Researchers in Pursuit of Construction Technology Innovations
As a late spring thaw finally gives way to new construction activity, innovations in building technologies—materials, methods, and processes—are also moving to the forefront of the construction community.
Recently, a joint research program between the Indiana Department of Transportation and Purdue University’s Pankow Materials Laboratory yielded successful test results for an “internally cured” high-performance concrete. The new material will be used for maintenance projects on four bridge decks this year in the state, following a review of product specifications for construction use.
Researchers assisted Monroe County, Indiana, in the specification of internally cured concrete used in a bridge built in 2010, adjacent to a bridge built the same year using conventional concrete. According to Purdue civil engineering and materials science professor Jason Weiss, the control bridge has developed three cracks, but no cracks have developed in the internally cured bridge. Tests also indicate that the internally cured concrete is about 30% more resistant to salt ingress. As further field data are collected, Weiss anticipates broader deployment of this concrete specification.
Traditionally, curing is promoted by adding water on top of the bridge deck surface. The new technology for internal curing provides additional water pockets inside the concrete, enhancing the reaction between the Portland cement and water, which adds to strength and durability. The water pockets are formed by using a lightweight, fine aggregate to replace some of the sand in the mixture. A key step in the process is to pre-wet the lightweight aggregate with water before mixing the concrete, Weiss points out. He also notes that the internal curing process allows engineers to reduce the amount of Portland cement used in the concrete by replacing a portion of it with supplementary or waste stream materials, such as limestone, silica fume, and fly ash.
On a different front, a new structural building system resistant to earthquakes was successfully tested a few years ago at the Hyogo Earthquake Engineering Research Center in Miki City, Japan. Spearheaded by researchers from Stanford University and the University of Illinois, an engineering team designed a construction technique that not only secures a multistory building during a violent earthquake, but returns the structure to its original stance on its foundation following the seismic activity, with damage confined to a few easily replaceable parts.
This new construction method dissipates energy through the movement of steel-braced frames that are located around the building’s core or along exterior walls. The frames can be part of a building’s initial design or incorporated into an existing building undergoing seismic retrofitting. They are economically feasible to build from materials commonly used in construction today, and all the parts can be made using existing fabrication methods.
Unlike conventional systems, though, the steel-braced frames actually “rock off” of their foundation under large earthquakes and are free to move up and down within steel “shoes” secured at their base. To control the rocking and return the frame to vertical when the shaking stops, steel tendons run down the center of the frame from top to bottom. The tendons are each made of seven high-strength steel cable strands twisted together and designed to remain elastic during shaking. When shaking is over, they rebound to their normal length, pulling the building back into proper alignment. At the bottom of the frame are steel “fuses,” designed keep the rest of the building from sustaining damage.
Professional engineer Greg Deierlein, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford who led the research team, explains, “The idea of this structural system is that we concentrate the damage in replaceable fuses,” which are built to flex and dissipate the shaking energy induced by the earthquake, thereby confining the damage. Like electrical fuses, the steel fuses are easily replaced when they “blow out.” The structural technology developed is applicable to steel-framed buildings up to about 15 stories tall, but Deierlein contends that the general approach could be modified for other types of buildings and possibly applied to alternate materials and configurations as well.
The National Institute for Standards and Technology is also pursuing a number of innovations of potential interest to the construction industry. For instance, NIST has developed a climate suitability software tool that helps ventilation design teams evaluate the suitability of a local climate for cooling a prospective building with natural ventilation or whether a hybrid system will be required for supplying supplemental cooling capacity.
Additionally, the institute has prototyped a framework for evaluating and implementing sustainability standards for green projects. Advocacy for sustainability practices has expanded considerably the last five years, and with the NIST-customized framework, stakeholders can view individual sustainability standards from their particular perspective, such as that of a manufacturer, services provider, software supplier, regulator, or consumer.
Along environmental lines, NIST and Virginia Tech researchers are also developing a promising approach for checking the accuracy of measurements of hazardous indoor air pollutants. Such a measurement tool would prove useful to testers of indoor air quality or volatile organic compounds and to manufacturers and suppliers of paints, floor coverings, cleaners, and other building and construction products, in addition to planners, architects, and design engineers. The researchers conclude that their prototype could significantly reduce costly, time-consuming inter-laboratory studies and variability in testing results.
Finally, although thermoplastic composite, known as “plastic lumber,” may not be a new concept, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL) has found new ways to utilize the material for high-capacity load structures, such as bridges, large decks, docks, seawalls, wharves, and railroad bridges. Inherently resistant to rot, insects, bacteria, and rodents without the need for chemical treatments, thermoplastic composite rarely cracks or splinters, is weather- and graffiti-resistant, provides great shock-absorption, and requires no waterproofing, staining, or regular maintenance.
CERL researchers are also addressing state-of-the art and emerging technologies to remotely monitor the condition of bridges and overpasses. The engineering goal is to integrate durable, low-cost sensor systems with software to provide advance warning of growing structural problems due to corrosion and materials degradation or events such as earthquakes.
CDC Engineer Named Federal Engineer of the Year
NSPE held its 34th annual Federal Engineer of the Year Award (FEYA) ceremony on Thursday, February 21, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
More than 100 people were in attendance as NSPE and its Professional Engineers in Government interest group recognized and honored 22 outstanding engineering professionals representing 13 federal government agencies and the U.S. Armed Services. The 2013 FEYA recipient is Captain Richard Gelting, Ph.D., P.E., with the Department of Health & Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The keynote speaker was the Honorable Regina M. Benjamin, M.D., the US Surgeon General.
We invite you to read more about Captain Gelting and view photos and an excellent video highlighting this year's FEYA ceremony on NSPE's Web site. [ return to top ]
New Spring Webinars!
Register for these online webinars.
Conversation About Professional Practice Issues
April 17, 12:30–1:30 p.m. (E.D.T.)
Join NSPE Deputy Executive Director and General Counsel Arthur Schwartz and a panel of engineering ethics experts for a discussion on academic integrity, recommending termination of employment, duty to advise client of a subpoena, and conflicts of interest. Polling questions and a Q&A opportunity will allow for audience interaction. 1 PDH
Leading as an Engineering Responsibility
April 23, 12:30–1:30 p.m. (E.D.T.)
There is a lot of talk these days about leadership and excellence. What does leadership mean to you? Do you believe that only executives can be leaders? Why should you be concerned about leadership yourself? Why is it important for engineers and scientists to step up to leadership? Do you add value to your organization? How can you have more influence in your organization and have more fulfillment in your professional and personal and life? If these issues are of interest to you, you will want to join the NSPE webinar on April 23 to hear Ron Bennett speak. 1 PDH
Engineering Ethics: A Conversation About Safety, Confidentiality, Online Engineering Services and Other Issues
May 15, 12:30–1:30 p.m. (E.D.T.)
Join NSPE Deputy Executive Director and General Counsel Arthur Schwartz and a panel of engineering ethics experts for a discussion of providing online engineering services, accepting promotional advertising as consideration, safety issues relating to highway scaffolding, and expert witness confidentiality obligations. Polling questions and a Q&A opportunity will allow for audience interaction. 1 PDH
The Pros & Cons of Using Consultants
May 16, 12:30–1:30 p.m. (E.D.T.)
Presented by: Christian J. Knutson, P.E., PMP
Many engineering firms and public agencies find it difficult maintaining the right mix of engineering capability and capacity for every situation. The reason is simple: reduced budgets, limited staff, and an infrequent need for certain specialties. To remedy this, most firms and public agencies rely on consultants to provide manning assistance, advisory services, and niche skills. Before making the decision to use consultants, a clear assessment of the pros and cons is necessary. During this 60-minute webinar session, participants will gain insight on what factors to assess in making the decision to use consultants, as well as the factors to consider when developing expectations and contracts for consultants. 1 PDH [ return to top ]
A State-by-State Summary of Liability Laws Affecting the Practice of Engineering
A must-have tool for firms drafting, negotiating service agreements, and managing risks in various states. To help guard against increasing liability claims, this excellent resource describes the current status of every state’s key engineering liability-related provision. It also includes information and language regarding statues of repose, certificate of merit, sole-source worker’s compensation, joint liability provisions, and Anti-Indemnity Statutes and Limitation of Liability.
Purchase your copy today at "Shop NSPE." Discounted member price is $25.00. [ return to top ]
PEC Board Member Uses His Skills Abroad
Dr. James J. Yarmus, F.NSPE, F.ASCE
Over the last few years, I have had the pleasure of working with the City College of New York’s (CCNY) chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) on a project in the village of Las Chicas. Las Chicas is located in the municipality of Omoa, province of Cortes, in Honduras.
The project served two purposes. First, an assessment of water supply and accessibility for all residents was made to determine if a tank and distribution system could be built in suitable locations to service all families since they were accessing water in buckets. Second, latrines would be constructed for residents to use them in lieu of outside their homes or near where they work. A particular emphasis was placed on sustainability, so that residents would be capable of performing maintenance work for the water and sanitation systems.
Residents were instructed in how to seal the tank if cracks or leaks developed. They learned to test shutoff valves monthly so they could isolate piping sections if that need arose. A chlorination tank was added to the water storage tank and residents learned to flush the system monthly to remove any accumulations due to turbidity, and to prevent variations in pH due to accumulation of minerals.
Water storage and hygiene, sanitation practices and disposal systems, as well as dam maintenance practices were taught to ensure adequate supply of water to the tank proximate to the village, and essential maintenance of the latrines was mastered by the residents. Expenses were covered through assessments made by the Water Committee and the Village Governing Board.
The EWB Chapter of CCNY continued evaluations and work on other projects in the Omoa municipality. Additional information is available at www.ewb-usa.org. Engineers are able to mentor chapters or specific projects by contacting the Colorado headquarters of EWB. [ return to top ]
Editorial: Time to Cool Heads on Construction Claims
Editors of ENR
Model contract documents are a starting point for what construction project team members consider fair treatment, so the five-year updates to the Engineers Joint Contract Documents Committee family of model contracts are important. The EJCDC model contracts, which go on sale this month, contain significant modifications in the change-order and dispute-review process.
These changes have the potential to head off the kinds of poisonous conflicts that ruin so many projects and threaten to bring losses and possible ruin to the companies involved.
EJCDC model contract documents are written cooperatively by the three major engineering associations that endorse and market them: the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Council of Engineering Companies, and the National Society of Professional Engineers. The model contracts represent what those associations think is best for the industry.
One of the most important changes made is in the C-700 document, which covers general conditions and re-imagines the change-order and dispute review process.
For the full article, visit ENR.com. [ return to top ]
2012–13 PEC Executive Board
Thomas L Paxson (Chair)
Lee M Alexander
New Orleans, LA
Paul J Bakken
Paul E Harmon
Douglas J Holdener (Vice Chair)
Thomas Korman (Vice Chair)
Arroyo Grande, CA
Colin J McKenna (Vice Chair)
Glen R Schwalbach (Vice Chair)
De Pere, WI
James J Yarmus (Vice Chair)
New City, NY
Donn Richard Zang (Vice Chair)
West Chester, PA
[ return to top ]
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