Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Mastering the Resilient / Sustainable / Smart Business Model

Water utilities are facing a highly complex future.  Strategic challenges can best be viewed as the effective management of the resilient / sustainable / smart utility triangle.  These new challenges call for a completely different set of metrics, mindsets, and leadership approaches.  Future decision-making by water utility leaders will require an integrated approach linking the capabilities of resiliency in an increasingly risky world, with the economic, environment, and social justice considerations of sustainability, with the technological opportunities embedded in a smart and data-driven operating environment. 

One side of the triangle represents the ideas of shock and stress recovery.  Utility operational resiliency is fundamentally the desire to develop capabilities such that you can bounce back more quickly and effectively after an unexpected event.  Texas water utilities face a future dominated by the uncertainties associated with weather and climate change; the risks of cyber-crime and terrorism; increasing public and social-media driven awareness regarding water quality; and the financial constraints of investing in and rehabilitation of a high-fixed cost operating environment.  Organizational and system resiliency will matter this century.  Texas has highly concentrated urban and metropolitan areas that are wonderful places to live, yet their growing populations and increased density make them vulnerable to disruptions, crisis, and disaster in many new ways.  A key component of the triangle will be ensuring water utilities have the governance structures in place that allows them to be strong in a world where things go wrong.

The second side to the triangle incorporates the ideas of sustainability into the operational and planning ecosystem of a water utility.  Developing policy initiatives that address the goals of environmental stewardships, long-term economic viability, and community sustainability will also be critical this century.  Optimization across the complete horizontal space of sustainability will be critical given the increasingly constrained outlook of water resources in Texas.  Cautious balancing between the urgency of resiliency and the importance of sustainability will require greater strategic thought and planning.  The desire for greater resiliency has the potential to constrain sustainability policies and goals, while focusing solely on sustainability might produce less resilient water utilities in Texas.

The final side of the triangle incorporates the disruptive influences of technology on strategic utility management.  This moves beyond the in vogue procurement of smart water meters, to a fuller understanding of what it means to be a technology and data-centric organization.  Increasing digitalization, enhanced machine learning, the exponential growth of sensor infrastructure, and the networked organization will become important tools in the context of how water utilities define and measure customer and citizen value.  The smart utility will have the technological links that connects the goals of resiliency and sustainability more effectively.

The Wall is About Economics and Not Civil Engineering

From the Marginal Revolution ten years ago - -

"To keep out Mexicans, that is.

For purposes of argument, let us say you are anti-immigration.  And let us say the fence would cost nothing to build and maintain.  You still might not want one.

Mexicans illegals enter the U.S. through two major channels.  They run (or swim) across the border, or they buy illegal papers.  Usually the papers cost more than the hiring the crossing guide.  The papers make for an easier and safer journey, for obvious reasons.  Mexican women, I might add, are more likely to use false papers, given their (their father’s?) greater aversion to the physical strain of four days in the desert.

If you shut off the desert walks (assume the fence is impregnable, ha!), more Mexicans will use illegal papers. 

Did I add I would expect the cost of the papers to fall, not rise?  Many Mexicans don’t trust the purchase of papers, as opposed to the desert walk.  If the walk were impossible, networks for manufacture and sale of the papers would become much better developed.  The illegal papers would become much cheaper and much more widely used. 

In other words, more young women will come.  Many of the Mexican men will have wives here, not back home.  Many more young Mexicans will be born on U.S. soil. 

Get the picture?  Hispanamerica is coming, like it or not.  Let’s deal with it constructively."

A Carbon Addicted Country

Sunday, September 25, 2016

What is Li-Fi?

Mott MacDonald on the Smart Infrastructure Revolution

Link to the article.

The Science Enabled City

From Debra Roberts - the first chief resilience officer of Durban, South Africa - - 

"This dialogue is just getting started in a serious way. In the past, cities were not places where science was a driving force. In the next 20 to 50 years, all big developmental decisions will be made in cities. They are becoming the loci on the face of the earth where literally everything (social, natural, economic pressures and opportunities) merge. Science is being added into the programme as a necessary consideration and tool. We’re at the beginning of the debate — it’s been a much more passive actor in the past. Going forward, cities are going to begin to define the development path around not only political and social criteria but around also scientific criteria."

Smart City Week

Best Show on TV - Gomorrah

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Engineering Class of 2017 - Five Technologies for Your Future

Getting Engineers to Understand Clients and Customers

Engineers can Share this Global Achievement

Signs of Global Desperation

Term of the Week / / Cross-Selling

Arup on Why Engineers are Essential to Medical Science

BP Drone Technology

Link to information and a video.

Toilets and Climate Change

From Grist and the impacts of climate change and extreme weather on sanitary sewer overflows.

Image result for pictures of overflowing manholes

Geography Quiz

From the New York Times:

"The landmass of Bangladesh is one-118th the size of Russia, but its population exceeds Russia’s by more than 25 million."

Resistance to Antibiotics

From the current issue of the Economist:

"All around the world, drug-resistant infections are on the rise.  They now kill more than 700,000 people a year.  In 2014 nearly 60% of samples of Escherichia coli, a common gut bacterium, collected from patients in hospitals were strains that could not be treated with penicillins.  About 25% were resistant to one or both of two other commonly used sorts of antibiotics."

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The World of Deconstruction

Tracking the Cost of Trump's Wall

From the BBC:
"There are other reasons the costs would be likely to escalate: Mr Trump's plans require extending the wall into increasingly remote and mountainous regions, raising the building costs substantially.
Adding even more to the expense, the new 1,000 miles would crisscross private land, which would have to be purchased, perhaps by legal force, or financial settlements made with owners.
A study by the Washington Post estimated the cost of Mr Trump's wall would be closer to $25 billion."
Image result for picture of hadrian wall uk

Term of the Week - Elephant Curve

Trains, Planes and Automobiles - - Humans Battling Computers

The Water Rate Visualization Toolkit

Link to the information.


Will We Borrow the Money?

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Everything Transit

Link to The Transport Politic.

Brexit and Trump's Potential Trade Wars - The Same Problems?

From Tyler Cowen - Marginal Revolution:

"Nonetheless imports are almost 30 percent of British GDP, which you can take as one possible measure of what eventually might be spent on the outputs of foreign nations. So plausibly, in the long run that 30 percent becomes 10 percent more expensive because of the weaker British currency. Thirty percent of 12 trillion [national wealth] is 3.6 trillion, and the 10-percent value decline from that figure is 360 billion pounds, or about 5,625 pounds per capita. a pretty steep price for the Brexit vote.

To put that 360 billion pounds in context, that is about 19 percent of 2015 British GDP, much costlier than a typical recession. The bigger loss, however, is less psychologically painful because it is spread out over many years, basically the rate at which the British will spend down their wealth. And if you view the country as a wealth-generating mechanism for the future, in fact the actual costs will be higher because hitherto-unproduced wealth will be worth less too, although those costs are more distant yet.

This isn’t any kind of formal international trade model, with a full set of measurements and moving variables. It’s just a simple way of showing that the costs of Brexit can be high without a recession. It is quite possible and indeed likely that various adjustments, including a move away from foreign imports, would lower these costs. On the other side of the ledger, Brexit could help create a negative political and economic momentum that is not captured here either. Nonetheless this is a gross approximation of the first-order hit to British wealth."

And The Winner Is...Columbus!

And The Winner Is...Columbus!: Columbus, OH, claims the $50-million top spot in the U.S. Department of Transportation's Smart City Challenge.

Want to Work with Engineers Without Borders?

Graph of the Week

Myths and Realities on Infrastructure Spending

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Five Key Questions of Infrastrcuture Spending

From Lawrence Summers in the Financial Times today - The Urgent Need for Infrastructure Spending:
  1. How much do we need to invest?
  2. What is the highest priority?
  3. How should investment be financed?
  4. What about the private sector?
  5. How can we be sure investment is carried out efficiently?

The Next Great Project Management Tool - Whispering Earbuds

What Engineers Should be Reading this Election Season

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Movement on High/Higher Speed Rail in the United State

Notes - -

  • Baltimore to DC -
  • Dallas to Fort Worth -
Image result for pictures of high speed rail

Louisiana and Climate Change

From the Journal of the European Geosciences Union:

"A stationary low pressure system and elevated levels of precipitable water provided a nearly continuous source of precipitation over Louisiana, United States (U.S.) starting around 10 August, 2016. Precipitation was heaviest in the region broadly encompassing the city of Baton Rouge, with a three-day maximum found at a station in Livingston, LA (east of Baton Rouge) from 12–14 August, 2016 (648.3 mm, 25.5 inches). The intense precipitation was followed by inland flash flooding and river flooding and in subsequent days produced additional backwater flooding. On 16 August, Louisiana officials reported that 30,000 people had been rescued, nearly 10,600 people had slept in shelters on the night of 14 August, and at least 60,600 homes had been impacted to varying degrees. As of 17 August, the floods were reported to have killed at least thirteen people. As the disaster was unfolding, the Red Cross called the flooding the worst natural disaster in the U.S. since Super Storm Sandy made landfall in New Jersey on 24 October, 2012. Before the floodwaters had receded, the media began questioning whether this extreme event was caused by anthropogenic climate change. To provide the necessary analysis to understand the potential role of anthropogenic climate change, a rapid attribution analysis was launched in real-time using the best readily available observational data and high-resolution global climate model simulations. 

The objective of this study is to show the possibility of performing rapid attribution studies when both observational and model data, and analysis methods are readily available upon the start. It is the authors aspiration that the results be used to guide further studies of the devastating precipitation and flooding event. Here we present a first estimate of how anthropogenic climate change has affected the likelihood of a comparable extreme precipitation event in the Central U.S. Gulf Coast. While the flooding event of interest triggering this study occurred in south Louisiana, for the purposes of our analysis, we have defined an extreme precipitation event by taking the spatial maximum of annual 3-day inland maximum precipitation over the region: 29–31º N, 85–95º W, which we refer to as the Central U.S. Gulf Coast. Using observational data, we find that the observed local return time of the 12–14 August precipitation event in 2016 is about 550 years (95 % confidence interval (C.I.): 450–1450). The probability for an event like this to happen anywhere in the region is presently 1 in 30 years (C.I. 11–110). We estimate that these probabilities and the intensity of extreme precipitation events of this return time have increased since 1900. A Central U.S. Gulf Coast extreme precipitation event has effectively become more likely in 2016 than it was in 1900. The global climate models tell a similar story, with the regional probability of 3-day extreme precipitation increasing due to anthropogenic climate change by a factor of more than a factor 1.4 in the most accurate analyses. The magnitude of the shift in probabilities is greater in the 25 km (higher resolution) climate model than in the 50 km model. The evidence for a relation to El Niño half a year earlier is equivocal, with some analyses showing a positive connection and others none."

Augmented Reality Will Also Reshape Engineering

Engineering Managers Need to Learn Managing Skill Flows and Not Stocks

From Medium:

"For businesses, this means they need to observe and understand where and how fast will evolve the obsolescence of their internal skills that make the core of their “human capital”. They may use provocative efforts with exercises that could be called like, Jack Welch at General Electric in the late 90s, who created a movement,, as a means to make everyone understand that the Internet would disrupt business models. Similarly, today we must understand how each skill becomes obsolete or is becoming a commodity, and how fast. Corporations must thoroughly review their modes of learning. They must understand how systems, structures, current cultures actually paralyze rather than encourage the inevitable evolution of skills. This occurs for example when skill definitions are too closely related to job descriptions, or when linking transfers or promotions to the acquisition of specific skills, etc. Corporations must also simultaneously consider the expertise not only of internal employees but also of those contributors, whatever their status, that are external to the company and who possess the skills needed but are not available inside. New external skills often become mission critical. They have to encourage the optimal combination between inside and outside resources in ways far different from the old outsourcing logic. In short, corporations must reinvent their approach to skills based on fast moving flows of skills rather than stocks."

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Engineering for a Different Future

From the Financial Times in a review of Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari from last Saturday - -

"For the first time in history, more people will die today from eating too much than from eating too little; more people die from old age than from infection diseases; and more people commit suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists and criminals combined."

Marketing Tips for Engineers from Engineers

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Mobility Modeling and Cellphone Data

FireWhat Inc.

Water is for Fighting Over

Trump's Wall - No One with the Can-do Will Do?

From Defense One:

"There are just a handful of architectural and engineering firms with the organizational capacity to build Trump’s wall. Not the technical know-how—any engineer can design a wall—but rather the experience in management. Marshaling the array of contractors and subcontractors it would take to build a wall across so many different jurisdictions and climate regions would require a fairly elite engineering firm.

None of more than a dozen global architecture and engineering firms I contacted were willing to speak on the record about Trump’s wall. Neither did faculty at the schools of civil engineering for Texas A&M University and the Georgia Institute of Technology. But several sources pointed to codes of ethics that seek to prevent architects, engineers, and planning professionals from doing harm."

Image result for picture of great wall of china

The Wisdom of Brendan Bechtel

From an ENR editorial last week:

"Speaking at the Construction Industry Institute conference in National Harbor, Md., earlier this month, Bechtel claimed that, for megaprojects, 98% experience cost overruns or delays, the average cost increase is 80%, and the average schedule slippage is 20 months.

“Our house is on fire,” Bechtel told the audience. “If we don’t address [the various problems], we may cease to exist as an industry and … customers will cease to have confidence that we can deliver.”"

Moving to Peru?