Discussing current issues in engineering
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.
Colman Engineering, PLC
A professional engineering firm located in Harrisonburg, VA