ACEC Weekly NewsLine
April 04, 2012

Energy

EPA's Greenhouse Gas Limit Could End New Coal Plants

Land/Buildings

Determining the Best Fit for Integrated Project Delivery

Water

EPA Backpedals on Fracking Contamination Claims




Energy

EPA's Greenhouse Gas Limit Could End New Coal Plants
Washington Post (03/27/12) Eilperin, Juliet

The Environmental Protection Agency issued the first limits on greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants on March 27. The move could end the construction of conventional coal-fired facilities in the United States. The proposed rule — years in the making and approved by the White House after months of review — will require any new power plant to emit no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt of electricity produced. The average U.S. natural gas plant, which emits 800 to 850 pounds of CO2 per megawatt, meets that standard; coal plants emit an average of 1,768 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt. Industry officials and environmentalists said in interviews that the rule, which comes on the heels of tough new requirements that the Obama administration imposed on mercury emissions and cross-state pollution from utilities within the past year, dooms any proposal to build a coal-fired plant that does not have costly carbon controls. "This standard effectively bans new coal plants," says Joseph Stanko, who heads government relations at the law firm Hunton and Williams and represents several utility companies. "So I don't see how that is an ‘all of the above' energy policy." The rule provides an exception for coal plants that are already permitted and beginning construction within a year. There are about 20 coal plants now pursuing permits; two of them are federally subsidized and would meet the new standard with advanced pollution controls. The proposal does not cover existing plants, although utility companies have announced that they plan to shut down more than 300 boilers, representing more than 42 gigawatts of electricity generation — nearly 13 percent of the nation's coal-fired electricity — rather than upgrade them with pollution-control technology.
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Offshore Drilling Receives Twin Boost
Wall Street Journal (03/29/12) Tracy, Ryan

With higher gasoline prices holding steady, the Obama administration on March 28 took steps that could pave the way for oil and gas exploration off the coast of Alaska and in the Atlantic Ocean. The Department of Interior approved Royal Dutch Shell's plan for responding to oil spills in Alaska's Beaufort Sea, news the company called "another major milestone" toward drilling there this summer. The agency also set 2013 as a target for allowing new seismic surveys off much of the East Coast. Energy companies use the survey data to evaluate oil and gas resources. Current data for the Atlantic are decades old. "There is no silver bullet to high gas prices, but we must continue to reduce our reliance on foreign oil and reduce our vulnerability to the ups and downs of the international market," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said. Salazar made the announcements at the Norfolk, Va., headquarters of Fugro Atlantic, a firm that conducts seismic surveys, echoing recent statements from President Barack Obama, who has been seeking to rebuff Republican criticism that his policies restrict U.S. oil production.

USDA Explores Feasibility of Alternative Energy Production at Airports
USDA (03/29/12)

A recent study from the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) published in Environmental Management indicated that there is potential for airports to introduce alternative energy production onto airport land. Though federally obligated airports have restrictions on land use, the FAA has made clear its willingness to work with those airports interested in land use changes for the support of alternative energy production. USDA-APHIS National Wildlife Research Center researchers have noted that many airports of managed wildlife reductions to avoid collisions with aircraft, and that it is important to maintain this by identifying biofuel crops that will limit use by wildlife hazardous to aircraft. Once such biofuel crops are identified, the grassland areas at these airports can be converted and will produce renewable energy and additional revenue. There is also that possibility that the land can be used for solar arrays or wind production, and researchers are looking into wildlife use of solar arrays at certain airports. Researchers stress that the economic profitability for any of these options will vary greatly and will depend heavily on yield and the associated costs for establishment, maintenance, rental, and processing.
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Land/Buildings

Determining the Best Fit for Integrated Project Delivery
Architect (03/01/12) P. 31; Beck, Ernest

Integrated project delivery (IPD) is being considered by architects, engineers, contractors, and building owners as a way to share information, practices, and talent to help deliver a building project on time and within budget, and Hanson Bridgett partner Howard W. Ashcraft Jr. discusses how to create a legal document for an IPD project, and how to manage the accompanying relationships. He notes that "with IPD, design is an equal partner at the table with the owner and contractor. That wasn't necessarily the case before." Ashcraft says that at the beginning of a project, he interviews the key stakeholders to flesh out their worries and fundamental goals. "I provide information about the advantages and disadvantages of IPD and try to figure out what their common interests are," he says. The next step involves holding a workshop or a boot camp to discuss microstructures, or how the design and information will flow. "I develop a business structure that matches this team and their project," Ashcraft says. "We align the goals and terms of a contract with their circumstances." Ashcraft points out that the personal experiences and checklists that people bring to drafting contracts are not always pertinent in the context of IPD, while the kind of metrics that will be employed must be defined. Owner satisfaction is another factor that must be weighed, and Ashcraft says that "on my checklist is how to set the target cost and validate that in a way that gives a team putting their profit at risk some comfort." It is important to remember that IPD can be changed throughout the project's life span, and Ashcraft notes that "we always want to ask the question, 'can we improve [the project] on the fly as things change and develop?'" He stresses that flexibility is key, and the best approach for determining that certain project participants may be a bad fit is during negotiations over the agreement, prior to project commencement. Ashcraft maintains that at that stage "you can replace someone, and it won't jeopardize the entire project." He notes that IPD is particularly appropriate for large projects such as healthcare facilities and hospitals, on account of their multiple systems and rapidly evolving technology.
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Construction Tech Goes Mobile
Constructech (03/28/2012)

The construction industry is being transformed by mobile technology, which allows communication and collaboration among various stakeholders through each stage of a project. To meet this growing need, construction technology vendors such as Meridian Systems are expanding their mobile product offerings, such as meridian’s new mobile solutions for its Prolog construction project-management software. The PrologMobile tool allows contractors to access the Prolog system from iPads or other mobile devices and then view and manage punchlists, inspections, daily construction reports, and other project information in real time, and the data is automatically synchronized with the overall system. Another mobile offering is e-Builder’s newly enhanced cloud-based Enterprise 7.12 construction program-management software, which also offers mobile access to project data and real-time synchronization. These and many other mobile technologies are giving construction professionals more freedom to act quickly when issues arise and cut costs and delays through greater communication and collaboration.
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Military’s Construction Budget Cuts Could Be Felt in Hawaii
Pacific Business News (03/23/12) Abramson, Mark

The U.S. Department of Defense has requested significantly less money for military construction in the coming fiscal year, which could hurt contractors around the country and elsewhere. American Forces Press Service reports that the Pentagon is asking for $8.5 billion for military construction, a 29 percent reduction, and only $1.65 billion for family housing, a 3 percent reduction. The request for less funding comes at a time when the military is already canceling contracts for Guam as it works out a deal to relocate troops from Okinawa to the U.S. territory and possibly elsewhere in the Pacific. The military has also been issued a mandate to cut hundreds of millions of dollars over the next 10 years become a congressional super committee could not find a way to reduce the federal budget. It is still unknown what military bases will be the hardest hit by the spending cuts. However, the cuts could be beneficial for some areas. For example, the relocation of Marines from Okinawa, Hawaii could benefit from an influx of troops, resulting in increased building of barracks, on-base housing, and infrastructure, or more troops spending housing allowances on off-base housing.
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Reclaiming the Suburbs
The Economist (03/31/2012)

The National Association of Realtors reports that in the fourth quarter of 2011 the vacancy rate of enclosed malls was 16.9 percent, reflecting the fact that America's retail sector is probably over built. Malls are vulnerable to systemic shorts, such as if an "anchor" store closes, vacancies linger, and general declines in retail spending. The current trend is mixed-use developments and outdoor shopping spaces designed to look like a friendly downtown shopping district. Consequently, many cities and suburbs have been stuck with dead and dying malls. While some of these will be razed, others will be repurposed. One strategy is to turn malls into mixed-used spaces. For example, the Natick, a high-end mall in Boston, has added condominiums, and in Cleveland part of a mall has been repurposed for indoor gardens. Schools and universities are also repurposing malls. The University of the Incarnate Word has leased part of a mall in San Antonio, and Vanderbilt has leased some space to open a clinic. At the clinic, patients are given pagers so they can go to the food court or stores while they wait. In Joplin, Missouri, hundreds of high-school students are taking classes in a converted mall after the town's high school was destroyed in a tornado. One San Antonio company, Rackspace, which offers cloud-computing and web-hosting, spent $100 million renovating a closed shopping mall. The new corporate headquarters features freestanding conference rooms next to walkways, a loading dock that has been converted into a presentation room, a human-resources kiosk, and space for recreation breaks. Such uses of malls can serve as examples of how to reclaim these existing resources.
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Water

EPA Backpedals on Fracking Contamination Claims
Wall Street Journal (04/02/12) Gilbert, Daniel; Gold, Russell

The Environmental Protection Agency on March 30 withdrew its claim that an energy company contaminated drinking water in Texas, the third time in recent months that the agency has backtracked on high-profile local allegations linking natural-gas drilling and water pollution. The agency told a federal judge it dropped an administrative order that alleged Range Resources Corp. had polluted water wells in a rural Texas county west of Fort Worth. Under an agreement filed in U.S. court in Dallas, the EPA will also drop the lawsuit it filed in January 2011 against Range, and Range will end its appeal of the administrative order. In addition to dropping the case in Texas, the EPA has agreed to substantial retesting of water in Wyoming after its methods were questioned. In Pennsylvania, it has angered state officials by conducting its own analysis of well water—only to confirm the state's finding that water once tainted by gas was safe. Taken together, some experts say, these misfires could hurt the agency's credibility at a time when federal and state regulators seek ways to ensure that natural-gas drilling is done safely. A growing number of industry, academic and environmental experts say that while drilling can cause water contamination, that can be avoided by proper use of cement seals and other safety measures. By year's end, the EPA is set to release initial results of a study on the impact on water of hydrofracturing, or fracking, which involves using a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals to break apart energy-rich rocks. State officials contend they are in a better position to evaluate drilling procedures and safety in their areas, but they have been accused of laxity by environmentalists and local governments officials.

Laser System Helps Track Turbidity at Ultra-Low Levels
WaterWorld (03/01/12) Vol. 28, No. 3, P. 30; Sadar, Mike; Hetherington, Kirk

Using a laser light source, new nephelometric technology is better suited to meeting filter effluent reporting requirements and finding miniscule changes in filter performance than the commonly used tungsten or LED light nephelometric technology. This laser method for monitoring turbidity in drinking water production was developed for the Hach FilterTank 600sc Turbidimeter and can detect changes as small as 0.0003 NTU, as well as see submicron-sized particles. More commonly used in membrane facilities, laser nephelometric technology can be paired with pressure monitoring to identify the presence of broken membrane fibers, and to see events that can be missed by a particle counter. The technology and its controller are able to calculate and display relative standard deviation which can be used to identify a turbidity event outside normal parameters tat would likely represent a breakthrough or integrity issue. Many facilities have put the technology into use, and at tone of the largest membrane systems in Texas, the staff consider the laser nephelometric technology to be an important component of operations, allowing and increase in efficiency and the maintenance of high water quality.
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Transportation

Evaluating the Potential of Advanced Vehicle Detection Systems in Mitigating Dilemma Zone Safety Conflicts
ITE Journal (03/12) Vol. 82, No. 3, P. 24; Hurwitz, David S.; Knodler, Michael A., Jr.; Nyquist, Bruce

Some of the challenges that characterize signalized intersections are thought to be linked to the use of point sensors for traditional vehicle detection systems. A field experiment was conducted to evaluate the impact of using a space sensor for advanced vehicle detection to minimize the incidence of Type II dilemma zone incursions, caused by a driver's uncertainty as to whether they should continue through the intersection at the onset of the yellow light, or stop prior to the intersection. This dilemma zone has been determined to exist between 5.5 seconds and 2.5 seconds from the stop line. Evaluation of the data showed that drivers experienced less difficulty in deciding to stop in advance of the intersection or proceed through when the light was governed by the space sensor. Under the space sensor, the number of drivers facing the change to the yellow light while in the dilemma zone was reduced by 20 percent, and fewer passed through on yellow or ran through a red light. Though the results of the test seem to indicate that radar-based space sensors could potentially improve dilemma zone safety, those conducting the field test noted that several important questions still need to be addressed and sensor systems should be examined with closer scrutiny.

New Report: Road Congestion Wastes 1.9 Billion Gallons of Gas
USA Today (03/26/12) Stoller, Gary

A new report from the U.S. Treasury Department finds that U.S. drivers are wasting more than $100 billion per year in fuel and lost time due to traffic congestion. The report is part of the White House’s plan to revamp the country’s transportation infrastructure starting in 2013, and the President supports a current $109-billion transportation and infrastructure bill recently approved by the Senate. According to the Treasury report, poorly maintained roads cost the average city driver more than $400 per year in car maintenance, though in areas such as San Jose, California the costs are closer to $750 per year. The report estimates that the government would need to invest $85 billion annually for the next 20 years just to get current roads “into a state of good repair,” and also notes that the U.S. spends less than many other countries on transportation infrastructure--just 2 percent of gross domestic product compared to 9 percent for China, 8 percent for India, and 5 percent for Europe. Other findings include an annual cost per American family of $7,600 on transportation--which is twice the average family’s annual healthcare costs--and a 70 percent increase in ridership on heavy and light rail since 1996.
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Next Stop: A Virtual Jobsite
Point of Beginning (03/12) Vol. 37, No. 6, P. 26; Speed, Vicki

To streamline the construction of an underground rail station at the University of Washington in Seattle, surveyors are integrating a building information model (BIM) and imaging total stations. Ming Surveyors employed the Hoffman Structures-developed as-built-conditions site model combined with an MEP model to confirm site details and outline points off specified gridlines. "The coordination facilitated by the model environment puts a lot more eyes on the layout and other aspects of the project prior to construction," says Ming's Daniel Ellis. "It allows us to construct the station virtually." Within a 3D model supplied by the MEP subcontractor, Ellis selects the positions and downloads them to an imaging total station, while a surveyor is on site throughout construction with the total station, checking positions and elevations. Outside of grid and grade monitoring, the Ming survey team works directly with the trade specialty contractors, laying out all beams, whalers, embeds, and elevations during rat slab pours for finishers, chamfer, and similar activities to help expedite construction. "The elevation of that rat slab is critical, so we're shooting as the concrete crews pour," Ellis notes. "With the BIM/total station system, we have been able to deliver far more accurate results faster than using conventional methods."
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Smoothness in the North Woods
Roads & Bridges (03/12) Vol. 50, No. 3, P. 24; Zeyher, Allen

A mill-and-fill project in northern Wisconsin carried out by Northeast Asphalt was named a finalist for the National Asphalt Pavement Association's Sheldon G. Hayes Award. The project involved the resurfacing of 15.25 miles of U.S. 45 from Eagle River north to the Michigan border. The contractor milled off five inches of the old asphalt and laid 77,000 tons of asphalt in two lifts containing 12 percent reclaimed asphalt pavement recycled from the material previously milled from the highway. Northeast Asphalt paved each road section immediately after milling, so during the day the contractor milled two miles of one lane, with the paver following behind; the paving process was repeated the following day in the other lane, and this approach minimized the elevation difference between lanes, kept traffic safer, and lowered project costs. Superpave asphalt mixes were used for both lifts, while an Ingersoll Rand DD138 compactor was used as a breakdown roller. A Cat 900 rubber-tire machine was employed as an intermediate roller and a Bomag BW11 static roller served as a finish roller. With this equipment the asphalt mat was pounded and kneaded to a 93 percent average density, which exceeded the target density of 91.5 percent. Thirteen subcontractors along with Northeast Asphalt worked on the project, which was underwritten by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Use of Centerline Line Rumble Strips to Improve Safety on Two-Lane Highways
U.S. Department of Transportation (04/01/12)

More than 18,000 traffic fatalities in 2009 were caused by vehicles leaving their lanes, which amounts to 53 percent of all traffic fatalities that year, and researchers say installing centerline rumble strips (CLRS) is an inexpensive and effective way to keep cars in their lanes and reduce such accidents. However there are some concerns about the use of CLRS, including noise created by tires hitting the CLRS, potential loss of visibility of pavement markings, and the effect on a car’s handling when hitting the strips. Researchers at the Kansas State University Transportation Center have been studying these issues to find ways to minimize problems and maximize the effectiveness of CLRS. Their research found that total correctable crashes on several roads in Kansas declined by 29.21 percent after CLRS were installed, while correctable fatal crashes fell by 34.05 percent and cross-over crashes declined 67.19 percent. However, researchers also found that noise levels were increased substantially at distances of up to 150 feet. Researchers recommend that shoulder rumble strips and CLRS be installed for roads with annual average daily traffic of more than 3,000. If both cannot be installed, CLRS are the better option for roads with annual average daily traffic between 3,000 and 5,750.
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Other

Construction Employment Rises in 30 States and D.C. Between February 2011 and 2012 While 29 States and D.C. Add Jobs Since January
Associated General Contractors of America (03/30/12)

Data from the Associated General Contractors of America show that 30 states and the District of Columbia saw increased levels of construction employment between February 20111 and February 2012. During this time period, North Dakota saw that largest percentage gain, while Pennsylvania added the most number of jobs. Of the eighteen states that lost construction jobs between 2011 and 2012, the highest percentage loss was in Nevada and the highest total loss was in Florida. The levels of construction employment remained unchanged in South Dakota and Mississippi, though the latter saw the highest percentage increase between January and February 2012. The highest total gains in construction jobs between January and February 2012 where seen in Illinois, which also had the third highest percentage gain. Though only 18 lost jobs year on year in February, 21 states lost jobs between January and February 2012, with Nevada topping the list for both highest percentage loss and highest number of jobs lost. Officials with the association noted that declines in public investments have been offset but private construction activity in some states.
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