ACEC Weekly NewsLine
March 14, 2012

Land/Buildings

Researchers Earthquake-Proof Skyscrapers Using Dampers
iPad Application Aims to End Printed Blueprints

Other

Federal Agency Spending with Small Companies Dips in 2011




Energy

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces Funding to Improve Rural Electric Infrastructure and Make the 'Grid' More Reliable and Efficient
USDA (03/07/12)

An announcement made on behalf of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at the 2012 National Rural Electric Cooperative Association Annual Meeting revealed that the rural electric cooperative utilities in eight states would receive funding from USDA Rural Development to install smart grid technologies and improve current systems. The announcement included support for close to $25 million in funding just for Smart Grid technologies, placing USDA Rural Development more than halfway to Vilsack's goal of $250 million for these technologies. USDA Rural Developments' Rural Utilities Service provided the $201 million of loans announced that will be given to utilities in Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, South Dakota, and Tennessee. The funding not earmarked for smart grid projects will be used to build and improve various parts the utilities' systems, including transmission lines. The Rural Development mission area allows the USDA to provide support to rural areas by administering and managing housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs designed to improve the communities' economic stability and help improve the quality of life.
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Land/Buildings

Researchers Earthquake-Proof Skyscrapers Using Dampers
Toronto Star (Canada) (03/05/12) Leahy, Stephen

Engineers at the University of Toronto have developed a new way to design tall buildings to prevent them from swaying in the wind. Currently buildings are made as sturdy as possible with heavy concrete beams and sometimes a 400-ton concrete slab on top to prevent swaying, but the new process allows buildings to absorb the wind’s vibrational energy with viscoelastic-energy-dissipating dampers. The Wind-Earthquake Coupling Damper consists of several layers of steel plates and viscoelastic polymer or rubber anchored to the structural walls. The rubber absorbs the wind energy, and with the addition of structural fuses the damper can even handle earthquakes. In full-scale structural testing at the university, the damper was able to handle large earthquake and hurricane forces. If the researchers can convince builders to use the dampers, they would allow buildings to be slimmer and taller, according to Constantin Christopoulos, a professor of Civil Engineering and one of its developers. Using concrete to stabilize buildings increases costs and cuts the amount of leasable space, which is a problem Christopoulos says has dogged engineers for years. Toronto has the most high-rise buildings under construction in North America, and the first one that features the new damper may be ready by 2013.
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iPad Application Aims to End Printed Blueprints
Construction Digital (03/07/12) Walton, Jon

A new app for the iPad by Plangrid, a small Y Combinator startup company, could save the construction industry up to $4 billion that it currently spends printing revisions to project blueprints. The app provides a digital archive of customizable plans with cloud-storage that can be modified on the job site, updated instantaneously, and shared through cloud services and email. With an intuitive, easy-to-use layout, the app is simple and functional making it attractive to those who are not tech-savvy. The app is free for projects that have fewer than 50 sheets of blueprint, with a three-tier pricing structure for larger projects. The app will be especially useful on the ultra high resolution of the new generation iPad3.
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Design Considerations for Microtunneling
Utility Contractor (02/12) Vol. 36, No. 2, P. 20; Lyman, Tracy J.

There are many things to consider when making plans for a microtunneling project. The first consideration is whether microtunneling is the best construction method given the parameters of the site or if another of the trenchless construction methods might be a better choice. Several factors need to be evaluated by engineers to determine if the project can be designed and constructed under microtunneling procedures. Conducting a planning level cost estimate, project risk assessment and associated 'risk pricing' are also important to such projects, and need to take into account potential impacts to third parties. Project design much focus on several key elements including layout and alignment, both horizontally and vertically; the definition of shaft locations and logistics; the acceptable materials and equipment; as well as cost and schedule. The project owner will generally weigh in on the type of pipe for the project; the types available for microtunneling include vitrified clay, reinforced concrete, steel, fiberglass reinforced polymer mortar, and polymer concrete pipe. The project design should provide minimum machine requirements, though the final decision on the boring machine is up to the contractor, and should leave room for equipment manufacturers and contractors to innovate. The contract documents should include similar minimum technical project requirements, and expectations while discussing both general and special conditions, technical provisions, subsurface information, and the payments details and schedule for the project.
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Iowa State Laboratory Humidification Yields Results
Engineered Systems (02/12) Zwers, Joe

To decrease the heating, cooling, and humidification demands of it chemistry labs, Iowa State University’s new Hach Hall incorporates rainwater recapture, separation of laboratory spaces from classrooms, and a fogging system for humidification instead of a boiler. “It is a complicated building by its very nature and consumes a lot of resources,” says ISU’s Mark Stephenson. With these innovations the building earned LEED® Gold certification, “something which is hard to do on a chemistry building or a laboratory,” says Stephenson. The Department of Chemistry has over 4,000 students each semester, and a top ranking graduate program in analytical chemistry. The first order of business in building the new Hach Hall was ensuring that the building envelope was sealed. “The building is well insulated and extremely tight,” says Stephenson. “There was very little air infiltration, which is a credit to the people who provided the building envelope.” One set of HVAC systems was dedicated to dealing with the ventilation concerns for chemical fumes produced in the laboratories, and another set for spaces where human health and comfort were primary concerns. “The air system is primarily for ventilation, not heating or cooling,” says project manager for Waldinger Corp Matt Jesson. “If they were only dealing with the thermal load, there would be much less air going through there, but because of the exhaust, they have to use 100 percent outside air.” Outside air increases needs for humidification during cold, dry seasons, leading to the selection of a fogging humidification system, made easier because the chemistry building already had a system for producing deionized water. “Producing clean water is one of the key pieces of producing a trouble-free humidifier,” says Stephenson. “Because the science lab already had that system in place, we were able to double use it, cutting the cost.” Hach Hall was completed in 2010.
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Spray-On Solution to Earthquake Srengthening
Stuff.co.nz (New Zealand) (03/05/12) Rogers, Claire

Flexus is a new, bendable concrete that is sprayed onto existing structures to make them resistant to earthquake damage. After experiencing earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, older buildings in Christchurch, New Zealand, are being treated with Flexus. The flexible concrete derives its tensile strength from mixing concrete with polyvinyl alcohol synthetic fibers. "You can imagine the old brick buildings or blockwork buildings, under earthquake loads they're very brittle ..., and they can end up as a pile of bricks,” says Reid Construction Systems general manager Derek Lawley. "If we spray this material onto them, we can turn [them] into something that can bend and take the earthquake loads and keep the building together." Instead of using reinforcing steel and thick layers of concrete to shore-up older masonry buildings, Flexus can be only 1 cm thick and applied to interior walls, retaining the original façade of the building. At a cost-effective $50 a square meter, Flexus is being used to create building facades, make Sir Richard Taylor’s Rugby World Cup sculpture in Wellington’s Civic Square, reinforce the brick chimney of the Auckland Victoria Market, and strengthen wharves and bridges.
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US Plastic Industry Set to Grow with $30 Billion Investment in New Factories
OilPrice.com (03/07/12) Kennedy, Charles

The plastics industry plans to build five new ethylene processing plants worth $5 to $6 billion each. Manufacturing plastics requires oil and natural gas. Currently, U.S. gas prices are low, prompting companies like Chevron Phillips Chemical Company to build new processing plants. Chevron Phillips has broken ground on a $5 billion ethylene plant in Baytown, TX, and two new polythene plants. Dow Chemical, Sasol, Formosa Plastics, and Royal Dutch Shell are also planning new processing plants to convert the natural gas into ethane. Ethane, the most popular and widely produced petrochemical, is used to make plastics like ethylene. Currently, the price of ethane is very low, and as shale formations in Colorado and West Virginia are developed prices will likely fall further. The gas is an inexpensive raw material and source of energy for plastics manufacturing, which will help boost U.S. exports of plastic products.
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Water

Pipeline Payoff
Water & Wastes Digest (02/12) Vol. 52, No. 2, P. 22; Stocking, Angus W.

Surrounded by four lakes and having high amounts of storm water runoff, the city of Warsaw, Ind. continuously faces challenges with inflow and infiltration (I&I) and the erosion they cause. Warsaw needed a fast, structural, and affordable fix when it was found that a 48-inch brick and mortar storm sewer pipe seemed to be failing. The Superintendent of Public Works Lacy Francis found a method using centrifugally compacted concrete to form a durable, effective lining. The system, called CentriPipe uses a computer-controlled spincaster that builds a high-strength grout in thin layers to seal and reinforce the pipe. ProForm Pipe Lining was chosen to apply CentriPipe, and the repair work took about five weeks, during which time ProForm dewatered the pipe, made necessary repairs to the current structure by plugging holes and filling cracks, and cleaned the pipe, before applying the lining material. The application of PL-8000, the cementitious grout for brick and concrete relining, was applied in two passes over the course of one week. Though the effectiveness cannot be judged for five or ten years, Francis contracted for another rehabilitation of a 36-inch pipe that was located under a railroad crossing.
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Transportation

Corrosion Detection System Passes Test, Shows Promise as Bridge Health Monitor
Engineering News-Record (03/12/12) Knapschaefer, Johanna

Results from field tests of a corrosion detection and remote monitoring technology for suspension bridge cables have given researchers cause for hope that the tools may be used for testing the health of bridges worldwide. According to Raimondo Betti, a civil engineering professor at Columbia University and lead project engineer on the $1.8-million collaborative research study, the test confirms that "we have the tools to reliably assess and quantify the level of corrosion on a suspension bridge for damage assessments," a test that once involved visual, subjective judgment. The study developed after a major rehabilitation in 2001 of the Maine Waldo-Hancock Bridge, which involved use of acoustic monitoring and proved promising. The team first selected the best sensor technologies available and bundled them inside 10,000 to 20,000 tightly compacted wires. Then, the team then tested the technology on the strands of a New York City bridge. Finally, the researchers tested multiple types of bridge-cable sensors in a corrosion chamber that simulates corrosive conditions. From here, researchers will launch a larger study to test dehumidification systems used for cable corrosion protection.
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Moving in the Cold
Roads & Bridges (02/12) Vol. 50, No. 2, P. 44; Schaefer, Vernon R.; Kevern, John T.; Shields-Cook, Sabrina

A National Concrete Pavement Technology Center research project looked into the use of pervious concrete as an overlaid surface-wearing course in cold-weather climates. After developing test methods and conducting fundamental material property investigations, a pervious concrete overlay was built of the MN ROAD Low Volume Roast test track, followed by long-term testing. The research found that air entrainment improves the workability and durability of pervious concrete and developed various mix designs to provide a highly workable, strong material with good compaction density, overlay bond strength, and freeze-thaw durability. The research found that the current method for pervious concrete offered good strength gain, the highest flexural strength, and best abrasion and resistance, though more study of curing materials is needed. The pervious concrete proved to minimize noise measurements, only causing levels between 96 and 98 dBA, reduced hydroplaning events and splash by allowing water to migrate to the side of the pavement. The four inch thick overlay with formed joints near the base concrete joins was hand placed via a powered roller screed, jointed with a mechanical cutter and cured. The main issues with deterioration occurred at the joints and was thought to be due to joint placement and the effects of snowplow operations. While further research is needed and in particular needs to address design requirements for minimized clogging, and investigate long-term noise generation and wear.
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Parking-Related Crash Characteristics
ITE Journal (03/12) Vol. 82, No. 3, P. 33; Siddiqui, Chowhury; Abdel-Aty, Mohamed; Anjuman, Tahera

Parking lots are characterized by unclear traffic rules and speed limits, and very little is known about their safety issues as crashes in parking lots are rarely addresses in road safety literature. Crashes in parking lots were studied in two models: Model I used an oversampled dataset where a value of one indicated a parking lot and other crashes had a value of 0; Model II used a separated dataset, where a value of one denoted a crash in a public parking lot (i.e. a grocery store) and a value of 0 indicated a private parking lot, not including the driveways of individual homes. Model I examined four attributes related to the driver, age, race, gender, and alcohol/drug use; along with attributes of the road environment and the characteristics of the vehicles and crashes. Model I found that the majority of crashes occurred during the daytime in clear or good weather and were generally due to obstructed views. Model II examined six variables: race, alcohol/drug use, lighting condition, vehicle type, injury severity, and crash type. This model found that the type of crash most likely to occur was left-angle crashes, where 21.1 percent more likely than rear-end crashes. It was noted that neither model took into account the parking configuration or the physical characteristics of the parking lots in question, and that these factors should be included in future studies in order to find a more accurate understanding of crashes in these spaces.

Seattle LED Street Light Tests Focus on Visibility and Efficiency
LEDs Magazine (03/12) Wright, Maury

The city of Seattle and the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA) tested LED street lights on March 6, 7, and 8 in order to determine how much the lights can be dimmed before the ability of drivers to safely detect objects or pedestrians in the road is compromised. The tests involved four different kinds of LED-based solid-state lighting luminaires, three of which varied only in CCT from 3,500K to 4,000K to 5,000K. The fourth set was also 4,000K, though it included a new type of asymmetric beam pattern. All of the LED lights were 105W Philips Lumec products. Two different kinds of high-pressure sodium lights were tested as well, one of which was brighter and one of which was dimmer. During the tests, drivers rode through a test course with the lights at 100 percent brightness, 50 percent brightness, and 25 percent brightness in order to determine how quickly they could see objects while traveling at 35 mph. In addition, test subjects walked the course under the lights and noted how they felt about the quality of the light, the glare, whether or not they felt safe, and other types of issues. The tests come as the city of Seattle is in the midst of an effort to install 21,000 more LED lights in order to reduce energy usage and save money. Edward Smalley, the director of the U.S. Department of Energy's Municipal Solid-State Street Lighting Consortium, noted that using LED street lights on a broad scale could significantly reduce the nation's energy consumption.
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Other

Federal Agency Spending with Small Companies Dips in 2011
Federal Times (03/07/12) Chacko, Sarah

In 2011, federal agencies spent 4.6 percent of their $537 billion in contract dollars on small, disadvantaged companies, or 8(a)s, according to figures from USASpending.gov. Twenty percent of the $25 billion agencies awarded to 8(a)s were for institutional building construction and civil engineering construction. Contracting goals set by the Small Business administration of 5 percent of all contracts are filled by awarding contracts to 8(a)s and other small businesses. From 2006 to 2010, agencies exceeded that goal. The program has helped drive business to small construction companies during the recession. "It's easy for a department to push a lot of the goaling to the construction industry," says Associated General Contractors of America director Marco Giamberardino. "But they aren't pushing the other industries that aren't doing a good job. [Agencies are] kind of giving them a pass." The construction business requires a relatively low capitol investment, making it an attractive small business, and businesses do not have to prove that they are disadvantaged to qualify as an 8(a). However, projects needed by the Defense and Energy departments are often too large for small companies, making it difficult for these agencies to meet the Small Business Administration goal. In addition, other agencies, experiencing budget cuts may also cut out smaller contracts. However, there has been an increase in spending on computer-related services and facilities management services from 8(a)s in recent years.
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Construction Employment Declines by 13,000 in February
Associated General Contractors of America (03/09/12)

The Associated General Contractors of America have released an analysis of federal employment data which shows that the construction industry increases year-over-year, despite losses between January and February. Though total employment is up 1.2 percent over February 2011, over all construction unemployment in the month was 17.1 percent, around twice the national rate. Officials noted that short-term factors, such as weather, contributed to the monthly loss of 13,000 jobs, and were likely a 'seasonal correction.' The association's chief economist notes that while improvements are very small compared to the losses in the industry since 2006, the last six months have seen steady improvement which likely indicate that the industry has come through the worst of the downturn. Though non-residential building construction saw the most growth year-over-year, non-residential specialty trade contractors saw the smallest growth. Officials noted that the positive six month trend could be hurt by the federal inaction on long-term infrastructure programs, proposed cuts, and the lack of set long-term tax rates.
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Court Rules Employers Must Post Union Rights
Wall Street Journal (03/03/12) Trottman, Melanie

The U.S. district court for the District of Columbia has ruled that employers must post notices about workers’ right to join a union, upholding a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rule but also striking two sections of the rule that would punish companies that fail to do so with a charge of unfair labor practices. The lawsuit was brought by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and other business groups who said that the board does not have the authority to create the rule and that it promotes unionization. Now, most private-sector companies will have to post union rights notices, but the board will have less ability to police those who do not comply. NAM President Jay Timmons says the decision is “fundamentally flawed” and that hanging the union rights notice may "create hostile work environments where no conflict exists." NLRB Chairman Mark Pearce applauded the decision, and says it will give workers “meaningful awareness of their rights and protections under federal labor law,” and that companies who do not comply can still be charged with unfair labor practices “on a case by case basis.”
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