ACEC Weekly NewsLine
January 18, 2012

Land/Buildings

BIM Getting Bigger

Water

Corps Secures Flood Funding for 2011 Damage Repairs

Transportation

DOT Allocates $1.6 Billion for Damaged Roads and Bridges




Energy

Buildings and Clothes Could Melt to Save Energy
New Scientist (01/05/12) McKenna, Phil

A new building on the campus of the University of Washington was built with phase-change materials (PCMs) that solidify at night and melt with the heat of the day, which is expected to cut the amount of energy needed to cool the building by 98 percent. PCMs can absorb and release large amounts of energy while maintaining a stable temperature, so it melts ice with the same amount of energy it takes to heat it. The UW building has in its walls and ceilings a “bioPCM” gel derived from vegetable oils that is charged each night when the windows are opened to bring in cool night air. It then melts the next day as it absorbs heat, similar to the way thick concrete or adobe walls control temperature but with much less material required. The gel is just 1.25 centimeters thick but behaves as if it were a 25-centimeter slab of concrete. Some other uses of PCMs include the use of carbon dioxide to keep data centers cool and boosting solar power capabilities by replacing the liquid salts currently used to store heat with PCMs that can reduce the volume of storage material by up to two-thirds. A recent report from Lux Research predicted that sales of PCMs, which are currently zero, could bloom to $130 million by 2020.
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Drilling Critics Face a Divide Over the Goal of Their Fight
New York Times (NY) (01/10/12) Applebome, Peter

Critics of the practice of high-volume hydraulic fracturing or hydrofracking have found that there is a split amongst the critics that is related to what end goal each team is seeking. Brand-name organizations like Sierra Club and Nature Conservancy are advocating the creation of stringent national rules, while grass-roots groups are fighting for an all-out ban on the practice. The comment period for the proposed drilling regulations was scheduled to end on Jan. 11, but by Jan. 9 the State Department of Environmental Conservation had already received 20,800 comments, prompting officials to note that they did not know of a single other issue that had received as many as 1,000 comments. It is believed that drilling will be initiated after the adoption of new regulations, though the opposition is increasingly pushing for both statewide and local bans on hydrofracking. Proponents, including landowners hoping to lease their property, feel that the state has waited too long to begin and now has to pay the costs for delaying. The disagreement between critics is likely to be a very complicated thing with many options beyond simply regulating or banning, but it seems that both teams of critics will be able to work together, combining technical and procedural knowledge with passion.
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Land/Buildings

BIM Getting Bigger
Constructech (01/10/2012)

As little as a decade ago, the amount of data in the construction industry was minuscule compared to the vast volume of project data the industry relies upon today. One area that is creating an information explosion in architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) is the growing use of BIM. Microdesk President Mike DeLacey predicts that more and more architects, construction managers, contractors, and owners will strive to understand and use BIM in 2012. BIM provides a variety of benefits, including early coordination and clash detection, a shortened project schedule, and better visualization, among many others. However, as teams start to put more data into BIM systems, new challenges can arise over how to distribute files. Aconex CEO Leigh Jasper points out a few challenges associated with BIM that collaboration technology can help with, including the distribution of files, approval of models, connecting models to other information like photos or contracts, combining information from different modeling tools in a central location, and publishing models. Collaboration technology gives teams the ability to manage all project data from a single platform. With the data explosion in construction ongoing, technology vendors are constantly finding new ways to provide solutions to manage information. One major challenge in the industry is that the variety of technology adoption levels within different AEC organizations can make it difficult to implement BIM. Fortunately, collaboration technology improvements are enabling project teams to more easily share BIM data.
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City Approves Plan for New PNC Tower
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA) (01/11/12) Belko, Mark

Pittsburgh’s city planning commission has approved plans for a 33-story glass tower at PNC Plaza, which will be “the greenest skyrise in the world,” according to PNC Financial Services, which will use the building as its headquarters. It will include the first newly constructed solar chimney to be built in North America, which will absorb sunlight and draw air through the structure with a diamond-shaped solar heat collector on the tower’s roof. There will also be pop-out windows that bring in cool air, and PNC is planning to publish operating costs, energy performance measures, and employee evaluations of the building, according to Gary Saulson, PNC’s director of corporate real estate. "The building is very transparent, and we want the process to be very transparent," he said. Construction will begin in 2015 after existing buildings on the site are deconstructed, and the building will be 800,000 square feet with three levels of underground parking. There will be five six-story “neighborhoods” inside the building to create a campus-type atmosphere that encourages employee interaction, in addition to two patios filled with vegetation.
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For Smaller Towns, Paying for Sidewalks Isn't Always Simple
The Atlantic Cities (01/11/12) Berg, Nate

City officials in Missoula, Montana, are proposing to shift more of the cost of sidewalk construction, which formerly was paid for property owners, to taxpayers as a way of creating a more walkable city. The current look of many Missoula streets is like broken teeth, according to Steve King, director of the city’s Public Works Department, and the 2009 Complete Streets Resolution calls for more sidewalks and curb cuts. The policy of making property owners pay for sidewalks, though, is an impediment, and has its roots in the days when the city was unincorporated and many properties did not even have hot water. But the city has grown from 40,000 to 70,000 in the past 20 years, and most property owners, particularly in today’s troubled economy, cannot afford the average $5,000 to $10,000 a sidewalk will cost. The city formed a subcommittee to devise a plan and is “moving towards a more community-based shared approach,” King says, which will still include a property owner contribution of 30 percent but the remainder of funding will come from taxpayers. There would be a $2,000 cap on property owner contributions and the remainder would be funded by a citywide property tax assessment. The details have not yet been finalized and the plan must still be approved, but city officials hope to have it in place this summer.
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NASA's New Sensor-Driven, Ultra Green Building
Forbes (01/10/12)

NASA’s Ames Research Center has a new building equipped with 5,000 wireless sensors that measure carbon dioxide levels, temperature, lighting and air flow so that windows open and shades lower automatically according to fluctuations. There is no traditional air conditioning, and instead the building is cooled with air from 106 geothermal wells which is pumped into copper pipes in the ceiling. The building, called the Sustainability Lab, also uses solar panels and a solid oxide fuel cell for energy, which produces more energy than the two-story, 50,000-square-foot building needs, and it uses 90 percent less potable water than the average building. The building is set to receive LEED Platinum status, and “will prove to be one of the highest performing federal buildings ever,” says Steven Zornetzer, the associate center director at Ames. The state of the art building also cost just 6 percent more than a traditional building, at just under $25 million, and that 6 percent will be earned back within seven to nine years with lower energy and maintenance costs, Zornetzer says. Many of the energy-saving features were built into the building’s design, keeping costs down. The building is narrow with much daylight exposure and has a raised floor that allows cool and warm air to flow beneath, and plenty of shade is provided by an exterior with jutting sheaths of metal.
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Which Construction Segments Might Benefit from DOD Budget Cuts?
ENR (01/09/12) Hunter, Pam; Rubin, Debra K.

According to experts, the $465 billion cut in defense spending over 10 years is expected to take a toll on military construction and engineering programs. Some say the cut could shrink the pool of contractors in the military space. However, others see some potential for beefed-up infrastructure work to support special forces. The overall consensus suggests there could be a "major push" to rehab current facilities. According to one contractor, "If you're in planning and environmental work, the market may be good. If you're in vertical construction, it will be weak, and if you're working overseas, look out."

Water

Corps Secures Flood Funding for 2011 Damage Repairs
Engineering News-Record (01/09/12) Vol. 268, No. 1, P. 15; Bergeron, Angelle

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been allocated $1.7 billion under the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, and $802 million of that amount will be invested in repair and reconstruction efforts in the Mississippi River and Tributaries System (MR&T). Scott Whitney in the Corps' Mississippi Valley Division reports that the appropriation is sufficient to "aggressively attack most of our critical-safety projects." Just three of MR&T's top-10 critical repair projects have thus far been finished. The Corps had recognized $960 million in repair work it designated to be most vital to protect life and safety by Nov. 30, and funding levels at that time meant that it would take up to 15 years to complete that work, by the Corps' calculations. Whitney says the work will now take around three years thanks to the $802 million, "which is a hell of a lot better." The Corps' new challenge lies in figuring out the best strategy for expediting the work. "We've got a tall order in front of us right now, but our division just finished the biggest program in Corps history—the more than $14-billion program in New Orleans that was executed over four or five years," Whitney notes. According to him, the Corps will focus on which operations can only be managed internally, and which can be outsourced to contractors. Around 20 initiatives are poised to begin construction but have been pushed back to the spring because autumn flooding is still going on. Though the money has been apportioned for 18 of those projects, just half are fully financed. "We're still working on plans and specs, acquisitions, real estate and environmental issues," Whitney says. "A lot of things have to happen before you can turn loose the bulldozers."
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Transportation

DOT Allocates $1.6 Billion for Damaged Roads and Bridges
U.S. Department of the Interior (01/09/12)

The U.S. Department of Transportation is making almost $1.6 billion available to states and territories to help pay for repair of roads and bridges damaged by hurricanes, flooding, and other natural and catastrophic disasters. The funding will come from the Federal Highway Administration’s Emergency Relief Program, and will go to 30 states, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Vermont will receive $125.6 million to repair roads damaged by Hurricane Irene, North Dakota will get $89.1 million to repair damage to the Devils Lake Basin from Spring 2011 runoff, and $37.5 million will go toward repairing damages from the Missouri River flooding of May 2011. The funds will help cover the cost of replacing highways and bridges as well as the cost of detours, debris removal, and other things needed to restore traffic flow. “States and communities can rely on the federal government during these critical times,” said FHWA Administrator Victor Mendez. “When disaster strikes, the Department will do all it can to provide help to the affected areas.”
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6 Signs that Mark the Path to Sustainable Road Design
Environmental Leader (01/05/12)

While moving to mass transit rather than reliance on motor vehicles and highway systems is a much more sustainable path for the future, it is not likely that a major shift in that direction is going to happen any time soon. People will always want to drive cars and roads will always be necessary, and some advocates are focusing instead on fixing poorly planned roads with a ratings system similar to the LEED system for buildings. The so-called “Greenroads” project was sparked by a thesis paper written by Martina Soderfund, who suggested six categories for awarding points in the rating system--sustainable alignment, which would award points for roads that avoid ecologically sensitive areas; materials and resources, focusing on those that have a lower environmental footprint; stormwater management; energy and environmental control, which covers quality of design, light pollution, the heat island effect, visual quality, and pedestrian or bicycle access; construction activities, concerned with site disturbance, waste materials generation, noise pollution, emissions and energy usage, and worker health; and innovation and design, which would award “bonus” points for going beyond requirements. The goal of the points system is to incentivize sustainable design, use benchmarking to promote sustainable solutions, and create metrics that will lead to endorsement of sustainable projects over others.
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Amtrak Outlines Infrastructure Renewal, Fleet and Other Priorities for 2012
Progressive Railroading (01/12) Cotey, Angela

Amtrak officials have announced what they term an “aggressive” agenda for 2012 that calls for service growth and operational improvements. Changes include manufacturing the first electric locomotives and single-level cars under contracts with Siemens and CAF, respectively; advancing Northeast Corridor (NEC) planning efforts; upgrading NEC infrastructure; and rolling out electronic ticketing to all trains. Amtrak will proceed with investments “that yield a more efficient and reliable Amtrak” despite the uncertainty of future federal funding, said Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer Joseph Boardman. The changes come following another year of ridership gains in fiscal year 2011.
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Concrete Vs. Asphalt on Roads, Who Wins?
Daily Commercial News (Canada) (01/05/12) Lapointe, Kelly

When highways see a lot of truck travel, concrete is better at handling the heavier load than asphalt, says Mick Prieur, Senior Pavement Engineer with the Ready Mix Concrete Association of Ontario (RMCAO), speaking at the Construct Canada conference. He referenced a study from Applied Research Associates that examined the maintenance and rehabilitation schedules of concrete and asphalt and performed a life cycle cost analysis, finding that the two materials performed similarly up to 2,000 trucks a day, but above that concrete is a less expensive option in terms of maintenance. Prieur said municipalities might consider submitting a two-component bid for an equivalent cross-section and let the contractors decide which ones to bid for, noting that those states that have done this in America see up to 5 percent lower bid prices due to a higher number of bidders for the same jobs. Iowa is using life cycle costing on its roads and now has a 60 percent market share in concrete, he noted. CANPav software can help users to compare the costs of different pavement materials for different traffic levels and subgrade strengths, Prieur said, but he added that one must be careful to compare equivalent cross-sections to avoid inaccuracies.
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Effort Announced to Cut Costs, Fast Track Construction and Job Creation for High-Speed Rail Projects in the Northeast Corridor
U.S. Department of Transportation (01/13/12)

The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced a pilot project aimed at expediting the environmental reviews for high-speed passenger rail service in the Northeast Corridor through an innovative and more efficient process. Through this pilot project, CEQ and DOT will work with stakeholders to identify efficiencies to speed the environmental review process that will inform selection of service types and station locations for high-speed rail in the Northeast Corridor. The pilot will engage Federal, state and local governments and the public in the environmental review process earlier to set benchmarks that maintain rigorous environmental protections and save time and costs by avoiding conflicts and delays in the later steps of rail-project development. To promote transparency and public input, DOT will post and track project timelines and progress on the Federal Infrastructure Projects Dashboard at www.performance.gov, which launched in November 2011 to track high impact, job-creating infrastructure projects for expedited review.
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Stretching Exercises: Using Digital Images To Understand Bridge Failures
Public Works (01/12)

A major effort is underway to assess the safety of hundreds of truss bridges across the country with the use of photogrammetry, or photographic measurement, to examine the failure of a key bridge component up-close. The project, a joint effort of the the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), was sparked after the tragic collapse of I35-W in Minneapolis in 2007. That collapse was caused by a failed gusset plate which was half as thick as it should have been due to a design error, and called attention to the fact that gusset plates were not considered closely by engineers when reviewing bridge capacity. The NTSB thereafter recommended that gusset plates be included in load ratings, and FHWA engineer Justin Ocel says the agency developed guidance on how to do so. There was little data on failure modes of gusset plates, however, so the agency built full-scale models of bridge gusset plate joints and is photographing them as they are pulled apart with a giant hydraulic test machine. The plate is first covered with paint specks and then high-definition digital cameras take images repeatedly to compare which paint spots have moved, in which direction, and how far. The process has been going on for a year, and FHWA hopes to get its findings adopted into the AASHTO Bridge Design Specification and Manual for Bridge Evaluation.
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Other

20th-Century Construction Fiasco Turns on 13th-Century Law
Hartford Courant (CT) (01/10/12) Mahony, Edmund H.

In a case that could have far-reaching implications for contractors, the construction industry recently asked Connecticut's Supreme Court to prohibit the state from invoking a 13th-century English legal doctrine that the state says allows it to wait decades or even longer before suing for defective work on public works projects. The debate over whether the state should have to sue for construction deficiencies within a generally agreed six-year period, as do individuals and businesses, stems from the multimillion-dollar leaks at the University of Connecticut's law library. Former Attorney General Richard Blumenthal waited until 2008, 12 years after the $24 million, five-story building was completed, to sue for the cost of repairs. The states says it can sue whenever it wants under the ancient English doctrine "nullum tempus occurrit regi," which means "no time runs against the king." Construction professionals argue that never knowing when or if the state will find a flaw and sue creates financial and practical problems . Insurers are hesitant to issue open-ended construction bonds, architects may have to pay insurance premiums on projects that stopped generating fees long ago, and suppliers could be required to retain product samples indefinitely for testing. Construction professionals also say everyone would be forced to inflate bids to cover costs that could be incurred in the distant future. Connecticut Solicitor General Gregory D'Auria, arguing for the Attorney General's Office, says the law intentionally does not impose a statute of limitations on the state's right to sue, and that the state did not wait to file the lawsuit, but worked with contractors involved in the building to investigate and correct the problem and that the investigation relieved multiple construction problems the state had to spend millions on to fix.
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