ACEC Weekly NewsLine
May 08, 2012

Energy

Administration Proposes Rule for Fracking on Federal Lands

Land/Buildings

Study: Rapid Increase Expected in Use of BIM for Infrastructure

Water

Vertical Shaft Machine Makes U.S. Debut in Seattle




Administration Proposes Rule for Fracking on Federal Lands
Bloomberg (05/04/12) Klimasinska, Katarzyna

The Obama administration is issuing sweeping new environmental-safety rules for hydraulic fracturing on federal land, setting a new standard that natural-gas wells on all lands eventually could follow. The rules are designed to address concerns that the method of extracting natural gas known as "fracking" can contaminate groundwater. Among other things, they create new guidelines for constructing wells and treating waste water. At the same time, the department loosened a proposed requirement for companies tied to disclosing the chemicals they use to extract natural gas from the earth, after the industry complained an earlier version would slow drilling too much. The change, which disappointed environmentalists, is a fresh sign that the administration is heeding industry concerns after Republican complaints of overregulation. In April, the Environmental Protection Agency gave the industry two years to comply with new air-quality standards for oil and natural-gas wells after the industry complained it would be difficult to meet new standards. Initially, the department wanted energy companies to specify in advance which chemicals they put into fracking fluids. Under the draft rules, they would instead have to identify the chemicals after they have already put them into the ground. In the weeks leading up to the proposal of the rules, several oil and natural-gas companies, including Exxon Mobil and Apache Corp., met with top White House officials to weigh in on possible changes, according to public-meeting records. The fracking rules apply to natural-gas drilling on federal and tribal lands, not on private or state-owned lands. While an estimated 25 percent to 30 percent of fracked wells are on federal land, energy experts say the new rules could serve as a template for state officials who oversee energy production.
Free Web Link, May Require Registration

Interior Readies Next Round of Drilling-Safety Rules
The Hill (04/30/12) Geman, Bill

The U.S. Department of Interior is finalizing the emergency offshore drilling safety standards that were issued in 2010 after the BP oil spill, and while the government has not indicated what changes will be made, the rules include standards for well designs and requirements for third-party verification that subsea blowout preventers will close off drill-pipes. There will also be other rules for the design, performance, and maintenance of blowout preventers, which were supposed to be a failsafe device but did not contain BP’s well in the 2010 spill. The new standards have already undergone a public comment period and they are now in the hands of the White House Office of Management and Budget.
Free Web Link, May Require Registration

Land/Buildings

Study: Rapid Increase Expected in Use of BIM for Infrastructure
CE News (05/12)

Despite lagging behind vertical construction, the use of BIM in infrastructure projects is expected to grow rapidly, according to the Business Value of BIM for Infrastructure: Addressing America's Infrastructure Challenges through Technology and Collaboration SmartMarket Report by McGraw-Hill Construction. Two years ago, only 27 percent of firms in a McGraw-Hill Construction Survey used BIM on infrastructure projects, compared with 46 percent in the current survey, and 67 percent of users report seeing a return on their BIM investment. "The transition to digitally based collaborative processes for infrastructure work started later than it did with buildings," says McGraw-Hill Construction's Stephen Jones. "But we expect it will gain traction more quickly and have profoundly positive effects." The report also found that the increased penetration of BIM use overall is influencing the increased use of BIM in infrastructure. The report also showed that 79 percent of companies that are not currently using BIM for infrastructure work are considering it in order to stay competitive with those who are using it. Current BIM users report fewer project conflicts and changes, improved project quality, lower project risk, and greater project predictability.
Free Web Link, May Require Registration

Construction Spending Inches Up in March
Associated General Contractors of America (05/01/12)

A new analysis of federal data released by the Associated General Contractors of America shows that construction spending increase 0.1 percent from February to March, reaching an annualized rate of $808 billion. The gain masks divergent trends, as public sector activity dropped 3.2 percent year-on-year for March, as private sector demand grew by 0.7 percent from February, and 7.4 percent year-on-year. Though new single-family construction posted a 10.3 percent year-on-year increase, new multi-family construction feel 3.1 percent from February, though the year-on-year was up 23.3 percent. The association's chief economist noted that nonresidential spending was the most robust, with the largest monthly spending increases being for transportation and office projects, while manufacturing and power construction saw the greatest annual increases. The two largest public categories experienced drops similar to the overall loss seen in public construction, as both education spending and highway and street construction spending fell both year-on-year and for the month. The ongoing declines in the public sector were making it difficult for the sector to benefit from the growth seen by the private sector, while the lack of key bills from the government, the approaching end of the stimulus and of the many military base realignment projects, are contributing to the offsetting of the growth in the private sector.
Free Web Link, May Require Registration

Cultivating a Cure for Concrete Cancer
Northumbria (04/30/2012)

Northumbria University (UK) researchers are developing "self-healing" concrete that uses a ground-borne bacteria, bacilli megaterium, to eliminate cracks in concrete. The bacteria creates calcite, a crystalline form of natural calcium carbonate that can be used to block concrete's pores, preventing water and other damaging substances from entering the concrete, prolonging the life of concrete structures. The bacteria feeds on a broth of yeast, minerals, and urea that can be added to concrete, causing the bacteria to breed and spread, acting as a filler to seal cracks and prevent deterioration. The researchers hope that it will lead to a cost-effective cure for "concrete cancer," which may be caused by the swelling and breaking of concrete, and is estimated to cause billions of dollars worth of damage to buildings. While additional research is needed, Dr. Alan Richardson, a Senior Lecturer in Construction in the School of the Built and Natural Environment, says he is hopeful that the repair mortar will be effective on existing structures. "This project is hugely exciting. The potential is there to have a building that can look after itself," says Dr. Richardson.
Free Web Link, May Require Registration

Straying from Convention
Architectural Record (05/12) Bernstein, Fred A.

After decades of being criticized, New York's Jacob K. Javits Conventions Center is set for a $463 million renovation that will emphasize the building's strengths, by preserving its once-revolutionary space frame, while bringing significant aesthetic, organizational, and environmental improvements. However, the future of the building is not secure as New York governor Andrew Cuomo wants to replace it with a 3 million-plus square foot facility at Aqueduct Racetrack, because the 600,000 square foot Javits Center is too small for the largest conventions. The end result may be spending $463 million only to tear the building down and replace it with residential or commercial development. In convention centers, the current trend is not only that bigger is better, but better is better. Rob Svedberg, an associate principal at Atlanta-based Thompson, Ventulett, Stainback & Associates, says recent years have seen a significant change in convention center design, shifting from giant, hangar-like buildings, "box with docks" as they are called," to buildings with finishes similar to concert halls and hotel lobbies. Svedberg says people who travel to conventions want an authentic experience to to be in a real building. Some cities, like Las Angeles and Washington D.C., are looking to hotels to support new convention center construction. Todd Runkle, the managing director of Gensler’s Austin office, says having a large hotel, usually with a meeting space of its own, makes a significant difference in the success of a convention center, and that the revenue from the times large convention centers are full makes up for the times they sit empty.
Free Web Link, May Require Registration

Water

Vertical Shaft Machine Makes U.S. Debut in Seattle
Engineering News-Record (04/30/12) Newcomb, Tim

A vertical shaft machine will be used for the first time in the United States by the James W. Fowler Co., for a $32 million sewer upgrade in Seattle. The use of the technology came about after Seattle’s King County delayed the award of the contract to Fowler by a year and a half, which caused the company to lose its slurry-wall subcontractor. Fowler had to keep its bid price in order to keep the contract, so it began talking to Germany’s Herrenknecht about the vertical shaft machine. The machine is basically a micro-tunneling machine and digs water and soil out of a flooded shaft and allowing the addition of sections of caisson as the machine advances. Unlike traditional shaft construction with a crane, crews can get underneath the vertical shaft machine to remove a bolt or lodged rock. The technology will also allow a deeper caisson shaft than would traditional methods that only go as deep as about 80 feet. The technology is also more quiet and clean, running on city power and not diesel, avoiding the need to build a sound wall. It is an ideal option for small urban spaces and can excavate and line three to 15 feet per day.
Free Web Link, May Require Registration

A Good Alternative
Utility Contractor (04/12) Vol. 36, No. 4, P. 20; Happel, Randy

The utility installation landscape began changing with the introduction of innovative underground technologies, especially horizontal directional drilling (HDD), which is more cost-effective and creates less environmental impact than other forms of construction. The increasing popularity of HDD has encouraged more contractors to consider expanding their installation service offerings to include trenchless methodology. Tony Briggs, Director of Underground Solutions for Vermeer says that "HDD is a highly specialized installation method that requires operational knowledge, the right equipment and probably most important... experienced drill operators." He adds that while offering HDD creates additional opportunities, it requires diligent planning in order to be effective. A good place for contractors to begin is to identify the types of utility installation jobs their company is best suited for, or has the most experience completing, then define their capabilities, which will help in targeting projects, as well as in selecting the most suitable HDD equipment. Once the type and magnitude of utility projects has been determined, the next step is to identify equipment that is best suited for specific projects, and Briggs notes that "Contractors should not shy away from tapping into [the] experience and knowledge" offered by HDD equipment manufacturers, local retailers, and manufacturer representatives, but should "start putting it to work effectively within their own company." Though the various pieces of equipment are important, the most important component really is the drill operator(s), as the equipment will only be as good as the individual handling it, so companies will find that the importance of invest in a talents operate cannot be overstates.
Free Web Link, May Require Registration

New York DEP Completes Construction on Nitrogen Reduction Facility
WaterWorld (04/01/12) Vol. 28, No. 4, P. 31

The construction of a $2 million carbon addition facility at the 26th Ward Wastewater Treatment Plant was completed by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. This facility will reduce the amount of nitrogen discharged into Jamaica Bay by over 3,000 pounds a day, and is part of a series of investments for nitrogen reduction totaling $115 million that hope to reduce the discharge by over 50 percent in 10 years. Other improvements are underway at the Jamaica Wastewater Treatment Plant, and improvements are scheduled to begin at the Cone Island Wastewater Treatment Plant and the Rockaway Wastewater Treatment Plant. Of these improvements, the first is scheduled to be operational in 2015, with the rest to be completed by 2020. In addition to these investments, the city has committed $95 million to nitrogen control upgrades and the DEP has invested $770 million in nitrogen reduction measures at four wastewater treatment plants in the Upper East River.
Free Web Link, May Require Registration

WaterSMART Funding Boosts Reclamation, Re-Use and Efficiency Projects to Maximize Water Availability in the West
U.S. Department of the Interior (05/02/12) Fetcher, Adam ; Soeth, Peter

The Bureau of Reclamation is providing $32.2 million in WaterSMART (Sustain and Manage America’s Resources for Tomorrow) Water and Energy Efficiency Grants and Title XVI Projects and Feasibility Studies to conserve water and energy in the western United States. “Strong partnerships are crucial to creating a sustainable water and energy supply,” says Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar. “The WaterSMART program is designed to foster local partnerships and support innovative solutions to the water challenges of the future. This funding will not only help ensure a stable water supply for businesses and local residents but also create jobs, enhance the environment and strengthen local economies.” Projects were also selected for securing local water supplies and reducing dependence on imported water sources. The bulk of the funding, $20.3 million was awarded to eight congressionally-authorized Title XVI Water Reclamation and Reuse projects. Nearly $1 million will go to fund eight feasibility studies exploring water-recycling projects. Seven of the projects and seven of the studies are located in California, with the other study and project located in Texas. Another $11 million will fund 34 new WaterSMART Water and Energy Efficiency Grants for improving the water and energy use at existing facilities in 11 states. Since 2010, the WaterSMART program has provided $118 competitively awarded grants to non-federal partners including tribes, water districts, municipalities, and universities.
Free Web Link, May Require Registration

Transportation

Illinois, Indiana and Michigan to Move Forward on Critical Midwest High Speed Rail Study
Department of Transportation News Release (05/04/12) Thompson, Kevin

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the commission of a comprehensive study to increase train speed along the Chicago-to-Detroit high-speed rail corridor. The Chicago to Detroit line is part of the Midwest Regional Rail Network, which is located in one of five most densely populated mega-regions with the vast majority of the 100 million people living in the Midwest, living within 500 miles of the Chicago rail hub. Alleviating the area’s congestion with safe, fast, affordable high-speed rail will help create jobs, and increase economic opportunities. The study, which will focus on reducing passenger travel time and efficiently moving freight through the corridor, is funded by a $3.2 million grant from the Federal Railroad Administration and $200,000 each from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Norfolk Southern. “This is an important step toward achieving higher speeds along the entire Chicago-to-Detroit rail corridor and improving the flow of freight to the east coast," said Secretary LaHood. “Eliminating bottlenecks will boost the economy by reducing delays and allow for the freer flow of both people and goods throughout the region.” Following progress by Michigan in achieving 110 mph service from Porter to Kalamazoo, the study will focus on linking a double track passenger main to the 110 mph service at Porter.
Free Web Link, May Require Registration

Mobility of Visually Impaired Pedestrians Crossing Behavior and Assistive Design/Technologies at Signalized Pedestrian Crossings
ITE Journal (04/12) Vol. 82, No. 4, P. 33; Ping, Koh Puay; Diew, Wong Yiik; Menon, A.P. Gopinath

Visually impaired pedestrians (VI pedestrians) cannot rely on the conventional visual cues for pedestrians at signalized pedestrian crossings and need different assistive measures to help them cross. Technologies such as audible pedestrian signals (APS), tactile floor tiles, and others are available to help them navigate walking trips. APS is the most popular and simplest non-visual device, which communicates information to VI pedestrians using audible tones and/or vibrations. This device is used in many countries, though it a nuisance by nearby residents when the audible tones function during quiet hours. A trial was held in Singapore using a "tap-as-you-use" technology to activate APS after normal operating hours to see if this could balance the needs of both pedestrians and residents. Seven trail subjects where chosen between the ages of 21 and 64 who were either totally blind or had low vision, and used a white can as the primary assistive device. The subjects had minimal difficulties locating the traffic light pole without the locator tone, and no trouble tapping their activation card on the top of the car reader above the push button. All subjects heard the acknowledgement sound after tapping, and minimal start-off delay after the walk signal was given, and were able to cross the roadway in good time without leaving pedestrian crossing lines. All seven subjects agreed that the "tap-as-you-use after operating hours" was a good concept and noted that they felt it could lead to greater independence for VI pedestrians.
Free Web Link, May Require Registration

Stronger Magnet
Roads & Bridges (04/12) Vol. 50, No. 4, P. 12; Ziemianski, Daniel J.

Buffalo, N.Y.'s Main Street was the site of various problems, including vehicle traffic vying with bike and pedestrian traffic, few crosswalks, unstable sidewalks, and practically nonexistent landscaping. Many of these issues were resolved as a result of the $31 million redesign and reconstruction of the thoroughfare over seven years. The construction project was split into three phases, including two roadway reconstruction phases that each encompassed about half of the project's 3.3-mile length to help keep disruption to a minimum. All utility work was finished prior to the commencement of roadwork, and a segment of the preliminary utility phase entailed the separation of the combined storm water and sanitary sewage in the North Buffalo system, which required the creation of a storm water outlet within the project corridor. Reconstruction work was split into sections of around 1,000 feet each, where half of the street was dug up to the subgrade and curbing, light poles, signage, sidewalks, and appurtenances were taken out. The section was then rebuilt up to the asphalt binder course. The reconstruction of major intersections was undertaken with concrete pavement rather than asphalt to extend service longevity. To determine the optimal method for moving traffic safely and efficiently through the corridor, engineers developed fine-grained computer models. A cutting-edge traffic-control system was installed, in addition to enhanced turning lanes at major intersections, channelizing islands, lane reconfigurations, and many other measures, which moved traffic at a slower pace but also shrank delays at intersections. To make Main Street more aesthetically friendly as well as conducive to biking and walking, the replacement of sidewalks with an exposed aggregate mix was implemented, as was the substitution of snow-storage strips with red-tinted concrete with a block stone pattern and gray release. In addition, crosswalks were replaced and at some sites newly installed with stamped concrete in a red brick pattern.
Free Web Link, May Require Registration

Transit Bridge: Catch a TIGER
Transportation Management & Engineering (04/12) Vol. 17, No. 2, P. 12; Carey, Richard H.

The first project funded by a federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant was completed four months ahead of schedule and provided needed improvements that would allow New Bedford, Mass. to grow. Three railway freight bridges in the city, the Deane Street, Sawyer Street, and Coggeshall Street rail bridges, had been built in 1907 and suffered such deterioration that only light freight loads could cross at a maximum speed of 5 mph. The TIGER application was intensely competitive, and requested "shovel-ready projects," and solid evidence that the project's enhancement to transportation would bring smart growth and economic benefit to the region. In order to meet the requirements, VHB had to have the design for the reconstruction of these bridges completed under an aggressive schedule, and plans had to be made for an aggressive construction schedule, as the project was required to be substantially completed by February 2012 to earn the funding. VHB also had to take part in a comprehensive coordination and negotiation process with the EPA and MassCoastal,in order to implement a shut down of the freight service to reduce costs and time for the project, as well as collaborate with New Bedford to close two urban connectors for extended periods during demolition. When the project granted just over 60 percent of the project's estimate cost, VHB began to redesign the almost 90 percent complete project to fit the smaller budget with a tiered approach. Construction began in October 2010, was completed in October 2011, four months ahead of schedule, and the ribbon cutting was help in late Nov. 2011.

Other

Fresh Raids Target Illegal Hiring
Wall Street Journal (05/02/12) Jordan, Miriam

The Department of Homeland Security has ordered hundreds of companies to submit their hiring records in an effort to crack down on the hiring of illegal immigrants. The first "silent raids" of the year have not been publicly announced by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the DHS agency that conducts these raids, but an ICE spokesperson recently confirmed that as of March 29, the agency had notified 500 businesses "of all sizes and types" to submit I-9 employment-eligibility forms and other documents. "These inspections will determine whether or not the businesses are complying with their employment-eligibility verification requirements," says ICE deputy press secretary Gillian Christensen. "No one industry is targeted, nor is any one industry immune from scrutiny." The government does not divulge the names of the companies under investigation. Since January 2009, the Obama administration has audited at least 7,533 employers suspected of hiring illegal immigrants, and has imposed about $100 million in administrative and criminal fines, which is more audits and penalties than were imposed during the last four years of the Bush administration. The largest penalty so far was levied against HerbCo International Inc., a Washington state supplier of organic herbs, which agreed to pay $1 million in fines for employing illegal immigrants and then rehiring some of those workers after an ICE audit last year. The audits are most visible when conducted against high-profile fast-food chains, hotels, and agricultural businesses, but inspections have also affected light manufacturers, financial-services firms, and the garment industry. "The expanding rate and reach of I-9 audits is starting to chip away at the perception that only the most egregious employers are at risk of an enforcement action by ICE," says Julie Myers, who was chief of ICE under the Bush administration. "Companies in all industries need to be vigilant." However, some industries are extremely reliant on illegal immigrant workers, particularly the agricultural industry. "An audit would force us to fire 70 percent to 80 percent of our workers," says Fred Leitz, a fourth-generation Michigan farmer employing 250 seasonal workers. "The people working the fields and harvesting the crops that feed our nation need work authorization."





© Copyright 2012 INFORMATION, INC.