Rocks Roads Ripples N'At: 

Pittsburgh's Civil Engineering News Blog

  • 08 Oct 2015 9:16 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Article by Djuna Gulliver

    Dr. Peter Walker pointed to a grassy hillside, where he plans to keep the goats with a protective llama.  “It acts as kind of a guard dog against the coyotes,” he explains.  The backdrop of the grassy hillside is woodlands, where oyster mushrooms are cultivated.  A neat garden sits alongside, with crops such as perennials, hops, even rye for Wigle Whiskey.

    “We’ve had many students interested in the Wigle project,” comments Dr. Walker.

    In addition to the goats and llama, the property will one day be capable of hosting 1,500 students, with 64 residents in the first dorm.  The campus is Eden Hall, home to the Chatham University Falk School of Sustainability, of which Dr. Walker is Dean. Located just 30 minutes north of Pittsburgh, Eden Hall is a fully sustainable, almost off-the-grid campus, where students spend more time experimenting in the nearby woodlands and meadows than in the classroom.  “I really don’t want people in classrooms too much,” says Dr. Walker.  “You learn by doing. You learn by experiments.”

    For future students that dream to learn about sustainability by “doing,” Eden Hall is a rare campus that is built from the bottom up with sustainability in mind.  A simple walk through the campus demonstrates that full sustainability takes more than the occasional solar panel and heat-efficient windows.  Eden Hall incorporates a remarkable array of technologies that unite to make a self-sufficient campus.  What went into consideration when designing a campus completely around sustainability?

    System 1: Energy

    Dr. Walker points at a white pipe sticking out of the ground.  “I’ve never seen a sexy picture of a geothermal well,” he shrugs.  While the exposed pipe’s charms are debatable, it accesses an impressive underground piping system that helps to maintain indoor climate control. In the summer, the fluid within the pipes extract heat from the buildings, and runs that heat deep into the ground, where the temperature stays at a constant 50 - 60°F.  After the pipes are cooled to this below-surface temperature, the fluid is routed back to the buildings to extract more heat. 

    In winter, the system works in reverse, extracting the heat from deep underground and pumping warmed fluid back through the pipes to the chilly buildings.  As the fluid is cooled, it is routed underground again to warm back up.  Thus, to achieve the desired 72 °F indoors, the climate control system doesn’t need to heat up the building from frigid winter temperatures; it needs only to raise the temperature from the 50-60 °F baseline.

    Solar panels cover nearly every south-facing roof, generating the electricity that drives the heat pumps (for those last few degrees of winter climate control), the geothermal pumps, the lights and any electrical equipment.  On sunny days, excess energy is sold to the grid, while on cloudy days and at night, energy is pulled back. This system currently has a net positive energy balance: more energy is generated than is used.

    System 2: Water

    Water recycling undergoes an equally sophisticated process.  Stormwater runoff and grey water first enters an underground holding tank. Next, the water trickles through a charcoal filter and then through a biofilm membrane.  The water is then piped to marsh plants, where the roots absorb excess nutrients.  Finally, the water is piped through a sand filter and blasted with UV radiation.

    Unfortunately, while this water is safe to drink, regulation added a snag.  “Even though we can produce water that is clean enough to drink on campus, regulations would require us to chlorinate it,” Dr. Walker explains.  In other words, Eden Hall would have to be regulated as a city municipal water treatment establishment before water could be consumed.  “That seemed like overkill.”  Instead, the water treated on-site is recycled in the toilets and irrigation systems, and the drinking water is taken from the city supply.  While this regulatory catch is the only thing keeping Eden Hall from being entirely off the grid, Dr. Walker is not discouraged.  “I guess it goes with the territory of being pioneers,” he says.  “We are out ahead of the regulations!”

    System 3: Building

    “If you think in a place with big views, you think big ideas,” Dr. Walker declares.  Wooden, asymmetric frames are all built below the tree line and incorporated with large windows to let in plenty of natural light.  A dairy barn has been repurposed as a small coffee shop, which Dr. Walker is hoping will quickly become the neighborhood hot spot.  And in the center of the campus sits a large outdoor amphitheater, which currently hosts performances ranging from bluegrass concerts to opera shows.

    The campus is both aesthetically pleasing as well as practical.  The pavements are permeable to reduce stormwater runoff. Buildings are certified at the highest standard of the US Green Building Council, LEED Platinum.  The campus is not surrounded by traditional lawns, but with naturally growing meadows and wildflowers (to be kept trim by those goats).  “I don’t really believe in lawns,” says Dr. Walker, referring to the constant need for watering, fertilizing, and mowing of the favored suburban turf.

    System 4: Food

    A central part of the Eden Hall campus is the Food Studies program, which combines classroom learning with hands-on experimentation.  “The Food Studies program has been operating out of Eden Hall campus part-time since its inception in 2010,” says Dr. Alice Julier, program director of Chatham Food Studies program.  “It is integrally tied to Eden Hall because we get to practice what we preach.”

    Students can take courses on grains, specializing in everything from crop science to culinary processes to fermentation.  There are courses on sustainable meats that take you from pasturing to butchering.  Students can practice from start to finish the process of making cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products.  “Most recently, we developed a course on coffee,” Dr. Julier adds.  “Students look at both production and consumption with La Prima and other coffee roasters.  Our cafe will likely feature our Eden Hall blend, but we will also do outreach workshops on small batch roasting and tasting.”

    A happy result of the prominence of the Food Studies program is a campus food system that offers a farm-to-table experience that would make even noted local chef Kevin Sousa green with envy.  The goats on the grassy hillside will serve to both naturally keep the meadowland trim, and provide milk for cheese.  Trout will be caught from the aquaponics tanks set adjacent to the classrooms.  Seasonal fruits and vegetables will come straight from the students’ experimental garden, equipped with movable greenhouses to prevent overuse of the land.  One large greenhouse, the “solar tunnel,” is heated with solar panels and vegetables are grown year-round.

    System 5: Social

    “That’s the easy bit,” says Dr. Walker about the first four sustainable systems.  “What we’re dealing with now is moving this project we’ve built into a social program.”  While designing and building a completely sustainable campus was an accomplished feat, perhaps the more important aspect of sustainability is changing people’s behavior.  The Falk School of Sustainability aims to go further than just encourage students to recycle.  Student dorm rooms are equipped with sensors to warn students if they leave the windows open too long, allowing heating or cooling to escape the building.  And all kitchen spaces are communal.  This offers a chance for community bonding, but also saves on energy costs associated with individual hotplates and mini fridges.  “The first group of students are really going to be pioneers,” says Dr. Walker.

    Forging the fully sustainable campus was no easy task, and the project was initially estimated to cost $40 million.  This fall, the new Eden Hall campus is finally open for business.

    But perhaps the largest challenge is getting the word out to the targeted students that will appreciate the unique experience Eden Hall has to offer.  The Eden Hall campus is not for the average student, as it does not yet have the social clubs and community that a larger campus can offer.  Students looking for the college experience promised in movies like “Animal House”or “Rudy” may be better off taking classes elsewhere.  However, for students that want complete immersion in sustainability, and want to learn in the pastures and woodlands as well as the classroom, Eden Hall may be a once in a lifetime opportunity.


  • 24 Sep 2015 9:31 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Article by Sam Shamsi

    Definitely made! On October 15th, ASCE-PGH is proud to host the Dale Carnegie Leadership training.  It is specifically designed for new managers or those who will soon be a manager. They will learn how to develop high performance teams that get more efficiency and effectiveness by becoming better leaders.  The training is interactive and engaging. It includes both lectures and group activities.  More information and registration can be found at www.asce-pgh.org/event-2016647

    Most graduates of Dale Carnegie leadership training believe that this training was a life changing event.  Dale Carnegie training ignites workplace enthusiasm by developing employees into more confident, empowered, inspired, and enthusiastic individuals.  Dale Carnegie research indicates that employee engagement can unlock an organizations full potential.  Learn more at www.dalecarnegie.com

    Dale Carnegie Training is generally expensive and extensive.  Many small businesses cannot afford to offer this training in-house.  Dale Carnegie is offering a condensed version of their leadership training to Pittsburgh Section members at a significant discount.  This training is an 8-hour “Step Up to Leadership” module which would normally cost around $600 per person.  ASCE-Pittsburgh is offering it at $200 for members and $400 for non-members on a first-come basis (60 attendees maximum).  Breakfast, lunch, and parking is included.

    The training will be held at Regional Learning Alliance (RLA), a non-profit organization with a beautiful campus with state-of-the-art and well equipped learning facility minutes from Pittsburgh.

    Registration deadline is September 29, 2015.  At this time, we have low registration, and need your help to prevent cancellation of this section-subsidized training by encouraging your organization to register 5 or to sponsor the event. 

    For additional information and sponsorship opportunities, please contact:
    Sam Shamsi, PhD, PE, F.ASCE
    Chair, Continuing Education Committee
    Cell: 412-298-7932
    sam.shamsi@gmail.com


  • 17 Sep 2015 11:38 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    From Romualdi, Davidson & Associates

    Romualdi, Davidson & Associates, Inc. is pleased to announce that Mr. Robert Kimmick has joined our staff as a full time Senior Staff Engineer.  Mr. Kimmick has a master’s degree in electrical engineering and over 25 years of work experience in commercial, industrial, and electric power generating facilities.  His areas of expertise include electrical systems for commercial and industrial buildings, fire alarm systems, building automation and control systems, communication systems, electrical power distribution systems, machine controls and guarding, electrocution accidents, and equipment and appliances involved in fires of electrical origin. Mr. Kimmick’s expertise will expand our capabilities and enable us to better serve our clients.

    The staff and associated consultants of Romualdi, Davidson & Associates, Inc. provide professional civil, mechanical, and electrical engineering expertise and comprehensive testing services in failure analysis, accident reconstruction and fire investigations. We have completed over 11,000 engineering evaluations associated with personal injury or property loss.


  • 10 Sep 2015 1:38 PM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    From PennDOT

    Harrisburg, PA – PennDOT today announced that it has scheduled three open houses for the public and stakeholders to review the draft for the update of the Pennsylvania State Rail plan.

    The plan allows the commonwealth to identify a clear vision for the future of rail transportation, to set objectives for achieving that vision, and to document and evaluate passenger and freight rail needs over the course of the next twenty five years to guide investments. 

    “Pennsylvania is a railroad state with a long history being in the forefront of this mode of transportation,” said PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards. “Our dynamic and ever evolving long-range rail plan is intended to maintain that legacy and help direct our investments to keep both freight and passenger rail as vibrant components of our transportation network. We look to our residents and stakeholders to use these open houses to help us shape the plan.”

    The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) works with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on the update.

    Scheduled meetings are:

    • Sept. 15, Pittsburgh Amtrak Station, 1100 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222
    • Sept. 16, Centre region Council of Governments, 2643 Gateway Drive, State College, PA 16801
    • Sept. 17, Amtrak 30th Street Station, 2955 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107


    All sessions run from 6 to 8 p.m.

    The updated plan is to be submitted to FRA in November.

    The draft 2015 Pennsylvania State Rail Plan can also be reviewed and comments provided at http://www.planthekeystone.com/staterailplan.html. Comments will be accepted at the Open House Public Meetings and online from August 31, 2015 to October 2, 2015.

    “The vision for Pennsylvania’s rail system is to provide safe, convenient, reliable, cost-effective connections for people and goods,” Richards said. “As a viable alternative to other transportation modes, the rail system will support economic competitiveness, smart growth, and environmental sustainability, thereby strengthening Pennsylvania’s communities.”

  • 27 Aug 2015 1:50 PM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    From ASCE-National

    9 state legislatures are currently in session and ASCE is monitoring 1249 bills and 239 pending regulatory proposals. ASCE’s state legislative and regulatory tracking service is available to all members with their normal ASCE login information at:  www.asce.org/multistate


    Council of State Governments: As part of ASCE’s ongoing outreach to state legislators, ASCE participated this week in the Council of State Governments (CSG) Southern Legislative Conference in Savannah, GA.  Legislators and other state government officials toured the Port of Savannah, talked about net metering energy policies, how to put together P3s in their state, and even helped pack food for Second Harvest. The SLC is the largest of four regional legislative groups that operate under the Council of State Governments. It’s 15 member states stretch from West Virginia to Texas and includes Kentucky, Missouri and Oklahoma.

    In July, ASCE sponsored a Transportation Policy Academy for state legislative leaders from around the country in Denver, CO during the CSG West meeting.  Lawmakers heard from various speakers, including ASCE staff about the need for infrastructure investment at the state level.

    National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL): ASCE participated in the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) annual Legislative Summit held in Seattle from Aug 3-6.  Approximately 5,000 state legislators, legislative staffers, federal officials and others attended this week’s meeting to gain invaluable knowledge from experts and fellow legislators to take back to their respective states. Attendees participated in an array of policy-producing committee meetings, issue forums and deep-dive sessions. ASCE exhibited at the meeting, and several members of the Seattle Section also attended and interacted with lawmakers from 41 states, 1 U.S. territory and 8 countries. 

    Also of note, the conference featured a “deep-dive” session entitled “Filling Up the Tank: Funding Transportation,” which provided legislators a forum to discuss developing sound transportation plans in their states that creates sustainable revenue, prepares for the future and meets immediate transportation needs.  ASCE also sponsored the annual Bipartisan Bike Ride again this year.  

    See more on ASCE’s policy on Transportation Funding here: http://www.asce.org/issues-and-advocacy/public-policy/policy-statement-382---transportation-funding/

    National Lt. Governors Association:  In July, ASCE government relations staff attended the National Lieutenant Governors Association Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana.   Lieutenant Governors from 23 states came together at the conference to discuss important policy challenges facing their states.  Among the highlights of the meeting, former U.S. Representative Lee Hamilton and former U.S. Senator Richard Lugar took part in a panel to discuss their experience working with members of the opposing party and the need to react civilly to each other in elected positions. Infrastructure was also emphasized in a session entitled “Roads, Rivers, and Rail” with panelists from the Soy Transportation Coalition and the Waterways Council making the case for increased investment.  Of particular note was an emphasis on the need for infrastructure investment in rural areas and the economic impact on agriculture industry.

    National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES): During the annual meeting of the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying in Williamsburg, VA, delegates voted to adopt a position statement that reiterates the NCEES stance on increased educational requirements for engineering licensure.

    The position statement identifies several future pathways by which a candidate for licensure as a professional engineer might obtain the body of knowledge needed to safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of the public. Among those pathways to be eligible for professional licensure in the future are earning an accredited bachelor’s degree in engineering followed by an engineering master’s degree, or earning an accredited bachelor’s degree and then at least 30 semester hours of appropriate upper-level undergraduate or graduate-level coursework in engineering inside or outside the university environment.

    The concept of increased-education requirements for future licensure is in line with a key goal of the ASCE-backed Raise the Bar initiative, intended to better prepare civil engineers of the 21st century for a changing world.
     
    See ASCE’s policy in increased educational requirements for engineering licensure: http://www.asce.org/issues-and-advocacy/public-policy/policy-statement-465---academic-prerequisites-for-licensure-and-professional-practice/


  • 17 Aug 2015 8:37 PM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Article from ASCE Pipelines Conference

    ASCE Pipelines 2015 provides a forum for pipeline pioneers and practitioners from all around the world to share their experiences in meeting the challenges of today’s pipeline infrastructure. The theme of this year’s conference is “Recent Advances in Underground Pipeline Engineering and Construction.”

    The conference takes place August 23-26 at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel in historic downtown Baltimore, Maryland. It will provide a dynamic and inspiring venue for attendees to share and gain valuable knowledge and experience through 200 papers and poster presentations within seven tracks covering topics such as: Trenchless Installations; Design & Construction; Analysis & Design; Assessment & Rehabilitation; Operation, Maintenance, Risk & Safety; and Asset Management.

    In addition to the presentation tracks, Pipelines 2015 is offering three panel discussions, which is new to the technical program. The panel discussions cover “Energy Generation in Pipelines” and “Fiber Optics in Pipelines,” as well as the always important “ASCE Ethics.”

    A new feature at this year’s conference is a one-day Large Diameter Pipeline Forum that will replace the PCCP Forum. Additionally, attendees will have the opportunity to attend several informative pre-conference workshops on pressure pipelines design, asbestos cement pipe bursting, AWWA manuals, corrugated HDPE, CIPP and manhole rehabilitation.

    The Opening Plenary session will feature ASCE President Dr. Robert D. Stevens, Ph.D., P.E., F.ASCE and DC Water General Manager George Hawkins. The Tuesday luncheon will feature Charles Cook, Political Analyst, “the man who knows more about everything political than anyone else.” The Bechtel Award will be presented at the Tuesday Awards Luncheon and the winner will speak immediately following. The Closing Keynote will feature Ed Croteau, Business Excellence Specialist, Black & Veatch Corp., who will speak on “Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FEMA)”.

    There are many networking opportunities during receptions, dinner, breaks and exhibit hours. The exhibition hall – featuring more than 80 companies – will showcase the latest innovations in pipelines technology. The Tuesday Special Event will be an exciting evening on the waterfront. On Wednesday afternoon - after the conference adjourns – there is a golf tournament, to be held at the Mountain Branch, and a technical tour to the Structural Technologies facility.

    Baltimore is also an attractive destination for companions and families. The city’s waterfront and Inner Harbor are home to the best crab cakes you’ll ever have, hundreds of restaurants, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the world-class National Aquarium, Little Italy, Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum, American Visionary Art Museum, Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum, and so much more. Take a cruise around the harbor in a water taxi as you visit various neighborhoods. For the history enthusiast, tour the USS Constellation or nearby Fort McHenry, which, during the Battle of Baltimore in 1814, inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

    Visit the conference website at www.pipelinesconference.org to register, get the most up-to-date program information, and learn about the networking and social events.

    Contact Information:

    Jim Rush

    ASCE Pipelines 2015 Planning Committee

    Email: jrush@benjaminmedia.com

    Phone: 330.315.2160


  • 13 Jul 2015 6:40 PM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Article by Nathaniel Hayes

    The Highway Trust Fund is set to expire again, and ASCE needs your help.  Congress hasn’t raised the Federal Gas Tax since 1993 – before this year’s graduating class of engineers was even born! 

    By Congressional inaction, we have lost a generation of buying power due to the inflationary rise of labor and materials, and have formed a backlog of deferred maintenance and capital improvements to thousands of miles of federally funded highways and bridges. The two-month extension of the Highway Trust Fund is set to expire at the end of July, and USDOT will be forced to implement cash management strategies by approving and disbursing project funding at a slower rate.  Meanwhile State DOTs will defer projects where federal funding is not committed.

    On June 25, 2015 ASCE members joined the Membership-wide Key Contact Call, with Delaware Senator Thomas Carper.  Here, members heard how Congressional negotiations over America’s federal highway system are proceeding and how they can help #FixtheTrustFund before the clock runs out on July 31, 2015.

    You can learn more about future Key Contact calls, what you can do to advocate for the Highway Trust Fund, and become a Key Contact yourself at www.asce.org/keycontacts.  By joining, you will be provided the tools and opportunities to develop relationships with your local, state, and federal elected officials, and have meaningful conversations about issues important to our profession.


    And finally, we urge you to contact your elected official in Congress and ask that they pass a long-term surface transportation funding bill before it expires July 31, 2015.  Let them know that without guaranteed long-term funding, we are merely providing a 21st century economy a rehabilitated path on 20th century infrastructure.


  • 09 Jul 2015 8:18 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Article by Sam Shamsi

    Starting June 2015, ASCE-Pittsburgh, in collaboration with the ASCE-National, is bringing hundreds of live and on-demand webinars to Pittsburgh section members at preferred rates.

    ASCE’s webinars provide a convenient and effective method to earn PDHs/CEUs and gain practical, real-world knowledge. The webinars are developed by industry experts and cover a wide variety of technical and management topics. The ASCE-Pittsburgh Continuing Education Committee Page at <http://www.asce-pgh.org/continuingeducation> provides links to the extensive selection of Webinars available. Use promo code WEBPISEC to register at the Pittsburgh Section preferred rate!

    One of the many benefits of utilizing the ASCE webinars is the free access to ASCE’s streamlined continuing education management system “myLearning“ – myLearning.asce.org.  myLearning has been designed to fulfill and manage your professional development and license renewal requirements.  Convenient myLearning features include:

    • Ability to track all your PDHs/CEUs, including those from other providers.
    • Printing and saving of professional development transcripts in case of a licensing agency audit of PDH records.
    • Certificates of completion.
    • Ability to find your records need in one location, including handouts, exams, and more.
    • Means to easily identify the appropriate programs to meet your professional development needs.


    For additional information or suggestions, please contact:

    Sam Shamsi, PhD, PE, F.ASCE
    Chair, Continuing Education Committee
    sam.shamsi@gmail.com


  • 06 Jul 2015 8:03 PM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Article by Gregory Scott

    Much of the work that civil engineers engage in is influenced by public policy on a local, state or federal level.  Knowledge of public policy and developments in regulations, funding and legislation is an important tool for engineers in their careers and one that is often overlooked.  Learning about a world not centered on hard science can be intimidating, but ASCE has many resources that can help you. 

    First, join the Key Contact program at www.asce.org/keycontactsYou’ll begin to receive Government Relations communication, like This Week In Washington on Fridays, and also Key Alerts on legislation civil engineers are supporting both nationally and in Pennsylvania. Also, put the new Save America’s Infrastructure app for iPhone and Android on your phone so you can keep up to date on pressing issues. As you become more engaged, Key Contacts can influence the policy process at the state and federal levels by developing relationships with elected officials and become a trusted advisor when bills are drafted or considered. Here are just a few of the other ways you might become involved:

    • Meet with your elected officials close to home by requesting a Back Home Visit.
    • Attend the annual Legislative Fly-in in DC to learn about the latest issues affecting the profession and lobby your Members of Congress directly.
    • Listen to Key Contact Briefing Conference Calls on a political issue currently affecting the civil engineering profession.

    The investment of your time to become an engineering advocate can help you become a better engineer with better public relations skills and a broader understanding of the role public policy plays in the profession and your career.

    Join the Key Contact program today!

    Greg Scott, PE M.ASCE

    Chair

    Pittsburgh Section Government Relations Committee


  • 25 Jun 2015 8:28 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    From ASCE-National

    ASCE is proud to host U.S. Senator Thomas Carper (D-DE) at the next Key Contact Call, Finding the Fix for the Highway Trust Fund, on Thursday, June 25 at 3:00 P.M. EDT. Senator Carper, has been an ardent supporter of finding a long-term solution to fixing the Highway Trust Fund and serves on both the Senate Committee on Finance and Committee on Environment and Public Works, two key instruments for shaping policy and securing a long-term transportation bill. ASCE encourages all members in the transportation sector (and anyone who uses the roads!) to call in and hear how Congressional negotiations over America’s federal highway system are going and how you can help #FixtheTrustFund before the clock runs out on July 31st. To participate in this Key Contact Call, please RSVP here-https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/KeyContactCall625; the dial in for the call will be 1-800-832-0736*2342642#

    For the latest information on America's infrastructure issues, visit http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/asce-news/senate-committee-passes-surface-transportation-bill/

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