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The Bridge Finder for Your Daily Travels

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The most recent article posted on the Operations Channel is titled A Bridge to Everywhere and briefly explores some notable facts and figures concerning our nation’s bridges, as part of our ongoing infrastructure series.

One web link embedded in the article, provided by MSNBC, provides each reader the ability to evaluate the bridge status along any route of car travel in the United States.  This MSNBC web link has been a favorable feature of our bridges article, and some folks that have read the article suggested I bring that link to light in this Blog section as well.

Burj Dubai: Reaching New Heights

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Records are made to be broken. Most are unexpected, like the 100m world record shattered by Usain Bolt in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but the world could see this one coming. Yesterday, in an unprecedented display of ceremonial hype usually reserved for major social goodwill events such as the Olympics, the opening of the Burj Dubai tower in the United Arab Emirates made it official. It is the new tallest building in the world, stretching more than a half mile into the sky. The Burj Dubai measures over 2625 ft (800m) and stacks over 160 floors of residential, hotel and office suites into a space-age, missile-like structure.

The Burj Dubai is the latest skyscraper from the prolific neck-bending designer Adrian Smith and his former firm SOM. The official website - Visit the Burj Dubai — The Tallest Building in the World - offers a glimpse into the vision, outlines the features and provides a comparison with the world's other tall towers.

Conceived to be one of the focal points of Dubai at the height of the massive construction boom, the tower opens in the midst of struggling world markets and stalled construction at other major Dubai projects. While certainly eliciting a few 'oohs' and 'aahs' from the average citizen, the project teeters on the ostentatious, especially taken in context of its immediate environment of Dubai. However, I would venture to say that among the design and construction community, the physical structure garners much curiosity and respect - never before has man reached this far into the clouds.

New Year's Football: Go Green

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"It's Time for Some Trash Talk" is the banner on the opening page for the Philadelphia Eagles' Go Green website. Christina Weiss Lurie, co-owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, initiated a Go Green program for their NFL team. By using 100% clean energy on game days and by recycling 100% of all trash collected, the Eagles' Go Green program is the most environmentally friendly program in the NFL and most likely throughout all pro-sport organizations. Lurie explains their motivation for the program, which was unveiled in 2003, "We have always felt strongly that what we do on the field should be parallel with what we do off the field. We also feel strongly that we need to give back to the community."

The Eagles' Go Green website has information about how much carbon a fan burns while traveling to the stadium for a home game; a green calculator; a program that allows fans to purchase a tree in honor of the Eagles; details about the Eagles' Go Green program; and more information about sustainability in general.

A Bridge to Everywhere

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This is the third article in the series on U.S. infrastructure, following our aviation article, Three Square Miles of Concrete." The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) assigned the United States’ BRIDGES infrastructure a grade of “C” on their 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure.

While a “C” denotes just average, the BRIDGES category actually has the highest grade of all fifteen infrastructure categories on the 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure.

In the United States there are approximately 600,000 bridges which are catalogued and routinely inspected. This is encouraging from the perspective of someone who drives over many bridges during daily life, as most of us do.

The Green Flip

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LEED V3 Provides New Tools.

Many homeowners are running amok trying to sell their homes in a downturned economy. The design/build professional Christopher Prelitz, LEED AP, founder of Prelitz + Partners, owner of New Leaf America, and author of the book Green Made Easy, has been renovating buildings with green features since 1993. An active member of the sustainable building community of Southern California for nearly 20 years, Prelitz says, "If you green it, you will sell it." Perhaps Prelitz's most profitable market is green-ovating homes and flipping them for nice profits. The concept sounds "easy," but doing a green renovation is often seen as such an elephantine task that many walk away from the idea with their eyes dazed over.

The Everyday Guide for Transitioning to a Green Lifestyle

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If you are one to make New Year's resolutions or goals, may I recommend Prelitz's Green Made Easy book? As the title of the book suggests, the idea of 'making green easy' is one of our greatest challenges, as I alluded to in the feature article this week. Not only homeowners, but professional architects and those in academia find sustainable concepts difficult to manage, largely because of complex mathematical and engineering concepts.

Prelitz told me during an interview yesterday, "Green Made Easy was designed to reach a wide spectrum of the population, so it covers many facets of sustainability. For the design professionals, there are four chapters devoted to passive solar design."

Green Made Easy exemplifies Prelitz's view that sustainability goals are achieved through education. With regard to LEED, Prelitz believes that LEED's strength is indeed sustainable education. However, when it comes to using LEED's resources, Prelitz believes, "LEED is a measurement tool; not a design tool." The main design tool we need in our back pocket is green knowledge that leads to a dynamic green design intelligence.

The History and the Problem with Solar Energy

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Solar energy technologies were discovered by the ancient Greek society, yet we are still uncovering today how to store the sun's energy for use on those days when cloudy cover prevails and there is no sunshine to capture. Many alternative energy sources, such as solar energy, have been overshadowed, as well, by fuel sources such as coal and natural gas, once seen by early industrialists as abundant and seemingly limitless.

MIT's Chemistry Professor Dan Nocera and his research team offer society new hope for taking solar energy technologies one step closer to an in-home reality.

Mitigating Elevator Noise in Multifamily Residential Buildings

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Today’s modern mid rise and high rise luxury condominiums and apartment buildings offer numerous amenities to attract potential owners. They can offer spectacular vistas through floor to ceiling walls of glass, high end finishes on the floor, gourmet style kitchens with all the modern features one could ever want, and a master bedroom suite that offers a tranquil and quiet place to escape. In these building types, elevators become a necessary component for vertical circulation to access the floors. For those residences that are adjacent to the elevator equipment room or the elevator hoistway, the noise and vibration caused by the operation of the elevator can be a potential source of sound intrusion. Because today’s buildings are constructed with lightweight materials, and because there is a need to generate maximum useable square footage, sound transmission issues are compounded. All this combined can result in unsatisfactory living conditions for tens of thousands who live in condominiums or apartments.

Don't Just Stand There; Make Buildings Better

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Autodesk released a new online game called Retrofit Online Game for Green Buildings yesterday, intended to raise green awareness and be publicized through social media. Though China technically emits more CO2 than the U.S., we are still the leading country emitting CO2 per capita. No, of course we are not proud of our ranking?!

Check out the new game. Find out how much energy it takes to use a hair dryer and how much CO2 a typical American household outputs each day. It takes about 20 minutes to complete the video and quizzing portions. It is funny that you, the construction worker, have to work against a woman who is throwing her coffee mug at you, a man who is breaking windows as you work, and an annoying bird that throws you off the ladder.

Maximizing the Sun's Heat

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According to Architecture 2030, the key to preventing the impending loss of our polar ice caps (as written in my recent blog post) is to reduce our use of coal, which is used to generate electricity. Mazria, the founder of Architecture 2030, recommends we reduce our use of coal first by using passive solar solutions, and then by supplementing those solutions with active eco-friendly technologies to get us to cut emissions that ultimately lead to the melting of Earth's polar ice caps.

The Knowlton School of Architecture (KSA) and The College of Engineering at The Ohio State University partnered to compete in the 2009 National Renewable Energy Lab's Solar Decathlon Competition that was held in October at the Oval in Washington D.C. The team of OSU architecture and engineering students, led by David Nedrow and Deanna Hinkle, who both were graduate students in the Masters of Architecture program at OSU, presented a compelling design that functions off-the-grid (the home generates its own electricity and does not depend on traditional public utility services) with both passive solar design and active solar technologies.

It's Not Just the Polar Bears that Need the Ice Caps to Survive

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Coldness as we know it may begin to change, no matter if global warming is a "natural fluctuation or an effect of industrial society's releasing heat-trapping gasses into the atmosphere," as reported in John Noble Wilford's New York Times article Ages Old Polar Icecap is Melting, Scientists Find, written nearly ten years ago. Scientists have proven the ice cap is melting in the summer at a greater pace and more aggressively than at any other recorded time in history.

Architecture: We Have the Power

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While we aren't quite through the first decade of the 21st century, The LA Times is running an Arts & Entertainment series tagged 'Notes on the Decade.' Architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne checks in with, “Architecture: Star architects emerge, but even they find limits,” a commentary on the status of early 21st century architecture.

The article hits most of the highlights of the last nine years: the advancement of BIM design and modeling technology; the effects of the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks; the building boom in China; and the momentum of the green building agenda. Hawthorne also singles out a few worthy contributions to our built environment, most notably the CCTV Tower in Beijing, China, a top contender in The Huffington Post's Best Buildings of the Decade poll.  But what resonates most for me is the final thought on the influence of architects and the power of architecture.