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Pittsburgh's Civil Engineering News Blog
ASCE Pittsburgh Section Honored Again with National Outstanding Large Section Award
Pittsburgh, PA – The Pittsburgh Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) received the 2016 Outstanding Large Section Award presented by the National office of ASCE. The national ASCE organization bestowed this award to the Pittsburgh Section for outstanding achievements in the areas of diversity and inclusion, community service, volunteer efforts, outreach, and advocacy of the profession.
“I have witnessed it firsthand; this group of people strives to be the best in every activity and every goal they endeavor to pursue. I enjoy observing the passion, enthusiasm, and step-up attitude that our officers, Board members, Institute Chairs and Committee leaders possess. Having an opportunity to work with so many outstanding professionals who take time out of their professional and personal lives to promote our section and its members makes me proud,” says Pittsburgh Section President, Patrick J. Sullivan, Jr., P.E., Principal, Civil & Environmental Consultants, Inc.
The Pittsburgh Section of ASCE has nearly 1,700 members, represents engineering and construction interests for communities throughout western Pennsylvania, and hosts over 50 local events per year. Signature events include the Annual Kick-off Dinner and Life Member Recognition Banquet in the Fall and the Engineers Week Awards Banquet each February. The Younger Member Forum inspires and informs the newest members of the profession, sharing experience and practical knowledge through networking and professional development events, while the Section’s five technical institutes also produce seminars and dinner events that provide the opportunity for all members to build and maintain their technical and professional skills while also earning Professional Development Hours. The Institutes represent major Civil Engineering branches:
ABOUT ASCE: Founded in 1852, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) (www.ASCE.org) represents more than 140,000 members of the civil engineering profession worldwide and is America's oldest national professional engineering society. ASCE's Mission is to provide essential value to our members and partners, advance civil engineering, and provide factual information to assist in the formulation of sound and responsible public policy. ASCE advances technology, encourages lifelong learning, promotes professional performance, develops leaders, and advocates infrastructure and environmental stewardship. For more information about the ASCE Pittsburgh Section, please see: www.asce-pgh.org.
By Pat Sullivan, P.E.
During my time at the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) National Convention in Portland, OR, I was able to attend the keynote address by Frans Johansson, international author of the best-selling books “The Medici Effect” and “The Click Point.” Mr. Johansson, a Brown University graduate (BSCE in Environmental Science), popularized the term “Medici Effect.” “The Medici Effect is the result of the phenomenon that happened in Florence, Italy when diverse concepts, cultures, and disciplines intersected, leading to one of Europe's most creative eras, the Renaissance. This ‘intersection’ is where groundbreaking innovation happens.”
Mr. Johansson, is the founder of The Medici Group, a firm that specializes in mentoring and advising corporations on “how to innovate and grow, even when the rules are changing; develop next-generation leaders that can execute, even in the face of uncertainty; and create a self-sustaining culture of innovation that can withstand even the most volatile markets”.
At the National Convention, Mr. Johansson’s topic was “Diversity Drives Innovation”. Mr. Johansson states that diverse teams develop and create exponentially more ideas than teams comprised of personnel with the same experience, background and thought process.
A few examples of diverse thinking and innovation are as follows:
BREAK NEW GROUND
An architect was tasked to design a seven-story apartment building in Zimbabwe. The temperatures in Zimbabwe can exceed 100 degrees F in summer months, so the building needed to be air-conditioned. But the cost of providing this service would make the apartments unaffordable. While walking through the proposed area, the architect spotted an anthill. He thought, “How can ants survive with the sun beating on the surface of their home.” After some research, he discovered that ants use a series of tunnels to cool air from outside, distribute the air throughout the anthill, and discharge warm air from the top. The architect then developed a design that utilized the same process, thereby eliminating the need for air conditioning to provide moderate temperatures in the apartment.
COME UP WITH IDEAS TO CHANGE THE GAME
In order for a specialized surgical team in the United Kingdom to properly and efficiently perform an operation, each member of the team has a specific purpose and must be able to move accordingly within the operating area to complete their responsibility. The surgical team met with members of a McLaren Formula 1 pit team. There are similarities in the two methods of organization. The pit crew knows where and when they need to be at a specific location during a pit stop. The surgical team studied the movements and their practices, and became more efficient in their profession.
A woman of Muslim heritage moved to a beach side town in Australia, where the population is traditionally non-Muslim. She wanted to swim, but could not wear a conventional swimsuit because of her religious beliefs. She invented a burqini, a full body swimsuit with a hood for covering her hair and of a color matching Islamic beliefs.
EXECUTE FAST AND SMALL
An entrepreneur named Yngve Bergqvist wanted to popularize the winter season for tourists in his hometown of Jukkasjarvi, Sweden, north of the Arctic Circle. He created a series of outdoor ice exhibits, and then added additional exhibits from artists across the world to create a snow gallery. He staged his snow gallery in an igloo. When someone new to Sweden asked if they could spend the night in the igloo, something Yngve did not think would be desirable, he created the Icehotel, a CO2 negative building, where you can sleep in a room hewn from ice at a temperature of 20 degrees F. It is one of the most popular destinations in Sweden.
These examples urge you to look for and come up with ideas that change the game. Be flexible, rethink standard practices, and ask “Why do we do it this way?” Buy a magazine that you would never buy or subscribe to, preferably that is outside of your expertise and look at the ideas that they have in their field. Ask yourself the question, “Can any of those ideas be applicable to the field of Civil Engineering?”
More ideas are a significant predictor of innovative success. So pay attention to surprise and the unexpected. It may lead to amazing innovation.
By Vishal Patel, Edited by Brian Heinzl
More than 50 ASCE members and guests gathered at the Gaetano’s Restaurant on Thursday, December 8th for an ASCE Pittsburgh Section Geo-Institute Chapter meeting. As part of the meeting, Dr. Andrew Bunger, professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, presented the lecture “How Hydraulic Fracturing Changed an Industry and How Research is Changing Hydraulic Fracturing.” The presentation focused on hydraulic fracturing technology for stimulation of oil and gas recovery over the past seven decades and its current on-going research.
Technology for hydraulic fracturing has evolved over nearly seven decades. Most recently it has been credited with unlocking vast resources that were previously uneconomical to produce. In doing so, hydraulic fracturing has revolutionized the industry and become one of the most influential innovations of our current century.
The engineering and innovation involved in today’s approach to hydraulic fracturing is intertwined with the decade old origins. Dr. Bunger talked briefly talked about the historical strives and advancement made in hydraulic fracturing technology. He also talked about the on-going research at the University of Pittsburgh regarding how to effectively stimulate a 5,000 to 10,000 feet of horizontally-drilled wellbore that are in many cases 40% ineffectively stimulated.
The presentation illustrated how an understanding of hydraulic fracturing mechanics, developed through the use of hydraulic fracturing models, has led to a proposed way forward with the potential to drastically reduce unstimulated sections of wellbore with a subtle, no-cost modification of standard practice.
The Geo-Institute Chapter was happy to be able to provide free drinks in a great venue, and of course, one (1) PDH for the presentation. Be sure to check the ASCE Pittsburgh website for more fun and informative Geotechnical Institute events in the future at: http://www.asce-pgh.org
By Linda Kaplan, PE
On November 10th-12th, 2016, I had the opportunity to represent ASCE-Pittsburgh at this year’s Emerging Leaders Alliance Conference in Falls Church, VA. The opening session was titled: “Personal Vision: Becoming an Indispensable Leader” and was given by Bob Heavers of Priority Management. The overall conference goal was to developing better leaders, and started with asking participants to take a closer look at what’s important to them and how they can be fully engaged as individuals. We all want to be “successful,” but everyone has a different idea of what that means.
How do you define success? Most people will come up with a goal-based definition – I’m successful when I accomplish a set goal. However, most will also recognize that they can be successful without accomplishing the goal, as long as they made progress. This leads to the definition of success given by Mr. Heavers as “little more than moving, at whatever pace you choose, in the direction of things that are most important to YOU.” Therefore, the first step in being successful is determining what is most important to you.
So how do you define what’s important to you? One way to do this is through the use of a Personal Balance Wheel. Most of life can be simplified into 7 basic categories:
While this is certainly not a complete list, and other subgroups could be developed, it covers the basics and allows for an easy method of self-reflection. Visualize these categories in a wheel, as shown below (or print out a copy if you’d like to try the exercise):
Each category is scaled 0 to 10, with zero at the center of the wheel representing “I spend no time on this part of my life,” and 10 at the outer edge representing “I spend a lot of time on this part of my life.” Draw a line across each section for where you think you are currently. Is your life balanced? Or are you spending too much time on certain areas and not enough on others? Now use a different color to draw a line across each section for where you would like to be. How big are the differences? This will allow you to see where you are failing yourself and where you should focus your energy to change.
While the numbers vary, it is believed that up to 80% of all illness and disease in the US is related to stress. Stress is a sign that your wheel may be out of balance and you should consider making a change. There is no need to make big changes all at once – drastic changes have been shown to be harder to maintain. Instead, strive to move your lines one step closer together and see where it takes you. You may begin to feel more successful by making just small changes in your life.
The above information was presented at the 2016 Emerging Leaders Alliance, co-sponsored by ASCE National. The Emerging Leaders Alliance is a partnership among leading engineering and science-based organizations that provides high quality leadership training. Their mission is to provide an interdisciplinary Leadership Conference for select professionals, promoting the development of great leaders to guide our professions in addressing the needs of people in the 21st century. Section Director Linda Kaplan, PE attended the conference and is sharing materials with our membership.
From ASCE-National, Edited by ASCE-Pittsburgh Government Relations
On Saturday, Dec. 10, the U.S. Senate passed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act, which included a Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) title by a vote of 78-21. The vote was one of the final acts of the 114th Congress. The House passed the same bill a few days earlier by a vote of 360-61. President Obama signed the bill into law on December 16th.
This bill had been months—and in some ways years—in the making. Since the beginning of this year, ASCE has been actively working on getting a water resources bill passed, and restoring it to a two-year cycle. In February, ASCE provided Congressional testimony before both the Senate and House on the importance of passing a new water resources bill. The final bill includes several ASCE priorities, includingthe creation of a High Hazard Dam Rehabilitation program and other important infrastructure programs, including authorization of 30 new projects for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. ASCE members sent nearly 5,000 emails to Capitol Hill urging passage during the final days of debate on the bill.
Those final few days before the bill’s passage were fraught with consternation as a provision inserted last minute to assist with drought relief to western states rattled environmentalists and the bill’s primary Democratic author, California Senator Barbara Boxer, who worried that water transfers could affect the health of fishery populations. Those concerns did peel off nearly two dozen democratic votes in the Senate, however, the bill ultimately passed with strong bipartisan support.
While Congress has vowed to pass a water resources bill every two years (the last one passed in 2014, but before that 2007) the authorization components of the bill still must be funded through annual appropriations. The 114th Congress concluded by passing a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government open and running through April 2017. This sort of stopgap funding measure is not the type of major injections of infrastructure investment necessary to reduce the estimated $1.6 trillion infrastructure funding gap that is expected by 2020. We are hopeful that the 115th Congress will work diligently to fund infrastructure programs and increase federal appropriations to important programs.
By Greg Holbrook, EIT
Greg Nault, PE, SE, a representative and engineer from Ductal Engineering, a component of LafargeHolcim, presented to the Pittsburgh SEI Chapter last month on Ultra-High Performance Concrete (UHPC), most specifically it’s applications in Bridge Structures. He discussed many of the advantages and disadvantages of the material, as well as best practices and applications.
One of the most notable differences between conventional concrete and UHPC is the compressive strength. UHPC has a capacity upward of 25,000 psi compared to a range of 4,000 – 6,000 psi for conventional concrete. UHPC also has post-cracking tensile strength of 1,200 psi compared to 0 psi for conventional. In addition to holding higher loads, this is also a very useful feature to consider for accelerated construction - as typical design strengths are achieved very quickly with some products reaching 14,000 psi compressive strengths in as little as 12 hours.
Another distinguishable advantage of the product is it’s durability due to a finer and denser pore structure as the cement hydrates. Its dense structure reduces permeability and potential corrosion of the reinforcement. Below is an image depicting two specimens, one of UHPC and one of conventional concrete, exposed to seawater in an abrasive environment for 10 months:
Another benefit of UHPC is a substantially reduced development length of reinforcement, which can be of great value in reducing the size of bridge joints. Additionally, this reduced development length can eliminate the need for hooked reinforcing bars in joints, which results in simpler detailing and easier construction methods. Typical joints and details for UHPC used in bridge joints are shown.
Due to its high compressive strength, UHPC structural components can be much smaller in size than their typical concrete (both precast or cast-in-place) counterparts. Here is a comparison of the different girders that can support the same loading:
While Ultra-High Performance Concrete does have many distinct advantages, it is important to account for some deterrents of the product. Most specifically the price of UHPC is substantially higher than conventional concrete in a direct volume comparison. However, it is important to note that less volume of UHPC is required for the same strength as typical concrete.
UHPC also requires batch mixing on-site and can only be done in small batches. Since it is a flowable material, it is necessary to be aware that large pours spanning long lengths of joints in bridge decks can create uplift pressure at the lower elevation points of the pour, which must be resisted by formwork. Specialty sub-contractors are typically necessary for this work.
The presentation served to bring awareness of Ultra-High Performance Concrete to structural engineers who may be considering this product as a potential option for upcoming projects. This is just an overview of some of the advantages and disadvantages of UHPC and it is important to contact vendors and engineers that are extremely knowledgeable in all the aspects of the product when determining its applicability for a project.
The Pittsburgh SEI Chapter is planning a presentation on the Accelerated Bridge Replacement of State Road 30 here in Pittsburgh, which used UHPC. This event will be held in the spring, and we encourage you to join us!
By Patt Sullivan, P.E., ASCE-Pittsburgh President
This past October, I represented the ASCE-Pittsburgh Section at the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) National Convention in Portland, OR.
The Keynote Speaker for the event was Frans Johansson, international best-selling author of the book “The Medici Effect” and “Click Moment”. Mr. Johansson spent an hour discussing the importance of diversity as a key driver in domestic and global innovative success. Look for an article on Mr. Johanssons’ presentation in a future blog.
The conference began with an opening plenary session and concluded with a general closing session and luncheon; sandwiched in between were nine concurrent technical sessions, each consisting of four to six sub-sessions of consistent themes. The themes, similar to last year’s conference consisted of the following ways civil engineers can take steps to maximize taxpayer value while simultaneously elevating industry outcomes and the professional as a whole:
ASCE is also supporting two initiatives in 2016-2017. The first is the “Raise the Bar” initiative, which seeks to advance the profession and the public welfare by actively supporting the national movement to raise educational requirements for licensure of future professional engineers. More information about it can be reviewed at the following website: http://www.asce.org/raise_the_bar/.
The second initiative, the “Grand Challenge,” calls upon all civil engineers to solve this problem: “Investments needed to improve our infrastructure continue to increase well beyond available funding. Find methods to 1) Significantly enhance the performance and value of infrastructure projects over their life cycles by 2025 and 2) Foster the optimization of infrastructure investments for society”.
To address this, ASCE is asking civil engineers to do the following:
You can learn more at the following website: http://www.asce.org/grand-challenge/
The opening reception Wednesday evening featured the foods of Portland, an evening of networking and socializing, and a welcome from ASCE President Mark Woodson. The highlight of the evening was the premiere of the unedited version of the 45 minute movie produced by ASCE entitled “Dream Big.” The premiere of this movie is scheduled for February 17, 2017 in the Imax theatre at the Carnegie Science Center. To get excited about the future that our youth can bring to civil engineering and some of the spectacular projects we have constructed across the world, watch this two minute trailer: http://www.asce.org/dream-big/
Informational and project-related sessions attended during the three-day event explored topics such as
The ASCE Convention is the Society flagship membership event. It is the single annual opportunity for which the entire Society is represented together, and it reflects the diversity that ASCE encompasses. I was honored to represent our Section this year, and encourage you all to consider being a part of next year’s annual event in New Orleans on October 8th - 11th, 2017.
“Raise the Bar” is one of three Strategic Initiatives set by the National office of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). According to National, “The Raise the Bar initiative seeks to ensure that those who practice engineering as licensed professionals (PEs) in the future have attained the body of knowledge necessary to protect the public health, safety, and welfare. Since entry into professional practice is regulated by state engineering licensure laws, the Raise the Bar initiative aims to amend state law so that additional education beyond the bachelor’s degree—a master’s degree or an equivalent 30 credits of graduate or upper-level undergraduate courses—is required of those who become licensed engineers in the future.”
The case for additional education requirements is strong and well represented by the following series of graphics:
Engineering used to be one of the most highly education intensive professions. However, over the past 100 years the engineering education requirements have been surpassed by those of other licensed professions. Many have expressed concern that increasing the education requirements will drive the “best and brightest” from choosing engineering as a profession. This is not the case in other licensed professions, and the fear is without factual support. In fact, the opposite effect may be seen: by “raising the bar,” engineering will gain prestige as a profession that clearly competes with medicine and law.
So why not just increase the credit hours required for the Bachelor’s Degree?
The total number of credit hours required for a degree is set by those outside of the engineering profession. State governments are often the decision making party, mandating a maximum number of credit hours for a degree in publicly funded universities – regardless of what that degree is in. To maintain enrollment, privately funded universities have followed the policy of the publicly funded universities, so the issue is universal. Additionally, the credit hours earned for an engineering Bachelor’s degree now have a higher percentage of non-technical content. While such non-technical content is essential to developing high quality engineering graduates able to advocate for and communicate their work to others, the technical content has diminished as a result. To protect the public, technical engineering education requirements that have been deleted in the baccalaureate degree must now be required in post-graduate education to earn the professional status of Professional Engineer (PE).
Pages in an engineering or building code are one example of how much the body of knowledge has expanded. New technology has provided more material for students to master.
Examples of technical knowledge that is often expected of entry level engineers today that wasn’t necessary in the past include:
These subjects are in addition to the core engineering mechanics foundation which we all know and love. Overall the profession has “more to know and less time to learn it.”
The process to update the licensure laws is long and takes many years to accomplish. No one with a current license, or even currently enrolled in an engineering education program, will be impacted by these proposed changes. The first step in this process is to build relationships with state government public policy makers and gain their support for the Raise the Bar initiative. Establishing a “licensing board liaison” within the state is one action that will enable efficient flow of information from professionals to those public policy makers who govern the professional practice requirements.
ASCE has identified a few states that have shown interest in moving forward to Raise the Bar. At this time, no legislation has been brought up for vote on the initiative. Currently, the focus is on New Jersey where legislation is anticipated within a couple years. ASCE estimates that 5 years may pass before the first state laws change, and another 3-5 after that before the second state changes. Research reveals that when 7 states adopt a change, an initiative has reached “critical mass”, and other states start to follow more quickly. Estimates on getting to critical mass for Raise the Bar are around 15 years.
The Raise the Bar initiative is about the future. Society will continue to expect more from its engineers and we need to be prepared to provide it. The current engineering education has served us well, and no one is questioning the ability of currently licensed professionals to perform their jobs well. But we recognize that the world and industry are changing and that future engineers need to be equipped with a larger Body of Knowledge to continue to serve at the same level of expertise and public safety, and cost-effectiveness that we presently achieve.
On September 9 & 10, 2016, Pittsburgh Section Members Azekah Griffiths, P.E. of FZA, LLC and Linda Kaplan, P.E. of TRC attended the Raise the Bar Advocate/Champion Workshop in St Louis, Missouri. Twenty ASCE members attended from the contiguous United States. The objective of the workshop was to train attendees on how to communicate the Raise the Bar for Engineering initiative in their home state to ensure that accurate information is provided both to ASCE members, public policy makers and other interested parties.
ASCE has many good resources available in a Raise the Bar tool kit. To learn more or contribute your expertise, contact Azekah and Linda, both of whom are familiar with these resources and are available to answer additional questions about Raise the Bar. The section is actively seeking interested parties to help move this initiative forward.
By Sam Shamsi, PhD, PE,
Located in Richland Township, PA (about 20 miles north of Pittsburgh) and home to the Falk School of Sustainability, Chatham University's Eden Hall Campus is far more than a 388-acre plot of land. It's the embodiment of a commitment Chatham makes every day to support sustainability and environmental education. At Eden Hall, the campus doesn't just house classrooms, it is the classroom. The 20- to 25-year development plan for the residential campus aims to:
On October 24, 2016 the Section’s Continuing Education Committee provided an opportunity to see these sustainable facilities. As the Section’s Continuing Education Committee Chair and a Director, I attended the event along with dozens of other people. The event began with a guided walking tour of the campus led by the Dean of Falk School of Sustainability, Dr. Peter Walker himself.
Eden Hall’s Stormwater Management is especially unique, and earned the ASCE-Pittsburgh’s 2015 Sustainability Award in the annual Engineers Week Awards Banquet held on February 20, 2016.
Eden Hall’s Stormwater is managed by:
The collected rainwater is then utilized for crop irrigation. Eden Hall also treats wastewater onsite through a six-step process that mimics nature. The system can handle up to 6,000 gallons each day. Read more here.
Following the tour, I delivered a lecture on Green Stormwater Infrastructure. The attendees and I discussed both the opportunities and challenges of green infrastructure, and I related them to region’s interest in using green solutions for solving local wet weather problems such as combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and flooding. Our first canon of ASCE’s Code of Ethics requires compliance with the principles of sustainable development. I encouraged the audience to share their green infrastructure concerns, and challenged the civil engineers to address those issues. Civil Engineers, after all, are the best problem solvers. They believe every challenge is an opportunity in disguise.
The lecture was followed by a panel discussion. The expert panel included the following members:
The lively panel discussion conducted by these distinguished members included a variety of perspectives on sustainable development.
The panel discussion was followed by audience questions, which led to a thought-provoking discussion among attendees and panel members. The event was concluded by a buffet dinner prepared onsite by Eden Hall’s chef Chris using ingredients from Eden Hall’s own certified organic farm. No disposable tableware were used. In fact, a disposable plastic water bottle I brought with me magically disappeared somewhere!
For questions or comments, please contact event organizer and chair of Continuing Education committee Sam Shamsi at firstname.lastname@example.org
More than 30 ASCE members and guests gathered at the Bettis Grille Restaurant on Friday, September 23rd for a ASCE Pittsburgh Section Geo-Institute (GI) Chapter meeting. As part of the meeting, Dr. Timothy D. Stark, Ph.D., P.E., D.GE., F.ASCE, presented the lecture “Stability of Natural and Man-made Slopes.” The presentation focused on the March 22, 2014 Landslide near Oso, Washington, discussing the geotechnical aspects of the slide and its potential triggers.
This major and tragic landslide exhibited some interesting geo-mechanical behavior, including a runout of over one mile from the base of the slope that devastated the adjacent Steelhead Haven Community. The presentation focused on the events that occurred before the landslide, the triggering of the landslide, and the initiation and run out of the landslide. Dr. Stark focused on the geotechnical investigation (field investigation, lab testing, and analysis) after the landslide to determine the triggering mechanism of the 2014 landslide, as well as the shear strength and dynamic analysis used to explain the flow slide volume and runout distance. The results provided a better understanding of risk and hazard assessment of this landslide.
The Pittsburgh Section GI was also honored to have Mr. Brad Keelor, the National Director of the Geo-Institute, attend our meeting. Mr. Keelor introduced himself to the audience and provided brief remarks regarding goals being pursued at the national level. We appreciate the interest and support of National GI members at our local functions. The Geo-Institute Chapter provided 1.0 PDH for the presentation along with great venue for social hour.
Following the conclusion of the presentation and network-building hour at Bettis Grille, many attendees including Dr. Stark and his wife were able to attend the YMF’s Pirate tailgate and the baseball game. The following day Dr. Stark acknowledged our hospitality by sending a note: “Thanks for a really enjoyable day, which was capped off by a "Walk-Off Win" in the 11th!!!! Great game!!!”
A special thanks goes out to all of the GI and YMF committee members for making this a successful event.