ACEC NewsLine
November 14, 2018

Headlines

Energy

"Americans Got to Vote on Lots of Energy Measures in 2018 – and Mostly Rejected Them"
"Clean Energy Is Surging, but Not Fast Enough to Solve Global Warming"
"Making Wind Farms More Efficient"
"Report: US on Track for Record Coal Retirements in 2018, With More on the Way"

Land/Buildings

"3 Robots Mechanizing Construction Sites, Plus 3 to Watch"

Transportation

"Elon Musk Displays Boring Company's 'Disturbingly Long' LA Tunnel in Video on Twitter"
"Protecting the Linn Cove Viaduct of the Blue Ridge Parkway"
"‘Core Elements’ Defined by National Groups for Vision Zero Efforts"

Other

"Construction Bid Prices Accelerate in October but Contractors's Costs Rise Faster as Higher Materials and Labor Costs Pinch Margins"



Energy

Americans Got to Vote on Lots of Energy Measures in 2018 – and Mostly Rejected Them
The Conversation (11/09/18) Heutel, Garth

During Election Day, at least seven states had ballot initiatives that dealt with a variety of energy issues. While all of the ballot measures were defeated, voters also elected politicians that may revive the energy proposals in other ways. The trend is a sign that supporters of environmental and energy proposals may have more success supporting certain politicians instead of relying on the public. For example, a number of elected officials have shown interest in generating more energy from renewable resources. Others have established goals to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. These trends of action at the state level come as the federal government has not made energy and climate change a priority for the country.
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Clean Energy Is Surging, but Not Fast Enough to Solve Global Warming
New York Times (11/12/18) Plumer, Brad

Over the next 20 years the world is expected to get the majority of its energy from wind and solar generation. In contrast, consumption of oil and coal is expected to decline. However, experts say the rise of renewable energy is still not happening fast enough to avoid the impacts of global warming. This conclusion comes from an International Energy Agency report that predicted global energy trends to 2040. The report says wind and solar have benefited from falling prices. In fact, those two sources will provide 40 percent of the world's energy by 2040. However, to truly mitigate the effects of climate change nations will have to approve sweeping policy changes. According to the report, increased investment in energy efficiency, lowering methane leaks, and developing carbon capture technology are some of the efforts that need to be considered. The report authors note that governments will play an important role concerning the future of energy for the planet.
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Making Wind Farms More Efficient
Phys.org (11/07/18) Triesch, Carolyn

Researchers from Penn State Behrend and the University of Tabriz in Iran have developed an algorithm that can make wind farm designs more efficient. The researchers noted that to build more efficient wind farms designers must consider wind speed, turbine spacing, land size, geography, number of turbines, and more. Considering all of these factors can be challenging, but the researchers focused on "biogeographical-based optimization (BBO)." Essentially, BBO is based on how animals naturally distribute themselves to make the most of the environment to suit their needs. The researchers created a mathematical model from animal behavior, which allowed them to calculate the best distribution for other scenarios, such as turbine placement on a wind farm. The team from Penn State and the University of Tabriz improved on BBO models by including several additional sources of data. They say the outcome is a model that leads to wind farms that generate more energy and make better use of the land they are built on.
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Report: US on Track for Record Coal Retirements in 2018, With More on the Way
Greentech Media (11/01/18) Merchant, Emma

The U.S. will surpass a previous annual record of 14.7 gigawatts in coal retirements before the end of the year. That comes from a report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. The organization believes the trend of coal-fired power plant retirements will continue over the coming years. Currently, the U.S. coal fleet has 246 gigawatts of capacity. Experts predict that will decline by 15 percent between 2018 and 2024. The report says federal and state policy play a role in this trend. However, economics will be main drivers for retirements across 14 states. Other factors at play include cheap natural gas and renewable energy, which have made coal a more costly option. The Energy Information Administration expects coal-fired energy in the U.S. to fall to 27 percent of the country's energy mix by 2019.
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Land/Buildings

3 Robots Mechanizing Construction Sites, Plus 3 to Watch
Construction Dive (11/07/18) Cowin, Laurie

Robotic technology is relatively new to the construction industry, but it is already making substantial impacts. QY Research Inc. valued the global construction robotics market at $200 million in 2017. Construction Robotics has found a niche in the industry by using robots to handle repetitive jobs. Two examples are the company's Semi-Automated Mason (SAM) machine and the Material Unit Lift Enhancer. The SAM machine features a robotic arm that can spread mortar and lay bricks using a laser-guided system. Humans are still required, but only for reduced work like corners and around doors. Meanwhile, Advanced Construction Robotics, has created a robot that can tie rebar to form bridge decks. This robot can cut in half the labor hours needed to tie rebar. Companies are also working on robots that can monitor construction progress, install drywall, and handled heavy objects.
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Transportation

Elon Musk Displays Boring Company's 'Disturbingly Long' LA Tunnel in Video on Twitter
USA Today (11/05/18) Tobin, Ben

Elon Musk has posted a video to his Twitter account of the underground tunnel that he says will carry cars and people underneath Los Angeles. The test tunnel, built by the Boring Co., will test technology that will carry passengers at speeds up to 150 miles per hour. Musk said in October that the first tunnel should be open to the public on Dec. 10. He says the cost to ride the system will only be $1. Musk has proposed building more of the tunnels in Los Angeles and other parts of the country. One proposed tunnel loop would connect to Dodger Stadium. The Boring Co. was also asked to build one of the tunnels in Chicago between O'Hare International Airport and the downtown area.
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Protecting the Linn Cove Viaduct of the Blue Ridge Parkway
Roads & Bridges (11/18)

The Linn Cove Viaduct on the Blue Ridge Parkway was completed in 1987 and serves as a connection between the Shenandoah National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park systems. The asphalt on the roadway had fallen into poor condition and needed to be rehabilitated. Workers replaced the asphalt pavement and bridge joints. The work also included repairs to the supporting structure, granite curb, railing, and drainage features. The asphalt was also waterproofed using a high-performance, spray-applied waterproofing system. Pine Waterproofing & Sealant Inc. used the Bridge Preservation spray-applied waterproofing system to give the asphalt a longer lifespan and smoother driving surface. The system has the added benefit of a quick cure time and automated spray application, which results in a more even application. The successful waterproofing of the viaduct also provides added protection to a road that experiences seasonal weather conditions.
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‘Core Elements’ Defined by National Groups for Vision Zero Efforts
AASHTO Journal (11/09/18)

The Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) and the Vision Zero Network have released the definition of “Core Elements” for Vision Zero efforts aimed at eradicating highway fatalities. The Core Elements cover leadership and commitment; safe roadways and safe speeds; and data driven approaches. ITE Executive Director and CEO Jeffrey Paniati says, "ITE is committed to reducing the number of fatalities and serious injuries on our transportation system. We believe this new resource is an important addition to our previous efforts." The ITE also notes that it is involved in a number of Vision Zero programs and initiatives.
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Other

Construction Bid Prices Accelerate in October but Contractors's Costs Rise Faster as Higher Materials and Labor Costs Pinch Margins
Associated General Contractors of America (11/09/18)

Analysis of Department of Labor data shows that the price of non-residential buildings increased in October. The rise comes as contractors are trying recoup on the costs of labor and materials. Associated General Contractors of America Chief Economist Ken Simonson said, "Contractors and subcontractors raised their bid prices in November to make up for past cost increases, but the cost of goods and services that they buy rose even faster. That makes further bid-price increases likely but also implies some contractors will just stop bidding on projects where costs are too unpredictable to ensure they can be built profitably." He added that it is likely that tariffs on steel, aluminum, and Chinese imports is beginning to impact the cost of materials used by the construction industry. Officials also note that rising labor and material costs may undermine public-sector infrastructure investments in the future.
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