ACEC Weekly NewsLine
December 1, 2010

Energy

DOE Acts to Speed Offshore Wind Energy Development

Land/Buildings

Team to Study Life Cycle Impact of Green Buildings

Water

Las Vegas Strives to Maintain, Expand Water Supply

Transportation

MoDOT Builds Vertical in Award-Winning Interchange
Incorporating Public Outreach in Streamlined Project Review




Energy

DOE Acts to Speed Offshore Wind Energy Development
U.S. Department of the Interior (11/23/10) Barkoff, Kendra; Pardi, Nick

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar recently launched a "Smart from the Start" wind energy initiative for the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf to promote the siting, leasing, and construction of new projects that will drive the quick and responsible development of wind energy. "The Cape Wind lease is an historic milestone in America’s renewable energy future, but to fully harness the economic and energy benefits of our nation’s vast Atlantic wind potential we need to implement a smart permitting process that is efficient, thorough, and unburdened by needless red tape," said Salazar. The Smart from the Start initiative will enable leaders to identify priority areas for wind energy development, improve coordination between local, state, and federal partners, and quicken the leasing process, according to Salazar. If executed properly, the initiative could help build robust and environmentally responsible offshore renewable energy that creates jobs. "This coordinated initiative will help to capture the great potential that offshore wind power offers our country and our economy," said Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes. "Smart planning and early environmental reviews will pay great dividends in spurring responsible renewable wind energy development." Wind Energy Areas are offshore locations that are the most promising for wind energy development. Data will be collected on those areas to enable assessments and planning for wind energy projects.
Free Web Link, May Require Registration

EPA Finalizes Rules to Foster Safe Carbon Storage Technologies
EPA News Release (11/22/10)

EPA finalized two rules addressing carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) on Nov. 22. The regulations seek to protect potable water and to track the amount of carbon dioxide that is sequestered from facilities that execute geologic sequestration. The drinking water protection rule establishes requirements for geologic CCS, including the development of a new class of injection well designated Class VI, set up under EPA's Underground Injection Control (UIC) Program. The rule requirements are designed to ensure the proper siting, construction, testing, monitoring, and closure of wells used for geologic CCS. The UIC Program was founded under the authority of the Safe Drinking Water Act. The greenhouse gas reporting rule sets up disclosure requirements for facilities that perform geologic sequestration. Information collected under the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program will allow EPA to track the amount of carbon dioxide stored by the facilities. The program was established last year under authority of the Clean Air Act and mandates disclosure of greenhouse gases from various source categories in the United States. "Today the Obama administration reaffirmed its commitment to leading the way in the clean energy future," said EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson. "We're taking a major step towards path breaking innovations that will reduce greenhouse gases and put America in the forefront of the clean energy economy. By providing clarity about greenhouse gas reporting and the necessary protections for drinking water sources during carbon sequestration, we've cleared the way for people to use this promising technology."
Free Web Link, May Require Registration

In California, Carports That Can Generate Electricity
New York Times (11/25/10) Barringer, Felicity

California schools are leading the way in the adoption and construction of parking lots that generate electricity through the installation of roofs comprised of solar panels. So far, solar carports have been implemented at about 75 elementary, high school, and community college campuses in California. School districts are forging alliances with banks and other supporters, guaranteeing that they receive reliably inexpensive electric power for their buildings for as long as two decades. The institutions fund the systems and sell the electricity back to the schools, and also benefit from state and federal tax incentives. Solar panels in carports supply 75 percent of the Milpitas Unified School District's annual electricity requirements during the school year and 100 percent in the summer, according to district official John Cimino. The estimated savings over the 20-year life of a electricity generating contract can range from $12 million for a district such as Milpitas to $40 million for Antelope Valley.
Free Web Link, May Require Registration

USDA Announces Funding to Help Rural Residents in Remote Areas Reduce Energy Costs
U.S. Department of Agriculture (11/23/10)

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced more than $12 million in funding on Nov. 23 designed to balance and lower energy costs for residents of remote rural areas where existing electricity generation cost is very high. The funds are being allocated via the USDA High Energy Cost Grant program administered by USDA Rural Development's Rural Utilities Service, and much of the funding will be channeled into the construction of renewable energy projects. "These grants will help home and business owners offset rising energy costs by financing energy efficiency and power generation improvements to deliver energy in a more cost-effective and environmentally appropriate way," Vilsack said. Recipients employ funds to enhance energy generation, transmission, or distribution facilities that serve communities where the average residential cost for home energy surpasses 275 percent of the national average. Grants are accessible to individuals, businesses, nonprofits, states, local governments, and federally recognized Indian tribes. For instance, Alaska's Denali Commission was apportioned $8 million for energy generation and distribution projects, including $4 million to support the building of renewable energy and efficiency projects in very high-cost remote villages. In previous years, funding supplied through the High Energy Cost grant program has been applied in Alaska toward the construction of wind generators in villages, substantially cutting the amount of fuel oil burned and reducing fuel charges per kilowatt-hour. Two separate grants awarded to the American Samoa Power Authority will amount to more than $3 million: A grant of $1.14 million will underwrite an engineering and environmental feasibility study for a renewable energy project to replace generation facilities devastated by the 2009 tsunami, while a second grant of $2 million will be used to set up a bulk fuel revolving fund to lower credit costs for the island's bulk fuel purchases.
Free Web Link, May Require Registration

Land/Buildings

Team to Study Life Cycle Impact of Green Buildings
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA) (11/29/10) Hamill, Sean D.

Over the past 20 years, creating environmentally friendly, or "green," buildings has gone from being a niche or fringe activity to a mainstream trend. Everyone from new home builders to major companies are looking to make green buildings that are not only energy efficient, but are built with environmentally sustainable products. However, the full environmental impact of those buildings over their life from construction to demolition and disposal is not fully understood. A group of Pittsburgh engineers and architects, along with University of Pittsburgh engineering professor Melissa Bilec, are working to obtain a greater picture of a green buildings lifespan, or a life cycle assessment (LCA). "Right now, once people understand life cycle assessment, they agree it's a good approach," says Bilec, "but the data to make it practical to use for most buildings is lacking." The research team is composed of three engineering professors from the University of Pittsburgh, two architecture professors for Carnegie Mellon University, and others from organizations like the Green Building Alliance. The team will work to fill the gap between builders and academia by helping survey architects, engineers, construction companies and others to determine how they can make the life cycle assessment more usable. The team will then develop criteria professionals can use to determine the LCA of a building and everything in the building. Lastly, the researchers will create a digital platform to estimate the environmental impact of construction decisions, like which type of building material or lighting to use.
Free Web Link, May Require Registration

Hospitals Push Green Building Standards
Sustainable Business Oregon (11/22/2010) Siemers, Eric

The new $360 million Kaiser Westside Medical Center in Tanasbourne is being built with the goal of qualifying for LEED Gold status, which so far has only been accomplished by 36 hospitals. Only 128 hospitals in the world are LEED certified, and experts say the problem is that hospitals are always open. "If you have a bank building only open during the day hours vs. a hospital open around the clock, it's different energy use, water use, infection control requirements, those are all different," said Kumkum M. Dilwali of the Green Guide for Health Care, which was the foundation for the new LEED standard. "You can't hold hospitals to the same standard." But the U.S. Green Building Council is planning to release a healthcare-specific standard next year, which may help many more facilities to earn certification. Kaiser’s new facility, however, is aiming for the current LEED standard, using high-efficiency water boilers and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning units; nontoxic carpet, paint, and rubber flooring; building materials free of dioxins, lead, cadmium, and mercury; recycled denim insulation; renewable power from solar panels; occupancy sensors to reduce electricity use; and natural lighting from windows. The facility is located close to public transit and will have electric charging stations as well as priority parking for low-emissions vehicles. Going green will add about $2 million to the project, Kaiser officials say, but the finished building will be about 20 percent more efficient.
Free Web Link, May Require Registration

Shades of Green
Medical Construction & Design (12/10) Vol. 6, No. 6, P. 16; Hoffmann, Peter

Healthcare facilities are following various green construction strategies rooted in projects' specific circumstances that also yield sustainable solutions stemming from the entrenchment of sustainable design precepts within the design DNA. Common green design aspects shared by several initiatives include solar orientation, daylighting, views to nature, reduction of heat island effects, and regional materials. Children's Medical Center Legacy in Plano, Texas, features an outdoor healing area anchored by a 100-year-old "Tree of Life" oak tree, while every patient room affords unhindered views of the site's multiple water features and grasslands. Within the facility are indoor gardens and public spaces with ample floor-to-ceiling glazing, while exterior cladding and natural interior finish are provided by native limestone. Ada, Okla.'s Chickasaw Nation Medical Center reflects the cultural aesthetics of the Chickasaw Indian Tribe, including an outdoor chapel and smudge pit, large windows that visually link patient rooms to the landscape, and light wells that penetrate the center's volume to supply access to light and views for both patients and staff. Lakeway Regional Medical Center in Austin, Texas, employs a shade of green that the complex owner requested to make the facility seem more like a hotel. The center incorporates natural materials throughout, while the surrounding landscaping was configured to optimize controlled interior daylighting. Lakeway addresses the problem of electricity comprising most high-energy costs by using sensors and timers to dim or deactivate lights as much as possible, while cooling system costs are reduced with the installation of a solution that uses a heat recovery chiller to heat water and supply building heat.

Water

Las Vegas Strives to Maintain, Expand Water Supply
Point of Beginning (11/10) Grahl, Christine L.

The Las Vegas Valley draws its water supply from the Colorado River and the Lake Powell and Lake Mead reservoirs, but water resources are being depleted because of the region's expanding population and a severe drought. To avert a major water shortage, the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) has spent the last 10 years augmenting conservation measures, securing additional in-state water resources, and improving Colorado River water management. Part of the authority's plan was the approval five years ago of Lake Mead Intake No. 3, which will maintain SNWA's ability to tap Colorado River water at lake elevations as low as 1,000 feet above sea level. Elements include an intake tunnel, an underground pumping forebay, a pumping station, electrical power connections, and a discharge pipeline to the Alfred Merritt Smith Water Treatment Facility. SNWA awarded six contracts totaling $817 million in May 2008, including a design-build contract to Vegas Tunnel Constructors. The project entails excavating a 600-foot-deep tunnel access shaft on Saddle Island, running a 20-foot-diameter precast-concrete-lined intake tunnel three miles beneath the lake bed, and constructing a 16-foot-diameter, 60- to 80-foot-deep water intake shaft in Lake Mead. Vegas Tunnel Constructors lead surveyor Mike Adams employed a Leica TCRA 1103 Plus Robotic Total Station to set control for the construction roads and grading as the team commenced work and then established control as the 600-foot-deep tunnel access shaft was dug. Once data is collected, Adams must communicate coordinates to the construction team, and he depends greatly on Transverse PC software for his drawings. The project was originally slated for completion in July 2012, but the construction team hit a snag in June when water inundated an assembly vault that was going to be used as a starter tunnel for the boring machine. Digging a new starter tunnel will extend the project timeline by a number of months, pushing back the anticipated completion date to sometime in 2013.
Free Web Link, May Require Registration

Replacement Dreams Come True
Water & Wastes Digest (11/10) Vol. 50, No. 11, P. 16; Simeonova, Neda

The Emerald Coast Utilities Authority (ECUA) is replacing the 73-year-old wastewater treatment plant in downtown Pensacola, Fla., with a new facility 25 miles north of the existing facility. The ECUA's new Central Water Reclamation Facility (CWRF) went into operation at the end of August 2010, with startup expected to be completed by January of next year. ECUA manager of water reclamation engineering Stephen Holcomb notes that the new facility's advantages over the old plant include "the elimination of the discharge from the Main Street Plant, which currently goes into Pensacola Bay. The new plant will have no surface water discharge. By replacing the old plant with a new plant 25 miles to the north, there will no longer be a WWTP located in a storm-surge, flood-prone area. By eliminating this hazard, ECUA is addressing the threat of future health hazards from discharge of untreated sewage." The CWRF also will enable the reuse of the advanced wastewater-treated discharge from the plant through industrial reuse, so that the environmental effects of the facility's processes are lessened, operational costs are lowered, and efficiency is enhanced. The plant's infrastructure includes gravity flow of the wastewater via the main treatment processes without the need to repump; biological nutrient removal of nitrogen and phosphorus; spinning disc filters that facilitate final treatment before disinfection; on-site sodium hypochlorite production; and biosolid dewatering screw presses. Among the funding sources for the project were FEMA, Florida state grants, and a private bank consortium, according to Holcomb. The project was split into multiple contracts so that construction work could be carried out concurrently.
Free Web Link, May Require Registration

Transportation

MoDOT Builds Vertical in Award-Winning Interchange
Roads & Bridges (10/10) Vol. 48, No. 10, Wilson, Bill

When Missouri DOT was challenged with a $245 million project to update the 1950s-era I-29/35, which had short, steep ramps and short merge areas, the solution was in building vertically. The project ended up being one of the most successful in the state’s history and ranked No. 1 on Roads & Bridges 2010 Top 10 Roads list. The MoDOT and its contractors built a series of retaining walls that allowed for a larger surface on top, said MoDOT project engineer Brian Kidwell. This allowed for gentler curves and longer acceleration lanes as well as eliminating forced exit lanes that caused drivers to hop back and forth between lanes to avoid getting off on an exit they did not want. Building upward also required less need for right-of-way acquisitions, and the project spent only $6 million on additional land though it had budgeted $25 million. The project was part of the department’s new approach that places the needs of the community in the hands of the design-build team, which can produce the best solution. “We wanted to compile all of the best options that folks had experienced, and a lot of these guys work all over the country,” Kidwell said. “We were just trying to capture all of that on our project.”
Free Web Link, May Require Registration

Incorporating Public Outreach in Streamlined Project Review
Successes in Stewardship (11/10)

The Direct Connection project overseen by the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) has yielded key lessons in public outreach for streamlined project review. The project comprised the reconfiguration of the intersection of Interstates 295 and 76 and Route 42 in Camden County, which were marked by high traffic congestion. Direct Connection features a 12-year planning and design initiative that will conclude with construction between 2012 and 2017, subject to funding availability. NJDOT planned for early community and stakeholder participation to enhance public relations and devise alternatives that are in sync with the existing site constraints. The incorporation of community and stakeholder feedback involved NJDOT's expansion of the project area to include residential, commercial, industrial, and public facilities within Camden County communities, including Bellmawr, Mount Ephraim, and Gloucester City. The project team set up a Public Involvement Action Plan (PIAP) nine years ago to steer the Direct Connection planning process, and through the action plan and associated outreach activities, NJDOT successfully improved stakeholder and community relations, incorporated public feedback into the alternatives, and kept the public updated on the interchange development. PIAP elements designed to improve public and stakeholder participation and perceptions of the project before the Environmental Impact Statement include the Direct Connection project Web site, which enables the project team to distribute updates and document links to the public; a database of stakeholders, local residents, business owners, and Federal and State representatives that NJDOT maintains and updates throughout the planning process; a database of community and stakeholder feedback, derived from the project Web site, public meetings, comment forms, and other public sources, to guarantee the documentation and resolution of all public responses; brochures issued at public meetings and in local businesses to provide the public with key information; public meetings and hearings; project partnering sessions; and the Community Advisory Committee (CAC), which aided the establishment of the project purpose and goals and the development, assessment, and dissemination of project alternatives and other information. NJDOT crafted a streamlining process that let the project team stay on schedule, choose the best data collection and review methods, and move the project through regulatory permitting.

Industry Experts Discuss Structural Health Monitoring
Structural Engineering & Design (11/10) Smith, Pamela Accetta

Structural health monitoring (SHM) technologies are increasingly being used in modern bridge design, and while most experts agree on their potential advantages, they also disagree on whether it is ready to go mainstream. Mark Sereci, CEO of Digitexx Data Systems, says there are still many different schools of thought on SHM. On the West coast the main concern is seismic activity and a global approach to monitoring bridge performance mostly with accelerometers, while the East coast is focusing on fixing and replacing aging bridges with strain gages. Neither side is wrong, but a system needs to be adaptable to all regions and their specific needs, he says. LifeSpan Technologies CEO Peter Vanderzee says SHM is mostly being used to repair older bridges, adding that the market is split between academic and commercial service providers, both with different objectives. Structure owners are increasingly moving from academic to commercial providers, he adds. However SENSR President Chris Kavars says there is also a growing trend toward using SHM in new structures, fueled by the growing accessibility of monitoring systems. He says the industry is still in its infancy, though, and suppliers need to come together to create industry standards. “An unbiased resource that builds on practice — not purely academic theory — and experience is needed to help guide the industry,” he says.
Free Web Link, May Require Registration

Viaduct Sensors Help CTA Bridge Budget Gap
Chicago Tribune (11/28/10) Hilkevitch, Jon

Everyday, thousands of Chicago Transportation Authority (CTA) elevated trains operate across 564 bridges, many of which are 80 to 100 years old and in need of major repairs. The deteriorating bridges pose a potential threat to CTA passengers and motorists and pedestrians who pass under the viaducts. However, the CTA is burdened with a backlog of $7 billion in unfunded capital-improvement needs, and cannot afford to replace bridges. Fortunately, the bridges were built to carry steam locomotives, which generate about four times the load of a moving CTA rail car. "We are kind of benefiting from that a century later," says CTA chief engineer James Harper. "One hundred years is beyond anyone's expectation for a bridge structure." One of the worst bridges is at Devon Avenue and Sheridan Road, where the bridge's arch design columns have lost significant amounts of concrete, exposing and even shedding the reinforced steel. While braces were added near the bridge piers to help support the weight of trains, CTA officials had little idea of how much strain, if any, the braces were taking off of the bridge. Then, CTA president Richard Rodriguez read an article about Northwestern University researchers monitoring concrete highway bridges using an automated system that collects and analyzes data. In July, Northwestern researchers embedded sensors in the Devon-Sheridan bridge to measure how much the structure bends when trains pass over, and automatically stored and analyzed that data. Over time, the data will create a more thorough picture, but initial results show that the new steel supports were not doing much work, which is good because it means the original structure is tolerating the daily strain of traffic.
Free Web Link, May Require Registration

Where the Rubber Meets the Rails: BART to San Jose Will Ride on Old Tires
San Jose Mercury News (11/22/10) Rogers, Paul

Extending the BART system to San Jose is expected to remove thousands of cars from Bay Area freeways. A major part of the expansion project will be the use of old tires as a building material. Construction crews are planning to use at least 250,000 old tires, ground up into 3-inch pieces and laid under large sections of the tracks, to act as shock absorbers and reduce vibration and noise along the BART route from Fremont to San Jose's Berryessa neighborhood. Running the trains over a bed of shredded rubber tires will cost about $1.5 million less than traditional noise-reduction methods, according to supporters of the project, and can help create a new market for the approximately 40 million tires that California residents discard every year. Construction crews will dig down about two feet and deposit an 18-inch layer of shredded tires, and then encase that layer in fabric. The tires will be compacted and covered in gravel, and the tracks laid down on top. The tire material, called "Tire Derived Aggregate," or TDA, costs about $150 a foot. A more traditional method of reducing train vibration involves building tracks on top of rubber mats and concrete slabs, costing about $250 a foot. The most expensive method, called a floating slab, involves building concrete trenches and sitting the tracks on top of large rubber discs, and costs up to $900 a foot. Using programs funded by a $1.75 fee on the purchase of each new tire, California has managed to divert about 70 percent of its waste tires for other uses, such as rubberized asphalt, athletic tracks, and crash barriers.
Free Web Link, May Require Registration

Other

Construction Employment Expands in 29 States Between September and October as Industry's Employment Situation Remains "Volatile"
Associated General Contractors of America (11/23/10)

Between September and October of this year, construction employment in 29 states increased, though year-on-year the total has declined for 39 states, according to a study of state employment data from the Associated General Contractors of America. Employment in the industry remains volatile, however, says Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist, noting that most of the states that expanded construction employment had reduced it previous month. “Construction is no longer in free fall, but the industry remains fragile as improvements vary greatly by state and project type,” he said. The state with the highest jump in employment was Arizona, adding 5000 jobs and increasing the total by 4.4 percent, followed by Texas at 8800 jobs and a 2.3 percent increase. Meanwhile 20 states and the District of Columbia lost jobs over the same period, while Rhode Island’s numbers remained level. Florida lost the most jobs, down 8600 and 2.4 percent, while Minnesota had the highest percentage decline, at 2.7 percent and 2300 jobs. Temporary stimulus funding helped boost the industry but overall demand remains weak at all levels and most firms are concerned about next year, the report says.
Free Web Link, May Require Registration



© Copyright 2010 INFORMATION, INC.