Posts tagged ‘civil engineering projects’

Sustainable Highways, Transportation & GREENROADS?

The CivilEngineeringCentral.com blogs have often discussed the need for sustainable transportation in the US. Whether we discussed transit, high speed rail, the SCHWEEB or SkyTran, we are fascinated with the concept of finding a way to be better to our planet while getting where we need to go when we want to get there. One thing is for sure, the majority of us will not give up our cars and highways will always be needed.

The Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) has developed the Sustainable Highways Self-Evaluation Tool, INVEST (Infrastructure Voluntary Evaluation Sustainability Tool), version 1. INVEST was built using the FHWA concept of sustainability. FHWA describes how sustainability in highways:

A sustainable highway should be planned or replaced, financed, designed, constructed, inspected, operated and maintained in a way that provides sustainable benefits related to three principles: Social, Environmental, and Economic. 

 with the understanding that highways are one part of transportation infrastructure, and transportation is one aspect of meeting human needs. In addition to addressing environmental and natural resource needs, the development of a sustainable highway should focus on access (not just mobility), moving people and goods (not just vehicles), and providing people with transportation choices, such as safe and comfortable routes for walking, cycling, and transit.

Sustainable transportation may be described or defined in many ways that broadly address environmental, social and economic impacts, safety, affordability, and accessibility of transportation services. Transportation agencies address sustainability through a wide range of initiatives, such as ITS, livability, smart growth, recycling, planning and environment linkages…Transportation planning processes that incorporate these values and integrate the elements of sustainability should be the foundation from which to implement sustainability decisions as a project moves forward. Measures of project success include a wide range of indicators, such as travel performance, gains achieved through material selection, and construction methods.

Are you familiar with GREENROADS and the GREENROADS rating system? Do you think it is worthwhile to worry about sustainability  with our highways and “promote environmental stewardship, accountability and integrity”  or is this just another “roadblock” to development?

 By Carol A. Metzner
President, The Metzner Group, LLC and
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com
  View Carol’s profile & connect with her on LinkedIn

civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

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August 15, 2012 at 11:39 am Leave a comment

How to Prevent Infrastructure Disaster?

By Carol A. Metzner
President, The Metzner Group, LLC and
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com

This August will be the 3rd anniversary of the I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis and the 5th anniversary of the New Orleans levee system failure. July brings with it the 19th year mark of the Kansas City Hyatt Regency walkway collapse. While we now understand how these events occurred, has the civil engineering industry implemented systems to help prevent future disasters? Has our government implemented systems to help?

Cutbacks in civil engineering staff across the US’s civil engineering companies and  low bid contract awards from local, state and federal agencies cause some to question whether projects are being completed by the best talent available. As we discussed in a previous blog, some firms that previously hired the best engineering talent have now cut them in favor of less experienced, less expensive engineers. What effect, if any will this have on our future infrastructure?

This week it was reported that the Michigan Department of Transportation has been late on inspections on bridge reports.  A state audit determined that about 10% of bridge inspections were overdue, some for 36 months or more. It was further reported that the Federal Highway Administration “ordered the state to complete hundreds of crucial bridge inspections by Dec. 31 or risk losing highway funding, a last-ditch punishment that MDOT says it will avoid.”

Similarly, Stamford, CT advocate news just announced “Hundreds of state bridges rated deficient.” Specifically: of the state’s 5,300 bridges, 10 percent, or 509, are structurally deficient and ranked in poor condition, according to the state Department of Transportation. Fifty-four percent are in fair condition, while 36 percent are in good condition.

The Monitor reporter Jared Janes wrote this week  that lower than expected bids from contractors eager for work will allow the U.S. section of the International Boundary and Water Commission, in charge of the construction, to complete more than 40 additional miles to raise and rehabilitate Rio Grande levees.

Our government has implemented guidelines for engineering designs and mandated structural inspections. Private industry and public agencies struggle with budget cuts. How can we prevent infrastructure disasters with  contract monies put on hold and experienced staff being caught in layoffs? What are your thoughts?

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civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

June 23, 2010 at 9:42 am Leave a comment

World’s Tallest Building Opens -How Tall Is Too Tall?

By Carol A. Metzner
President, The Metzner Group, LLC and
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com

The Burj Dubai – Arabic for Dubai Tower – opens today, January 4, at a supposed height of 2,717 feet. Construction began on September 21, 2004, with the exterior of the structure completed on October 1, 2009.

Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, LLP (Chicago) are listed as the architect and engineer of record. Bill Baker, the Chief Structural Engineer for the project, invented the buttressed core structural system in order to enable the tower to achieve such heights economically.  Adrian Smith, who worked with Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM) until 2006, was the Design Partner on the project. Turner Construction Company was selected as the construction project manager. Under UAE law, the Contractor and the Engineer of Record are jointly and severally liable for the performance of Burj Dubai. Therefore, by adoption of SOM’s design and by being appointed as Architect and Engineer of Record, Hyder Consulting is legally the Design Consultant for the tower.

The total budget for the Burj Khalifa project is about US $1.5 billion; and for the entire new “Downtown Dubai”, US $20 billion. The metal-and-glass spire is touted as a “vertical city” of luxury apartments and offices. It boasts four swimming pools, a private library and a hotel designed by Giorgio Armani.

According to the Burj’s developers, they are “confident in the safety of the tower, which is more than twice the height of New York’s Empire State Building’s roof.  Greg Sang, Emaar’s director of projects, said the Burj has ‘refuge floors’ at 25 to 30 story intervals that are more fire resistant and have separate air supplies in case of emergency. And its reinforced concrete structure, he said, makes it stronger than steel-frame skyscrapers.”

Engineer Baker reported that the Burj developer continued to push the design higher even after construction began, eventually putting it about 984 feet taller than its nearest competitor. This push came from Dubai’s determination to “reshape itself into a cosmopolitan urban giant packed with skyscrapers.”

How tall is too tall for a building? How complicated is too complicated for a bridge?  What do you think?

AP photo/Kamran Jebreili

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civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

January 4, 2010 at 6:14 pm 7 comments

Are You Doing The Heavy Lifting?

Babette Burdick
Sales Aerobics for Engineers
Internet Business Development Strategies for Manufacturers, Distributors and Service Companies

Babette Burdick Head ShotFeatured Guest Blogger: Babette Burdick
Sales Aerobics for Engineers
Internet Business Development Strategies for Manufacturers, Distributors and Service Companies
Connect With Babette On Linkedin Linkedin Logo
Read The Sales Aerobics For Engineers Blog

At the 2008 Pack Expo, after a successful presentation, one of my colleagues complemented me and told me I really knew how to do the heavy lifting on a project. I had never heard the phrase before (yes, sometimes it’s like I live under a rock). It’s just the way I do things, and the way the folks I respect go about their business.  After he explained the phrase to me, I thanked him and thought to myself : “Is there any other way to do things?”

I got curious. And being an observer, I started paying attention to Random Episodes Of Heavy Lifting throughout 2009.

I found out there weren’t any. Random acts, that is.

Heavy Lifting is a conscious decision. You Heavy Lifters out there, you know who you are. Some of you own your own companies. Others of you have incredible working relationships across departments within your organization. You may not even be the top dog or the top salesperson or the top achiever. You may not even be a world leader or the captain of the team. You are, however, known as being The Person To Go To: the individual who brings excellence and perspective to the task at hand.

Heavy Lifters are not the same folks as the Hard Workers. Nor are they the same folks as the Savvy Employees. This isn’t about churning and burning or game playing. It pretty much encompasses your  code of personal ethics, which you carry into your work ethics. You either do the work, and do it thoroughly and most excellently, or you don’t do it at all. And you encourage others to join you in doing excellent work. You bring out the best in your collaborators. And you inspire. Because ultimately, when you present, you evangelize because you believe in what you and your team are doing. You plant Possibilities in the minds of others.

Heavy Lifters do not Go Through The Motions. They are not Smiling Joes. Heavy Lifters do not survive because of thin veneers or changing agendas. There is no recipe for Heavy Lifting. You learn by doing. You do so because it’s part of who you are.  And you are not afraid of falling flat on your face, trying.

So who are the Heavy Lifters in your organization? Are they recognized? Are you in a position to recognize them? Do I need to suggest that you recognize them? And incorporate them into your team, if you haven’t already done so?

I’ve had so many extraordinary client discussions in the past few weeks with Owners who are entrepreneurial yet fiscally rooted. They have done the due diligence and heavy lifting to move their organizations out of the economic mire, in a forward direction.

I’m having some wonderful LinkedIn discussions with engineers who have done the heavy lifting necessary to implement change management into their organizations, resulting in new product or service capabilities.  And the potential for creating new revenue streams.

These are the Heavy Lifters. They end up moving mountains, but not alone. They are ordinary folks who become extraordinary simply because they don’t back down in their belief in what they bring to the table on behalf of their organization.  And they have vision – which means they always have their eye NOT on the prize…. but on the horizon.

We are in the midst of creating a new economic business paradigm shift. And perhaps we are making it up, winging it, as we go along. Aren’t most paradigm shifts achieved in this manner?

What can you bring to your organization by shifting your focus to the horizon? Or taking a 50,000 foot eagle’s eye view of your organization? Are you capable of heavy lifting? It shouldn’t be something to shy away from. It’s probably always been your forte. Perhaps you have dumbed it down for various reasons.

Wouldn’t it be so much more comfortable to do what you do naturally?

Are you a Heavy Lifter?

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civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

Trust Me, I’m an (Unlicensed) Architect
If you don’t have an architectural license, it’s illegal to call yourself an architect or perform architectural services—but people still do. Who are they, who’s policing them, and can they be stopped?

November 4, 2009 at 10:49 pm 2 comments

When “It’s Not My Problem” Becomes Your Problem

Babette Burdick
Sales Aerobics for Engineers
Internet Business Development Strategies for Manufacturers, Distributors and Service Companies

Babette Burdick Head ShotFeatured Guest Blogger: Babette Burdick
Sales Aerobics for Engineers
Internet Business Development Strategies for Manufacturers, Distributors and Service Companies
Connect With Babette On Linkedin Linkedin Logo
Read The Sales Aerobics For Engineers Blog

Siloed approaches to participation on a civil engineering project team usually aren’t the best technique for demonstrating value to your organization. In fact, successful participation on a project team should be a matter of asking yourself “what YOU would do” if you were doing another team member’s job – as well as your own.  If you can fulfill your functional role, yet anticipate the mindset of all of your team members as they fulfill their respective functional roles, the outcome is robust. Everybody wins.

denial

Unfortunately, in the real world, project team members are working for civil engineering companies which are now extremely lean and mean.  Perhaps even desperate for business. With less staff doing more work and wearing multiple hats, project management sometimes resembles a game of “hot potato.” Which can create quality problems as well.  Perhaps the production and engineering department is part of a fiefdom. Regardless of the size of your company, and its organization, the result is the same. The individuals fulfilling functional obligations perceive their job as “piece work” for handoff to the other members of the project team for implementation.  These individuals perceive that once they’ve fulfilled their engineering (or other) function on the team, they are off duty.  They’ve completed their work. It’s no longer their problem. They can go back to their cubicle and work on the next project.

Guess again.

All of us have projects where we put the final dot on an “I” and cross the final “t” and can’t wait to get that project off our desk. However, we’ve taught ourselves we don’t operate in silos.  But we certainly know folks within our organization who do. And like the kids on the playground who don’t get selected first, or even second, for that pickup game of dodge ball at recess, they don’t get it.  Project management is a team sport.

In this challenging economy, there is even less of a place within an organization for individuals who don’t understand the dynamics of the sales process and how difficult it is to win the business in the first place. They may not understand the business cycle or have a complete grasp of the multiple disciplines and roles required to move a project towards a successful outcome.  These individuals may not grasp the difficulty involved in customer retention. When these types of project team members finish their work, in their mind, they have done their job and that portion of the project ceases to become their responsibility. It’s not their problem anymore. And I’m not just talking about junior staffers, either.

Project outcomes are always everyone’s responsibility. So everyone owns the problems.  And the rewards.  I’m sure there are quite a few of you out there who have participated in at least one highly successful project team that had a marvelous project outcome. These types of project outcomes and the teams that achieve them are truly unforgettable – and rare- as though the stars were aligned from the beginning. Highly successful project outcomes and teams don’t happen by accident or serendipity. Many highly successful project outcomes are a result of ordinary folks – not your corporation’s rock stars – assuming responsibility and stretching themselves beyond what was required of them, resulting in a robust and innovative outcome. Successful project outcomes happen because all of the project team members are truly engaged in understanding each other’s functional roles . They incorporate that mutual respect into what they bring to their own individual area of responsibility.  No silos. Just synergy.

For those of you who interact with project teams that are not necessarily characterized by “synergy” or “mutual respect,” the tendency is to complete your portion of the project and hand it off. Or be less than communicative over the duration of that project, over multiple project team meetings.  Your siloed approach shortchanges everyone, including you. If someone falls down in their functional role it’s far costlier to compensate for the error in rework than have anticipated the probability of the error in the first place. The nature of the error may be lack of time, interest or less than brilliant execution.  A travel schedule that creates gaps in project meeting attendance. Team meeting notes that are not circulated in a timely manner or are not as detailed as they should be. Lack of communication or follow through in between project team meetings. Telephone conversations with the client and changes to the project that need to be immediately communicated to the project team. It’s those little things, the details that you feel aren’t your problem, that ultimately become your problem down the road.

Hybridizing the engineering approach you bring to the project team is going to be critical to not only your career, but the longevity of your company in the consulting civil engineering marketplace. There’s a lot of talk going on these days about innovation, which I’ll be addressing in a future guest blog on this site. However, the assumption by most folks is that innovation is best left up to, well, the innovators:  the braniacs.  Actually, innovation is a matter of self-discipline and the ability of incorporating the perspectives of everyone seated around your table into what you bring to the table.  Just do a little something differently than you’ve done before. That’s innovation.

So the next time you are assigned to a project team, take a different approach. An innovative approach. Find out what everyone does on your team. No matter how well you think you know them.  No matter how many times you’ve worked with them in the past.  Even if you are part of their sand volleyball team on Wednesdays. Take a few minutes out of your workweek to talk to them about the project – outside of team meetings. And then start your functional project work as though you are the entire team.  It’s hard to take a siloed approach with this hybridized perspective, isn’t it?

All of us have projects where we put the final dot on an “I” and cross the final “t” and can’t wait to get that project off our desk. However, we’ve taught ourselves we don’t operate in silos.  But we certainly know folks within our organization who do. And like the kids on the playground who don’t get selected first, or even second, for that pickup game of dodge ball at recess, they don’t get it.  Project management is a team sport.
In this challenging economy, there is even less of a place within an organization for individuals who don’t understand the dynamics of the sales process and how difficult it is to win the business in the first place. They may not understand the business cycle or have a complete grasp of the multiple disciplines and roles required to move a project towards a successful outcome.  These individuals may not grasp the difficulty involved in customer retention. When these types of project team members finish their work, in their mind, they have done their job and that portion of the project ceases to become their responsibility. It’s not their problem anymore. And I’m not just talking about junior staffers, either

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civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

September 30, 2009 at 2:53 pm 2 comments

Significant Civil Engineering Achievements

Alright….so if you checked out our home page you will see that we have a new survey question for the month of March.  The question inquires as to which of the four listed projects you believe to have the most significance to the civil engineering industry.  The four options that we have listed are:

The Panama Canal

The Channel Tunnel

The Golden Gate Bridge

The Empire State Building

These are the ol’ civil engineering stalwarts, just to name a few.  I am interested to see what your thoughts are as to what other noteworthy civil engineering achievements are out there.  I would be EXTREMELY interested in learning about what projects you might consider from only the past decade.  This could be a very interesting topic, we look forward to your comments!

And don’t forget to vote!

March 3, 2008 at 9:33 pm Leave a comment


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