ACEC Weekly NewsLine
April 24, 2012

Energy

EPA Releases Rules to Target Pollution at Fracking Sites

Land/Buildings

College Campuses Embrace Advantages of Geothermal Energy

Water

Modern Technologies Expand Sewer Use to Rural Areas




Energy

EPA Releases Rules to Target Pollution at Fracking Sites
Los Angeles Times (04/19/12) Banerjee, Neela

The Environmental Protection Agency released rules on April 18 that put in place the first significant curbs on the fast-spreading drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, since widespread concerns about its environmental impact surfaced. The rules are designed to limit the release of smog-forming chemicals and other toxic substances that may escape into the air during drilling for oil and natural gas. The rules are expected to affect about 11,000 new wells annually that undergo fracking and an additional 1,200 that are re-fracked to boost production. They go into effect in 60 days, but the EPA gave the industry a transition period until January 2015 to install technology to capture methane. Most environmentalists welcomed the new rules, although some expressed disappointment over the three-year phase-in of the methane-capturing requirement. Industry groups, however, complained that the rules were still too onerous, especially for smaller companies. They asserted that the EPA's data are faulty, a charge that the EPA denied, and could stunt the growth of natural gas development. The new rules do not involve the most prominent environmental criticism of fracking — that it could contaminate the water table and affect drinking-water supplies. The EPA is in the middle of a years-long study of the water issue. The EPA was under a court-ordered deadline to develop the air-quality rules tied to fracking after being sued by environmental groups. The agency said its move would improve air quality in regions where a lot of oil and natural-gas drilling occurs. While the main purpose of the EPA rule is to limit smog-forming emissions, the standards will also limit emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Some scientists have suggested recently that methane leaks from natural-gas wells might make the fuel less friendly to the environment than has been assumed.
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PG&E Quake Risks at Diablo Nuclear to Undergo 3D Exam
Bloomberg (04/20/12) Johnsson, Julie ; Chediak, Mark

Pacific Gas & Electric and Edison International are using 3-D seismic technology to study the earthquake risks of two nuclear plants located along the coast of California, at Diablo Canyon and San Onofre. The $128 million project uses sophisticated technology developed by the oil industry to gather data to determine whether the plants are safe to operate for the next 30 years. The research will inform the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s efforts to draft new industry guidelines for re-evaluating earthquake risk at other nuclear plans in the country amid concerns that earlier research may have understated hazard. Though PG&E believes that its Diablo Canyon plant will withstand any seismic activity, they are willing to spend “hundreds of millions” of dollars on safety upgrades if the studies confirm they are needed. The plant is located only one half mile from the Shoreline fault, discovered in 2008, and two and a half miles from the Hosgri fault. Edison’s San Onofre plant is 60 miles north of San Diego. Together the plants supply 14 percent of California’s electricity.
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Land/Buildings

College Campuses Embrace Promise of Geothermal Energy
Heating - Piping - Air Conditioning Engineering (04/12) Vol. 84, No. 4, P. 20; Luster, Michael

An emerging trend among engineers is the use of geothermal heating and cooling systems in campus system. When designing and evaluating a system for a campus, it is necessary to first identify a campus' thermal profile. This involves assessing campus utility data over a minimum of three years, or otherwise modeling the entire campus using energy modeling software, and evaluating the campus master plan for the next 20 years to ensure capacity for future expansions. The monthly campus thermal-load characteristics will determine such things as base simultaneous load, instantaneous simultaneous load, unbalanced heating load, and unbalanced cooling load. The next step is to size the well field by drilling a test well at a potential well-field location on campus. The data gained from the test well will determine the thermal conductivity, diffusivity, ground temperature, and geological conditions of the site where the well field will be located. The information from the campus loads and the test are used in geothermal heat-exchanger ground-loop design software to model the depth and amount of bores required for the campus. Ground-loop sizing parameters include the ground temperature that must increase approximately 20 degrees F above normal ground temperature in the summer and decreasing approximately 10 degrees F below normal ground temperature in the winter. The ground-loop design software will predict how the ground loop will impact the earth throughout the next 20 years.
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Concrete Block in Buildings Contributes to a Four Part 'Balanced Design' That Helps Contain Fires
Go Structural (04/16/2012)

Concrete blocks offer superior fire protection over any other type of building material, and after two recent fatal home fires in Ontario the Canadian Concrete Masonry Producers Association is questioning whether Ontario’s building codes are sufficient to protect citizens from home fires. The example of a fire at Wilfred Laurier University last year shows how effective concrete block can be--while there was one fatality, the fire was well-contained and prevented from being much worse because each unit was separated by concrete block walls as were the interior bedrooms of each unit. Containing a fire allows occupants more time to escape and minimizes damage. In an industry test of concrete versus gypsum panels, a concrete block wall easily withstood 1800 degree Celcius temperatures and the blast of the fire hose at 30 PSI, while the gypsum wall allowed the hose to penetrate within ten seconds. Concrete containment is just one element of a ‘balanced design’ approach to fire safety, which also includes a detection system such as smoke alarms, a suppression system such as sprinklers, and fire education and training.
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Engineers' Earthquake Simulation Ready to Roll
San Diego Union-Tribune (04/16/12) Robbins, Gary

A five-story structure will endure a man-made 6.7 earthquake at the University of California, San Diego's Jacobs School of Engineering facility. The simulation will allow engineers to better understand what happens to buildings during a quake. Data collected from the structure’s 500 sensors and 70 cameras will inform future building codes and help prevent fires common in earthquakes. “What we are doing,” says UC San Diego engineer Tara Hutchinson. “Is the equivalent of giving this whole building an EKG to see how it performs after an earthquake and a fire.” Engineers, particularly interested in how quakes affect hospitals and computers used by emergency personnel, have made the top two floors of the structure a simulated hospital. Future plans include simulating a 7.9 shake and an 8.8 quake.
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When Green Meets Lean
Medical Construction & Design (04/12) Vol. 8, No. 2, P. 24

Providence Mount Carmel Hospital in Washington State has realized substantial energy savings that garnered its replacement facility the ENERGY STAR rating, and hospital president Robert Campbell notes that "our focus on resource conservation and an energy-efficient building minimizes costs, which is a benefit to patients and employers, who pay for healthcare." Key to facilitating the desired outcome was the design and components of the building's electrical and mechanical systems. Providence Mount Carmel surpassed current state commercial energy codes via the installation of high-efficiency equipment for building heating and domestic hot water boilers, air-conditioning chillers, variable-frequency drives on circulating pumps, lighting, and food-service gear in the new hospital. The design team opted to use the Green Guide for Health Care as the primary sustainable-design reference in planning and designing the new building, while the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED Sustainable Sites Credit checklist functioned as an additional resource. MW Consulting Engineers supplied mechanical and electrical engineering and architectural lighting design services for the project. The contractor used input from eco-charette and follow-up research to recognize numerous energy-consumption savings through light pollution reduction, community contaminant prevention of airborne emissions, 20 percent reduction in domestic potable water use, medical equipment efficiency, air-quality monitoring, and a continuous comfort monitoring system, among other measures. The ultimate result of this planning strategy was a mechanical system design comprised of a new central energy plant with high-efficiency water-cooled chillers and redundant heating water boilers for continued heating capability even in the event of a partial equipment failure.
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Water

Modern Technologies Expand Sewer Use to Rural Areas
Water & Wastes Digest (04/12) Vol. 52, No. 4, P. 30; Hutchison, Ronnie; Mott, Jon

Orangefield, Texas, a small coastal community developed in the 1920s, never incorporated as a city and has no municipal government, and until recently, no public utilities which left homeowners responsible for their own water and sewer. Most opted for wells and septic tanks, but the soil in the community caused many homes to have untreated wastewater in ditches along the property, an unattractive environmental hazard that affected Cow Bayou and made the community unappealing to potential home-buyers and developers. The Orangefield Water Supply Corp (OWSC) was developed in the early 1990s and began to collect a deposit from interested residents to put toward the development of a sewage system, which grew to $100,000 that allowed the board to research solutions. Engineering firm J.F. Fontaine and Associates was retrain to study the situation and provide consultation and helped find funding from the Department of Agriculture's Rural Development Department. Work was able to begin in July 2009 on the first two phases of the vacuum sewer system that was chosen because the flat terrain and high water table would make a gravity system too costly, disruptive, and time consuming. The system is contained, protecting workers from raw sewage, uses high speed propulsion to move the wastewater to the vacuum station which helps to clear the line and break down solids, and a single vacuum station serves homes up to two miles away. Only months after the system's installation was completed, it was found that the water in Cow Bayou was cleaner, and ditches previously containing sewage were dry and clean. Approximately $60 per month is paid for the system, with high water uses paying a bit more, and over 1,000 homes in the community have signed up for service. Other rural communities are looking to Orangefield for inspiration and information, while property values are up and the community is positioned for future growth and development.
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Coatings Can Improve Pump Impeller Cavitation Damage Resistance
WaterWorld (04/01/12) Budris, Allan R.

A cavitation resistant coating could be a lower cost, better option for repairing and/or increasing resistance to cavitation damage than changing to a cavitation resistant material, such as stainless steel. Techniques available for cavitation damage repair and/or prevention include plasma sprays, thermal sprays, reinforced epoxy coatings, unreinforced polyurethane coatings, and ceramic coatings. In the past, the most commonly used method, which produced the most durable coatings, used weld overlay techniques, but these are expensive and require a high skill level. Compared with a weld overlay technique, the advantages of epoxy and polyurethane compound coatings include significantly reduced labor costs, avoidance of thermally-induced residual stresses in the repaired components, and improved control of component contours through the use of templates. Epoxy coatings are mixed with hard-ceramic particles of alumina, silicon carbide, or the likes. The average life of epoxy coatings has been found to be relatively short, and over time, the repair compounds may fail due to cavitation and mechanical fatigue of the bond interface. However, epoxy coating can be quite effective in replacing worn away metal surfaces during a repair. Meanwhile, only flexible unreinforced polyurethane coatings have been found to be significantly more resistant to the effects of cavitation. Laboratory and field tests show cavitation performance superior to stainless steel and much better than carbon steel and cast iron. Whenever any coating is applied to the inlet of an impeller, care must be taken to insure that the coating thickness does not significantly increase the thickness of the leading edges of the impeller vanes, or markedly reduce the inlet throat area between the impeller vanes.
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Scoring Points for the Environment
CE News (04/12) Hallahan, Dennis

The U.S. Green Building Council is working to promote the business advantages of green building, and several options are available to obtain Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) points for commercial, mixed use, and residential building projects. LEED-certified green buildings garner higher rents, occupancy, and selling prices. In current LEED rating standards, wastewater treatment, water conservation, and water efficiency are gaining attention. Where centralized wastewater treatment is not available or a treatment facility is at capacity, evolved wastewater treatment technology and "smart sewers" align with the LEED standards. Rainwater capture and water reuse may also achieve LEED credits. Three applications for wastewater decentralized treatment using chambers are community systems, smart sewers, and reuse. Community systems treat wastewater and return it to the ground near where the wastewater was generated, rather than moving it to a central sewer facility. Smart sewer refers to a new storage application within a centralized system, which can detain and then release a flow during low-flow periods, allowing a treatment plant to assimilate the flow without spending millions on upgrades. With reuse, water can be reused for agriculture and landscape irrigation, for non-potable applications such as toilet flushing, and for industrial applications. System monitoring may involve an intelligent control panel such as Infiltrator System’s Aquaworx Tracker to monitor system events. Community systems for wastewater treatment are a leading approach in LEED projects and are at the forefront of new approaches to environmental sustainability.
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Transportation

A Green Double-Leaf
Roads & Bridges (03/12) Vol. 50, No. 3, P. 46; Hamrick, Catherine

The Morrison Bridge in Portland, Ore., is undergoing a upgrade in which the open steel grating on the double-leaf Chicago-type bascule span is being replaced by a prefabricated, pre-engineered fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) composite bridge deck designed by ZellComp. "The finished surface of an FRP deck is comparable to a typical concrete or asphalt road surface and as such offers a much higher friction value than steel, which greatly improves control and stopping distance," says Multnomah County Bridge Section engineer Ken Huntley. "Also, a solid deck surface allows for collecting all the rainwater that lands on the deck, which can then be cleaned and treated before releasing into the river." Primary project contractor Conway Construction (CCC) has been tasked to remove all the open steel grating on the two bascule spans and two-thirds of the spans' stringers; replace the stringers with new, same-sized steel beams; and replace the open steel grating with FRP decking. The work is being carried out in quads, and for each quad, after the new stringers have been installed, CCC installs the base section of the FRP deck. The contractor then drills holes through both the FRP and the stringers, and once the two are bolted together, the FRP top sheet of the deck is attached with mechanical fasteners, followed by the application of a wear surface. Multnomah County opted to have the FRP decks connected to the stringers using structural bolts and neoprene, given the weight limitations with the bascule spans. "FRP structural products use green construction materials, work well with the Federal Highway Administration's goals of using prefabricated components and accelerated construction and ensure that bridges built or rehabilitated with FRP composites will last for future generations," says John Busel with the American Composites Manufacturers Association's Composites Growth Initiative.

Association Between Access Management and Traffic Safety: Median Classification and Spatial Effect
ITE Journal (04/12) Vol. 82, No. 4, P. 22; Haleem, Kirolos; Abdel-Aty, Mohamed

A study was held to analyze access management associated with unsignalized intersections/access points. Six possible types of median that could exist in the vicinity of unsignalized intersections were highlighted—closed, directional, open, two-way left turn lane, undivided, and mixed. Analysis included differentiating between median-associated and intersection-associated crashes to communicate a better comprehension of safety deficiencies to improve countermeasure recommendations. The geometric, traffic, and control fields of the collected intersections were integrated with the Crash Analysis Reporting System database from 2003 to 2006. Nine crash patterns were affiliated with four-legged unsignalized intersections associated with open medians, and classified into five categories: U-turn or rear-end crash, left-turn, side-swipe, right-angle, and rear-end. Exploratory analysis showed that open medians have the highest average value for all crash types, while closed medians have the lowest average left-turn crash, and directional medians have the lowest average side-swipe crashes. Rear-end and angle crashes exhibit the two highest crash averages at each median type. It was observed that the most likely or frequent crash pattern was single-vehicle median-related crashes, followed by right-angle crashes. Right-angle crashes were the most probable crash pattern at two-way left-turn medians, while left-turn crashes were the most probable pattern at undivided medians. Closed medians were found to be the safest median type while open medians were the most dangerous, and rear-end and angle crashes were the most dominant at each median type. The study recommended the adequate spacing of signalized intersections from driveways and unsignalized intersections associated with restricted medians such as closed, directional, and mixed to lower the risk of median-related crashes. The recommended minimum spacing from both upstream and downstream sides is around 0.38 to 0.46 miles. Also recommended is the avoidance of installing two-way left-turn medians in the vicinity of four-legged intersections, while closing median openings in the vicinity of most unsignalized intersections is advised as well.

Did Someone Order an Instant Bridge?
New York Times (04/17/12) Schwartz, John

"Accelerated bridge construction" can allow for the quick replacement of bridges, shortening the process by months, and even years, with various techniques and methods like prefabrication. The process is being used across the country, and even the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is being repaired with advance bridge construction techniques, with one 25-foot prefabricated section being replaced at a time, allowing for the closure of individual lanes instead of the entire bridge. Massachusetts is the most enthusiastic about the techniques, as the state replaced 14 bridges on Interstate 93 over 10 weekends in 2011, and has recently used them when it needed to replace the River Street Bridge. As part of the replacement, the bridge was going to be raised 18 inches to allow double-decker commuter trains to pass underneath, and a nearby lot was used for the construction on the superstructure. Prep work for the entire process was done on Friday, with demolition of the old bridge on Friday night, and prep for the new installation on Saturday. The new superstructure was then maneuvered into place and fitted around a utility bridge designed to channel the water, gas, and fiber-optic lines, with around an hour of workaround. The entire process was completed by 2:05 pm on Sunday, and traffic began to cross the span the next night.
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Lights Camera Survey!
Point of Beginning (04/12) Vol. 37, No. 7, P. 20; Woolley, Don; Laird, Brian; Hall, Bridget

In 2010, the City of Beverly Hills noted that Santa Monica Boulevard North was in need of rehabilitation, and requested and examined proposals before contracting with Rick Engineering in November to handle the topographical survey in a three-month time-span. Rick used a three-prong method to survey the roadway: surveying from the ground, from the air, and surveying without contact. The first method used was traditional surveying methods, followed by aerial surveying with photogrammetry, with the third method using 3D laser scanning with a Leica ScanStation 2 laser scanner. The datasets from all three survey methods were integrated into a single composite topography and utility CAD file for the use of the design team; delineated zones were provided in the file with the aerial mapping accuracy or final design accuracy, and notes were included on the cover sheet of each map. Having the data complied on a single platform ensured that the deliverables were uniform and consistent, while the overlaid conventional survey collected data and the 3D laser scanning data on the photogrammetric model offered redundancy and additional confidence. To facilitate the gathering of further information, particularly about the complex network of utilities running along the surface and beneath Santa Monica Boulevard North, Rick used the scanning results to create the TruView tool that would enable virtual site walks, 3D computer renderings and animations, and would prevent the need for additional field surveying.

Other

Create Your Own Construction App
Constructech (04/13/2012)

Various companies have begun creating their own construction apps to access and manage data in the field from mobile devices. Vivint recently created an app to boost the productivity of its service technicians who install and repair smart home systems. The app allows them to manage schedules and inventory, interact with the customer service center, access maps for the best route to a job site, and locate other technicians in the area. A home-grown app is custom-made for exactly what a company needs it to do, but other firms may find that there are solutions from software vendors that will suit their needs just fine. Trimble, for example, just launched a new field fitting input app for the iPad that allows HVAC sheetmetal contractors and fabricators to collect dimension data in the field and send it to the fabrication shop to reduce errors and ensure dimensions are accurate. Apps like Trimble’s also have the advantage of integrating easily into backoffice systems.
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Critics Say Gov't Takes Too Long on Safety Rules
Associated Press (04/20/12) Hananel, Sam

Government auditors find that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) takes an average of eight years to adopt new safety regulations, putting workers at risk of injury and death. New safety regulations are approved in much less time by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department. "We have created barriers based on false alarms, and the need now is to lower them so that worker protection can proceed again without delay," says former Washington state OSHA director of the Michael Silverstein. "It is no exaggeration to say that lives are at stake." OSHA claims it is burdened by heavy pressure and threats of litigation from business groups, greater procedural requirements, changing priorities, and more stringent judicial review. Business groups counter that OSHA should seek industry guidance before making risk assessments, rather than ignore employer concerns when developing new standards. Collaborating with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health would help OSHA avoid duplicating work and provide access to scientific evaluations and industry data, according to the GAO report. Federal laws would have to be amended to change other OSHA rules and speed the process of establishing safety regulations.
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