News + Features within the Civil and Structural Engineering world

Economist expects continued construction slowdown

In a state-by-state forecast, Portland Cement Association (PCA) Chief Economist Ed Sullivan predicts that the emerging weakness in residential construction will dissipate the strong growth recorded earlier in the year in many regional markets. &quotIn July, 24 states showed significant declines in housing permit activity, including traditionally strong markets such as Nevada, Florida, and Arizona,&quot Sullivan says. &quotI do not believe these declines will be temporary.&quot

Applied engineering

According to USA Today, Pittsburgh Steeler Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt credits his degree in civil engineering from Georgia Tech with helping him call plays. "There are a lot of people who are glad I didn’t put my degree into practice on all those bridges and roads out there," Whisenhunt said. "But the school was difficult, and you have to be creative in how you solve problems in civil engineering. So that’s where my degree has translated well for me in play calling."

A recent National Science Foundation (NSF) survey found that people who earned a bachelor’s degree in science or engineering (S&E) generally report that their science and engineering knowledge is important to their job, even if it’s non-technical work.

According to the survey, among those workers whose only degree was an S&E bachelor’s degree, 27 percent had S&E occupations. Sixty-three percent working in non-technical fields still said their jobs were related to their S&E degree.

Of those who went on to receive advanced degrees, the largest proportion, almost 29 percent, took those degrees in non-S&E fields, namely business, law, or medicine. "S&E knowledge remained important to the jobs of most S&E bachelor’s holders with advanced degrees, being reported as necessary by a majority of both those with master’s degrees in business and those with other non-S&E advanced degrees," the NSF report said.

September software launches

Bentley Systems, Inc., released WaterGEMS V8 XM Edition, which the company says is the only water distribution modeling solution to unify modeling across MicroStation, ArcGIS, AutoCAD, and stand-alone platforms. New features include a utility that helps identify critical assets in water distribution infrastructure and evaluate the risk associated with their failure; addition of hydrants, isolation valves, and variable-speed pump batteries to the framework to support asset management and hydraulic modeling workflows; user-defined demands as a function of pressure to model intermittent water supply scenarios, sprinkler heads, and unaccounted-for water; and new geospatial demand allocation methods, unit demand engineering libraries, and global management for estimating simple, composite, and pressure-dependent demands. For more information, visit

Autodesk launched an online community site ( to help engineers stay informed about the latest developments to its Civil 3D software, including its use on interesting projects. The site is intended for professionals who want to network with peers and stay abreast of the industry’s trends and news, the company says. Users can share templates, participate in discussion groups, access training materials, and receive invitations to participate in webcasts. Additionally, Autodesk is presenting a four-part webcast series following Sitelines, a real, 10-person civil engineering firm based in Maine, as it migrates to Civil 3D. Called The Chronicles of Civil 3D, the series follows the firm’s first use of Civil 3D for a commercial subdivision project. The third part of the series will be webcast on Friday, Sept. 29, from noon to 1:00 p.m. EST. Register for the webcast and follow Sitelines Technician Darlene Estabrook’s blog about the migration process at

Adobe Systems, Inc., introduced its upgraded and extended Acrobat software family, which includes Acrobat 8 (Professional, Standard, Elements, 3D, and Reader) and Acrobat Connect and Connect Professional (formerly known as Breeze Express and Breeze 5.5). Acrobat 8 enables users to convert Microsoft Office, Microsoft Project, and Autodesk AutoCAD files, among others, into Adobe PDF files and to share them for review and comment, including with users of the free Acrobat Reader 8. Related but separate documents can be grouped together in a single Adobe PDF package. By clicking a "Start Meeting" button in any Acrobat 8 program, users can take advantage of Acrobat Connect software for real-time, web conferencing and collaboration. Connect is a hosted service (monthly subscription) that provides screen sharing, whiteboarding, chat, and video and audio conferencing between anyone with Flash software-enabled web browsers. Acrobat Connect is expected to be available in November as a free trial version through the end of 2006. More information about the Acrobat family is available at

Erosion control training

The International Erosion Control Association (IECA) now offers hour-long webinars to meet a wide range of training needs, from water harvesting to low-impact development and illicit discharge detection programs. Some topics, such as stormwater BMP maintenance and stormwater pollution prevention plan (SWPPP) assessment, inspection, and maintenance, are conducted as a multi-part series to allow participants a more in-depth look at the subject.

Later this fall, IECA will partner with CPESC, Inc., to provide review courses and training for individuals seeking to become Certified Professionals in Erosion and Sediment Control (CPESC) or Certified Professionals in Storm Water Quality (CPSWQ).

Each one-hour session is $65, with discounts available for IECA members. Each session earns a participant 1.0 Professional Development Hour or 0.1 Continuing Education Credit. IECA says that all webinar material is peer reviewed to assure quality and accuracy. For more information about IECA webinars or to view a list of upcoming courses, visit

Steel design seminar series

CMC Steel Products, in cooperation with AISC Marketing and RAM International, A Bentley Solution Center, is presenting its 2006-2007 Structural Engineering Seminar Series, SMART Steel Design in Today’s Market, in 23 cities nationwide. This half-day seminar covers advancements in the steel industry, including current market conditions and how successful structural engineers are adapting to the current marketplace dynamics; the SmartBeam System for long-span composite floors and long-span, curved, architecturally exposed roofs; designing efficient long-span office buildings; and the RAM Structural System version 11, showcasing steel building design. The program is accredited, and engineers who attend can receive a certificate for 4.0 PDHs. Register for the free seminar by calling 800-308-9925, or online at

LRFD bridge design webinar

A one-hour, web-based seminar from the Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute (CRSI) explains how to analyze a conventionally reinforced concrete slab bridge design to meet new Load Resistance Factor Design requirements. Attendees will learn the features and functions, inputs, and outputs of Slab Bridge Designer 2.1 (SBD2.1), a Windows-based software application available from CRSI. The presenter, Matthew Peavy of BridgeTech, Inc., is the lead developer of SBD2.1 and will demonstrate the software in real time as he analyzes a slab bridge design. Information about SBD2.1 is available online at (scroll down to the &quotmust-have resources&quot box).

IBC call for papers

The Engineers’ Society of Western Pennsylvania issued a call for papers for the 24th International Bridge Conference (IBC). The IBC will be held June 4-6, 2007, in Pittsburgh; abstracts will be accepted until Oct. 31, 2006. The conference annually attracts more than 1,100 bridge owners and engineers, senior policy makers, government officials, bridge designers, construction executives, and suppliers from throughout the United States and abroad. Information about the IBC and the call for papers is available online at

President nominates Mary Peters as Transportation Secretary

President Bush nominated Mary Peters, former head of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), to be the next Secretary of Transportation. If confirmed by the Senate, Peters will succeed Norm Mineta, who served as Transportation Secretary for six years, a record term for the position. "Mary Peters is the right person for this job," said Bush. "She brings a lifetime of experience on transportation issues, from both the private and public sectors."

Peters joined the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) in 1985 and was appointed ADOT director in 1998. She served as head of FHWA from 2001 to 2005 and, most recently, as senior vice president for consulting firm HDR, Inc. Peters led FHWA’s efforts to complete a multi-year authorization of surface transportation programs. According to the Washington Post, she is an advocate of user fees (tolls) to fund construction of new highways.

Seismic dampers installed in a residential structure

Just weeks after the University at Buffalo (UB) and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) successfully conducted the first tests of seismic dampers for residential applications, the firm that manufactures the dampers, Taylor Devices, made its first sale of the protective devices for a residence in California.

Commuter payback

At 12:33 a.m. on Aug. 29, Dan Ruefly of Accokeek, Md., achieved ultimate payback for the frustration and pain he has faced for 28 years from traffic jams caused, in part, by the old, narrow Woodrow Wilson Bridge spanning the Potomac River between Maryland and Virginia on the south side of Washington, D.C. As winner of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project’s Toughest Bridge Commute contest, Ruefly got to trigger detonation charges that cut and brought down about a half-mile stretch of elevated steel girders that supported the old bridge. (Watch a video of the blast at Ruefly endures a daily, 120-minute commute to work and a 90-minute commute home. Additionally, in 1999 he was involved in a serious accident on the old bridge. Ironically, Ruefly attended the dedication ceremony for the old bridge in 1961 when he was eight years old.

A new Woodrow Wilson bridge opened in June, which currently is carrying both northbound and southbound traffic on I-95. Following demolition of the old bridge, a second new span will be built in its place to carry southbound traffic. The project remains on schedule to open the second new bridge in mid-2008.