Discussing current issues in civil engineering.
With St. Patrick’s Day coming up, you might be looking forward to one of the many nationwide parades and celebrations, but did you know that St. Patrick is considered the patron saint of engineers?
While legend tells us that St. Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland, the Christian missionary and bishop is also credited with bringing Roman building technology to Ireland, teaching the Irish to build arches of lime mortar instead of dry masonry. This made him instrumental in the construction of clay churches in Ireland in the fifth century.
Due to this little-known fact, many engineering students across the United States celebrate St. Patrick’s day as a holiday set aside for engineers. The day is also one of spiritual renewal for those who celebrate its traditional meaning.
Don’t forget to wear green, and may the luck of the Irish (engineers) be with you!
Over ten years after the devastating Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans has just recently finished a $731 million Permanent Canal Closures and Pumps project as of April 2018, according to an article in the February issue of ASCE. The project consists of three massive pumping stations that are designed to reduce the city’s risk of flood surges with critical draining features in the event of another major storm.
The article gives a brief history on the greater New Orleans region’s propensity for severe flooding, most famously with Hurricane Katrina in 2005 which displaced 80% of its residents and caused numerous casualties.
Following Katrina, the city began to work on a Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System, which includes a series of components designed to withstand a 100-year storm. The project includes an auxiliary building, a generator building, and a concrete bypass gate structure, ultimately isolating outfall canals to prevent them from running into Lake Pontchartrain.
Before this project, New Orleans relied on outdated pumping systems, which couldn’t keep up with the heavy flooding and so contributed to overflow. These updated pumping projects serve to protect residents and prevent severe damage in the case of another deadly storm, and are a critical example of the importance of smart, modern engineering technologies.
On this chocolate-filled day of the year, we show appreciation to our friends, family, and loved ones. Here are some fun facts about the holiday:
With record-breaking freezing temperatures across much of the Midwest, personal safety as well as infrastructural cracks provide concern for citizens across the northern part of the United States.
Greg DiLoreto, chair of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ committee on American infrastructure, was interviewed in a Chicago Tribune article where he voices concerns about the integrity of water pipes: “The more years they’ve gone through the freeze-thaw cycle, the greater the stress and strain.”
Most water mains were installed in the first half of the twentieth century, but regardless of how well they were engineered at the time, a dramatic temperature drop puts them in brittle conditions. Commuter trains in various cities have been shut down due to cracked rail systems, making any kind of transportation risky. The same freeze-thaw cycle puts asphalt roads and bridges in jeopardy for potholes, while thousands of residents across the Midwest struggle with frozen water mains, and a lack of heat and electricity after heavy winds.
For those caught in the worst of the polar vortex, the National Weather Service recommends cautious preparation: check the items in your home and car emergency kits, keep battery-powered necessities on hand, stock up on non-perishables, and avoid traveling outdoors in areas with a frostbite and hypothermia warning. Stay warm!
Following a deadly earthquake in Lombok, Indonesia, Dr. Jan Bernal-Sánchez writes on researching ways to improve building foundations in this article. Earthquakes are one of the deadliest natural disasters, according to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, and despite constant improvements in both civil engineering and emergency systems, deaths often adversely affect low-income people living in developing countries.
Dr. Bernal-Sánchez writes that previous attempts to alter building foundations to make them stronger have been successful, but installation is typically expensive and difficult. His solution is to introduce foundations made from local soil mixed in with scrap tire, a material that overpopulates landfills but can still be put to good use.
The proposed rubber-soil mixture helps to absorb vibrations from a potential earthquake and can even change the natural frequency of the soil foundation.
Research is still ongoing to perfect the soil-to-rubber ratio, but with the right amount of reliable simulation tests and funding, this study shows promising results to help avoid high death tolls from earthquakes in the future.
As the year comes to a close, we’re thankful for the opportunity to spend time with friends and family and all the wonderful connections we’ve made with our community. In the spirit of the season, here are some fun facts about the numerous December holidays:
Hoping that you and yours have a happy holiday and a joyous new year!
Engineers at the University of California, Berkley, have developed a new way to remove contaminants from stormwater, according to an article published in Science Daily in August of 2018. By using sand coated with manganese oxide that reacts with and destroys pollutants, this innovative technology could be a long-awaited answer for communities that urgently need greater access to fresh water supply. The engineered sand could help purify the stormwater that infiltrates underground aquifers and create safe reservoirs of drinking water for these communities.
Currently, cities already use stormwater reclamation as ways to remove contamination from stormwater runoff, but fully developing this sand could create a safer, more efficient solution. This is especially pertinent in California, the place of its invention, where recent wildfires and other natural disasters make access to fresh water urgent and essential. Experiments are still ongoing, and the team of scientists and engineers hope to move on to performing field tests to work on making the sand sustainable and less labor-intensive to regenerate.
The full article can be found here on the Science Daily website.
The article “Rising Above” in the November 2018 issue of the magazine by The American Society of Civil Engineers features historical and modern information on the Bayonne Bridge, which originally opened in 1931. Stretching across Staten Island, New York and Bayonne, New Jersey, the bridge was once the largest steel arch bridge in the world with a span of 1,675 feet, and its significance led to its designation as an ASCE historic civil engineering landmark in 1985.
The Bayonne Bridge Navigational Clearance Project was tasked with expanding the bridge’s height to accommodate newer, taller ships. According to the article, the notable undertaking started with a feasibility study “that addressed and documented 41 options that were evaluated for technical feasibility, constructability, environmental impact, schedule, and cost.” A tunnel was initially considered as a different option, but the Port Authority decided not to demolish the landmark and update it as it stands instead.
Design began in 2011, when civil engineers began working to rehabilitate and strengthen the arch, planning for new roadways, and thinking of ways to stage construction that still allowed commuters to continue using the bridge during the project. The roadway project was completed in February of 2017 and it received the American Council of Engineering Companies 2018 Grand Conceptor Award in April of 2018 for the project’s economic benefit, scale, and complexity. Workers are still putting up the final touches on the bridge, with completion projected for mid-2019.
More details and pictures of this impressive project, as well as the complete article, are available here at the ACSE website.
In a publication by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a study takes a look at ways to expand housing opportunities through inclusionary zoning (IZ). The study, conducted by the Urban Institute in 2012, focused on two counties in Maryland and Virginia to examine the effectiveness of IZ programs.
Inclusionary zoning requires builders of new residential developments to set aside a certain percentage of housing units for low-income residents. The Urban Institute found that counties implementing inclusionary zoning had stronger housing markets as long as programs are kept up to date with affordability levels and unit requirements. Research into housing agencies’ and nonprofit organizations’ use of IZ-produced units can help developers understand how to sustain and extend IZ affordability in other counties.
Although the study concludes more research is necessary to evaluate the costs and benefits of IZ programs, it shows that IZ programs provide important aid to those who need it. If more regions choose to implement IZ practices, the benefits of high-quality school districts and employment opportunities will become more easily accessible to residents who rely on affordable housing availability.
To learn more, check out the complete report, "Expanding Housing Opportunities Through Inclusionary Zoning: Lessons from Two Counties."
In the September 2018 issue of “Civil Engineering” magazine from the American Society of Civil Engineers, an article by editor-in-chief Laurie A. Shuster discusses the rising class of young engineers. In her editor’s note, she writes that “millennials want to be a part of something greater and more important, beyond what benefits just themselves. And they find that in their careers as civil engineers.”
Millennials’ affinity with growing technology and social media grants them the skills to easily adapt and self-teach new programs that would typically take more training for those who grew up in different technological ages.
From her experience attending ASCE’s Younger Member Leadership Symposium, Shuster notes young engineers’ big picture visions, ambition, and desire to improve their communities beyond themselves. Our future generation of engineers looks bright!