Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Aussie Infrastructure Asset Management

From the Asset Management Council of Australia - Living Asset Management.  About the book:

"The aim of this book is to describe the important relationship between the soft and intangible side (culture, leadership, behaviour) of an asset management organisation, with the hard and tangible side (systems, processes, structures, physical assets).

It will identify and discuss this relationship which enables an organisation to mature and achieve desired outcomes.

This book is by no means prescriptive.

Every organisation is different, and different leadership and culture styles will work for some and not others.

This book does not provide theoretical discourse, but the experience of practical people who think a lot about the subject.

This book aims to help the reader understand how all these elements interact and impact an organisation, and the outcomes it is seeking to achieve.

It further aims to provide the information and options for designing organisational culture and leadership to suit the organisation along different points of the asset management journey."

Graph of the Week

Recon Snow Goggles

After skiing at Vail and Breckenridge this holiday season, I was struck by the level of innovation either in place or planned.  From a Go Pro on every helmet, to "smart" ski goggles - - innovation comes to the mostly unlikely areas.

The Asset Performance Group

Interesting company and business model - link.  From their website:

"APG asset performance management solutions are realistic, practical, and effective — proven under actual market pressures and demands, with real companies and people.  More than just systems, reliability solutions are also about people & processes.  Some companies have tried building their own reliability solutions with the equipment knowledge and skills they have on hand, but developing a truly effective maintenance and reliability plan also takes process expertise, practices knowledge, and the facilitation skills to implement organization-wide changes.  Creating a program to get results quickly takes even more experience and skill, and APG brings it all to the table."

A Paragraph to Ponder

From The Specialization Myth:

"The scale at which specialization of individuals leads to diversification is the city. Larger cities are more diversified than smaller cities. Among cities with similar populations – say, Salvador and Curitiba in Brazil, or Guadalajara and Monterrey in Mexico – more diversified cities are richer than less diversified cities. They tend to grow faster and become even more diversified, not only because they have a larger internal market, but also because they are more diversified in terms of what they can sell to other cities and countries."

Facebook Is Using Your Profile to Track Global Urban Migration Trends

Facebook Is Using Your Profile to Track Global Urban Migration Trends

NRI 3D Printed Models

Need a model for your next presentation?  Check out NRI.

Will Economics Change Urban Transportation Before Engineering?

Interesting post on Uber Economist - link.  Posting of a job:

"Urban transportation has looked the same for a long time – a really long time – thanks in large part to regulatory regimes that don’t encourage innovation. We think it’s time for change. We’re a tech company sure, and we’re working in the transportation space, but at the end of the day we’re disrupting very old business models. Our Public Policy team prefers winning by being right over some of the darker lobbying arts, and so we’re looking for a Policy Economist to tease smart answers to hard questions out of big data. How do the old transportation business models impact driver income? What effect if any is Uber having on the housing market or drunk driving or public transit? To what extent are the different policy regimes in New York City and Taipei responsible for different transportation outcomes? Just a few of the questions we want you to dig on."

Monday, December 30, 2013

Stormwater Improvements in Mexico

We Urgently Need to Fix the Gas Tax

We Urgently Need to Fix the Gas Tax

It's About the Project Video

Holder Construction and the Story of BIM

Business Development is Similar to Chess

List of the qualities found in top chess players from Chess News.  Some of the qualities also apply to business development.
  1. Avoid errors
  2. Play relatively quickly
  3. See complexity when others assume simplicity
  4. Develop exquisite timing for when to change the nature of the position
  5. Navigate towards positions where there are no obvious moves
  6. Believe is your opponent's greater and ultimate fallibility
  7. Keep going relentlessly
  8. Be ever ready to pounce
  9. Kill them without mercy
  10. Smile to the cameras

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

My Best Fiction in 2013

Under the Tower Peak by Bart Paul.  Great line:

"So how long," he said, "do you figure the guy lived after the crash?"

"Too long to be happy about it, that's for sure."

Climate Change and Vail

A Paragraph to Ponder

By Andrew Biggs of The Wall Street Journal on December 16, 2013 (The Hidden Danger in Public Pension Funds):

"The ratio of active public employees to retirees has fallen drastically, according to the State Budget Crisis Task Force.  Today it is 1.75 to 1; in 1950, it was 7 to 1.  This means that a loss in pension investments has three times the impact on state and local budgets than 40 years ago."

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Engineering and online dating

Interesting from the mind of an economist.  An engineer needs to write about the topic - we probably had a hand in writing the code!  Link to the story.

What engineers think of the Target theft

Good post that looks at the recent Target credit card information theft in the context of historic robberies (Link).

A Paragraph to Ponder

From Bloomberg Businessweek - States Roll the Dice on Highway Traffic (December 16, 2013):

"Traffic forecasts done by consultants for states and investors have long proven overly optimistic.  The first-year revenue of 26 public and private toll roads that opened form 1986 to 2004 averaged one-third less than projected, according to a 2009 analysis of federal data by Robert Bain, a transportation consultant.  U.S. miles traveled peaked in 2007 at 3.03 trillion,, then declined 2.5 percent through 2012, according to the Federal Highway Administration.  "You never see a consulting report be negative or else they won't be able to sell the bonds," says Howard Cure, managing director of municipal bond research at Evercore Wealth Management."

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Do's and Don'ts of Public Engagement for Engineers

This is a great blog post with good ideas > Link.

Being only technical will get you replaced by a machine

Interesting HBR interview that points out the skill sets future engineers need to focus on > Link.

Genscape, Inc.

New breed of company - link.  The leader in a growing industry that employs sophisticated surveillance and data-crunching technology to supply traders with nonpublic information about topics including oil supplies, electric-power production, retail traffic and crop yields.

If you don't think the drone market will be huge - see the video and discussion regarding counting rail cars.


Friday, December 20, 2013

Four Principles for a Better Public Sector

Very good report from McKinsey - Government by design: Four principles for a better public sector.  The four principles:

Better Evidence for Decision Making
  • Collecting credible performance data
  • Benchmarking consistently against peers
  • Using data to design and improve interventions
Greater Engagement and Empowerment of Citizens
  • Using innovative channels to make services more citizen-centric
  • Soliciting citizen input to improve public services
  • Tapping citizens to help deliver better services at a lower cost
Investments in Expertise and Skill Building
  • Using adult-learning practices to build core capabilities
  • Developing specialized capabilities in critical sectors
  • Sharpening strategic and risk-management skills
Closer Collaboration With Private and Social Sectors
  • Improving government's procurement of products and services
  • Unleashing government's power as a provider of public goods
  • Refining government's role as an economic shaper and integrator

P3: Public-Private Partnerships, Opportunities and Risks for Consulting Engineers

New book from ACEC - link.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Turning Your Building Into a Hydroelectric Power Plant

It will be interesting to see if this takes off - link.

2013's Best Performing American Cities

2013's Best Performing American Cities

Building an Ice Wall

Specialization is for insects

From science-fiction writer Robert Heinlein and the things a human being should be able to do:
  • Change a diaper
  • Plan an invasion
  • Butcher a hog
  • Conn a ship (had to look his one up)
  • Design a building
  • Write a sonnet
  • Balance accounts
  • Build a wall
  • Set a bone
  • Comfort the dying
  • Take orders
  • Give orders
  • Cooperate
  • Solve equations
  • Analyze a new problem
  • Pitch manure
  • Program a computer
  • Cook a tasty meal
  • Fight efficiently
  • Die gallantly

Are Your Business Plans More Chorus Than Cantor?

From the Dallas Morning News yesterday - Outside our bubble, sobering forecasts:
  • The U.S. unemployment rate will hover at 7.1 percent in 2014.
  • The country won't reach full employment for 16 more years.
  • For the first time since the Great Depression, more Americans think their incomes will be lower in the future than higher.  That's made us a nation of worrywarts and tightwads.The Federal Reserve's "body language" is telling the world that it has no confidence in the U.S. economy.
  • The stock market is "frothy" and beginning to look overvalued.
  • The one million U.S. housing starts forecast for 2014 is till 500,000 shy of a real housing recovery.
  • Flat holiday sales have retailers in a panic mode and making deeper discounts earlier.
But -
  • Dallas-Fort Worth is #2 in the nation in both industrial and retail construction.
  • #3 in apartment building.
  • #5 in office construction.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Heard at Lunch

"Engineers design for construction.  They don't design for asset management."  The context was the information required and utilized for construction versus the information needed for effective asset management.

The Future of Engineers?

In about half of this post you can take out "Doctors" and replace it with "Engineers" - - link.  The March of the Machines will never stop at the factory floor or the hospital - the STEM professions should be watching this trend.

Organizational, Relationship, and Contact Analyzer (ORCA)

Some engineers will increasingly be task with developing tools to understand our social networks.  This will range from crime to collaboration - link to an increasing paper from West Point and Chicago South side gangs.

Kentucky Fact of the Day

"Kentucky is the only southern state that is enthusiastically implementing Obamacare. Its Democratic governor, Steve Beshear, agreed both to expand Medicaid (an important plank of the reform) and to set up a state-run health-insurance exchange, known as “kynect”. By December 5th nearly 454,000 Kentuckians had undergone preliminary screening to determine eligibility for Medicaid or subsidised coverage, and almost 72,000 had enrolled. Only in Washington state has a larger proportion of people applied for coverage."

Link to the source.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

How a Smarter City Works


Even your basic window can be made smart - windows that lighten and darken with your smart phone (link).

The Red-Blue Nature of the Infrastructure Spending Debate

The challenge of the day - match the headline with the source:

Infrastructure Gap? Look at the Facts. We Spend More Than Europe
U.S. infrastructure spending has plummeted since 2008
Obama Urges Infrastructure Spending to Spur U.S. Economy
It's a Tragedy We're Not Spending More on Infrastructure
Drop in Infrastructure Spending Drives Highway Builders Off Road
Infrastructure Problems In U.S. Go Far Beyond Dollars
Are we spending too much or too little on infrastructure?

Actually, America doesn’t have a trillion-dollar infrastructure crisis

One of the headlines is from Forbes (link), one is from the Washington Post (link), one is from Bloomberg (link), one is from The Atlantic (link), one is from The Wall Street Journal (link), one is from the Huffington Post (link), The Week (link), and AEI Ideas (link).

Monday, December 16, 2013

Designing for a Thinner World

Climate change will impact space availability in many parts of the globe - link.

Rethinking the Company Librarian

If your company has a librarian, you might want to rethink the position, responsibilities, and value the occupation adds in the new information economy (Two points - any list of jobs in decline has librarian near the top and top schools like Georgia Tech are warehousing their books off campus.).

What about thinking less about librarians and more about curators?  Managing books and paper adds little value as the Web has democratized information.  What organizations need are people with the ability to be finders and choosers.  The key is the ability to see patterns, trends, and networks in an ocean of information - organizations need to be taking care of these three areas.  When I think librarian, I don't think patterns, trends, and networks. 

What a curator does in the information economy is changing.  From Wikipedia:

 A curator (from Latin: curare meaning "take care") is a manager or overseer. Traditionally, a curator or keeper of a cultural heritage institution (e.g., gallery, museum, library or archive) is a content specialist responsible for an institution's collections and involved with the interpretation of heritage material. The object of a traditional curator's concern necessarily involves tangible objects of some sort, whether it be artwork, collectibles, historic items or scientific collections. More recently, new kinds of curators are emerging: curators of digital data objects and biocurators.

The sheer volume of information that an engineer needs to keep abreast of is overwhelming.  Seeing patterns, trends, and changes in technology has huge value.  Someone that can interface with an engineer and ask, "This thing you're interested in? I will curate it for you." has huge value.


Something for a future engineer - a modular robotics kit (link).

Sunday, December 15, 2013

When Will Jerry Jones Die?

After the Dallas Cowboy terrible loss today, Cowboy fans are checking the actuarial tables (link).  At seventy two years old, Mr. Jones is projected to make it to 84.4.  It is looking like another 12-years of owner/general manager Jones being in control and command.

On a side note - reviewing actuarial tables as the Cowboys blow 23 point leads is insightful.  The odds of a male making it to 104-years old at birth is abysmal.  But look at the guy that makes it to 99 and see what the odds are making it to 100-years old.

Asset Management Software Replaces Hardware (Pipes, Pumps, and People)

It will be interesting to see the extent that water utilities and cities follow the path that the rest of the global economy is taking outlined in the  following sentence:

“We are investing a whole lot more in the software we are using so we can use less and less employees to do the exact same work,” said Nobis, president of JK Creative Printers & Mailing, of Quincy, Illinois, which produces items from business cards to catalogues.

Link to the story.

The Arup Journal

To tell a good visual story, you must first consider what would cause someone to want to "read" your story.  There must an overarching idea to communicate, such as a problem, situation, message, or event that provokes thought.

The Arup Journal is a masterpiece in the world of design periodicals.  Style, spacing, scale, contrast, placement, content, and composition - all enhance the key questions of their story telling.  What do you want the audience to pay attention to first?  Is there a desired sequence?  How will text and graphics reinforce each other?

Thinking your technical focus or ideas can tell the story without visual planning is a huge historic problem for engineers (this is our boring blah-blah-blah problem).  Explaining your ideas in a clear, persuasive fashion requires thought about craft and how your visuals relate to your audience.  Our stakeholders have little patience for visual confusion.

Human Factors Engineering in Las Vegas

I couldn't put this book down - Addiction by Design: Gambling in Las Vegas by Dow Schull.  Something interesting on every page.  For example:

"A study titled Effects if Ambient Odors on Slot-Machine Usage in a Las Vegas Casino found that slot revenue rose by a full 45% in a gambling area where machines had been subtly treated with a certain pleasing odor while remaining static in another area that had been treated with a different but equally odor.  The author speculated that certain aromas produce an "affective congruence with the situational context," encouraging longer play; an odor, "when matched to a certain environment," can "precipitate actions.""

Check out the following for an advanced course - Designing Casinos to Dominate the Competition (maybe someday someone will write Designing Public Schools to Dominate the Competition) by Bill Friedman (who is like the Michael Jordon of casino design).

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Net Energy Neutral Wastewater Treatment Plant

From Stanford University - link.  The goal of energy reduction and even neutral energy requirements will be a significant focus for wastewater researchers and practitioners this decade. 
"A major goal of wastewater treatment is net energy neutral or net energy producing treatment processes that remove oxygen depleting forms of carbon and nitrogen. While the treatment of waste carbon via processes such as anaerobic digestion or gasification enable energy recovery, the treatment of waste nitrogen requires energy inputs. My research at Stanford has focused on the development of a a new wastewater treatment process that recovers energy from waste nitrogen by converting reactive nitrogen (i.e. ammonia) to nitrogen gas via a nitrous oxide intermediate. This process is termed the Coupled Aerobic-anoxic Nitrous Decomposition Operation (CANDO) and involves 3 steps: (1) oxidation of ammonia to nitrite, (2) reduction of nitrite to nitrous oxide, (3) decomposition/combustion of nitrous oxide to nitrogen and oxygen gas with energy recovery. Step (1) of CANDO has been developed by European researches and is termed the Single reactor system for High activity Ammonia Removal Over Nitrite (SHARON) process. My research has focused on the development of a biological process that enables partial reduction of nitrite to nitrous oxide. My research has also focused on the development of devices that enable catalytic decomposition of nitrous oxide with a net energy output.

When coupled with anaerobic digestion, CANDO has the potential to enable net energy producing wastewater treatment by recovering significant amounts of energy through the combustion of biogas (i.e. methane) and nitrous oxide. The impact of energy recovery from wastewater is significant, considering that the treatment and transport of wastewater imposes a 3% load on U.S. energy supply and approximately 3-5% in most countries around the world. In principle, CANDO is applicable to any high concentration ammonia streams including landfill leachates and industrial manufacturing processes."

2013 Arctic Report Card

The Key to Asset Management?

It starts with people - see the Ch2m Hill water blog - link.

A Paragraph to Ponder

From the New York Times yesterday - Feeble Construction Hiring Is a Stubborn Drag on Growth (Link):

"As a result, construction continues to be a drag on economic growth as well as employment. Before the crisis, construction — both residential and nonresidential — accounted for 9.4 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, the highest proportion in nearly 30 years. It plunged to half that level in 2011, and has now recovered only to 6 percent. It was never that low before the Great Recession, at least since 1947, when the figures began to be calculated.
With construction employment remaining low, and with a lot of government infrastructure work needing to be done, including repairing decaying bridges and building new schools, there would seem to be an obvious match that could get needed projects done for less than it would have cost a few years ago. Such work would also lift the economy by putting unemployed people to work. But politically, that seems to be impossible in the current atmosphere.
As a result, there is no indication that the construction industry will stop being a drag on growth anytime soon."

Friday, December 13, 2013

Urine as a Profit Center

The future of the wastewater industry is thinking less about "waste" and more about "profit" - the segmentation of the various constituents of wastewater and how do we start thinking and making these profit centers.

Link to a good article on the subject.

Engineering and the Insurance Industry

From No climate-change deniers to be found in the reinsurance business - link:

"In Munich Re’s offices, there wasn’t much debate as the claims cheques flew out the door: The higher frequency of extreme weather events is influenced by climate change; and recent climate change is largely due to burning hydrocarbons. “I’m quite convinced that most climate change is caused by human activity,” says Peter Höppe, head of geo-risks research at Munich Re.

His statement is not remarkable, even though the big American insurers don’t like to put the words “climate change” and “anthropogenic” in the same sentence. What is remarkable is that Munich Re first warned about global warming way back in 1973, when it noticed that flood damage was increasing. It was the first big company to do so—two decades before the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit triggered a planetary anxiety attack by publicizing the concepts of “global warming” and “climate change.”

Munich Re, Swiss Re and the other reinsurers, along with the Lloyd’s of London insurance market (unrelated to the bank of the same name), stand out from the rest of the business world by being on the same page as scientists on climate change. What’s more, while most of the planet has its head in the sand about the reality and requirements of global warming, the reinsurance industry has already moved on to mastering the math on other catastrophes.

Like any industry, the reinsurers and insurers stay in business by not losing money year after year. To accomplish that, they have to turn ever-greater portions of “unexpected” losses stemming from the weather into “expected” losses, which requires that they become adept at risk modelling."

How Bad is Water Resources Asset Management?

The sad thing is - this is probably pretty typical asset management for a wide range of infrastructure asset classes.  The lack of investment in information technology combined with legacy work flow process and procedures has created a crisis.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

How Cities Learn

Create Your Own Street View

Link to the process.

Report on the Fiscal State of Our States

From the National Association of State Budget Officers - Fiscal Survey of States.

Project Management Question of the Week

During the executing phase of a project for the closing of a nuclear plant, the project manager submits to the stakeholders, including the sponsor, a progress report informing about the project performance.  Which report would that be?
  • Milestone diagram
  • GANTT chart
  • Network diagram
  • Earned Value report

Jacked Box Tunneling Method

Technical manual on the process from the U.S. Department of Transportation.  From the manual:

"Jacked box tunneling is a unique tunneling method for constructing shallow rectangular road tunnels beneath critical facilities such as operating railways, major highways and airport runways without disruption of the services provided by those surface facilities or having to relocate them temporarily to accommodate open excavations for cut and cover construction (Chapter 5). Originally developed from pipe jacking technology, jacked box tunneling is generally used in soft ground at shallow depths and for relatively short lengths of tunnel, where TBM mining would not be economical or cut-and-cover methods would be too disruptive to overlying surface activities.

Jacked box tunneling has mostly been used outside of United States (Taylor et al, 1998) until it was successfully applied to the construction of three short tunnels beneath a network of rail tracks at South Station in downtown Boston . These tunnels were completed and opened in 2003 as a part of the extension of Interstate I-90 for the Central Artery/Tunnel (CA/T) Project. Figure 12-1 shows the opening ceremony for the completed I-90 tunnels. Since CA/T Project represents the most significant application to date of the jacked box tunneling in the US, it will be used to demonstrate the method throughout this Chapter."

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Engineers Need to Be Thinking About Free Classes

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) is opening up new world for the motivated.  A key skill set for the engineer of the future is the self-motivation to take advantage of tremendous opportunities.  This future is really about both the motivated and the motivators - those engineering managers that can lead their staffs in the coming economy of self-motivation.

One opportunity is at Wharton.  The Wharton school at the University of Pennsylvania recently launched four MOOCs on Coursera's platform.  One of these is an introduction to marketing.

Revitalizing the Suburb Without Giving Up the Car

Revitalizing the Suburb Without Giving Up the Car

The Next Fed Ex Airplane?

Performance Contracting in the Water Department

It will be interesting to watch performance contracting as it relates to a water/wastewater utility - link.

Monday, December 9, 2013

How to Design a Happier City

How to Design a Happier City

Investing in Evanville's Sewer System

This is well done and represents a potential model for how to communicate with the public regarding infrastructure needs.  When I looked at the video, it had nine views.  Need to track how successful the video is over time.

A Project Management Plan Example for the Public Sector

The is a good example of applying project management principles and a format project management plan to the public sector - link. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Asset Management System and Strategy

Water utility owners and operator face a host of problems that are well documented.  It is important to think of an asset management program as a hierarchy of needs and questions that start at a basic level and progress to advanced.  In general, these are as follows:
  • What do we own?
  • Where is it?
  • What condition is it in?
  • What is the failure mode?
  • What is the probability of failure?
  • What is the consequence of failure?
  • What level of service is required from the asset?
  • Given the likelihood and consequence of failure, how do we best manage our assets to sustain service at the lowest lifecycle cost?
Future development requirements of asset management also need to focus resources and creativity on the following:
  • Predictive tools (failure and replacement cost modeling).
  • Asset base valuations versus true cost.
  • Acknowledge full lifecycle costs of Assets.
  • Assessing and managing a range of business risks.
  • Access to systems from anywhere and anytime - home, office, field.

Asset Management in Portland

Link to an audit report on the asset management efforts associated with the Portland Water Bureau.  Chapter 3 covers a subject that most utilities struggle with - "Data management progress has not kept pace with asset management needs."

We Still Like to Raise Our Hands at Conferences

I attended the SAME Infrastructure Forum at the University of Texas at Arlington on Thursday last week.  Over 300 professional attended - numerous presentations and panel discussions.  The traditional raise your hand to ask a question was augmented with Twitter questions from the audience (you can see the results at the following link).  A significant decline in the quantity and quality of the questions when you look at the twitter feed.  When people are meeting face to face - - we still like our discourse face to face and not limited by the number of characters you can type into Twitter.  This is also an indication that Twitter is not very widespread at least in the context of the people in audience at this particular conference.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Fort Collins Utilities Asset Management

Slide presentation of a risk based approach to wastewater asset management - link.

Flowfinity in Cincinnati's Wastewater Collection Division

From WaterWorld:

VANCOUVER, BC, Nov. 20, 2013 -- The city of Cincinnati recently adopted a flexible mobile platform to help track the activities of its 150 technicians in the field as well as create guided field service apps to replace paper forms and laptops.

The platform, provided by Flowfinity Wireless Inc., a provider of enterprise mobile apps, helped Cincinnati's Wastewater Collection Division address the challenges of missing and inaccurate information gathered in the field, issues with usability of legacy software applications, and the difficulty with efficiently staffing a 24-hour call center to handle customer service requests. With Flowfinity, the division has realized over $150,000 of savings and expects to reduce administrative tasks by 30 percent to achieve more value for labor dollars spent.

Flowfinity was selected for its depth of functionality to meet all of the city's requirements for security, automating workflows, capturing data, and creating and modifying apps without programming. The ability for the business unit to easily create or modify apps with limited IT involvement was an important requirement because business processes can change often due to government and permit regulations.


Advanced automation and robotics comes to the world of tunnel inspection (this has much wider applications to many other types of inspection services).  From the research website - link:

ROBINSPECT, driven by the tunnel inspection industry, adapts and integrates recent research results in intelligent control in robotics, computer vision tailored with semisupervised and active continuous learning and sensing, in an innovative, integrated, robotic system that automatically scans the intrados for potential defects on the surface and detects and measures radial deformation in the cross-section, distance between parallel cracks, cracks and open joints that impact tunnel stability, with mm accuracies. This permits, in one pass, both the inspection and structural assessment of tunnels. Intelligent control and robotics tools are interwoven to set an automatic robotic arm manipulation and an autonomous vehicle navigation so as to minimize humans’ interaction. This way, the structural condition and safety of a tunnel is assessed automatically, reliably and speedily.

Asset Management and the Need for Change

Underwater Water

The engineer that understands drilling - from oil/natural gas to water - has a great future.  What lies underground in rock is still really important.  See the following story on our vast off-shore water reserves.

Vast undersea freshwater reserves mapped › News in Science (ABC Science)

Friday, December 6, 2013

Wastewater Asset Management on Your Smartphone

Our Aging Utility Workforce

I was at an infrastructure conference at the University of Texas at Arlington yesterday.  I heard an interesting statistic from an Assistant Director with the Dallas Water Utilities - out of a total workforce of 1,500, 250 of the managers will be eligible for retirement within the next five years.

Black & Veatch discusses the many issues of an aging utility workforce in more detail at -

Black & Veatch : Water Utilities Seek Solutions to Aging Workforce Challenges

Stocking Stuffers for the Engineer in Your Life

UTA Public Works Institute

This is a great idea - link.  From the website:

The Public Works Training Institute develops and facilitates training for professionals managing and maintaining our nation’s infrastructure. Through a blended learning approach that includes web-based and instructor-led training, the Public Works Training Institute delivers programs in traffic work zone management, utilities and alternative energy systems, environmental controls, state and federal regulatory requirements, infrastructure design and construction, heavy equipment, fire protection and emergency preparedness, disaster response, and various levels of professional engineering subjects. Workers, line supervisors and managers come from public municipal, county, state and federal organizations, secondary and higher education institutions, the armed forces, and private sector contractors.

Data Mining Reveals the Secret to Getting Good Answers | MIT Technology Review

Data Mining Reveals the Secret to Getting Good Answers | MIT Technology Review

The quality of your answer depends on the quality of the question - - the marketing and cognitive folks need to write a book on the subject.

Our Expanding Natural Gas Pipeline Network

Thursday, December 5, 2013

How to Control Change Requests on Your Project

AEC Hackathon

Details at link.  From the website:

A first for the Architecture, Engineering, Construction Industry, the AEC Hackathon is a non-profit event that creates on-the-spot teams of Silicon Valley technologists and industry stakeholders to shape the future of our built environment. Formatted as a traditional "hack," the AEC Hackathon provides a playful, exploratory environment where disruption and creative ideas are the essential tools for innovation. The AEC community faces fresh new problems that urgently need brilliant minds to solve them. How are you changing the world?

Madrid's Big Plan to Swear Off Cars

Madrid's Big Plan to Swear Off Cars

Project Management Question of the Week

The project manager should solve a conflict that involves five team members that are arguing about a solution to a problem with the critical path.  The strongest discussion is focused between implementing a fast track or a compression.  Which is the best method to solve this problem?
  • Confronting
  • Compromising
  • Avoiding
  • Smoothing

Bathroom Collaboration

From Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson:

"So he had the Pixar building designed to promote encounters and unplanned collaboration.  "If a building doesn't  encourage that, you'll lose a lot of innovation and the magic that's sparked by serendipity," he said.  "So we designed the building to make people get out of their offices and mingle in the central atrium with people they might not otherwise see."  The front doors and main stairs and corridors all led to the atrium, the cafe and the mailboxes were there, the conference rooms had windows that looked out onto it, and the six-hundred theater and the two smaller screening rooms all spilled into it.  "Steve's theory worked from day one," Lasseter recalled.  "I kept running into people I hadn't seen for months.  I've never seen a building that promoted collaboration and creativity as well as this one."

Jobs even went so far as to decree that there be only two huge bathrooms in the building, one for each gender, connected to the atrium.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The UN Buys a Drone

The Future of Photography: Cameras With Wings (or Rotors) | MIT Technology Review

The Future of Photography: Cameras With Wings (or Rotors) | MIT Technology Review

Plague Inc.

Science, geography, risk management, antibiotic resistance - - all embedded in an infectious disease that kills as many people as possible.  The game App as a tool for teaching science - - engineering needs to get to work!

Ingeniería en Mexico

A paragraph to ponder from Bloomberg  BusinessWeek (Mexico's Surprising Engineering Strength)

"It typically takes 1.3 engineers in Mexico to do the work of one in the U.S., says Cary Leslie, Chrysler Groups director of engineering for Mexico.  In part that's a function of experience: Engineers in Mexico have been on the job an average of about eight years, compared with 25 in Michigan.  Labor cost including benefits for Mexican engineers are typically 40 percent of U.S. costs, according to Ford and Chrysler."

Graph of the Week

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Project Management Risk Management

Engineering and Social Media

From an interview in the current issue of Fortune with Starbucks Troy Alstead (Questions for Starbucks' Chief Bean Counter):

"We've learned to focus not on selling something to customers through social media, but on how to engage our customers.  The Starbucks store was always about the power of the connection between the barista and customers.  Social media allows a more frequent and additional way to connect to customers - and for them to connect with one another.

Our whole approach has been about how to use it to give our customers a platform to talk about their favorite products or what's going on at Starbucks, not just have messages come from Starbucks to them.  We can listen to that dialogue and understand how they feel about various things.  It's been like an avalanche, our customers engaging with one another around all things about Starbucks without us being in the middle of it."

BlueReview Utility Management

Monday, December 2, 2013

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Critical Path Method

Mobile Apps - Determines where you should be living

Mobile Apps

Walt Disney and Engineering

Slowly engineering and Disney quality animation are converging - -

Project Management Question of the Week

In cases where a formal contract exists between the client and the contractor, which of the following are valid procedures when dealing with changes during the project life cycle:
  • The changes are only issued by an authorized person.
  • The changes are evaluated in terms of cost, time, and performance.
  • The originator is made aware of the implications before the change is put into operation.
  • All of the above.

Tracing the World's Most Complicated Roadways With GPS Data

Tracing the World's Most Complicated Roadways With GPS Data

The Protect

Thursday, November 28, 2013


Becoming a connected utility - Link.




Tool for Black Friday > Link.

The Difference Between Portfolios, Programs, and Projects

From the Project Management Institute - The Standard for Program Management:

Projects have a narrow scope with specific deliverable.
Programs have a wide scope that may have to change to meet the benefit expectations of the organization.
Portfolios have a business scope that changes with the strategic goals of the organization.
The project manager tries to keep change to a minimum.
Program managers have to expect change and even embrace it.
Portfolio managers continually monitor changes in the broad environment.
Success is measured by budget, on time, and products delivered to specification.
Success is measured in terms of Return on Investment (ROI), new capabilities, and benefit delivery.
Success is measured in terms of aggregate performance of portfolio components.
Leadership style focuses on task delivery and directive in order to meet the success criteria.
Leadership style focuses on managing relationships, and conflict resolution.  Program manager’s need to facilitate and manage the political aspects of the stakeholder management.
Leadership style focuses on adding value to portfolio decision-making.
Project managers manage technicians, specialists, etc.
Program managers manage project managers.
Portfolio managers many manage or coordinate management staff.
Project managers are team players who motivate using their knowledge and skills.
Program managers are leaders providing vision and leadership.
Portfolio managers are leaders providing insight and synthesis.
Project managers conduct detailed planning to manage the delivery of products of the project.
Program managers create high-level plans providing guidance to projects where detailed plans are created.
Portfolio managers create and maintain necessary process and communication relative to the aggregate portfolio.
Project managers monitor and controls tasks and the work of producing the projects products.
Program managers monitor projects and ongoing work through governance structures.
Portfolio managers monitor aggregate performance and value indicators.

Americans Are Very Confused About What They Want Out of a Community

Americans Are Very Confused About What They Want Out of a Community

Homeboy Industries

A great Thanksgiving message via Father Greg Boyle -

Turkey Economics

From the New York Times - link.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

German Infrastructure

The U.S. infrastructure disease is spreading.  From the New York Times on November 21, 2013 by Suzanne Daily and Alison Smale - Germany, Austerity's Champion, Faces Some Big Repair Bills:

"From 1991 to 2012, Germany reduced its budget for maintenance by 20 percent, according to Gernot Sieg, a transportation expert and professor at the University of Muenster.  It now spends 1.5 percent of its gross domestic product on maintenance, compared with a European average of 2.5 percent.  About 46 percent of Germany's bridges, 41 percent of its streets and 20 percent of its highways needs repair, Dr. Sieg said."

A Reporter's Drone Coming to Your Project Site

Your next proposed highway project or pipeline route could have a local newscast drone flying over it as part of an investigative report.  From Drones Offer Journalists a Wider View - -

"The machines have proved most valuable in providing film footage or photography of things that are difficult to reach, like wildlife or geographic formations. In the future, however, their capabilities may be expanded to include sensors that can help with environmental coverage, for instance, by providing readings on air quality.
“What drones give you is anywhere, anytime access to the sky,” said Chris Anderson, a former editor of Wired magazine who runs a drone company. “That perspective is something a journalist just wouldn’t have unless he waited for officials, or hired a plane.”
Early this fall the BBC launched an 18-inch, six-rotored unmanned machine into the sky to report on a high-speed train being planned to travel from London to Manchester. The train is controversial because it would cut through and, some argue, despoil some of the most pristine rural land in England.
“The idea was we needed to get above to give our viewers the full scope of the problem,” said Tom Hannen, who operates the program.
Mr. Whyld is exploring long-range drones, which can fly 10 or 20 miles from their handler, and looking into new sensors like heat-seeking cameras."

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Power of the Discovery Channel in Attracting Future Engineers

Having ASCE or ASME work on attracting students to engineering is somewhat of a waste of time - they don't have the correct skill sets for the world of video screens.  Just outsource the efforts to the Discovery Channel

Bridge Construction Animation

Animation changes the way projects can and will be viewed by all the project or program stakeholders.  This includes the public at a community meeting or contractors at a pre-bid meeting.  We need to better recognize the power and influence of video and animation as a key part of project planning, design, and execution.  I would vote for the Engineering Academy Awards for best short-video of a bridge construction animation.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Asset Management in Ohio

From the WaterWorld website.  Utilities need to be looking at the "Big Four" in the context of tools that support asset management programs - (1.) GIS-based platforms, (2.) Risk planning and assessment based on accurate and systematic condition evaluations, (3.) Predictive analytics (the future may belong to a combination of #2 and #3 - for example Pipe XYZ has a 75% probability of  failure in the next five years), and (4.) Decision-support tools and analytics.  Remember that asset management is a process and a methodology.  Information technology is an important component in any asset management program, but people and processes matter more.

"BROOMFIELD, CO, Nov. 19, 2013 -- The Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) of Greater Cincinnati, Ohio, will soon receive a comprehensive, intuitive GIS-centric solution for data collection and management, risk- and condition-based maintenance planning, predictive analytics, and decision analysis.

MSD selected Innovyze's InfoMaster Sewer to complete its enterprise smart asset management solution, built around ArcGIS (Esri, Redlands, CA) and Cityworks (Azteca Systems Inc., Sandy, UT). To optimize its capital improvement program and maintain the highest level of customer service, the District initiated the program aimed at getting the most for its investment. The multifaceted geocentric solution uses ArcGIS to collect and manage asset information, Cityworks to schedule and track work orders, and InfoMaster Sewer to plan and phase system improvements and develop funding strategy.

Built atop ArcGIS, InfoMaster Sewer gives utilities critical insight into all enterprise assets, their conditions and work processes, facilitating significantly better planning and control. It lets them use powerful business analytics and smart network modeling capabilities in new ways to drive higher productivity and quality while managing costs and increasing operational flexibility. Armed with these capabilities, utilities can create well-engineered condition- and risk-based capital improvement plans, optimize their infrastructures and keep them operating well into the future. InfoMaster Sewer includes components to run on desktop, web, tablet, and smartphone environments. The software is NASSCO PACP, MACP and LACP V6.0 certified.

The Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati is the publicly-operated wastewater utility serving 43 out of 49 Hamilton County, Ohio political subdivisions, as well as parts of the three adjacent counties of Butler, Clermont and Warren. It has a ratepayer base of approximately 230,000 residential and commercial users and operates seven major wastewater treatment plants and more than 120 pump stations. MSD provides sewerage collection and treatment services to an area covering approximately more than 290 square miles, containing over 200,000 separate sewer connections which tie into approximately 3,000 miles of sanitary and combined sewers."

Black & Veatch : Water Utilities Set Their Sights on Energy Savings

Black & Veatch : Water Utilities Set Their Sights on Energy Savings

Modularization of Construction

Engineering and Secular Stagnation

Engineering needs to follow this - - see post.  Looking like Japan for at least the rest of this decade.

"The diagnosis of a secular stagnation comes out as being plausible. In fact economists like Robert Gordon and Tyler Cowen have been arguing that the low hanging fruits from technological innovations having been plucked, we may now be in a period of technological stagnation. This when coupled with the declining population growth lends strong credence to a secular stagnation hypothesis. These are important long-term trends whose effects are certain to be profound.

Given the secular stagnation hypothesis, I am not sure whether the policy goal should be to attain the Great Moderation era "full employment" by seeking to lower the real interest rate. That would require continuing for an indefinite period the regime of quantitative easing and further monetary accommodation, as Krugman suggests, or deepening financial de-regulation, as Summers (may) be alluding to. Both are fraught with serious dangers of resource mis-allocation, incentive distortions, and structural problems (widening inequality and workers dropping out of the labor force).

There appears to be a distinct reluctance to accept the reality of a secular stagnation. Fundamentally, a sustainable pre-crisis trend recovery can happen only through the aggregate demand channel. But the aforementioned long-term structural trends are certain to keep aggregate demand muted. Therefore, instead of asking how to restore growth and employment back to pre-crisis levels, a more relevant exploration would be that of managing the economy given this new reality of a lower potential output. And that surely is not about seeking to lower real interest rates."

Flexibility Is Ultimately the Key to Success

I love this from a book review of Strategy: a History (Lawrence Freedman) in the Financial Times by Janan Ganesh on November 16, 2013:

"A serious strategy shows humility; it has built-in contingencies, never plans too far ahead, goes easy on details that cannot be controlled and does not pretend miracles can be achieved with a weak starting position.  This emphases on looseness raises the problem of paradox: is Freedman's idea of a good strategy really a strategy at all?  It is not more like a disposition or habit of mind, general resourcefulness and opportunism?"

New to my book bag

Engineers that work with cites understand how wrong President Lyndon Johnson was when he said, "Things could be worse.  I could be mayor."  Mayor Bloomberg is probably thinking just the opposite.  Mayors matter in a time when cites are uniquely positioned to save the planet and their cities. 

I added this over the weekend - If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities by Benjamin Barber.  The country is in search of pragmatism instead of politics.  It will be interesting to see if cities truly offer a model for nation-state governance.  Washington can bicker, debate, and pontificate - but the great cites of the world have learned to innovative, embrace diversity, become incubators of problem-solving - and pick up the garbage twice a week.

Mayors that understand "glocality" - mayors that define cites in ways that our national and state leaders never will - mayors that understand their (our) fiscal realities - these types of mayors represent our political future.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport Pedestrian Tunnel Project

2014 - Year of the Tunnel

From The Economist, The World in 2014 - Great bores of tomorrow:

"In 2014 record lengths of tunnel will be bored - perhaps around 1,000 km (620 miles) in all.  Boring machines will burrow beneath traffic-choked cities in China, India, the Middle East and Latin America, to bring new or expanded subway systems.  Add the massive water, sewerage and other projects under way and the amount of tunnelling in 2014 will be perhaps double that of five years earlier, reckons Lok Home, the boss of Robbins, an American maker of bores."

Friday, November 22, 2013

Optimizing Resources Amid Increasing Scarcity - Answer | MIT Technology Review

Optimizing Resources Amid Increasing Scarcity - Answer | MIT Technology Review

A Paragraph to Ponder

From Ceres, Inaction on Climate Change:The Cost to Taxpayers:

"As the frequency and severity of extreme weather events intensify with the effects of climate change, our federal and state disaster relief and insurance programs will become increasingly unsustainable as losses from such events increase. The net present value of the federal government’s liability for unfunded disaster assistance over the next 75 years could be greater than the net present value of the unfunded liability for the Social Security program."

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Understanding P3s in Canada

Link to an overview report.

Integrated Watercyle Management

Interesting paper/presentation by Low et al - Resiliency of Urban Water System.  Link to the presentation.

Great slide - -

The Evolution of How We Build Airports

The Evolution of How We Build Airports

What is Good Design?

From Why design matters by Tristram Carfrae of Arup:

"Consider the three main ingredients of a typical project: quality, time and money. Without the inspiration that comes from design, they remain interdependent. So, for example, you can improve quality, but it will take longer and cost more. You can do things more cheaply but it will take longer and reduce the quality.

Design is what enables you to adjust these factors independently – ideally improving all three. So the genius of great design is that it allows you to improve quality while reducing programme time and cost. You can deliver a building that meets the client’s aspirations but also saves them money and is more sustainable than they thought possible.

The skill of the designer lies in sieving through the different opportunities to do this and using hunch and emotional response to find the most appropriate one. You can test the solution using analysis, but – as I’ve written about before on Thoughts – you can’t solve open-ended problems with mathematics alone. You need both sides of your brain; you need intuition as well as logic."

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Direct Pipe Method

A Watershed Asset Management Plan

From San Diego's stormwater management department - link to the plan.  This is the presentation to the San Diego City Council on the need for additional stormwater investment and the funding approach - link to the powerpoint slides.

The bottom line - an asset management plan helps utilities better manage risks and identifying compliance needs.  Our aging infrastructure requires a greater need to communicate the condition of asset networks.  This need for better communication interfaces with one of the many benefits of asset management - a greater understanding of the full life-cycle costs associated with operating and maintaining water, wastewater, and stormwater systems.

Graph of the Week

Interesting graph of U.S. migration patterns.

Building Resilience in Boston

Good report - - Building Resilience in Boston: "Best Practices" for Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience for Existing Buildings.  From the report:
The focus of this study is on strategies for improving the
resilience of existing buildings in Boston. Specifically, this
study compiles a selection of “best practices” to improve
the resilience of buildings to current and emerging hazards
related to climate change. This report focuses on enhancing
the resilience of existing buildings because newly designed
buildings can easily adapt to new building standards, but
adapting existing buildings takes more effort and different