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Rocks Roads Ripples N'At: 

Pittsburgh's Civil Engineering News Blog

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  • 03 Oct 2014 6:29 PM | Djuna Gulliver

    For the third year in a row, the Pittsburgh Younger Member Forum teamed up with the Keystone-Mountain-Lakes Carpenter’s Union to enter the annual CANstruction Pittsburgh competition.

    This year’s entry “Send Hunger to the Land of Make Believe” was a replica of King Friday the Thirteenth’s castle from Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, and was our most ambitious design yet. Constructed over the course of six hours by Karen Mueser, Linda Kaplan, Paroma Saha and Nicholle Piper of the YMF and Rick Okraszewski and Dave Plutt of the Carpenter’s Union, the castle was eight feet wide, seven feet deep and eight feet tall. The castle was comprised of a black bean curtain wall, a keep made of great northern beans, and towers comprised of pinto beans, garbanzo beans, and chicken and vegetable broth had battlements of sauerkraut and tuna fish - sure to keep out invaders if by the smell alone!

    Perhaps the best part of CANstruction is the cause. All of the cans used in the structure were donated to our food bank partner, The Brashear Association, which is located in Pittsburgh’s Southside. With more than 2,500 cans of food weighing over 2,200 pounds, the castle will provide many meals for the families of Pittsburgh and we are pleased to be donating so much good food to the members of our community that need it.

    While CANstruction is ultimately a food charity, there is a healthy dose of competition between the teams and six awards from the ‘Best Use of Labels’ to ‘Fan Favorite’ were up for grabs. This year, “Send Hunger to the Land of Make Believe” won the 2014 award for “Best Meal” for our suggested recipe of a Tuna Salad Sandwich and Four Bean Soup.

    We would like to extend a special thanks to everyone that donated to the project including: friends, family, and members of the ASCE Pittsburgh Section, Giant Eagle Parkway Center, Massaro Corporation, Carnegie Mellon University Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, The Greater Pennsylvania Regional Carpenters Unions, DiGioia Gray & Associates, and American Geotechnical and Environmental Services, Inc.

    For more information on CANstruction please contact team captain Karen Mueser at You can also check out the CANstruction Pittsburgh website at

  • 30 Sep 2014 5:01 PM | Djuna Gulliver

    To celebrate AISC’s National Steel Day the Pittsburgh SEI Chapter hosted a construction site tour of the Scott Hall project on Carnegie Mellon University’s (CMU) campus.

    When finished, this 100K SF building will house wet and dry laboratories, collaborative and office spaces, a cafe, and a 10K SF cleanroom facility.  This impacted the design of the building significantly as vibration requirements for the cleanroom and laboratory spaces were very strict. 

    Preceding the tour, a brief overview of the project was presented as well as a look at some of the more unique structural design challenges.  The project site sits in the back of CMU’s campus on a steep hillside leading down to active railroad tracks.  The building is cantilevered out over the hillside and supported on diagonally splayed steel columns.  Each column is outfitted with multiple strain gages to allow for continual monitoring of the building.  Building floor plans had to be designed as trusses in order to resolve all forces from the columns, resulting in unusual framing and connection designs.

    The structure is designed to tie into four other campus buildings, creating a connecting hub for many of CMU’s engineering departments.  To accomplish this, a portion of the building is being constructed under the main campus level in a previous service entrance area.  Main campus walkways will then extend over this portion of the structure creating new green roof space.  The cleanrooms will be housed in the area under the green roof. Construction is expected to be completed Winter 2015.

    Project manager Max Dorosa led the tour with the assistance of project structural engineers Matt Larson and Daniel Brodkin from Arup USA.  For more information on the project, final design renderings, and up-to-date progress photos check out the project website at

    For more information on SEI Pittsburgh Activities, contact Sonya Flournoy, at

  • 30 Sep 2014 4:50 PM | Djuna Gulliver

    Identifying streams and wetlands protected under the Clean Water Act became confusing and complex following the Supreme Court decisions of 2001 and 2006.   For nearly a decade, members of Congress, state and local officials, industry, agriculture, environmental groups, and the public have asked for rulemaking to provide clarity.

    The EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers published a proposed new rule on April 21, 2014, defining the scope of waters protected under the Clean Water Act as WOTUS, or the Waters of the US in the Federal Register.  The proposed rule can be reviewed at:

    Specifically, the proposed rule clarifies that under the Clean Water Act:

           Most seasonal and rain-dependent streams are protected.

           Wetlands near rivers and streams are protected.

           Other types of waters may have more uncertain connections with downstream water and protection will be evaluated through a case specific analysis of whether the connection is or is not significant. However, to provide more certainty, the proposal requests comment on options protecting similarly situated waters in certain geographic areas or adding to the categories of waters protected without case specific analysis.

    The proposed rule is consistent with the Supreme Court's more narrow reading of Clean Water Act jurisdiction and also regulates groundwater.  It does not protect any new types of waters that have not historically been covered under the Clean Water Act.  It also proposes to reduce jurisdiction and exclude certain ephemeral and intermittent ditches.

    EPA estimates the proposed rule would annually provide $388 million to $514 million of benefits to the public, including flood reduction, pollution filtration, provisions for wildlife habitat, hunting and fishing support, and groundwater recharge.  Public benefits significantly outweigh the annual costs of about $162 million to $278 million for stream/wetland mitigation and waterway pollution reduction.

    The public comment period on the proposed rule will close on Monday, October 20, 2014.  ASCE strongly urges its members to submit your comments, identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2011-0880 by one of the following methods:

    • Federal eRulemaking Portal:
    • Email: Include EPA-HQ-OW-2011-0880 in the subject line of the message.
    • Mail: Send the original and three copies of your comments to: Water Docket, Environmental Protection Agency, Mail Code 2822T, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20460, Attention: Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2011-0880.
    • Hand Delivery/Courier: Deliver your comments to EPA Docket Center, EPA West, Room 3334, 1301 Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20460, Attention Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2011-0880. Such deliveries are accepted only during the Docket's normal hours of operation, which are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding legal holidays. Special arrangements should be made for deliveries of boxed information. The telephone number for the Water Docket is 202-566-2426.

  • 23 Sep 2014 8:20 PM | Djuna Gulliver

    Welcome to the new ASCE-Pittsburgh News Blog-Rocks Roads Ripples n’At.  

    On September 4th, 2014, the ASCE-Pittsburgh Board of Directors voted to convert the monthly newsletter to a weekly blog format.  This move is part of a continuing effort to make important information readily accessible, searchable, and interactive for current and future Pittsburgh Section ASCE members, public policy makers, news media, and advertisers.

    Rocks Roads Ripples n’At will convey the usual newsletter information, as well as additional event photos and personal member profiles.  The blog format will allow frequent updates on government relations, legislative developments, and other areas of interest to our members.  The format encourages comments and discussion on new and archived articles.

    Newsletters will continue to be printed until the end of December, 2014.

    The transition from newsletter to blog format is expected to encounter some challenges.  However, with patience and continued support from our members, we hope the new format will allow larger outreach to fellow engineers and interested followers.

    We hope you enjoy the blog, and look forward to your discussions on future posts.

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