inspiration: The Tesla Model S

My favourite architect, Le Corbusier, was inspired by modes of transportation in the 20's as he created the genius project Villa Savoy, a home located north of Paris. Le Corbusier used his knowledge of industrial technology, which he learned from the French engineer August Penret, to create what he believed was a type of Utopian architecture. The gist: technology was his inspiration.

Last year, a studio at Harvard University worked on developing Utopian architectural styles based on an innovative BMW car called GINA. Frank Barkow of Barkow Liebinger led the studio in such a way that the students studied first its technologies. The most remarkable aspect of the GINA is the fact that its exterior skin moves and changes to adapt to its environment.

Is The Construction Submittal Process Really That Important?

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In early 1979, the fabricator and installer for the atrium steel of the new Kansas City Hyatt hotel proposed changes to the connection details for the support of the skywalk system. The original design was thought to be expensive to manufacture and problematic to install. The engineer responded by providing preliminary sketches of the fabricator's proposal without performing basic calculations. These sketches were returned to the fabricator, who assumed these to be the final and approved shop drawings.  The revised and ill-fated connection detail was put into production and installed.  In 1981, the Kansas City Hyatt skywalk collapsed, causing the deaths of 114 people and injuring more than 200.  The ensuing investigations concluded that the fault lay in the engineer's failure to properly review shop drawings and provide adequate communications between the structural engineer and the fabricator of the structural steel for the atrium and skywalk.

Infrastructure and the Haitian Tragedy

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As events unfold in Haiti, our audience has been watching the news, and in many cases contributing to or assisting directly in the recovery.  As the facilities and infrastructure person, the story has certainly caught my attention, not only because of the humanitarian aspects, but also because of the role that poor engineering played in creating it.

2010 NAHB International Builders' Show, Jan 19-22

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If you have an opportunity to attend the 2010 NAHB International Builders' Show in Las Vegas this year, please make sure to stop by the Portland Cement Association's (PCA) booth. Rightly so, they are promoting the 40 different ways concrete can be used to build sustainable homes.

PCA's press release states, "Recent research by McGraw-Hill indicates that 70 percent of buyers would be inclined to purchase a green home versus a conventional home in a down market.  With new techniques and products introduced at what seems like a daily basis, builders can rely on concrete for straightforward solutions for today’s green building demands."

If in Vegas, stop by booth #N2431 for more information. Registration for new attendees is only $100 for full registration. Don't forget to tell us about your experience.

How to Make It Hot Without Touching It?

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A plate-type heat exchanger is a device which transfers the heat stored in one fluid to another fluid at a different temperature by passing the different fluids by each other in plate-like chambers.  The flow of the fluids may be cross-flow, parallel-flow, or counter-flow (perpendicular), as defined by the directions from which the fluids are supplied to the exchanger.

Rammed Earth

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Based on historical precedence, rammed earth is becoming a widely accepted practice. Dave Nedrow, who was interviewed for the article Maximizing the Sun's Heat, is a freelance designer formally educated in architecture and is currently pursuing licensure. He offers us some of his research about a highly insulative wall construction with low embodied energy.

Architects and builders are often challenged to look for innovative and cutting edge building technology when considering their choices for materials and types of construction. This investigation often produces interesting and stunning results, and the Modern period in architecture could be partially defined by this. However, let us not forget about historical vernacular styles and methods of construction, specifically that of rammed earth. The continents of Africa and Asia have both housed civilizations utilizing rammed earth as a building material, dating as far back as 2000 BC, and it has continued to be used through to today. Although arguably less technologically advanced, and possibly once considered “low brow”, rammed earth construction offers us new possibilities. As society advances, our use of materials continues to evolve. Historically, earthen bricks were made and stacked to generate the walls.

Drawing a Line in the Sand

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Joshua Lloyd, LEED AP and blogger of Symbiotic Home, explains a bit of the process by which he selects green building materials.

As a working architect with several years of experience of project management for green buildings, I believe that the sooner you can draw a line in the sand that defines your green objectives, the more likely your building will achieve sustainability success. Let's take materials for an example. While materials are the most visible features of a green building, they are often the most publicized features of green buildings as well. When choosing green materials, we should research the data and then be able to answer why we chose this material and how it fits into the sustainability of the project.



It's About Dam Time!

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This is the fourth article in the series on U.S. infrastructure, following our bridges article, “A Bridge to Everywhere." The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) assigned the United States’ DAMS infrastructure a grade of “D” on their 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure.

As discussed in the prior infrastructure article, the average age of a bridge in the United States is now 44 years. The average dam is an older sibling to the typical bridge, at 52 years old. Dams and bridges in the United States share many things in common. Being generous and assuming an average life span in parallel with human years, both these national systems are in the midst of a mid-life crisis.