Engineering News

Intelligent Benchmarking and Beyond

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Measuring is the best way to improve what you are doing. Doing it right is the trick.

Benchmarking is a form of measurement – where you measure something else to see where you are lagging, identify the areas and take corrective action. This is the essence of benchmarking. Incorporate this as part of your Health Check, as discussed earlier.

Civil Engineering Tip: Go Play in the Rain!

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My latest bit of unsolicited advice for civil engineers and other land development professionals is simple: go play in the rain. Alternatively, if you feel you have gotten too old (never!) to play in the rain, at least get out and watch it. The typical human tendency is to stay inside when it rains, and going out to check on the site of your proposed, ongoing, or completed construction project is probably one of the last things that you want to do, but it can be a tremendous learning experience.

A Simple, Mildly Invasive Solution for Conserving Historic Buildings

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Stone masonry arches form part of numerous historic buildings -- religious edifices, bridges, walkways, and aqueducts. Although solid structures are involved, the environmental and historical conditions of the bearing load, use and accidental factors can cause their collapse, with the consequent loss of architectural heritage. Industrial engineer Dr. Leire Garmendia studied an innovative system for the rehabilitation of these masonry arches, which is minimally invasive and more manageable than current methods. Her European doctoral thesis, undertaken at the Tecnalia Construction Unit and presented at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), is entitled Rehabilitation of masonry arches by a compatible and minimally invasive strengthening system.

Outsourcing Partnerships: Reality or Illusion?

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Defining what a real partnership is can be tricky. Join us as we analyze Michel Theriault's Outsourcing Partnerships to find out how it's done and what the benefits might be.

Many outsourcing deals are called "outsourcing partnerships," but is the partnership a reality or an illusion? The word partnership is used by both clients and service providers, so it’s easy to believe that these outsourcing deals are about partnership.

National Facilities Management & Technology Conference

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I had the pleasure of attending the 10th annual National Facilities Management & Technology (NFMT) conference in Baltimore, Md. on March 16th and 17th. It was a great experience to reconnect with colleagues and get a sense for what Facilities Management consultants and professionals are offering and focused on these days. A few topics that grabbed my interest and which I plan to write about are centralized management of emergency egress lighting, bird control, water storage tanks, new technologies in the pavement industry, coordinated campus-wide synchronizing of clocks, diagnostic air metering, variable load air-conditioning systems, and sound-masking.

Tweeting Convenience Receptacle Meters

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One Step Closer to the Jetsons

In the news this week there has been talk of inanimate objects that can Tweet their status to humans via their Twitter accounts.  Included in this array were a house plant that can complain about being under- or over-watered and a pair of shoes that can advertise when they take steps.  Entertaining, for sure, but the one category that caught my attention was electric meters that can Tweet data.

We're Going Nuclear! (Again)

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On Tuesday of this week, President Obama announced construction plans for the first new U.S. nuclear power plant (actually two new reactors at an existing plant) in almost three decades.  Touting the benefits that nuclear power offers to the environment (in particular, fewer carbon emissions as compared to similar-sized coal burning plants), the U.S. government will back $8.33 billion in loans for the reactor additions to the Alvin Vogtle Electric Generating Plant in Burke, Georgia.  The loans program is run by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and has previously sponsored infrastructure projects concerning wind turbines and cleaner coal burning power plants.

Kleen Energy and Clean Energy in the News

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The tragic explosion at the Kleen Energy plant in Middletown, CT on February 7th reminds us that construction is dangerous work.  Our sympathies go out to the families of those impacted by this recent accident.  The explosion apparently occurred while the crew was purging natural gas lines.  A nuance of this story is that this power plant was still under construction and not yet operational.  Also, there’s been debate in various blogs and news articles about potential fatigue among the construction crew.  Were they under too much pressure to get too much done too quickly?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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