The American Society of Civil Engineers unveiled details of a long-awaited sustainable infrastructure certification program during the group’s national conference on Oct. 21-23 in Las Vegas. Tailored to be broadly adaptable to particular circumstances, the program brings some 900 existing sector-specific rating systems under one umbrella. After successful case studies, the system called PRISM, or Project Rating for Infrastructure Sustainability and Management, will launch in May 2011. The voluntary rating system, developed by ASCE, the American Council of Engineering Companies and the American Public Works Association, aims to do for bridges, roads and waterways what the U.S. Green Building Council’s
The behavior of engineered structures in the magnitude-8.8 Maule earthquake that struck Chile on Feb. 27 is unlikely to lead to big changes in U.S. practice or codes, agree engineers. Photo: Ramon Gilsanz In Chile, apartment-unit doors jammed, trapping occupants, thanks to lightly reinforced link beams over openings. “The performance of modern engineered construction in the quake was quite good, and most instances of poor performance are associated with differences in Chilean and U.S. design practice,” said Ronald O. Hamburger at the 2010 National Council of Structural Engineers Associations conference, held from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2 in Jersey City,
Peter Arbour thinks his patented prefabricated cladding system, with an integrated solar-energy unit, will be a winner in the marketplace, not just the winner of a design contest. The architect expects the concrete-and-stainless-steel system to make its commercial debut in a year or two, after further development of the award-winning prototype. Photo: Courtesy Of The Center For Architecture/AIA NY Award-winning unitized cladding system needs more tweaking and testing before it is ready to be installed on a real building. Photo: Courtesy Of The Center For Architecture/AIA NY Arbour holds a patent on the system, which is cast using 20,000-psi concrete.
If New Zealand university professor Andrew Charleson has his way, giant rubber bands cut from used tires would strap together new and existing adobe houses the world over, saving lives and avoiding injuries by preventing the houses from collapsing in earthquakes. Having tested his belt-and-suspenders concept, Charleson intends to seek funding to implement the approach as soon as the construction manual for the banding, currently under review by the World Housing Encyclopedia, is finished. Photo: Andrew Charleson Rubber-strap wraps could be installed on adobe brick houses for about $500 per house, prof says. Photo: Andrew Charleson. Straps, from used-car tires,
Building-sector groups once again are decrying the Portland Cement Association’s revised requirements for sustainable buildings, which were released recently. The move came after a failed attempt by PCA—at code hearings in August 2009—to get any of the provisions of High Performance Building Requirements for Sustainability 2.0 adopted into the model International Green Building Code. Other organizations characterize PCA’s second attempted end run around the accepted model-code development process as a self-serving push for the use of concrete over rival structural materials through the local adoption of code provisions that have been consistently rejected at the national level. High Performance Building
Landscape architects are beginning to collaborate with environmental engineers to focus on natural, decentralized wastewater treatment systems for small and large-scale developments. The on-site systems, which combine landscape design and engineering, typically can reduce potable water use by 50% and discharge into sewers by up to 70%. But even supporters of decentralized constructed wetlands, which have only a backup tie-in to municipal utilities, list several obstacles to their development. Photo: Courtesy of Andropogon Associates The Sidwell Friends School doubles as a living laboratory. Graphic: Courtesy of Andropogon Associates Decentralized constructed wetlands (DCWs) have “huge implications from the standpoint of development
Civil engineers and other researchers working under a $90,000 National Science Foundation grant are studying the Great Inca Road of South America for clues to help modern society build roads, bridges and other infrastructure that last longer and have a less harmful impact on the environment.
The “greening” of U.S. colleges and universities is presenting opportunities for engineering and construction firms. Increasing numbers of schools that for decades have depended on coal-fired plants for steam and electricity are working to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions by shifting to natural gas and biomass, says Kim Teplitzky, coal campaign coordinator for the Sierra Student Coalition, an adjunct of the Sierra Club. About 60 colleges and universities currently burn coal, she said, but several already are planning to switch to other, cleaner fuels. For example, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in May announced that it plans to
The American Institute of Architects has released an Excel-based tool that generates a report on predicted energy use and project modeling. The tool, called the 2030 Commitment Annual Progress Reporting Tool, is part of the group's push to get its members to design carbon-neutral buildings and practice architecture in a more sustainable way. Although the tool was designed for architecture firms only, it is being tweaked for use by structural engineers. AIA released the tool at its 2010 convention in Miami. To date 105 architects have signed on to the AIA's voluntary 2030 commitment program, said Kelly Pickard, AIA's project
The Washington Monument in Baltimore has been closed to the public in light of a recent engineering study that found its parapet to be unsafe. CVM Engineering of Philadelphia studied the 178-ft-tall marble monument, which predates the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., as part of a $200,000 master plan to restore the monument and its surrounding squares. CVM reported that, on the parapet, mortar between slabs was missing and metal support brackets were rust- ed and should be replaced. Engineers recommended $1 million in total repairs, including $300,000 for work on the parapet. The monument, which was completed in 1829,