Thoughts on the Engineering Industry

A blog covering engineering, technology and business topics

Applications of Shape Memory Alloys in Concrete Infrastructure Rehabilation

Hello, I hope everyone is doing well.  I’ve been busy with the holidays but I’m finally going to get back to my blogging and will hopefully maintain my weekly posting schedule this time around.  Today, I would like to talk about some research on applications of shape memory alloy (SMA) in concrete infrastructure rehabilitation being done at University of Houston and Qatar University.

SMA’s are metal alloys that can be deformed and then return back to their original shape when re-heated.  In this case, researchers are testing the usage of SMA’s in a rod that would be wrapped around concrete beams or columns.  Their ability to deform, then return to their original shape, would apply an active confinement pressure.  The design/usage of SMA’s would perform the function of current fiber-reinforced polymers (FRP’s); however, FRP’s only apply a reactive confinement pressure.  The confinement pressure provided by the SMA’s would, in theory, further reduce long-term deterioration and degradation.

The researchers will focus on determining the best available material for concrete columns and beams.  There are three types of metal alloys being tested.  The alloys that are most commonly available are the nickel/titanium alloys, referred to as binary alloys.  Ternary alloys include a third metal in addition to the binary alloy metals.  A third option are the iron- and copper-based alloys, which are generally less expensive.  Since binary alloys require constant heating to have continuous active confinement pressure, the scientist are focusing their studies on a Ternary alloy using Niobium and Iron/Copper alloys.

I believe the application of SMA’s in this application could improve infrastructure rehabilitation.  However, there are some concerns I have.  I think we need to see definitive proof with testing that, by adding the active confinement pressure, we effectively improve the serviceablity life of the infrastructure. The other concern is that we don’t know how much the rods will expand due to creep – especially since the rods will be continuously loaded with an outward force and have already been deformed to a previously outward deformed shape.

What is your opinion on this application for shape memory alloys?  Do you think it will be effective and practical for concrete infrastructure rehabilitation?  If you enjoyed reading, like the post and share it with your friends.  Thanks for your time and have a good week!

Source 

“Shape Memory Alloys Could Bring Stabilizing Force To Concrete Infrastructure”, David Hill, Civil Engineering Magazine, June 2014

Image Source

“Shape Memory and Palladium Iron Alloys”, taboodada.wordpress.com/2011/03/31/41/, March 31, 2011

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

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

Development of Transparent Concrete

litracon 1 Concrete Innovation Part 3: Design transparent inflatable Concrete Cement

Hello everyone! I hope the last couple of weeks has gone well.  I was preoccupied with a small vacation, school stuff, and having to get a new vehicle since my car was totaled.  However, I hope to get back on schedule after this.  Today, I would like to talk about a new development in concrete technology: concrete designed to be transparent.

According to the article by Giatec Scientific, the concrete mixture is modified such that 4 to 15 percent of the mix is fiber optics materials.  Ideas for transparent concrete since 1935; however, serious development had not been pursued until 2001 by Áron Losonczi for use in his architectural designs.  In 2004, production was started for other commercial usage as a type of concrete called “Litracon.”  Since then, other competitors have developed similar designs.  These products have been used with back-lighting or natural light.

I think the concept is very interesting.  It’s something I would probably enjoy working with or using in a design.  The aesthetics would be amazing to see and I like the idea that it could be used in circumstances where you need more stiffness than a big window could provide.  The situation would be similar to structures that use the glass masonry units.  There are however some issues I can see. One is when and where can it be used safely.  The article mentioned examples where it’s used in floors and floors can see a lot of loading in certain types of situations, i.e. stadiums or concert halls.  The other issue I see is behavior of over time.  Will the bonding of the cement hold up in a mixture with that much of a potential void ratio?  Even if it holds up in regards to it’s initial bonding, will the mechanical strength related properties such as creep and general durability such as cracking be reduced?  Along with that, I would imagine the aesthetics have to hold up as well.

What are your thoughts on the idea of transparent concrete?  Is it something that is practical to use in building design?  If you enjoyed the blog post, feel free to like it and share it with your friends.  Thanks for your time and have a good week!

References

Giatec Scientific, “Concrete Innovation Part 3: Design”, http://goo.gl/Ee7VBo

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

Trust yourself. Create the kind of person that you will be happy with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.

Great quote. It speaks to the truth that accomplishment and happiness is achieved one step at a time.

Don Charisma


«Trust yourself. Create the kind of person that you will be happy with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.»

— Foster C. McClellan


DonCharisma.com-logo-4 Charisma quotes are sponsored by DonCharisma.com – you dream it we built it … because – “anything is possible with Charisma”

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3 New Applications for Bamboo in Building Structures

Hello everyone! I hope everything is going well. Today I would like to talk about some potential uses for bamboo that are being incorporated into building structures.  Bamboo is most commonly used as a structural element in middle and lower income housing in China or Latin America.  It’s usage has started to expand to the eco-tourism structures as well, but is still mostly used for it’s aesthetic appeal in main stream structures.
 
Bamboo has previously not been considered useful in structural building design in comparison to other materials.  However, there are some properties that could be useful.  Bamboo is flexible, shock resistant, and more readily available in certain areas of world.  Below is a list of three applications involving bamboo that could be useful for building design in my opinion.
 
1. Wood Framing Material
The flexibility and shock resistant nature of bamboo could make it a very useful wood framing material.  There are certainly stronger and stiffer wood framing materials available on the whole.  However, depending on the accessibility and the requirements of the structure, bamboo could meet the load capacity demands.  Furthermore, methods such as the ones listed below could be applied as well.
 
2. Linking to Create a Wall
The bamboo can be linked together to create a wall.  It can be curved or straight and be equally easy to construct/build in both methods.  The solidity of the wall can be changed as well.  The article source mentions a process where the bamboo is cut in half, hooked to the next section, and then linked together.  There are plenty of creative options for creating a wall that follows this basic principal that would replace a traditional wood sheathing wall.
 
3. Concrete Reinforcement
The bamboo can be filled with concrete to increase the overall stiffness and crushing strength of the bamboo system.  The way that best describes the benefits is modern masonry – the only difference is the location of the different elements.  For masonry, the exterior part provides the stiffness and crushing resistance while the interior reinforcement provides the flexibility and tension strength.  It would be the opposite in the case of bamboo.  Using this method, the load bearing capacity of a bamboo wall, floor, or framing system could be greatly increased.
 
What is your opinion on the use of bamboo in building structures?  What is your opinion on the applications mentioned above?  Are there any other applications you can see being beneficial?  If you enjoyed the post, like it and share it with your friends.  Thank you for your time and have a good week!
 
Source
 
Ahlblad, Hannah, “Merging Bamboo and Concrete for the Emerging World”, ArchDaily, August 13, 2014, http://goo.gl/ROolCU 

5 Critical Assessment Questions for Design Safety

Hello, I hope everyone is doing well.  Work has slowed down for me a bit, but I did go on a site visit recently where our firm inspected a floor structure collapse.  The collapse reminded me of the responsibility engineers have in regards to occupant/pedestrian safety and I would like to discuss some of my thoughts about that.  In this post, I will share the 5 questions that addressed to ensure a safe design.

  

1) Would you would feel safe?
The floor collapse first reminded me of a quote (written by Michael Armstrong) that I read a long time ago.  “The ancient Romans had a tradition: whenever one of their engineers constructed an arch, as the capstone was hoisted into place, the engineer assumed accountability for his work in the most profound way possible: he stood under the arch.”  When you design something, the safety of the occupants and other pedestrians is critical; if you don’t believe that you did everything possible to safely design the structure, then it shouldn’t be considered safe for other people to use either.
 
2) Are you qualified to make the decision?
In designing a structure, it is critical to have the necessary qualifications.  This ensures that you have practiced enough engineering and gotten enough experience in the design process.  Knowledge is important; however, just knowing how to do something does not mean you can adequately design the structure and all the parties involved can stand behind your decision from a legal perspective.  The best engineers have extensive practice and repeatedly executed the design process so that they know how to analyze the design instinctively. 
 
3) Do you have enough knowledge to make the decision?

This is similar to the previous point, but this gap in knowledge can also happen to an experienced engineer.  A design can start out being in one area of focus, but shift to another very quickly.  Or the scope of the design could not be very focused at all, and as time goes on the focus gets far more detailed which requires special education.  When this happens, it is critical that you as engineer obtain this knowledge and/or get some consultation from some one who as this knowledge.  If you don’t, it leaves doubts as to whether the design will perform as desired.
 
4) Are there unique circumstances that might make this situation different?
A design could also fail due to unique circumstances that were overlooked.  For example, you may be designing a structure that has been done a million times before but is constructed differently.  Or the structure and/or area around it could be different.  Whatever it is, these unique circumstances could change what is required for a safe design.  If these unique circumstances are overlooked, a critical check in the design process could be missed.
 
5) What is at stake if you are wrong?
Different buildings are used for different purposes.  Depending on the purpose, the cost of failure could change drastically; either in terms of pedestrian safety or the usage of the building.  To ensure that the design is safe and the community is not drastically impacted by it’s failure, the consequences of being wrong needs to be considered.
 
In my opinion, these are the 5 critical questions that need to be addressed for design safety.  What questions do you think are important for design safety?  Are there any critical questions I missed?  Thanks for your time and have a good week!
 
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