Thoughts on the Engineering Industry

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Archive for the category “Industry”

The state of infrastructure funding and the crisis in Flint, Michigan

Hello everyone, I know I’ve been away for awhile.  The truth is that I have trouble staying motivated with my blogpost, but hopefully this will be the start of a more productive year though.  As many of you know, there has been an infrastructure crisis going on in Flint, Michigan that is very serious and was very preventable.  There has been plenty of coverage on the crisis and the root causes of the whole situation there, but I wanted discuss a couple themes that are indicative of our problematic infrastructure policy in the U.S.

The initial fact that jumped out at me in the coverage is that engineers knew that this crisis would occur when the city of Flint, Michigan went through with its proposed plan.  It is one thing to go with a more budget appropriate option to resolve an engineering issue within a city.  Most engineers believe that it is better to have a higher quality engineering system in most cases.  We also realize that it isn’t always within the budget to do so. However, that does not mean that we reduce the quality of the engineering systems such that public lives are at risk.  To do so is to not only break our engineering code of ethics, but to also commit a criminal act and should at least warrant a loss of your professional engineering license.  In my opinion, the professionals involved with this project should have taken any and all actions to prevent the city from going through with these plans.

Furthermore, the fact that the city pushed for this unsafe plan, let alone considered it, is irresponsible of the city government.  In the least, the safety of all it’s residents should be the local, state, and federal government’s main concern.  That’s why we have police officers, fire fighters, social workers, etc.; because the government is an organization that is run for and by the people.  By placing the budgetary concerns before the safety of the residents of Flint, Michigan, the local government broke that implicit agreement and has failed as a government agency.

Additionally, the fact that they felt this pressure at all is indicative of a problematic policy in regards infrastructure spending as a whole.  In my opinion, there a some areas of responsibility that the government should not have strict budgetary constraint.  Most of them have to do with public/citizen health and safety.  Some of those organizations are obvious to identify such as police officers and fire fighters.  There are also some areas that indirectly affect public safety.  In my opinion, one of those areas is infrastructure, and we are failing on multiple counts.  There are bridges that are structurally deficient – a few that have collapsed endangering the public.  There was Hurricane Katrina where the failure of critical flood prevention infrastructure due lack of maintenance contributed to a massive loss of life in the days following the natural disaster.  The crisis in Flint, Michigan is another bullet point on a list failures that have recently occurred in regards to infrastructure maintenance and funding.

Moving forward from the Flint, Michigan crisis, I believe there needs to be a focus on improving infrastructure management on all government levels.  The situation in regards to the infrastructure management in the U.S. has gotten to the point that the safety of the public is increasingly at risk and it is unacceptable that this should be the case.

What are your opinions on the Flynt, Michigan crisis moving forward?  What steps should be taken to improve the situation overall?   If you enjoyed my post, hit the like button, follow my blog for updates and share this post with your friends.  Thanks for reading and have a good week!

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Four Basic Steps to Determine if your Shingle Roof Has Been Damaged by a Hail Storm

Hello everyone, I hope your weekend went well.  I went to see the new Bond movie with my brother Friday and last night I went to a west coast swing dancing class and social event.  Other than that, I’ve been doing my usual stuff like working out and my job inspecting buildings.  Today, I’ve decided to write a blog post explaining four basic steps to determine whether a composition shingle roof has been damaged by a hail storm and quantify the extent of damages.  I’ve avoided this topic for two reasons: one is that there is a lot of information out there about this already, and the second is that it takes some prior experience to make an accurate assessment.  However, it is one major component of my job and I feel like I can provide some practical information that will help you should you need it.

1) Look for spatter marks on surrounding surfaces (http://goo.gl/COQH3i)

Spatter marks serve as a indicator of the size and direction of the recent hail.  The size of the spatter can be compared to the impact marks elsewhere to determine the extent of recent damage.  The directionality can be determined as well by figuring out which directional faces have or do not have spatter.  In addition, spatter will fade over time – this can differentiate between different ages of spatter marks within a recent time period in most cases.

2) Look for impact marks at susceptible surfaces (http://goo.gl/m15Wmc)

Impact marks can also be observed on some metal and wood surfaces.  Air-conditioning units are a good indicator due to the fact that they have 4 sides and metal/coil fins that are either soft or oxidized.  Spatter can be observed as mentioned before, as well as indentations.  Furthermore, the indentations can be examined to check for soiling, oxidation, or other forms of staining to determine the relative age of the older indentations.

3) Look at the general condition of the roof (http://goo.gl/7p5Yul)

The general condition of the roof will also affect the extent of hail damage.  Examples of other things that damage shingles aside from hail are general weathering, mechanical scrapes, blistered asphalt, and raised nails.  A roof with a worse general condition will be more susceptible to damage and could reduce the compensation should you involve the insurance company, similar in practice to automobile insurance compensation.

4) Look for hail impact marks and examine their condition/quantity (http://goo.gl/2nguV8)

The last step is to look for hail impact marks on the shingles.  Sometimes a relative age can be determined by checking for weathering of the reinforcement or asphalt within the exposed asphalt/shingle reinforcement.  To quantify the extent of damage, you can count the number of recent and/or old hail impact marks, as well as other general conditions if desired, withing a 10′ x 10′ square.  This is referred to as a test square by engineers and inspectors in the roofing business and is helpful information when estimating the cost of various types of repairs.

These 4 steps are the basic process I use to determine the extent of damage to a shingle roof.  Does anyone else have experience in roof inspections?  If so, what would you add to this list as a basic procedure?  For homeowners, have you had to deal with an issue like this before and how was the experience?  If you enjoyed my post, hit the like button, follow my blog for updates and share this post with your friends.  Thanks for reading and have a good week!

Image source

http://goo.gl/1MbnTT

4 Steps for Selecting a New Goal

Hello everyone, I hope you have been doing well in my absence.  I’ve gotten side-tracked lately with work and other stuff, but I’m going to try and get into blogging again – hopefully it will stick this time.  Today, I would like to talk about the process I like to use for determining whether I should set a new goal in current or new interest. There is a lot of advice about how to make a goal SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. However, advice on determining what your new goals should be is not discussed as often.  Hopefully, by following these 4 steps, you can increase your engagement in achieving new goals.

1. Determine whether or not the goal will remain compelling
If you’re like me, you try a lot of different things because you like the new experiences.  However, not all of them will necessarily be something that engages you over a long time period.  Something that is just a for-fun, random experience might be not be a good candidate for a new goal until you try it more often.

2. Determine what some possible end results would be
Try and imagine what the end result would look like. It might sound cool; but if you take some time consider how the end goal fits with your overall life plan, it helps you figure out if this goal is something you truly want to pursue.

3. Determine how much time you want spend achieving this goal and how much time it would take to actually do so
By determining how much time is required on a base level, you can determine if you realistically have the time or want to spend the time achieving this goal.  This goal could be a great idea until now, but the time required might not be practical.

4. Determine if this is something you would like to achieve in comparison to some of your other interests
Compare all of the above to current and new goal requirements. If it makes it past the steps above and any new or current goals don’t similarly conflict with it, you should consider setting up a concrete plan for completion.

The above steps are a basic process I use for determining new goals that I have found really helpful.  Especially since I have this desire to be good at everything and that is not practical on any level.  Hopefully, this helps you in determining good goals in the coming months.

Do y’all have any thoughts on these steps? And do y’all use a process like this for selecting goals? If yes, what is the process?  If you enjoyed my post, hit the like button, follow my blog for updates and share this post with your friends.  Thanks for reading and have a good week!

3-D Printed Buildings Elements Created from Building Construction Waste

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     Hello everyone, I hope y’all have been doing well.  Today I would like to talk about an improved application of 3D in building construction.  For a while now, 3-D printing has been applied to building construction on a smaller scale.  However, the large portion of the structure has still been constructed using conventional methods.  Experts in various fields of building design and construction have been researching applications that expand the usage of 3-D printing in building construction.  This is an area of building construction expertise in which China has recently lead the global market according to Brittney Stevenson.

In April 2014, WinSun Decoration Design Engineering Co. revealed that 10 homes were constructed entirely out of a 3-D printed, recycled concrete material – an advancement that surprised the engineering and construction community.  In January 2015, it was revealed that WinSun had made further advancements in the applications of this 3-D printed material.  A 6-story apartment building and home has been constructed and the apartment building itself has an approximately 1,100 square meter floor plan.

The 3-D printed elements were created by inputing a CAD file into a 20′ tall, 33′ ft wide, and 132′ foot long machine printed using a concrete mixture.  The concrete mixture includes concrete, fiberglass, sand and a hardening agent.  The usage of this material allows for improved reusage of general construction waste while also being flexible, self-insulating and resistant to earthquakes.  Reinforcement was used where further strength was required and some of the larger pieces were built off site and transported there.  Details of the of building construction process are listed in the article.  According to WinSun, they are able to save 60% of the materials required for home construction, construct the building in 30% less time than traditional construction and reduce the required labor by 80%.

These are impressive results if true.  I still wonder about the expense of owning and maintaining the machine might be a hindrance at first. And I would hope the cost of collecting the construction waste and creating the concrete mixture is included in those statistics.  I think this is a good innovation, especially for low rise buildings since the loads and stresses are lower (although I believe a 6 story building is pushing the limits of standard low rise construction).  I would be interested to see how the material ages in regards to long term durability as well.  Overall, there are several applications that this would be useful for in the building construction industry.

What your thoughts on 3-D printed building elements? What about the concrete mixture used?  Have you heard of any other building materials being used in relation to 3-D printing?  If you enjoyed the article, please like it and share it with your friends.  Thanks for reading and have a good week!

Source

Brittney Stevenson, “Shanghai-Based WinSun 3D Prints 6-Story Apartment Building and an Incredible Home”, 3D Printer & 3D Printing News, January 18, 2015, http://goo.gl/TwVSKC

What does it truly mean to be an expert?

Hello everyone! I hope y’all had a good week.  Today I just wanted to share a quote I read online that describes what it means to be an expert in a field of study.  The quote is from Pablo Picasso: “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

Pablo Picasso is well known for his abstract art that was definitely considering breaking the rules at the time.  Yet he was a legitimately good artist, which means he was technically a professional painter.  It initially seems like a a quote anecdotally reference to his views as an artist. However, if you dig a bit deeper into what is really beings said, it can be applied to a lot of different fields of study.  Think about a business man.  He might have some issues in selling a product.  There is probably a standard process that is followed to resolve the standard issues, but in this case it might not apply.  Therefore, by knowing the rules, he knows when is the right time to break them to achieve the results he desires.  It can be applied to engineering or science type stuff as well.  Every new break through in science and engineering occurred because some who would be considered a pro and studied in their field made a connection that hadn’t been made before.  They succeeded because they went against the norm (“broke the rules”) at the right time and discovered a way to improve a product, project or application.  So with this greater concept in mind, it becomes clear that an expert in any field of study knows not only when to follow the standard rules in a given situation, but also when those rules don’t apply and another solution needs to be found.

With that being said, I am going to leave you guys with this thought and hopefully you can implement it well in your career or life general – never get so caught up in the rules that you forget to break them when it comes time to do so.  As I have told many people before about my job, I have a lot of boring days where people wonder why I need my degree and other technical skill sets to do my job.  However, that knowledge informs me when a serious situation could come up that needs to be addressed, and I used that knowledge to prevent any further issues.  How do you guys interpret the quote?  Is there a particular story and event that describes your opinion?  If you enjoyed reading, like the post and share it with your friends.  Thanks for your time and have a good week!

Image Source

“Problem-solving is the Problem”, Florian Totu, blog.opteemum.net, August 10, 2012, http://goo.gl/YNzbI4

Tax incentives for promoting renewable energy production

Hello everyone, I hope your week is going well.  Today I would like to look at a topic that is less technical and a more political – how to implement tax incentives that promote sustainable energy production.  I believe that this is a topic that gets over-politicized and some information needs to be shared in an objective way.

Currently, there are a lot of subsidies provided to oil companies.  According to Oil Change International, the subsidies range from $10 to $52 million annually in the US.  Internationally, the subsidies are somewhere between $775 billion and $1 trillion.  As of July 2014, Oil Change International estimates this years subsidies to be about $35 billion.  $2.4 billion of those subsidies go to the big 5 oil companies in the form of federal tax deductions: BP, Exxon, Chevron, Shell, and ConocoPhillips.  Subsidies also go to “independent” oil companies which, which are larger operations than the name implies.  These companies produce about 50% of the oil.  The rest of the subsidies are earned through loans or aid certain types of operations such gas exploration and production at an estimate value of $18.5 billion on the federal level and $21.6 billion on the state level.  After that, there are consumption subsidies which amount to $11 billion.  Along with the subsidies, infrastructure loans are provided to the companies which amount to about $4.7 billion.  It shouldn’t be noted that the article goes on to recommend that these subsidies be reduced and also outlines roadway maintenance and health concerns.  That being said, I am trying to keep the references focused on the raw data in this section.

In comparison, the subsidies for renewable energy are lower.  A report by Nancy Pfund and Ben Healey shows that the renewable energy has a lower initial investment and projected investment over a 30 year span overall.  The historical average of annual subsidies of renewable energy is $370 million as compared to $4.86 billion for oil and gas, $3.5 billion of nuclear and $1.08 billion for biofuel.  Interestingly enough, nuclear had far greater initial investment than the other forms of energy; however, safety concerns caused there to be a large reduction those investments.

My current opinion is that we need to strip away a lot of the “blank check” type subsidies.  While there are probably subsidies for every industry that could fit in this category, the worst offender in this regard is the oil and gas industry.  I also think that some practicality is warranted too.  In my opinion, oil and gas will still always be the best option for hauling goods across the country for the next couple of decades.  Renewables can’t provide the efficiency needed and other tech such as nuclear is not scaleable enough for that yet.  For electric power production, I believe renewables can’t completely fill that gap either and stable energy production is needed for peak hours.  With all that being said, a balanced merit system needs to be applied to energy subsidies to produce the most sustainable energy infrastructure possible.

What is your opinion on how to best subsidize energy industry?  What is your opinion on the current state of subsidies?  If you enjoyed reading this post, like this post and share it.  Thanks for reading have a good day.

Sources

“Fossil Fuel Subsidies”, Oil Change International, 2014, http://goo.gl/BYdMg

Nancy Pfund and Ben Healey, “What Would Jefferson Do?: The Historical Role of Federal Subsidies in Shaping America’s Energy Future”, September 2011, http://goo.gl/XuioTH

Image Source

Roger H. Bezdek and Robert M. Wendling, “Energy Subsidy Myths and Realities”, June 2012, http://goo.gl/A8Ws96

Application of 3-D Printing and Modular Design to Construction

Hello everyone, I hope you guys had a good weekend.  Today I would like to discuss a couple innovations which apply 3-D printing and modular design innovations to construction practice.  These are applications that were more common in manufacturing and prototyping initially but can be applied to construction as well according to the article by Business Review Weekly.

The first innovation is the application of 3-D printing to the creation of moulds for precast concrete.  Traditionally, other materials such as wood, foam or rubber have been use, and constructing these moulds could take months to construct.  The Laing O’Rourke Company has developed a method that 3-D prints a large scale wax substrate mould at a rate of 150 kg/hr using a robots.  They have applied this to common projects such as stormwater pipes and have achieved cost savings of 50% to 90%.  Additionally, this solves the waste problem because the wax mould is lifted off or melted away in a water bath after the concrete is cured.  The wax can then be filtered and recycled.

The second innovation is the use of modular components in hospital construction.  Hospitals are one of the most expensive areas of infrastructure because they are individually designed.  Hickory Group has developed a modular panel for use in reception and administrative areas.  These areas use what is referred to as “accommodation components” which constitutes up to 40% of the construction cost of a hospital.  By using the modular panel, construction time can be cut by 40%.  Furthermore, the panels are easily replaceable.  If a panel is damaged, the hospital  can simply order a replacement and have their maintenance worker install the new panel.

Both of these are very good innovations in my opinion.  They are taking methods that have been proven effective in several previously tested applications and expanded their usage.  Furthermore, a reduction in time of construction and cost of maintenance/construction has been achieved.  I would be interested in seeing a more detailed account of the numbers and statistics.   However, based on the information provided, these are great examples of low risk/high reward solutions that can greatly improve construction practices.

What is your opinion on these innovations?  Do you think they’ll be effective?  If you enjoyed reading, like the post and share it with your friends.  Thanks for your time and have a good week!

Sources

Michael Bleby, “BRW Most Innovative Companies 2014: Why Construction Companies Are Thinking Like Manufacturers”, Business Review Weekly, October 9, 2014, http://goo.gl/O0oD6E

Image Source

Anne-Mette Manelius, “Concrete After Dark – Is There An Afterlife for Concrete?”, Concretely, October 17, 2014, http://goo.gl/IYI6q2

Benefits and Constraints of “Self Repairing” Asphalt

Hello everyone, I hope your week went well.  Today I would like to talk about current research in designing “self repairing” asphalt.  Erik Schlangen, a civil engineer from Deft University in the Netherlands, is doing research with the goal of creating asphalt that can repair itself.  Schlangen has started testing an asphalt mixture made of basic asphalt with strands of steel wool mixed in.  His research shows that the asphalt when heated with microwave radiation will melt the asphalt so that the cracks will be smoothed out.  Schlangen has invented a vehicle which uses induction coils to heat the road and melt the asphalt/smooth out the cracks.  To properly maintain the asphalt roads, repairs would need to be performed every 4 years.

There are a some benefits I see with this:

Maintenance Cost

Currently, one of the biggest costs in the infrastructure industry is maintanence and repair.  If this is truly as effective as it seems, it could save a lot of money and free up some room in the budget for other projects.

Maintenance Schedule Requirements

The other big issue when considering maintenance and repair of infrastructure is time.  Living in Dallas, I am currently experiencing this issue right now.  If repair or maintenance takes a long time, it can make traffic conditions worse long before it improves them.  With this technology, repairs can be done quicker and will reduce the poor traffic conditions as a result.

That being said, there are some potential issues that aren’t addressed in the article:

Durability

The obvious issue in durability is the asphalt.  Since the asphalt can melt when heated theoretically, will it also be stiff enough to withstand the loads.  There are a lot of heavy trucks that travel over a highway on a daily basis and this adds to maintenance issues as it is.  Furthermore, at what point does the damage become too much to repair?  If this asphalt system is not durable enough, the technology becomes ineffective.

Scaleability

When and where can this be used? On most the of the highways in D/FW, traditional concrete topping is used.  If this asphalt system cannot be applied on a larger scale, the increased equipment and training cost for the maintenance itself will be greater than the cost savings of the technology.

I look forward to seeing research on this product.  If this is effective, this could improve the maintenance of our infrastructure a lot.  What are your opinions on this research?  Do you see any other potential benefits and/or issues?  If you enjoyed the article, feel free to like it and share it with your friends.  Thanks for your time and have a good week!

Source

Jason Fell, “Self Healing Phones? Try Roads That Fix Themselves”, Enterpreneur, September 16, 2014, http://goo.gl/a6uk5z

US Depart of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, “What Can Be Done to Enhance HVUT Revenues?”, 2006, http://goo.gl/sG9VlF

Image Source

Karissa Rosenfield, “Erik Schlangen Demonstrates the Potential of ‘Self Healing Asphalt'”, archdaily, July 12, 2013, http://goo.gl/794P6

Four Ways You Can Improve Your Wardrobe

Hickey Freeman

Hello everyone, I hope you guys are doing well.  Today, I thought I would take break from engineering topics and discuss four important considerations for a work wardrobe.  I know this can get far more detailed and will apply differently depending on the person and job position.  However, by working on these four general considerations, you can improve your wardrobe a lot in regards to looking well put together and professional.

1) Body Type and Fit

This is one consideration that can be applied to all types of clothing and the various situations at work.  If the clothing is too baggy or tight when you wear it, it will make you look unprofessional.  The fit that works best will vary depending on body type and it’s something I’m not completely knowledgeable on myself.  However, there are plenty of resources on the web to figure this out.  My recommendation is to take 15 minutes to do some basic research on standard clothing fit and trends that work for your body type when you go shopping and it will improve your appearance a lot.

2) Traditional Color and Pattern Conventions

This is one of the clothing topics that is not discussed as often as it should be in my opinion.  Everyone knows some basic rules like a black suit being traditional for weddings and funerals.  Another common one is navy blue for sales and a check or stripe pattern for a bolder yet professional appearance.  To give an example the opposite, it might look funny khaki dress pants to an evening event – a better option for something casual would probably be blue or gray.  Again, I am not expert on this but look some stuff up on-line and it will go along way in improving your outfit choices.

3) Coordinate your new purchases with your current wardrobe

Your wardrobe will be far more useful and you will have more outfit options if you consider what you already have when buying clothing.  You will also have a wardrobe that is more versatile in variety of situations if you buy clothing that can be used for multiple purposes with multiple outfits.  Furthermore, you look sharper because you can create more unique outfits.  There are several opinions on the optimal level of variety and versatility; but as long as an effort is made to consider this basic concept, it will improve your wardrobe.

4) Find your style and feel confident

The bottom line is that there no one right way to dress.  There are guidelines that are suggested and some are definitely more important than others; however, good style and confidence can trump some of those guidelines.  So my recommendation is have fun and find something that you feel good wearing, then you can apply the above recommendations accordingly.

If you want some good resources on style and clothing in general I recommend these two blogs: i am alpha m and real men real style.

Do you guys agree with these recommendations?  Is there anything you would add to this list?  Feel free to like and share the post if you enjoyed reading.  Thanks for your time and have a good week!

Image reference

http://goo.gl/69aKRG

Benefits and Implementation of “Green” Urban Design

Hello everyone! I hope everything is going well.  This week I would like to talk about the incorporating “green” elements to city planning. I read an article a while ago that pointed out some interesting aspects of city life.  Most people who live in cities don’t notice nature around them in cities, instead they go on vacation to find nature.  Furthermore, more and more of the world’s population lives in cities.

This article listed the following benefits of the inclusion of nature into a city:

  • improved health and lifestyle
  • increased lifespan
  • reduced stress and aggression

Traditionally, the use of green space has been an aesthetic concern rather than a requirement for psychological health.  In addition to that, most urban planners haven’t claimed ownership of the issues related to lack greenery in the cities.  However, that is changing in Detroit, Europe and Singapore.  The researchers believe that greenery needs to be incorporated into urban planning from the ground up.

The article recommends that urban planners start incorporating the following elements to urban planning:

  • to consider the value of the greenery in an area before starting construction
  • to cluster homes and leave some easily accessible locations with greenery or natural elements around neighborhoods for city dwellers
  • to quantify the costs/benefits of different types of greenery and invest in them accordingly

While I think that some of the contributors come across as overzealous at moments, I agree with the concept.  Some of my most relaxing moments when I lived in Arlington, TX were the times I spent running at River Legacy Park.  It was a park that had a great section of in which I could loose myself in nature and reach a zen-type running state.  This article highlights benefits of incorporating nature that I have experienced myself.

What are your thoughts on incorporating nature into cities?  Do you agree with the articles assessment?  What would you do to incorporate nature into cities?  If you enjoyed the post, like it and share it with your friends.  Thank you for your time and have a good week!

Source

Anderson, Erin, “How Green Cities are Better for us Physically and Psychologically”, The Globe and Mail, July 5, 2014, http://goo.gl/PgM8Da

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