Structural Engineers Roundtable: Three issues facing the structural engineering industry
The first annual Structural Engineer’s Buildings Conference, held last December in Chicago, provided an opportunity for structural engineers from across the nation to gather for education, networking, and to ask questions.
Erosion control specialists North American Green expanded its Erosion Solutions Specialist certification training program and now has more than 250 representatives from authorized North American Green distributors who have passed comprehensive exams and can assist engineers and contractors in designing and using erosion control measures for a wide range of applications. More than 30 representatives […]
Project Case Study: Creek restoration supports land development
Answering to Northern California’s ever-growing housing demands, the first new California city in the 21st Century rose up from the agricultural fields of the San Joaquin Valley just outside the San Francisco Bay Area. Mountain House, a $1.5 billion residential and commercial development by master developer Trimark Communities, LLC, a subsidiary of Sunchase Holdings of Arizona, covers 4,784 acres and is expected eventually to house 44,000 residents.
Project Case Study: Severe-service storm sewer
Usually, watertight seals are specified for storm sewer projects to keep water in a pipeline. But for a recent New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) installation completed in December 2004, exfiltration wasn’t the problem. The challenge was to keep pollutants in the surrounding soil from entering the system.
Go team marketing!
While you were earning your technical degree, how many classes did you have on the subjects of marketing, communications, or sales? Conversely, how many classes do you think members from the marketing department had with a focus on civil engineering? Both questions likely received the same response – few to none.
U.S. Cement Production to Expand Considerably
According to the Portland Cement Association (PCA), by the year 2010, U.S. cement plants will have expanded their capacity by nearly 18 percent. The PCA reports that U.S. cement companies are currently engaged in an aggressive, $3.6-billion expansion that will increase clinker capacity by 16.2 million metric tons within the next four years.
"The United States construction industry is ready to digest this large increase in capacity," said Ed Sullivan, chief economist for PCA. "Regions with a vibrant economic base dominate the location of plant expansions and the related escalation in private, commercial, and public infrastructure construction will require additional materials."
For example, PCA says that the Mountain region (Arizona, Nevada, and Colorado) accounts for 26 percent of total capacity expansions, while the Central region is expected to have the largest number of capacity expansions-37 percent of planned increases. Further, the Mississippi River allows plants in this area to access a broad market.
Use of Prefab Materials Climbs
According to a report from American City Business Journals, the use of prefabricated building materials is on the rise. Developers are using the materials to expedite construction and to trim rising construction costs spurred by industry-wide materials costs increases.
The report states that China is consuming more steel and concrete as its economy heats up, which drives up commodity prices. Additionally, last year’s storms, especially Hurricane Katrina, have increased demand for building materials and in many cases limited their availability. Further, the continuing real estate boom has heightened demand for materials to build condominiums, single-family homes, hotels, and office buildings.
Raising Awareness of The Brooks Act with Younger Engineers
Most of my relatively younger engineering colleagues and I are not familiar with the Brooks Act, formally known as Public Law 92-582. So these past few weeks, a few of us researched and discussed this law and some of its influences on the engineering profession. This is what we found:
The Brooks Act, named for the former Congressman Jack Brooks, is the 1972 law that established quality-based-selection (QBS) as the procurement process to select architects and engineers for design contracts with the federal government. Under the act, A/E contracts are negotiated and awarded on the basis of demonstrated competence and qualifications, as opposed to the lowest bid. This language reads terrific. Yet, our research shows that while the Brooks Act language is exemplary, its implementation is less than ideal.
More Investors are Betting on Brownfields
According to a recent report from RealEstateJournal.com, lending is picking up for developers of brownfield sites. Pension funds, insurance companies, and hedge funds are offering up most of the development dollars as they scramble to invest in more real estate. The potential is huge, the website reports, citing statistics from the National Brownfield Association, which estimates that the United States has $2 trillion of contaminated real estate that investors could buy if the land were cleaned up.
More Private Rooms in Hospitals
Due out this month, new guidelines for hospital design will make single-patient rooms a minimum requirement in new construction, according to The Wall Street Journal. The guidelines are published every four years by the nonprofit Facilities Guidelines Institute and the American Institute of Architects’ Academy of Architecture for Health, and are used by more than 40 state governments to set regulations, approve construction, and license hospitals to operate. While the guidelines apply only to new construction, a significant portion of the nation’s roughly 6,000 hospitals will be influenced because they are undergoing a building boom.
Among the reasons for the new guidelines, studies show that infection rates are lower in private hospital rooms for reasons such as patients not sharing bathrooms and lowered exposure to airborne infections. Hospitals are excused from the new requirements if they can demonstrate a "necessity of a two-bed arrangement."
Construction Starts Up in Early 2006
Reed Construction Data recently reported in its Construction Industry Snapshot that the number of construction-starts, not including residential projects, grew by more than 9.5 percent over January and February 2006 compared with the same 2005 period. According to Reed’s data, the sectors experiencing the biggest increases were hotel/motel (113.5 percent), private office buildings (22.6 percent), hospitals and clinics (19.9 percent), water/sewer projects (13.8 percent), and retail (12.8 percent). Laggards include the road and highway construction sector, which experienced a 10.3-percent decrease, and industrial manufacturing, which experienced a 52.4-percent drop in activity compared with the same period in 2005.
One of the most difficult transitions in many professions — especially engineering — is that of moving from a strictly technical job into management. Whether management means supervising one person or overseeing an entire project, significant psychological adjustment is necessary to manage human resources as well as technical ones. This difficulty is nothing new. Long before many of the well-known quality management and coaching principles were developed, firms recognized that technical experts did not necessarily make the best managers. Recently, there have been many comparisons between management and leadership, and an emphasis that they are indeed two different attributes that require different skills.