Discussing current issues in engineering
As the pandemic continues to draw attention to infrastructure shortcomings all over the globe, engineers and city planners must ask themselves how they can contribute equitable and accessible industry decisions to a post-pandemic world. In an effort to confront this question, California’s Los Angeles County hosted a series of five webinars last year at the Los Angeles Headquarters Association, an organization designed to advance economic growth in the county.
The series ran from July to November and featured a long list of influential panelists including an L.A. City planning commissioner, regional non-profit executive, chief design officer at the L.A. mayor’s office, Lyft senior public policy manager, architects, and designers. Panelists addressed pervasive issues made plainer by the pandemic and our country’s present grappling with institutionalized racism and racial inequality.
Because engineering and design professionals have traditionally held a significant role in land use decision-making, panelists placed a focus on the professional’s duty to address the needs of a community. In the past, engineers have been key players in an approach that tells communities what they will receive without addressing (or even seeking out) the concerns of community residents.
Take, for example, the fact that women, specifically women of color and mothers with children, are more likely to ride the bus than men. Yet bus stops all around the country are essentially designed for the use of 30-year-old white men—individuals who may not be threatened by standing in the dark at night, or in the summer sun for twenty minutes. Furthermore, as discussion moderator Katherine Perez points out, community land-use decisions have often unevenly damaged diverse and low-income neighborhoods. Consider decisions regarding landfill or freeway locations—or any other variety of less-desirable infrastructure for that matter.
Webinar discussions highlighted the power that engineers have to address issues of equity through their creativity and influence on project budgets. As panelist Paul Moore, P.E., of the Arup professional services firm states, “[W]hile policymakers and planners can have fantastic ideas and intentions about how to reshape cities, it’s engineers who are often empowered to implement the ideas.”
The Los Angeles Headquarters Association webinars publicized the role of engineers in inclusive infrastructure. Moving forward, engineers around the world are responsible for the creation of equitable and sustainable value accrual practices through their infrastructure and design projects.
To learn more about the L.A. Headquarters Association webinars and panelists, click here.
EnviroRail Embraces Green Railroad Construction and Maintenance Through Partnership with Mechanical Concrete
The Nebraska-based railroad service contractor EnviroRail recently licensed Mechanical Concrete, an industrial strength aggregate confinement technology, marking a first for the future of sustainable railroad construction and maintenance.
All roads require regular maintenance throughout their lifespans. This is due in part to the fact that most road foundations, including railroad foundations, are comprised of compacted stone aggregate which weakens when wet. As pressure is applied to the wet aggregate particles spread out laterally resulting in a loss of road structure. This process yields features like ruts, potholes, and collapsed road edges. Railroads are particularly susceptible to this form of deterioration because of the high pressure loads typically transported by rail.
Samuel G. Bonasso, P.E., the creator of Mechanical Concrete, realized that in order to slow down this cycle of road deterioration and maintenance he needed to address the structural issue associated with loss of road base structure. His solution was simple: to prevent the loss of road structure, prevent aggregate lateral spread. What’s more, Bonasso incorporated a readily-available, oft-discarded industrial waste product into his process, creating a reliable and sustainable materials sourcing practice.
Each year, more than three hundred million waste auto tires are generated in the United States. And while tire recyclers make use of some eighty percent of waste tires through the recycling process, roughly half of those recycled tires are then burned for tire-derived-fuel. Mechanical Concrete is the first large-scale reuse alternative for discarded tires.
Mechanical Concrete uses waste auto tires to contain stone aggregate, thereby preventing the majority of aggregate lateral spread. Waste tires are stripped of their side walls to create a durable rubber cylinder and then filled with a granular aggregate. The resultant product creates a foundation that is stronger and more dependable than aggregate used in isolation.
In demonstrations hosted by West Virginia University’s School of Engineering, Mechanical Concrete proved three times stronger than traditional road foundations, and ultimately required seventy-five percent less maintenance. The recent contract between EnviroRail, as a nationwide railroad services contractor, and Mechanical Concrete provides encouraging evidence for a new era of railroad maintenance and sustainability.
Click here to learn more about EnviroRail’s contract with Mechanical Concrete. For more information on Mechanical Concrete, visit the company site.
Colman Engineering, PLC
A professional engineering firm located in Harrisonburg, VA