Posts filed under ‘Environmental Issues’
Engineers that understand infrastructure asset management are in demand within the US engineering marketplace. Infrastructure asset management specifically focuses on the need to sustain structures such as highways, bridges, water treatment facilities, electric utility and transmission lines in addition to many others. Mounting pressures to cut public spending, has much needed maintenance and rehabilitation put on hold. Meanwhile, US infrastructure continues to decay. The planning, design, construction, operations, maintenance, upgrading, and rehabilitation of infrastructure has become split among the private sector and public agencies .
What has become clear is the need for talented engineering managers that understand the delicate balance between planning, design, operation, maintenance and sustainability of infrastructure. My clients, architecture and consulting civil engineering firms, have multiple year initiatives for expanding consulting divisions that focus only on asset management. Whether it be underground tunneling for large diameter pipes, water/waste-water systems or transportation systems- the market and the money are HOT.
Consulting A/E firms seek to expand their ability to offer their clients asset management action plans that create an effective and practical business framework for transportation, stormwater, water and sanitary assets. One firm states the importance in providing agencies/municipalities a “comprehensive approach that creates a sustainable program to help achieve performance goals, minimize costs and meet stakeholder demands.” These asset management plans vary from firm to firm and may include but not be limited to: strategy and service level development; business planning; infrastructure assessment and planning; financial and capital planning; technology strategy implementation; operational excellence; computerized maintenance management systems.
Engineers with comprehensive business experience and practices will find a variety of opportunities open to them over the next year. This may reactivate the MBA vs. MSCE discussion. What do you think?
In 2008, we posted a brief BLOG titled “Sustainability in Civil Engineering.” Now, 3 years later, I asked several civil engineering leaders to discuss this topic. For example: Do clients request or require sustainable design? Is there a difference in cost on sustainable design projects? What else do you think about this topic? Here are their thoughts:
Mark Gabriel, Senior Vice President Strategy and Business Process, Black & Veatch
“Regarding sustainability, it is really about the efficient use of resources and has morphed into the realization of the triple bottom line. From an energy perspective all facets of construction (or deferral of construction) are now taken into account. For example, water use is a huge issue. In our 2011 Strategic Directions of the Utility Industry survey, water was the number one environmental issue by the 700 respondents. The challenge is that there is a cost to sustainable options that needs to be borne by someone–either the public or the shareholders. And, therein lies the challenge.
Sustainability in many ways is being “cooked” into the fabric of construction decisions as opposed to simply being another factor “sprinkled in” at the last minute to get a project constructed.”
Richard Diaz, PE, President, Diaz Pearson & Associates, Inc.
“In some respects, today’s Sustainability is a revival of the conservation movement back in the 1970’s. It still can be thought of as the wise use of our resources, the consciousness of designing infrastructure for the long term, and awareness that short term replacement and reconstruction are not realistic options. I think many would agree that there is more awareness today in our dwindling resources, many of which are precious.
Sustainable Development is more than just water cooler talk. For Civil Engineers, it’s also more than the ‘green theme’ architectural flavor of the day. Civil engineers have traditionally been concerned about sustainable design; as far back as I can remember. Life cycle cost and the creation of long term value have been civil engineering issues for a long time, not just current topics. Clearly there’s an appreciation for civil engineering’s ‘sustainability’ value that went into the Hoover Dam, Brooklyn Bridge and so many other notable landmarks still operating today.
Sustainability in design is critical, if nothing more, than to craft meaningful solutions to our infrastructure needs in competition with limited financial resources. Sadly, so much of our nation’s infrastructure has been overlooked and is in need of replacement. Arguably, one might believe that because of civil engineering’s core sustainability value, our nation’s infrastructure has been able to enjoy little maintenance attention. That’s no longer the case. We’re at the critical point in meeting our expected service needs for energy, transportation, water supply, and wastewater treatment.
Everywhere one looks there are social, educational, and medical issues competing for financial support. More than ever, sustainability in civil engineering design must be the central theme for creative solutions that match limited financial resources. I believe civil engineering’s core sustainability value will continue to provide reasonable solutions without compromise for the future. Perhaps more than ever this is an exciting and challenging time for civil engineering leadership!”
Jeanne Acutanza, PE, CH2M HILL and http://www.greengrowthcc.com
“Infrastructure clients, generally public agencies, are not only interested in sustainability to preserve natural environments and reduce energy use, but increasingly to save money. Measuring sustainability in infrastructure (like LEED certifications for buildings) is becoming necessary to compare and prioritize projects for funding as well as to optimize project efficiency. CH2M HILL pioneered one rating system with the University of Washington called the Greenroads rating system http://www.greenroads.org/. This tool is being used by funding agencies to help agencies enhance and optimize sustainability on their project grant submittals. CH2M HILL is leading a team to develop a rating tool for FHWA. The tool http://www.sustainablehighways.org/ builds on context sensitive solutions principles to evaluate highway projects. The tool is in its pilot testing phase. FHWA is seeking feedback from agencies using the tool.”
“The concept of sustainability is just beginning to get traction at least in the US public sector. We are starting to see some RFP’s that discuss or request sustainable design. However, clients are also being cautious in implementation. Will sustainable concepts increase costs? If yes, how much? Do sustainable designs add value to the project? If yes, can we demonstrate the benefits added. In the global marketplace, sustainability is more frequently cited in solicitations.”
As we continue to pursue resource conservation, what changes are you seeing from your clients and within your projects? Thoughts?
Picture this: the sun, beach, sand, waves, porpoises ….wind turbines?
A variety of wind farms are being proposed, designed and constructed across the US. Cape Wind proposes the first offshore wind farm on Nantucket Sound, “… Miles from the nearest shore, 130 wind turbines will gracefully harness the wind to produce up to 420 megawatts of clean, renewable energy. In average winds, Cape Wind will provide three quarters of the Cape and Islands electricity needs. Maryland’s Governor proposed a plan to build offshore wind farms in the Atlantic Ocean (Maryland lawmakers today refused to pass the plan this year). His was a $1.5 billion field of giant turbines about 10 miles off of the Ocean City, Maryland shoreline, while the eastern edge is approximately 27 miles from the coast. And in Delaware, NRG Bluewater Wind has won the exclusive right to negotiate with the federal government to build an offshore wind farm.
Will these “green” initiatives bring green engineering jobs? “Bluewater Wind officials estimated in 2008 that the project would bring 400-500 construction jobs to the state, as well as at least 80 ongoing operations and maintenance jobs. A Port of Wilmington official estimated last year that building a regional turbine assembly facility there could result in about 770 jobs during construction, and another 750 operational jobs.” The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) reported in 2010 that the wind energy sector that employs 18,500 staff in the manufacturing sector could “support tens of thousands of additional jobs manufacturing wind turbines and components if the right policies are put in place.”
Civil engineers will be needed for a variety of roles within this “green” engineering market. For example, the wind farm infrastructure consists of roads and drainage, wind turbine, met mast foundations and buildings housing electrical switch gear, planning, modeling, preliminary design, QA/QC and construction of wind farm infrastructure for sites and utilities for access roads, crane pads, crane paths…
Many of us will be interested in reviewing the results of states and P3 proposals. Will other states step up and add these green engineering jobs or, like Maryland, will legislators blow the turbine proposals out of the water? :)
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It’s been quite some time since I have touched on this subject, so at the risk of “beating a dead horse,” here I go again!
Have you ever known anyone who has traveled via high-speed rail? Have you actually experienced High Speed Rail yourself? At the very least you have recently read about it or heard about it on the news. I have never personally experienced it myself, but I’ve read enough about it and viewed enough videos to know that I am very excited about what the future holds. I have also spoken to folks who have actually traveled on High Speed Rail and the reviews were glowing!
Imagine blowing up a balloon; you’ve populated the balloon with enough air that is appears to be at full capacity, but maybe you want it a little bit bigger, so you put two more breaths into it. It’s good. It hasn’t popped, so you put two more breaths in. It’s now stretched pretty thin, but maybe the kids are chanting, “Bigger! Bigger! Bigger!” You push your luck one more time and in the middle of your next breath….POP! As I write, our highways and airspace are pretty much maxed out when it comes to capacity, and as our population grows and our economy inches its way back into growth mode the constraints will be even heavier. In fact, on Monday CNN reported the following from the FAA:
It also predicts U.S. airlines will carry 1 billion passengers a year by 2021, a milestone that will come two years earlier than previously thought. (To put that number into perspective, about 712 million passengers flew on domestic carriers in 2010.)“
If we fail to truly embrace High Speed Rail our infrastructure will share the same results as the balloon.
Last week Joe Biden announced a comprehensive plan that would allow for 80% of our hard-working population to have access to High Speed Rail by 2035 and has committed to $53 billion over six years. Check out what the US High Speed Rail Association’s vision of what a national High Speed Rail system would look like:
The build out of High Speed Rail lines is a lengthy process; the environmental planning and reports, the public meetings, more reports, more meetings, and one of the most, if not THE most sophisticated engineering and construction processes in the world requires much patience. Of course the longer the discussion gets hung up in DC the even longer this will take. As the United States continues to talk about High Speed Rail, the other countries on our globe continue to stay one step ahead of us. I personally am not concerned about competing with other countries because at the end of the day I think the US rocks! But all this talk over the years surrounding High Speed Rail, and the limited action is getting old – the advantages of High Speed Rail, as you and I both know, are enormous:
*Increased opportunities for employment due to easy access between cities
*A reduction in carbon emissions
*A national HSR system could reduce oil consumption by 125 bbl / year (according to Environment America)
*Reduce the stress already on existing, over-capacity infrastructure
*Ability to text message and check Facebook on phone without having to lookup for oncoming traffic
Look, the list goes on and on as to the advantages, no doubt. A couple of years ago I wondered if people would really be able to give up their connections to their cars on a daily basis. The convenience they provide; the status they may show, etc. But I think with all the studies that have been compiled, and the horrible recession that we have recently passed through, that particular mentality has passed its prime. The development of true High Speed Rail has begun in FL and CA and significant investments have already been made in those regions. May the rest of our country follow in their footsteps…let’s get this show on the road, or shall I say, on the rail!
So, are you high on speed…rail? I know I am and I would love to hear your thoughts – especially from anyone who may be against this type of innovation in our country…
Thanks for reading!
Perhaps you may have read last Sunday’s New York Times lead article by Charles Duhigg: Toxic Waters: Clean Water Laws Are Neglected, at a Cost in Suffering. For those who did not, the article focused on the human anguish that results from pollutants in our waters. The abuse is caused by direct violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA). Keep in mind, the article did not focus on third world countries, but here in the US. Senior Banking Accountant, West Virginia resident Jennifer Hall-Massey’s family is profiled:
“Neighbors apply special lotions after showering because their skin burns. Tests show that their tap water contains arsenic, barium, lead, manganese and other chemicals at concentrations federal regulators say could contribute to cancer and damage the kidneys and nervous system.
‘How can we get digital cable and Internet in our homes, but not clean water?’ said Mrs. Hall-Massey, a senior accountant at one of the state’s largest banks.
She and her husband, Charles, do not live in some remote corner of Appalachia. Charleston, the state capital, is less than 17 miles from her home.”
The article continues to disclose violation records obtained from not only the EPA but from State records. A multitude of violations were compiled into a fascinating and frightening national water pollution database. I encourage you to visit the database link, put in your zip code and hold on to your seats!
The blatant lack of fines or punishment to violators is unconscionable. This past January I wrote a BLOG about outgoing President Bush’s midnight environmental legislation. Specifically stated, President Bush made sure that the coal industry had no problems depositing their waste from mountaintop mining into streams and valleys. Also, he circumvented the Clean Water Act and dismissed EPA leaders dissents. While it would be almost too easy to blame his administration and outgoing policies for today’s environmental misery, the New York Times article clearly distributes the blame to state agencies as well. Federal and State agencies need to step up.
As Duhigg writes: research shows that an estimated 1 in 10 Americans have been exposed to drinking water that contains dangerous chemicals or fails to meet a federal health benchmark in other ways.
Someone needs to be held accountable. Remember this next time you take a drink of water.
Is it really necessary to become a LEED accredited professional (LEED AP)? Can you design for sustainability without having LEED accreditation? Is this just another acronym to put on a business card? Or, as some suggest, is this a half hearted attempt by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to exploit the demand for solutions to environmental issues and make some money along the way?
Just a few years ago only a select few individuals had LEED AP following their name. Now more than 75,000 architects and engineers proudly display this designation to demonstrate their prowess in green building, strategies and technologies. The USGBC clearly states that the “LEED Professional Accreditation distinguishes building professionals with the knowledge and skills to successfully steward the LEED certification process.” As LEED certification becomes better defined, the LEED AP testing has become more difficult and comprehensive.
The LEED train has left the station and whether critics like it or not, it is here to stay. Therefore, having LEED AP on your resume will become a necessity and possibly valued in the future as the PE, AIA, RLA or AICP designations are now. Whether one can or has designed with an eye to sustainability in the past will no longer matter, without having the acronym after their name. Experts concur that, for now, LEED is here to stay and one might as well get on board.
Do understand that as the U.S. increases desirability and need for green design, skeptics are becoming louder and activists more outspoken. Pete Wann’s blog on the “Fashion of LEED Bashing” suggests that the original critics were builders and developers and that today’s naysayers are those from the environmental and architectural traditionalist movements. While an Internet search turned up plenty of arguments on both sides of the recycled fence, I still think that in spite of its flaws and inadequacies, the LEED program is better than nothing when it motivates people to seriously face the future environmental challenges. And if we are going to have universally accepted guidelines (I don’t see the USGBC going away) then why not have professionals accredited? What do you think?
The world has accepted the concept of sustainability. That is: the need to be socially conscious, environmentally sensitive and aware. Go green, green recruiting, green design, green buildings, green initiatives, save green, green living, green products…green, green, green. We have been saturated but, I hope, NOT desensitized. Corporations went through branding programs and corporate logos turned green. It is reported that approximately 300,000 green trademarks were filed with the U.S. patent office in 2007. These are all good things. The concept of sustainability is sound, based in logic and implemented with reason.
Last year, advertising and trend watching firm JWT predicted that we will see blue replacing green as the color of environmentalism and social consciousness. They suggest that the ”blue is the new green” concept signals a fundamental shift in the environmental movement. I am not sure why it is a color shift…other than maybe a marketing technique. Even the Earth Day Network website has “gone blue.” Are the new environmental concerns focusing on sky and sea – water and air? Are these really new concerns? Water and air quality have been in the foreground of civil and environmental engineering projects for the 20 years I have been involved with our business.
What do you think?
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Tim Dickinson has written an excellent synopsis for Rolling Stone magazine on President Bush’s final legacy and good-bye gift to us for our future. The title is somewhat rough for some of you, so I won’t put it here, but I offer to you the link:
As it is expected that every outgoing president has implemented 11th hour regulations, “Bush is rolling them out at a record pace — nearly twice as many as Clinton, and five times more than Reagan.”
Here are just a FEW of his final goodbye gifts to all of us (with a few of my thoughts included!)…
Considering that my livelihood depends a great deal on infrastructure development, I read his last minute regulations with interest. “Under a rule submitted in November, federal agencies would no longer be required to have government scientists assess the impact on imperiled species before giving the go-ahead to logging, mining, drilling, highway building or other development.” I can’t say that I have ever described myself as a live or die environmentalists, but at 47, I find this unsettling at the least! You only need to read my earlier BLOG discussing my obsession with the movie “Soylent Green” to know that this is beyond worrisome!
Typical of the Bush presidency, he has made sure that the coal industry has no problems depositing their waste from mountaintop mining into streams and valleys. Additionally, he has lowered air pollution regulations near our national parks, permitted for nearly 2 million acres of lands for the mining of oil shale — “an energy-intensive process that also drains precious water resources” and he has deregulated farming pollution. He has circumvented the Clean Water Act and dismissed EPA leaders dissents. This is just more of his legacy he has solidified for his future grandchildren and yours.
The Rolling Stone article details so many other last minute, little front news regulations, that I am too troubled to even list them all!
All of us will be affected by his decisions. Involved in our industry, what do you think? Please comment!