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Construction Dive
os Angeles-based construction and engineering giant AECOM is in talks with Canadian firm WSP Global Inc. about a possible deal, Bloomberg reported Monday night. Media reports said that WSP approached AECOM about the potential transaction, according to sources familiar with the two companies.

Although there is no guarantee that the talks will lead to a deal or how a deal would play out, analyst Andrew Wittmann said in a written research report that he believes the discussions "likely have some merit" for several reasons, including the fact that WSP's stated goals include acquisitive growth, that AECOM stock has inexplicably climbed in recent days and that AECOM leadership is currently transitioning. Chairman and CEO Michael S. Burke announced in November that he will retire this year.

In addition, a deal could help the two firms — which both operate across hundreds of local offices mainly concentrated in North America — save on costs, consolidate real estate, streamline procurement and system investments and help meet AECOM's "very aggressive" F2021 EBITDA guidance, said Wittmann, a senior research analyst with Baird Equity Research's Industrial Services division​. While Montreal-based WSP has been growing in recent years with multiple acquisitions, AECOM recently announced the sale of one of its divisions.

The $2.4 billion sale of AECOM's Management Services business to two private equity firms is expected to close in the first quarter of 2020, and the company’s Civil Construction business is also​ on the block, analyst Michael Corelli, vice president and senior credit officer for Moody's Investor Service, told Construction Dive.

In June, Starboard Value LP, an AECOM investor that owns approximately 4% of the company's common stock, called on the board of directors to consider selling its construction services unit, according to a letter from Peter Feld, Starboard's managing member. Company leaders said they would review the letter.

Meanwhile, WSP's acquisitions of U.S.-based construction and engineering firms go back several years. In 2018, WSP bought Berger Group Holdings Inc., parent of the group of companies operating under the umbrella name of Louis Berger, a Morristown, N.J.-based international professional services firm, for $400 million, according to ENR. And in 2014, it acquired New York City-based Parsons Brinckerhoff for about $1.4 billion.

In recent days, WSP closed an acquisition in December of Lancaster, N.Y.-based environmental consulting firm Ecology and Environment Inc., a 775-employee, publicly traded company that works with governments and private customers worldwide, including the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The $65 million deal included a special dividend of approximately $2.2 million, according to a press statement.

At the time of the announcement, WSP U.S. president and CEO Lou Cornell said that the transaction would enable the firm to "fulfill its strategic ambition of enhancing our activities in the United States."

WSP provides engineering and design services to clients in the transportation, infrastructure, buildings, environment, power and energy industries, according to its website. The company employs approximately 50,000 employees, including approximately 10,500 in the United States.

WSP is part of LaGuardia Gateway Partners, the team designing and building the $3.6 billion Central Terminal B at LaGuardia Airport in New York City, one of the largest public-private partnerships (P3) currently undertaken in the U.S.

Representatives for AECOM and WSP didn’t immediately respond to Construction Dive's requests for comment.
Building on its launch last year of Autodesk BIM 360 Design, Autodesk announced Oct. 30 the addition of Civil 3D to the cloud solution platform. Users say the enhanced collaborative abilities with BIM 360 and Revit will streamline design of projects that include both civil and vertical components, such as airports and rail stations.

Collaboration for Civil 3D, now included with a BIM 360 Design subscription, allows subscribers of both to work collaboratively with project partners anytime and from anywhere, regardless of team locations and disciplines, says Theo Agelopoulos, senior director with Autodesk.

Customers can now collaborate using streamlined workflows on a unified platform and also perform their day-to-day data management activities in the same place, he says.

While Collaboration for Civil 3D on the BIM 360 Design platform does not yet offer the same worksharing capabilities as Revit, beta users say the ability to access, iterate, and mark up Civil 3D models in real-time in the cloud constitute a game-changer.

Stacey Morykin, design technology manager for Pennoni, says Autodesk gathered client feedback and brainstorming ideas before developing a beta for clients to test. “We’ve been waiting for this for a really long time,” she says. “We do have some projects that have a vertical infrastructure as well as horizontal. Before, when collaborating on a project, we felt like an outsider. Now we have a chance to be an insider.”

In the past, project partners had to export civil 3D files for Pennoni to import into its drawings. “By the time I hung up phone, there would be another change, so I’m still behind,” says Morykin. “If the architect changes a building footprint or door location, now with this integration we can see it.”

Russ Dalton, AECOM BIM director for the Americas, says the enhanced collaboration can improve production efficiency by 32%. “We work on surveying, preconstruction, predesign, all through turnover and operations. We needed a single data source. When we looked at the total picture of delivering a product that looks the same inside the computer screen and physically, it had to come into play,” he says. Historically, there would be a delay in coordination between architect, mechanical engineering and civil design, he says. “Layouts change all the time. The HVAC and architectural teams are working at a fast clip.”

The development also improves collaboration with other programs, such as ProjectWise from Bentley, he adds. “We’re using Civil 3D on top of ProjectWise and that had never worked well. With the new Civil3D collaboration tool, we can add BIM 360 to the workflow, as BIM360 and ProjectWise do collaborate well.”
Connie Zhou
The Mark is a 750,000 SF, 48-story commercial office and hotel tower that’s reshaping the Seattle skyline, and designed to preserve the historic Jacobean-style Rainier Club and the nation’s oldest Byzantine-style church next door. Utilizing a compact footprint at ground level, the tower subtly slopes over the site’s existing structures before tapering back through a precise system of steel “knuckles” and triangulated building planes.

Preserving and incorporating the First United Methodist Church into the new development, the tower rises from the city block with a faceted form. At the tower’s base, a transparent entrance lobby and lower level facade integrates with The Sanctuary and The Rainier Club to provide an enclosed court between buildings. With 15,000 square feet available on The Mark’s first floor, the floorplates needed to expand on subsequent levels to maximize leasing potential. Through a joint development agreement with The Rainier Club, ‘over-under’ property rights are utilized. It is Seattle’s first tower with column-free floors and floor-to-ceiling windows—more per square foot than in any other building in the city.

At the heart of the tower is a diagonal steel mega-brace system. The exposed braces zigzag up the tower’s facade and are embedded 11 inches into its reflective glazing. The intersections of the braces are called “the knuckles,” where brace members were initially bolted and finished with penetration welds. The knuckles are a result of the desire to stitch the building together along its corners, even though the design also mandated that the same corners be column-free. Every knuckle had to occur at a floor level, so that forces from braces on two orthogonal faces could be resolved into the floor structure.

The structural system shifts the load away from the core and to the exterior walls, allowing for a smaller core and creating more rentable floor space. ZGF and Arup worked with steel fabricator Supreme Steel to create the knuckles with a Halfen anchoring system for the building’s unitized panels. Supreme Steel developed a detailed three-dimensional model showing all of the welds and plates. The mega-brace structural technology enveloping The Mark is a first for towers in high-seismic regions.

The design optimizes building height, configuration and floor plate efficiency while responding to the owner’s vision for an iconic addition to downtown Seattle’s skyline. Allyn Stellmacher, a partner at ZGF Architects, talked about what it meant to rethink tall buildings in the city. “Our client, Kevin Daniels, envisioned a project that could reset expectations for high-rises in Seattle. Alongside our project partners, it was gratifying to help make our mark on the skyline.”

ZGF associate Henry Zimmerman and Arup associate Bryce Tanner will be presenting The Mark on the panel”Thinking Outside the Box: Detailing and Fabrication Considerations for Advanced Building Geometries,” at The Architect’s Newspaper’s upcoming Facades+ Seattle conference on December 6.
Jessica Savidge
They are impatient entrepreneurs and ambitious company problem-solvers, but also generous mentors, deep-thinking visionaries and committed social activists—with the right mix of talent, experience, foresight, drive and empathy to tackle construction’s persistent challenges and help lead it into a new era of technology transformation and business boom.

The individuals selected by a panel of industry judges as ENR’s National Top 20 Under 40 for 2019 have enough industry experience to know what works and what doesn’t—and the idealism and energy to create change and make it stick.Some are changemakers by being pioneers in complex new roles with uncertain reward. Myesha McClendon was the first black female engineering manager at Milhouse Engineering & Construction, then launched its aviation practice, which has now completed more than 30 projects at Chicago’s three airports.

Starting as an intern at St. Louis contractor S.M. Wilson, Mark Cochran became its first chief operating officer—increasing profit by $5 million since 2016 and becoming a regionwide labor collective bargaining negotiator.

Some have also worked to insure a future pipeline, inspiring others on the job or through outside pro bono efforts. Parsons’ California manager Robert Davis mentors San Francisco teens in a summer program showcasing the city's environmental infrastructure and its career possibilities.

Thornton Tomasetti exec John Barry has designed off-Broadway building sets, including a rain-making pump system for one production.

Susan Stabler used her role as a Brasfield & Gorrie vice president to create and then lead for five years its women’s networking group and other new diversity vehicles for the Alabama-based contractor.

In recognizing the Top 20, ENR this year also tasked them to become a think tank, offering ideas in four critical industry challenge areas: workforce growth and diversity, project delivery and productivity, sustainability and resilience, and infrastructure investment advocacy.

Click on the stories below to learn more about what the Top 20 think about the future.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has selected four major civil-works projects as candidates for a new public-private partnership (P3) pilot program, which aims to speed up project construction and reduce costs.

The program is part of a broader Revolutionizing USACE Civil Works effort to accelerate project starts and completions. One goal is to cut the Corps' huge backlog—approaching $100 billion—of congressionally authorized but unfunded projects.

Decisions on whether the four projects will advance as P3s will not come quickly, however. The Corps says it will be at least six months and as many as 24 months before it determines whether a P3 approach will work for the projects.

The selected projects, which the Corps announced on June 21, include two in Texas—levee raising and other storm protection work from Sabine Pass to Galveston Bay and deepening the Brownsville ship channel.

Also on the list are an environmental restoration project for the Los Angeles River and a new second lock at Sault Ste. Marie in Michigan.

The Corps says the four projects were chosen from among eight submissions and “will be further developed and validated” to see if they should move forward as P3’s. Lauren Leuck, strategic communication lead for Revolutionize USACE Civil Works, says,"We're in the very early stages" of these projects' development.

Project details

The largest of the four projects is the $3.9-billion Sabine Pass-Galveston Bay flood protection plan. It will draw on “private entities” for the nonfederal share, the Corps says. Nonfederal sponsors include the Texas General Land Office, the Special Purpose Vehicle and Trust, two local drainage districts and Orange County, Texas.

The Brownsville ship channel project would involve dredging the waterway to 52 ft from 42 ft and carries an estimated cost of $288 million. The Brownsville Navigation District is the nonfederal sponsor. Nonfederal revenue would come from “private sources,” according to the Corps

The L.A. River ecosystem improvement plan is pegged at $1.4 billion. Besides federal funds, it will involve grants from state and local government and private foundations, along with ‘”usage revenue” tax assessments and “general funds,” according to the Corps.

The new second Soo Lock in Michigan is estimated to cost $922 million. The Michigan Dept. of Transportation is the nonfederal sponsor and state appropriations and user fees are listed as the nonfederal revenue sources.

A fifth project, highway bridges over Massachusetts' Cape Cod Canal, also was apparently going to be selected, but “has been put on hold,” Leuck says. She says that the Corps and the Federal Highway Administration “are exploring a variety of options to fund that project.”

Although decisions on the four projects will not come for a while, the Corps is committed enough to the P3 idea that it plans to make a request for P3 proposals an annual occurrence.

It has high-level support within the civil works program. Last September, R.D. James, assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, sent a memorandum to the Chief of Engineers, Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, outlining policies for the P3 program.

For example, to be eligible, a project's construction cost must be over $50 million, must use some combination of design, build, finance, operation and maintenance and be able to produce revenue or use nonfederal funding.

Industry observers react

Many questions remain to be answered about the potential P3 projects. John Doyle, special counsel with law and lobbying firm Jones Walker LLP, says, "Conceptually, if this can be made to work over the long haul it could have a very substantial positive effect on at least parts of the civil works program."

But Doyle, a former senior Army civil works official, adds, "That’s a long-term outcome that depends on being able to demonstrate in the near term that it is in fact workable in the water resources world."

Jim Walker, American Association of Port Authorities director of navigation policy and legislation, noted in emailed comments that in general, "The federal government as a whole has had difficulty developing and executing P3s."

The big exception is the Dept. of Transportation, which has provided funds for many P3 highway and bridge projects. It is the stat
Raysonho / Wikimedia Commons
Starboard Value LP, an AECOM investor that owns approximately 4% of the company's common stock, is calling on the board of directors to consider selling its construction services unit, according to a letter Peter Feld, Starboard's managing member, penned to AECOM Chairman and CEO Michael Burke this week.

The investment firm said AECOM's construction services unit has experienced earnings volatility and that it is subject to the risks of cost overruns and schedule delays.

A sale, Starboard said, would streamline the AECOM portfolio and allow investors and the company to focus more on the potential of its design and consulting business.

Overall, Starboard said, given AECOM's scale when compared to competitors, there's no reason it should not be able to compete with its peers on margins. In addition, the investment company said that AECOM should use Jacobs Engineering and its "turnaround" during the last several years as an operational model moving forward.

In a statement to Construction Dive, AECOM said, "We have taken and continue to take proactive steps from a position of strength to create meaningful shareholder value as demonstrated through our plan to spin-off our Management Services business into a standalone government services company; our already-executed $225 million margin-enhancing [general and administration expenses] reduction; ongoing review of margin improvement opportunities; our intent to exit all self-perform construction exposure by the end of the fiscal year; and stock repurchases under our $1 billion authorization." The company added that it values shareholder input and will review Starboard's letter.

AECOM announced last week that it was going to spin off its management services unit into a standalone company, which Starboard cited as an opportunity for it to suggest other changes.

It's not unusual for public companies like AECOM to have one or more activist investors try to force fundamental changes in the way the company operates.

Earlier this year, another AECOM investor, Engine Capital, tried to sway shareholders in the runup to the company's annual meeting by announcing it would vote "withhold" against current board members and a new executive compensation plan. Engine said executive pay at the company, particularity for Burke, who had by that time received almost $80 million in compensation, was too high given its substandard operating results in comparison to its peers. One of Engine's suggestions was to tie bonuses to long-term performance.

Shareholders ended up approving all of AECOM's board of directors' nominees and the proposed executive compensation resolution, voting yes as well on a revised employee stock purchase plan. ​
National Transportation Safety Board
On the morning of last year’s Florida International University pedestrian bridge collapse, when the engineer of record assured project team members that there were no safety risks related to cracks propagating across a part of the unusual single-truss structure, other project team members voiced mild concern, but no alarm. In hindsight, considering that the bridge had no inherent structural redundancy as it sat, incomplete, straddling a busy highway—and would suffer a sudden, catastrophic and deadly collapse just hours later—the team’s lack of urgency remains puzzling, say engineering experts contacted by ENR for comment.

Minutes of the meeting in the contractor’s field office recently released by the Florida Dept. of Transportation show that attendees offered modest suggestions and questions to FIGG Bridge Engineers.

Bolton Perez & Associates, the project’s construction engineering and inspection contractor, asked, “Do we need temporary shoring?,” for instance. FIGG officials responded that it was not necessary. Instead, the minutes show that FIGG staff suggested that steel channels and post-tension bars would “capture some of that force which is better than vertical support. The diagonal member is what needs to be captured.” To the suggestion that another engineer should peer review the bridge’s cracks, FIGG concurred.

An official with FIU asked a representative with Bolton Perez their opinion of FIGG’s presentation analysis. Bolton, Perez said they could not comment at the moment, but would “expedite” a response in 2-3 days, according to the notes.

An FDOT representative asked FIGG to supply a copy of the presentation for the agency’s records.

Engineers asked by ENR to review the meeting presentation and minutes for this story don’t believe that it shows exactly what errors or mistakes precipitated the sudden collapse.

Designed with a single central, open truss, the pedestrian bridge structure featured a narrower top chord. The top chord was to serve as a canopy over the wider bottom chord, which would be the walking surface. Cables from a 109-ft-high central pylon, not yet built at the time of the collapse, would add stability, according to the design-build proposal. The concrete deck was designed with two-way post-tensioning tendons.

At the time of the collapse, contractors were apparently adjusting a tension rod in one of the diagonal struts between the chords at one end of the bridge. It is possible that the project’s prime contractor, MCM, and its post-tensioning subcontractor, in attempting to fix the problems, made an error that caused the bridge’s single truss to crack and give way. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, crews reportedly had been re-tensioning diagonal member 11 at the time of the collapse. Lacking redundancy, the truss failed at that end and fell to the ground, smashing autos and claiming six lives.

Just days before the meeting, the truss structure cast alongside the road was loaded onto its permanent supports and inspections showed no distressed members. But two days before the collapse, MCM emailed FIGG about cracks. FIGG responded by instructing MCM to install temporary shims in the base of a pylon directly below the portion of the bridge with the cracks, between the permanent support shims.

Then, on March 15, 2018, engineers, contractors, consultants, state DOT representatives and officials with FIU, the project owner, gathered to hear why the bridge designer thought cracks were occurring around part of the structure’s walking surface. The section in question was the bottom chord of the concrete truss comprising the bridge, at one of the diagonal web members at the structure’s north end.

Meeting notes indicate that it was known that cracks were “growing daily.”

Despite that, FIGG Bridge Engineers assured project team members that they saw “no safety concern” due to the cracking. According to the meeting notes, FIGG’s lead technical designer Denney Pate—who led the presentation, according to FIU—and bridge engineer Eddy Leon were on site for the presentation. Dwight Dempsey, FIGG’s design manager, joined by phone.

Team members in attendance probably held Pate’s opinion in high regard that morning. FIGG-MCM’s design-build proposal lists numerous accolades for Pate in support of its description of him as
AECOM Annual Report / Getty Images
The benefits that helped the corporation avoid paying are all legal

Among the companies that were able to lower federal taxes due to 2017’s tax code overhaul, AECOM is construction’s standout. Not only did the company benefit from the lower corporate tax rate. It was able to mobilize a handful of other tax benefits along with the tax cut so that it paid no corporate taxes at all.

That earned AECOM a very public place near the top of the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy’s list of 60 companies on the Fortune 500 that avoided all federal income taxes in 2018.

In total, the company earned a $122-million rebate on its fiscal 2018 federal taxes. That tied AECOM (NYSE-ACM) for third place on the institute's list with a negative tax rate (meaning the government pays the company, not the other way around) of 51% on $238 million in U.S. income.

Only newspaper chain Gannett, which topped the list of all Fortune 500 companies with a tax rate of minus 167%, followed by IBM, at number 2, with negative 68%, posted better tax rates, according to the institute’s calculations.

AECOM is also the only engineering or construction firm to make the list. The institute, a nonprofit think tank, emphasizes corporate tax avoidance in its flagship publication, Who Pays? The rankings published in it are reported in many media outlets.

Matthew Gardner, a senior fellow at the institute, said the story is not about any single company, but rather that 60 Fortune 500 firms either paid no federal taxes in 2018 or got multimillion-dollar rebates.

“When any particular business or individual isn’t paying some amount, that amount has to be made up in some other way,” Gardner says. “When you have a situation where some companies are paying a little and other companies are paying a lot, that undermines people’s view of the fairness of the federal tax law.”

AECOM Tax Ethics Policy

AECOM’s corporate tax ethics policy emphasizes the company’s obligation to pay all taxes it legally owes and notes the possibility of “reputational damage” for failing to follow the policy.

In a statement, AECOM called the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy’s study “misleading,” especially for its focus on federal corporate taxes.

“The organization’s list is misleading by using a narrow definition of tax expense, and AECOM continues to conform to all applicable tax laws,” AECOM said in a statement. The 2017 tax reform law is one of “a number of factors” that helped lower the company’s corporate effective income tax rate, the company stated.

At least one independent scholar unconnected to the institute or AECOM believes the study is imprecise in how it defines loopholes and avoidance.

Paul DeBole, an assistant professor of political science at Lasell College in Auburndale, Mass., says he is no fan of the current tax system. But he contends the think tank’s study is a bit heavy handed.

“It talks about loopholes but I get wary when people label a legitimate allowance as a loophole,” said DeBole, who has a background in accounting. “I don’t think they are being totally fair.”

Other industries are skillful at managing their taxes, too. Duke Energy, for example, topped the institute’s list with a $647 million federal rebate. And insurer Prudential Financial ($346 million), IBM ($342 million) and oil and gas concern EOG Resources ($304 million) all scored bigger tax rebates than AECOM.

Meanwhile, AECOM’s $122 million federal tax rebate, while substantial, doesn’t tell the whole story of the company’s tax situation. It only covers the U.S. portion, and the Los Angeles-based firm's final, global tax bill is based on worldwide revenue and operations.

When all the taxes paid by AECOM to other governments across the world are taken into account along with its U.S. tax situation, the engineering giant still managed to stay in the black on its yearly tax liability, though at a more modest $19.6 million.

In a series of tables in its 2018 annual report, AECOM details how it went from a worldwide tax liability of more than $43.5 million to being owed money.

Exact Origin of Tax Benefits Unclear

The exact origin of some key tax benefits are never spelled out, however.

For example, the company notes that it had “income tax credits and incentives” which reduced its taxes by $37.2 million in 20
Nadine M. Post for ENR
The repair of two fractured girders spanning Fremont Street and the reinforcement of twin girders spanning First Street are complete at the beleaguered Salesforce Transit Center in San Francisco.

To date, an independent panel of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission has found no other issues affecting the transit center, according to the public owner, the Transbay Joint Powers Authority. TJPA will announce a reopening date after the panel concludes its review.

TJPA shuttered the facility in late September, some six weeks after it had opened to bus traffic. This was shortly after a ceiling panel installer had inadvertently discovered the most serious of the two brittle fractures in the bottom flange of one of the twin built-up plate girders spanning Fremont Street.

Shoring Removed

To date, crews have removed all shoring from both sets of third-floor girders that span 87 ft and support both a public rooftop park above and hang the second floor bus level. All traffic lanes are now open during the day. Night street closures will continue throughout May to restore lights, MUNI overhead lines and to reinstall ceiling panels.

Recommissioning of the 4.5-block-long facility will continue through the end of this month. The quality assurance process includes retesting and re-inspecting fire and life safety systems throughout the facility and retesting the building’s mechanical and electrical systems, reports TJPA.

Since the closure, transit agencies have been providing bus service out of a temporary terminal at Howard and Main streets. The mostly outdoor facility served as the depot during construction of the new facility.
Construction Dive
As U.S. contractors deal with the rising costs of both material and labor, the latter of which is driven partially by a shortage of skilled workers, three of the country’s biggest construction industry players — AECOM, Tutor Perini and Jacobs Engineering Group — reported their most recent quarterly earnings this week, proving that despite these challenges, there are still plenty of opportunities.

March saw the end of the second quarter of Jacobs’ fiscal year 2019, and company executives reported that the firm’s gross revenue for the quarter was $3.1 billion, up 7.7% from the same period a year ago. Net revenue increased 8.7% year over year, from $2.3 billion to $2.5 billion.

Q2 gross revenue for the company’s Building, Infrastructure and Advanced Facilities (BIAF) business was more than $2 billion, up from last year’s Q2 figure of $1.9 billion, delivering $172.7 million in segment operating profit. This growth was driven, in part, by the "further optimization of CH2M integration synergies,” said Steven Demetriou, company chair and CEO. Jacobs purchased CH2M in a $3.3 billion deal in 2017.

The company’s second-quarter backlog grew 11% year over year to $13 billion. Big wins for Jacobs’ BIAF segment this quarter included contracts for a vaccine manufacturing plant in the southeast U.S.; IDIQ contracts with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and the MetroLink in Toronto.

Tutor Perini's first-quarter 2019 revenue fell a bit from the same period last year — $958.5 million from more than $1 billion — mostly due to new projects not starting in time to make up for the lower revenues of projects that are either complete or nearing completion. Bad weather in some areas of the country also had a negative impact on revenue in the company’s Q1.

However, income from construction operations was $22.9 million in Tutor Perini's first quarter, up from a loss of $900,000 in the first quarter of 2018.

Tutor Perini also broke some company records in its first quarter — $3.2 billion of new awards and upward adjustments in current contracts, as well as an $11.6 billion backlog. New awards for Q1 included the $1.4 billion Purple Line Section 3 Stations project in Los Angeles; the $253 million Culver Line Communications-Based Train Control project for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in New York City; and the $200 million Southland Gaming Casino and Hotel project in West Memphis, Arkansas, through its subsidiary Roy Anderson Corp.

“As these and other recent awards progress and contribute more meaningfully as the year develops,” said Ronald Tutor, chairman and CEO, "we expect to report significantly improved financial results.”

AECOM also had good news for investors this week, reporting revenue of $5 billion for its 2019 Q2, up 5% from the second quarter of last year, with positive contributions from all of the company’s construction-related segments.
NYSE courtesy of Parsons
The market on May 8 welcomed an initial public offering by Parsons Corp.—detailed in an April 29 U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing—snapping up 10.9 million shares by mid-morning, pushing the stock price up to $30.28, well above the opening bell price of $27.

The company planned to offer 18.5 million shares to the marketplace in a transaction valued at $500 million. The company valuation was listed at $ 3.2 billion.

Uber's highly publicized IPO, executed on May 9, was valued at $8.1 billion, below a $10.4 billion figure that had been touted, cautious in the wake of rival Lyft's 20% share drop since its March public debut. Uber is still the largest IPO since 2014. The deals are just two of what analysts said was the IPO market’s most active week in the last four years, with at least 15 deals set.

Parsons stock has been owned since 1984 by its estimated 15,000 employees through an employee stock ownership plan. Industry sector market watchers are optimistic on the outcome for the firm. The IPO would offer about 20% of total shares.

"Parsons had been public from 1959 to 1964 ,,, and always thought we'd go public again some day. We've done a lot of growth though [mergers and acquisitions], and this has helped us continue that path," Chairman Charles Harrington said in a CNBC interview, noting that new "dry powder" gained in the IPO will fuel additional purchases.

It has been expanding U.S. government cybersecurity, intelligence and mission critical work, which observers say is a more stable and less risky arena. "When you're protecting the government's infrastructure and intelligence and missile defense, we think those are pretty secure parts of the defense spend," Harrington said.

The firm recently moved its headquarters to a Washington, D.C., suburb from Pasadena, Calif., to be closer to that client base.

Parsons, which lists its stock on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol PSN, will use the cash to fuel growth and pay down an estimated $300-million debt.

In January, Parsons acquired OGSystems, a consultant specializing in geospatial intelligence, big data analytics and threat mitigation primarily for government agencies, the firm’s third purchase in that sector in 14 months.

Online financial site Benzinga cites Parsons’ total 2018 revenue at $3.56 billion, with its federal unit comprising 41.5% of that total and critical infrastructure 58.5%. The site says the former unit grew 37% last year, while the latter up just 7.5%. The firm also saw its backlog rise 24.1% year-over-year in 2018 to $8 billion.

Harrington said the firm could also gain in its work in complex airport and intelligent highway systems if new infrastructure spending is passed.

“As time goes on, the convergence of technology and ‘traditional’ engineering will continue to blur the lines of an engineering service provider,” says Michael O’Brien, partner at industry financial consultant Rusk O’Brien Gido. “With an aging demographic, repurchase obligations for closely-held companies have become a big concern for managing cash flow.”
Civil + Structural Engineer
Data Center Powerhouse ScaleMatrix has a Message for the AEC Industry: Bring it On.

Foreseeing the time when AEC firms will face data management issues caused by the mainstream implementation of AI and machine learning, California-based ScaleMatrix says it will be ready.

Mark Ortenzi and Chris Orlando, the high-performing masterminds and co-founders of ScaleMatrix, have invented a hybrid air/liquid cooled cabinet built to house virtually any hardware needed for an organization’s computing needs. With built-in logic, the cabinets are efficient, high-density, closed-loop, and fully modular. And compared to the installation of a traditional data center, ScaleMatrix can reduce the deployment time by as much as 75 percent, a deployment that is measured in days, not months or even years. If this cabinet is the meteorite, the old data center systems are the dinosaurs.

The ScaleMatrix cabinet has the ability to scale from 1kW to 52kW of workload, and it can handle anything an AEC firm can produce, especially as the industry has yet to employ AI and other cognitive technologies on a meaningful scale. However, with AI technology expected to boom in the coming years, that will probably change as engineering firms follow the lead of more progressive segments of the economy.

In a nutshell, data growth leads to compute and density increases – more processors – which leads to more power outputs, and thus increased heat, which leads to heightened cooling requirements. In the old days, the raised floor, the wind tunnel, and the chilled room were sufficient. Ortenzi and Orlando know all about it, because it was in the data center industry where they cut their teeth and made their names. But even as they flourished in that industry, they also saw the need for disruption.

“I wanted to invent a better mousetrap,” Ortenzi said.

Or, as Orlando likes to say, “If you want a cold beer, you don’t put it into a cold room. You put it in the refrigerator.”

With important partnerships with leading companies like Hewlett Packard Enterprise and NVIDIA – ScaleMatrix is a select partner in NVIDIA’s DGX-ready data center program – and now with data centers in San Diego, Seattle, Houston, Charlotte, and Jacksonville, ScaleMatrix upped the ante with the recent acquisition of Instant Data Centers, a deal that adds ruggedized, micro-data centers that can function on the edge – near the action and in remote locations, like a mine.

Even though the technology behind what ScaleMatrix does is perhaps dizzying, the philosophy is quite simple.

“Everything we do in this business is power and cooling,” Ortenzi said. “Next to labor, power is the biggest expense. It takes so many amps to cool so many amps. It takes so many watts to cool so many watts.”

The cabinets have built-in logic that responds to usage requirements, making the variable system “one big, breathing animal that modulates based on requirements,” Ortenzi said. The ScaleMatrix design includes full cooling support, redundant power supply, fire suppression, and integrated network support. When one cabinet gets filled up, just add another one. While ScaleMatrix at first offered cloud and colocation services, it has since added another distinct business line, the DDC™ cabinet for companies that want them for their own data centers.

While the reaction from the market has certainly been favorable – ScaleMatrix had 2018 combined sales of about $20 million and employs 52 people – it wasn’t necessarily instant and overwhelming.

“That’s a great novelty, but who needs that?” Ortenzi said, referring to the initial reaction he and Orlando got when they introduced a system that could handle such a heavy workload.

But all that changed about two years ago, when AI and machine learning came in from the fringe and entered the mainstream. Seemingly overnight, companies were dealing with more data than ever, and ScaleMatrix started fielding calls from all across the country, and even the world.

“All of a sudden, two years ago, all hell breaks loose and no one knew what to do,” Ortenzi said. “We’ve set ourselves up to be in a position to help people. Where else are they going to go?”
President of Indonesia Joko Widodo is planning to relocate the nation's capital away from Jakarta, the world's fastest-sinking city.

Bambang Brodjonegoro, national development planning minister of Indonesia, revealed the president's plans to move the capital off the island of Java.

Speaking to Jakarta Globe after a cabinet meeting on Monday, Brodjonegoro said ministers have been told to suggest viable alternatives.

"We want to have a new city, which besides reflecting Indonesia's identity, is a modern, international-class city, or a smart, green and beautiful city," he told the news website.

Jakarta sunk 2.5 metres in 10 years

Jakarta, which is home to 10 million people, has been suffering from extreme land subsidence for decades. The northern part of the city has sunk by 2.5 metres in the past 10 years, and research shows some areas could be entirely submerged by 2050.

Almost half of the city is already below sea level and flooding is frequent, thanks to the 13 rivers that run through it. Jakarta also has the worst traffic congestion of any city on the planet.

The new capital will be close to the geographic centre of the country, according to Brodjonegoro. Cities that have been proposed in the past as possible new capitals include Palangkaraya in Central Kalimantan and Makassar in South Sulawesi.

"It would be central from west to east or north to south," he told Jakarta Globe. "To represent justice and encourage development, especially in the eastern part of Indonesia."

Capital "should be near the coast"

The new capital's location will be chosen to reduce the potential risks from natural disasters said Brodjonegoro.

"We have to find a location that is really minimal in terms of disaster risks," he added. "Also, because Indonesia is a maritime nation, the new capital city should be located near the coast, but not necessarily by the sea."

The announcement comes shortly after Widodo, who has been president since 2014, claimed victory in the latest election. The official results are not due to be announced until May 22.
ASU/Manoochehr Shirzaei
Sea-Level Rise isn’t the Only Factor in Bay Area’s Future Flooding Risk

All coastal cities in the U.S. face some potential threat from sea-level rise, but areas around San Francisco Bay may be more vulnerable than previously thought according to a recent study by Arizona State University’s Manoochehr Shirzaei and UC Berkley’s Roland Bürgmann published in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances.

The pair, using a satellite-imaging network that can measure small changes in the earth’s surface, found the problem of rising sea levels is exacerbated in the Bay Area at sites where the soil is sinking at a rate of 10 mm or more per year. The subsidence problem is in addition to sea levels rising a mean global average of 3.1 mm per year.

The researchers found previous projections for the Bay Area underestimate the risk of flooding by as much as 90 percent because they don’t take into account the rate of soil subsidence.

“The FEMA maps of the Bay Area need to be updated with the measurements of land subsidence and projection of sea level rise,” says Shirzaei. “By revising the maps, local authorities can make better flood resilience plans.”

Of particular concern are parts of the city built on landfill materials or ancient mud deposits. Subsidence is occurring at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Foster City and Union City five times the rate of areas built on more solid ground. The problem is most acute on Treasure Island, the site of a $1.5 billion redevelopment project, which is seeing subsidence rates of up 19 mm per year, according to Shirzaei.

“We are already noticing the effects, in particular at SFO where runways are continually cracking and are sometimes flooded,” Shirzaei says.

Doug Yakel, Public Information Officer for San Francisco International Airport, says the cracking and flooding are not necessarily evidence of subsidence.

“While part of SFO is built on landfill, most pavement failures here happen in areas where the largest amount of aircraft movement occurs,” he explains. “Water on runways and taxiways is typically the result of drainage issues following periods of rainfall.” However, the airport is addressing sea-level rise and over the past 30 years has installed earth berms, sheet-pile walls and concrete walls, installed along the airport’s eight miles of shoreline.

The answer to subsidence and sea level rise in learning to build differently for the coming era, says Kristina Hill, an associate professor of environmental planning at UC Berkley.

“There’s no way we can afford to build levees and walls to prevent future saltwater flooding,” Hill explains. “So we’re looking at things like dredging channels along the shore and using the soil to build up the land for taller buildings, or creating artificial ponds and putting prefabricated three to four-story structures onto shared floating decking.”
Courtesy of OxBlue/Wright Runstad & Co.
First guidance on the sophisticated structural engineering method coming soon

Help is on the way for structural engineers driving toward improving the efficiency, reliability and resilience of buildings through performance-based wind design. And though it could take a decade or more for PBWD to become mainstream for practitioners, the authors of the first two PBWD documents, both debuting this year, are hailing them as milestones.

“PBWD provides the opportunity to engineer unique structural systems for buildings with atypical shapes or aerodynamic characteristics that do not fit the constraints of the prescriptive code-based wind-force resisting systems,” said Donald R. Scott, a senior principal at PCS Structural Solutions, at Structures Congress 2019. The conference, organized by the Structural Engineering Institute (SEI) of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and held April 24-27 in Orlando, drew 1,058 registrants.

Scott is the principal investigator leading the team of 14 structural experts writing the Prestandard for Performance-Based Wind Design, the first document ever produced to aid in PBWD. Five peer reviewers are currently pouring over the final draft. The ASCE/SEI document, underwritten by a $150,000 grant from the Charles Pankow Foundation, will be available on the Pankow foundation and ASCE/SEI websites for free download by the end of July.

The publication is intended as a precursor to a PBWD standard that would eventually be incorporated into the model building code—giving designers a code-approved alternative to the prescriptive, or cookbook, provisions of the code.

Tall Buildings

Following quickly on the heels of the prestandard, the ASCE/SEI task committee on design and performance of tall buildings for wind is writing its own consensus document. Also a first of its kind, Design and Performance of Tall Buildings for Wind, written by eight experts, assembles best practices for the design of high-rises to achieve specified performance targets under wind demands. It represents a consensus among design firms, wind engineers and academia.

The publication describes aspects of wind design and performance that many codes do not specify, according to Preetam Biswas, an associate director of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and chair of the task committee. The writers of the manual and the prestandard are coordinating their work, he said.

The draft of the manual is 95% complete and expected out in digital form by the end of the year. A print version should be available at Structures Congress 2020, April 5 to 8 in St. Louis.

Momentum is Building

Momentum is building for all types of performance-based design, which is a sophisticated engineering approach that relies on advanced analytic and design methods to enable engineers to reliably predict behavior of a structure when it is subjected to any defined loads, whether wind, seismic or fire.

The only way to get approval for a PBWD is to go through the alternate means and methods provision of the code. Few want to do this because building officials, unfamiliar with PBWD, are reluctant to approve the designs. In addition, a PBWD will require peer review. That translates to a longer and potentially murkier approvals process, which gives many building owners pause.

PBD in any form “requires specialized expertise or knowledge,” said Ronald O. Hamburger, a senior principal at Simpson Gumpertz & Heger and the father of the 20-year-old performance-based seismic design (PBSD) approach for building retrofits. “It is not for everyone,” he added.

Potential Advantages
Engineers agree that for PBWD to proliferate, there is much work to be done educating not only engineers but architects, developers, other stakeholders and especially code officials as to the potential advantages—and risks—associated with the approach. The guidelines are intended to help establish prudent means of practice and provide some protection, in terms of legal liability, for the predicted performance, said those involved.

Benefits of PBWD will be abundantly clear to many practitioners and owners, yet others may need to be convinced, chorused the authors of both documents. For starters, owners and designers need to be taught that the performance of designs produced by following the prescriptive requirements of the building code may not be sufficient, said Scott.

“Many project stakeholders believe that if their b
The market for large design firms right now may be the best that it has ever been. Many believe that the market growth, which has continued into its tenth year, cannot last. But people in the industry have been saying that for the past three to four years, and the growth has continued unabated.

The scope of the boom can be seen in the data collected from the 2019 participants on ENR’s Top 500 Design Firms list. Taken as a group, the firms had a record total design revenue of $101.16 billion in 2018—up an impressive 7.7%—from $93.90 billion in 2017. Market growth was strongest on the domestic side, rising 8.9%, to $80.55 billion in 2018 from $73.97 billion in 2017. And revenue from projects outside the U.S. rose as well, up 3.4% to $20.61 billion.

Virtually all market sectors measured by the Top 500 survey saw gains in 2018. On the domestic side, the gains were robust, other than for manufacturing, which was down 0.4%. Leading the gainers was telecommunications, which rose 20.7%, followed by industrial process (20.6%), water (14.9%), transportation (10.6%) and petroleum (10.2%).

As usual, acquisitions changed the Top 500 landscape. One of the largest deals was WSP’s purchase of Louis Berger, which ranked No. 21 on last year’s Top 500. “Our acquisition of Louis Berger … has brought additional capabilities and clients to WSP and positions us for a major growth opportunity in the federal market,” says Gregory A. Kelly, CEO of WSP USA.

Kelly says WSP also recently launched a program management and construction management organizational unit to serve clients with a broad range of services, including program/project management, program controls, project information management systems and construction management. He says the new unit will take advantage of renewed emphasis on PM/CM and will help WSP support clients at each stage of project delivery, from concept to completion.

One of the biggest acquisitions to complete in 2019 will be WorleyParsons’ pickup of Jacobs Engineering's energy, chemicals and resource division, for $3.3 billion. The deal, which was announced last October, is on track for approval by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. WorleyParsons announced on April 18 that it plans to change its name to Worley Ltd. once the purchase is complete.

For Jacobs, the spinoff alters its focus to higher-margin, noncyclical sectors, including technology, environment, infrastructure and buildings. “This is about thinking differently to address unprecedented, disruptive shifts in technology, urbanization, the environment and climate threats,” says CEO Steve Demetriou. The firm announced on April 22 an agreement to buy government security and high-tech engineer KeyW, in a deal estimated at $815 million.

Another major change is Stantec’s decision to sell its contracting group, MWH Constructors, to Los Angeles equity investor Oaktree Capital Management LP. “For Stantec, 2018 was a year of transition as we returned to our core business as a pure-play design consulting firm with the divestiture of our construction services business,” says Gord Johnston, Stantec CEO.

Also gaining from equity investment is Kleinfelder. The firm was acquired by members of its management team and Chicago-based equity investor Wind Point Partners last year. “It came down to us having a sustainable future,” says Louis Armstrong, Kleinfelder’s president. The purchase “secures our financial future and will allow us to expand in a growing market.”

Acquisitions have not just been confined to megafirms. Gannett Fleming has bought four firms in the last seven months. “Each acquisition brought new skills to the firm in geographies where we didn’t have a footprint,” says CEO Robert M. Scaer. He says the firm is not “growing for the sake of being bigger,” but to broaden client services.

TRC, which was purchased by equity investor New Mountain Capital two years ago, is on the lookout for acquisitions of its own, “provided the target firms are consistent with our market strategy,” says Chris Vincze, CEO of TRC, adding that it is looking at Canada for a possible purchase.

Some firms, however, worry that industry consolidation may have a negative impact on clients and employees. “Clients have fewer options and employees are presented with fewer choices, making it more difficult for them to see a clear career path,
Sean O’Neill
The partnership between the artist and the firm goes back more than a decade. Together, they aim to predict the behavior of light in relation to materials, weather, humidity, existing daylighting, and other factors.

Waxing transcendental on the abstract sublime in the color-field paintings of Mark Rothko, the critic Robert Rosenblum once wrote that the artist’s canvases seem to “conceal a total, remote presence that we can only intuit and never fully grasp.”

On the western side of Philadelphia’s City Hall, a similar thing could be said of the public art piece by sculptor Janet Echelman, who has conjured up her own take on the sublime. Pulse renders Echelman’s ethereal sculptural work in suspended netting into a kinetic cloud of mist rising from fountain-dotted Dilworth Park. Referencing Pulse’s lights, which reflect the movement of trains under the plaza, Echelman calls the work “a living X-ray of the city’s circulatory system.”

Commissioned in 2009 within a larger activation of the city’s central plaza (construction of which wrapped in 2011), and opened last fall, Pulse is the fruit of a close collaboration between Echelman and a team of engineers from Arup. To achieve the quality of color that the group had in mind—“the Rothko effect,” Brian Stacy, Arup’s global lighting leader, calls it—Echelman and the firm devised a lighting system that illuminates the water mist from multiple angles, which adds depth and layers of color. On top of that, they had to account for variable outdoor conditions of daylighting, humidity, and wind.

In the decade between Pulse’s conception and launch, Arup and Echelman collaborated on a number of other installations, both indoors and out. Among these was the artist’s 2015 work for Washington, D.C.’s Renwick Gallery, 1.8 Renwick, a suspended expanse of polyethylene and polyester lit by LEDs. To dial in the piece’s pulsing, jellyfishlike quality, Arup enlisted a 3D model to investigate not only “light on the piece but also the light that goes through the piece,” Stacy recalls.

Arup relies heavily on this intensive digital and physical modeling to predict the behavior of color. But even with top-of-the-line equipment, Stacy says, “you can only get it so accurate on screen.” As with many works of art—Rothko’s among them—Echelman’s true colors are best experienced in person.
Attendees of a recent presentation on the earthquake-resistant structure of San Francisco’s Salesforce Transit Center—intended to provide a safe haven when the Big One hits—lauded the engineering of the 4.5-block-long hollow tube that supports the 1.2-million-sq-ft “groundscraper.” But there also was much talk of the project’s black eye, as a consequence of brittle fractures of the bottom flanges of two bridge-like built-up plate girders that span 87 ft over Fremont Street.

“It’s such a shame about the girders; it’s such a beautiful structure overall,” said one engineer, who declined to be named, after Bruce Gibbons, a managing principal of the hub’s engineer-of-record, Thornton Tomasetti (TT), presented at the American Institute of Steel Construction’s 2019 NASCC: The Steel Conference. The April 3-5 event drew more than 5,100 registrants to St. Louis.

A brouhaha over the blame for the girder fractures that shuttered the three-story transit hub last Sept. 25, six weeks after it opened, is just one dispute marring the project. There is another. Last Oct. 16, the general contractor, the Webcor/Obayashi Joint Venture, filed suit in the Superior Court of California against the public owner, the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, alleging breach of contract and seeking more than $150 million in extras to its $994,517,600 contract (ENR 10/29/18 p. 11). On Feb. 22, TJPA filed a cross-complaint. And on March 15, WO filed a complaint against seven subcontractors, including the steel sub Skanska USA Civil West California District and the girder fabricator, the Herrick Corp.

TJPA alleges WO breached its preconstruction services obligations by failing to provide accurate estimates, ensure competitive bidding and rebid packages at no cost to TJPA. The authority also claims WO breached its construction services obligations by failing to enforce Buy America requirements; misusing the request for information (RFI) process; submitting late, inaccurate and incomplete submittals; installing nonconforming work; staffing the project with inexperienced personnel; and failing to perform its close-out obligations in a timely manner.

The breaches resulted in “substantial additional costs” to TJPA and delayed the substantial and final completion of the project, says the complaint.

The complaints do not specifically relate to the girder fractures, but a future claim is likely over that responsibility. The third-floor girders support a rooftop park and hang the second-floor bus level, via a tension plate that thickens the web’s midspan and slots through the bottom flange.

Though the girders met all specifications and passed all inspections, TJPA’s investigator, forensic metallurgist LPI, blamed the fabricator for the fractures.

The root cause is failure to grind and polish 2 in. x 4 in. cuts where hanger plates slot through the bottom flanges, said LPI. The failure to grind, in combination with very brittle plate material at the mid-depth of the 4-in.-thick flange and service loads, created the fractures.

Thermal cutting caused expected microcracks. Shrinkage stresses from butt welds of the flange plate ends at the midspan enlarged the cracks. Stress from service loads turned the cracks into fractures.

The unraveling appears to have begun with a TT note for a “missing weld access hole” in the web. TT added the WAH to an approved-as-noted shop drawing. In an RFI, Skanska’s detailer questioned the WAH in the web and suggested holes in the bottom flange, which TT approved as WAHs. Revised shop drawings show cuts, not WAHs, in the bottom flanges.

TT declined to comment until the TJPA investigation is complete. Herrick and Skanska deny blame (ENR 4/1-8 p. 14). “Engineers know the quality of material is not consistent through the depth of the plate,” said Bob Hazleton, Herrick’s president. And he maintains the investigation is not focusing enough on the hanger slot, which is not a defined hole in the code.

The girder failures have rekindled discussions about potential pitfalls of connection design and detailing practices, especially for more complicated structures. Engineers are pressed for time, which can result in incomplete drawings. Shop drawing review is typically relegated to junior engineers. “It might be beneficial to flag certain conditions for special review,” said another engineer at the conferenc
Office of Governor Pete Ricketts
And Waters Keep On Rising

Midwestern floodwaters have topped or breached multiple levees, damaged bridges and roads, destroyed one dam and damaged another and inundated at least 42 wastewater treatment plants as historic flooding continues to hit Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri. At least two people are reported dead.

Nine levees in total have been breached on both sides of the Missouri River, and “additional breaches are possible,” says Mike Glasch, deputy director of public affairs for the Army Corps’ Omaha District. “We are continuing to work with state and local agencies to monitor the levees,” he adds.

The Missouri River should crest within 24 hours between Omaha and Nebraska City and reach peak flows farther south later in the week, Glasch says. But those water levels will depend upon the weather, he adds, with an additional .5 in. of rain expected in the area this week.

“We are continuing to help supply agencies with whatever they need — sand, supersacks, Hescos and so on,” Glasch says.

Major and moderate flooding is expected to continue into next week, according to a March 18 Federal Emergency Management Agency briefing that also detailed the extent of known damage to infrastructure.

“We are still in a flood fight,” says James Camoriano, spokesman for HDR, based in Omaha, Neb. While Omaha is not flooded, several areas around the city are. Camoriano says HDR is working with clients to examine roads, treatment plants, railroads and other infrastructure, but comprehensive assessments can’t occur until floodwaters recede.

HDR has employees at one of the wastewater treatment plants that flooded when a nearby creek overtopped a levee. Several other employees live in the flooded areas, Camoriano says.

The flooding is unprecedented, with both the Missouri and Platte rivers and many of their tributaries flooding at the same time. “One will typically rise, but not both,” he says.

FEMA says heavy rainfall in early March in the Missouri and Mississippi river basins caused rapid snow melt, exacerbated by a “bomb cyclone,” an unusually strong blizzard that swept across seven western states last week. However, ice remained in the waterways, causing additional problems. The broken ice and high water caused the Spencer Dam on the Niobrara River to fail March 14. The waters swept away part of U.S. 281, downstream from the dam.

At least 14 bridges are washed out, missing or have the approaches washed out out in Nebraska, according to Jeni Campana of the Nebraska Dept. of Transportation.

The Nebraska Public Power District was still operating its Cooper Nuclear Station along the Missouri River, though it has armed the plant with thousands of sandbags. The facility would have to shut down if the water level reaches 902 ft mean sea level. Currently, the level is 898.9 ft and dropping, according to the district.

On his Facebook page, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said he visited Plattsmouth on the Missouri River on Monday morning. “Their water treatment plant is under water, with millions of dollars in damage. In 2011, it took 108 days for water to subside, and this year the water is 4-5 feet higher,” he wrote.
Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle
Four levels of inspections and plans failed to prevent or uncover a construction flaw that resulted in the cracked girders that forced the closure of the Transbay Transit Center 5½ months ago, the agency’s executive director said Thursday.

Mark Zabaneh, head of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, said three teams of quality-control inspectors working for contractors didn’t discover that a necessary grinding process, used to eliminate small cracks associated with holes that were cut into the girders, was not performed and that the authority’s own spot inspections also missed the oversight.

Those micro-cracks developed into larger cracks and, finally, a large fissure that ripped through two large steel girders that support the building. Similar girders over First Street have not cracked.

“The execution was not done properly, and that is something we are looking into,” Zabaneh said Thursday after an authority meeting. “It’s an area of great concern for us.”

The failure of the quality-control and quality-assurance processes to detect the fracture-inducing error prompted the authority to order engineers and architects to pore over tens of thousands of drawings and inspection documents to make sure no other major potential flaws were overlooked.

A pair of outside engineers told the Transbay authority’s board Thursday that the two girders that support the three-block-long transit hub where it crosses Fremont Street fractured because of an unusual confluence of factors, including the relative strength of the steel, the design of the structure and the fabrication process.

Robert Vecchio, of LPI, a New York laboratory that analyzed metal samples from the failed girders, pointed toward the cutting of holes, known as welding access holes, in the beams as the source of the problem. The holes over Fremont Street were cut in the beams before they were welded. The welding caused tiny cracks to grow and then fracture. Holes in the girders over First Street were welded before cutting and did not crack.

Grinding the edges of the holes smooth before welding can eliminate the micro-cracking, Vechhio said, and would have prevented the Fremont Street girders from fracturing, he said.

Seagate Structures
B.C. has obtained permission from the National Research Council to use the encapsulated mass-timber construction provisions from the 2020 National Building Code through a jurisdiction-specific regulation.

“Changes to the national building code that allow for taller wood buildings take effect next year, but we’re not waiting to get started,” said B.C. Premier John Horgan on March 13th during a press event held at BC-based mass timber manufacturing company Structurlam’s flagship shop in Penticton.

The province has let is be known that local governments are invited to become early adopters of mass-timber technology for construction of buildings up to 12 storeys—up from the current allowance of six storeys.

B.C. has obtained permission from the National Research Council to use the encapsulated mass-timber construction provisions from the 2020 National Building Code through a jurisdiction-specific regulation.

A mass timber building uses either solid or engineered wood for the primary load-bearing structure. Encapsulated mass timber is where the mass timber components are surrounded by fire-resistant materials like drywall.

“Mass timber technology allows faster construction where large sections of a building can be manufactured in a plant and then assembled on site,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing in a release following the event.

The release from the province observes that mass timber buildings can be one-fifth the weight of comparable concrete buildings, while still meeting performance standards for safety, structural resilience and fire protection.

It also notes the environmental benefits of mass timber. Using the 18-storey UBC Brock Commons building as an example, it cites the estimated carbon benefit from the wood used was equivalent to taking 511 cars off the road for a year.

The federal 2020 National Building Code is expected to allow mass timber construction up to 12 storeys. The technology has been reviewed by the National Building Code committees, as well as by experts such as fire safety specialists, structural engineers, architects, scientists and builders.

“B.C. firefighters are pleased to welcome the great potential that mass engineered timber construction will bring to our province,” said Gord Ditchburn, president, B.C. Professional Fire Fighters Association (BCPFFA). “We support a building code process that balances the efficiencies and progress of industry with the needs of public safety and first responders. Wise decision-making means having everyone at the table and the BCPFFA has appreciated being involved. Including firefighter safety as an objective of the 2020 National Building Code is imperative to maintaining this balance.”
Connie Zhou/OTTO
Designed by ZGF Architects with Arup, the striking 48-story tower in Seattle features an innovative diagonal mega-brace system.

Between Amazon’s expanding vertical campus and the in-progress replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a promising waterfront park, Seattle continues to undergo a rapid transformation. Among downtown’s newest jewels is the Mark, a 48-story hotel and office tower designed by the local office of ZGF Architects that rises from a quadrant of a city block.

The 750,000-square-foot faceted structure rises between two centenarian neighbors, the Beaux-Arts sanctuary of the First United Methodist Church and the Jacobean-style Rainier Club, cantilevering over the former by up to 20 feet. As a part of the project—developed by Kevin Daniels, president of Daniels Real Estate and a member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation board of trustees—the sanctuary was restored for use as an event space.

Constrained to a footprint of just 15,000 square feet, the tower's floor plates had to be extended to achieve the desired square footage. Daniels also tasked ZGF with creating an iconic structure to reflect Seattle’s aspirational spirit.

ZGF used paper models and the classic proportions of the human anatomy to explore dozens of designs that satisfied the constraints. Early concepts featured more “rudimentary” cantilevers or “heavier, more geometric" forms, says ZGF partner Allyn Stellmacher, AIA. “Ultimately, we came back to a disposition of the parts of the building in a way that we thought was more artful, but that also was melded with a more effective [line] for the bracing.”

The final form is an asymmetrical obelisk, with exposed diagonal steel braces that zigzag up each elevation, emphasizing the tower’s verticality. The architects used the long, clean lines of the steel members to differentiate each facet of the façade, whose subtle shifts are enhanced by the reflective glazing. Unlike some exoskeletons, the bracing’s stainless steel cladding recedes 11 inches into the Mark, as if the zigzags are etched into its skin.

The diagonal mega-brace system—among the first of its kind in a seismic zone—derives from ZGF’s close collaboration with Arup, the project’s structural engineer. The tower structure consists of a central concrete core with steel-framed, concrete-infilled floor plates supported by beams spanning up to 50 feet, and four steel columns slightly inset from each building corner on each elevation, leaving the interiors and the corners of the tower column-free.

The perimeter bracing system “acts like a closed tube that engages the axial stiffness and strength of the perimeter steel columns,” according to text supplied by Arup. As a result, it transfers wind and seismic load requirements from the concrete core to the building perimeter, where the diagonal members transfer the loads to the columns. Arup estimates this system uses 10 percent, or 750 tons, less steel than alternative designs.

The 200- to 325-foot-long diagonal braces (inboard of the cladding) consist of approximately 30-foot-long wide flange beams with a depth of 2 feet and flange thickness exceeding 4 inches. At building corners, the X-shaped intersections created where the diagonal braces meet—dubbed “knuckles” by the design team—were among the hardest to detail.

Each shop-fabricated knuckle is uniquely made to accommodate the various incoming angles of the four intersecting diagonal braces, in addition to three floor beams. The brace members were initially bolted to the knuckle during fit up and erection, and then all connections were made permanent via full penetration welds.
Tom Sawyer for ENR
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and international organizations from the U.S., England and the Netherlands released on Jan. 19 a 261-page book entitled “Engineering with Nature—An Atlas.” Available either as a hard copy or free download, the atlas showcases 56 projects around the world that apply the principles of an initiative to support engineering with nature, rather than against it, to protect the environment, infrastructure and quality of life.

The EWN movement seeks to leverage natural forces and risk-buffering natural features, such as wetlands and water-courses, to enhance sustainable, resilient, multipurpose infrastructure systems. The initiative includes a network of research projects, field demonstrations and communication activities with an emphasis on embracing innovation.

One technology finding a sweet spot in EWN is drones, which have the ability to scope project areas, survey sites and monitor project execution and performance over large areas of difficult terrain swiftly, safely and repeatedly, with a light touch on the environment.

“We are making more and more use of drones,” says Todd S. Bridges, the U.S. Army’s senior research scientist for environmental science at the Corps’ Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, Miss. He is national lead on the EWN initiative.

Bridges says drones give planners a superior vantage point, particularly over coasts and wetlands, not only as they engineer a project, but also as they monitor construction and results. “Getting elevation data is pretty important, and getting good data can be hard to do,” says Bridges. “It can be a very convenient place to have a drone that is fixed with Lidar, in cases where a few inches really matter.” He says stand-off measurement technologies help monitor the environment and its evolution. “You have to be able to understand the environment if you are going to engineer it—especially for processes operating at landscape scale.”

Monica Chasten, project manager in the operations division of the Corps’ Philadelphia District, says her group has used drones to help document and monitor progress on several EWN projects in New Jersey, including the Mordecai Island project on p. 86 in the Atlas. Another use was on a “thin layer placement” application of dredged material to restore marsh near Avalon, and construction of two nesting habitats near Ring Island. More drone use is planned at the Seven Mile Island Living Laboratory that the Corps has established in back bays near Avalon.

Several project managers with the Nature Conservancy also report making increased use of drones for streambed restoration for the same reasons, and individual consulting fi rms are picking up local projects for this as well.

Greg Gloor, a surveyor with New Jersey civil and environmental engineering firm Dresdner Robin, used a drone to provide pro bono services to a citizens group in Pompton Lakes, N.J., led by Lauren Venin, a landscape architect and certified flood plain manager with the firm. Her volunteer group, the Pompton Lakes Flood Advisory Board, wanted to locate and rate the flood risk posed by downed trees and debris dams blocking three rivers in the town. A heavy snow in spring 2018 left a lot of tree damage on the banks. The board wanted to help the town scope the problem and plan remediation.

Venin says Gloor developed a methodology and conducted 11 flights to capture a continuous strip of high-resolution images of 6.5 miles of waterways. “Several show debris blocking more than half of the channel,” she says. “Most were fallen trees.”

The board brought the drone’s KML output into free QGIS software for data organization, and tagged and ranked the severity of 96 obstructions on aerial photos mapped to locations on Google Earth. The borough passed the data to its engineers to develop a work plan.

“We found it to be a
Denver International Airport
The renovation of the Great Hall of Denver International Airport’s iconic Jeppesen Terminal, roofed by a series of peaked tensile tents that echo the nearby mountains, has hit a bump. Routine but limited concrete testing of the nearly quarter-century-old terminal’s elevated floor slab, to determine whether the floor could support crane loads, shows the compressive strength of the concrete in certain sections is lower than was specified for the original project, more than 25 years ago.

Though other work continues, steel erection is delayed to allow for additional tests and the time needed to better understand the existing conditions. “Experts in the field of structural engineering have informed us that the airport is safe and can support the construction,” says Stacey Stegman, senior vice president for marketing and communications for the airport, known as DEN. It isn’t uncommon for existing conditions not to match the as-builts, she says.

In April, DEN expects to have additional test results analyzed by its experts. At that time, there may be adjustments made to the schedule or to the means and methods. For example, “do we need to use a different type of crane?” asks Stegman.

In addition to compressive strength tests, a test was conducted that showed aggregate in the sample has properties that, under certain environmental circumstances, could lead to an alkali silica reaction. However, the current samples show no indication of an ASR issue, Stegman says.

Live Load

The airport, owned by the city and county of Denver, opened in 1995. The 1.5-million-sq-ft terminal has six levels beneath its 249,000-sq-ft fabric roof. The fabric tents were selected, among other reasons, because they can span 150 ft across the hall, according to the architect, C.W. Fentress J.H. Bradburn and Associates PC (ENR 9/7/92 p. 28), now Fentress Architects. The floor was designed for a live load of 250 psf to accommodate erection equipment for the 126-ft-tall steel roof masts that bear on the main floor.

The typical required live loading for an airport terminal occupancy is 100 psf, says Stegman.

The hall’s 3.5-year phased renovation, mostly to improve levels five and six, started last July. The project, which is ongoing in an active airport, is a public-private partnership with Denver Great Hall LLC, consisting of Ferrovial Airports, JLC Infrastructure and Saunders Concessions. Other equity partners include Magic Johnson Enterprises & Loop Capital; design-build partners Ferrovial Agroman and Saunders Construction; architectural firms Luis Vidal + Architects, Harrison Kornberg Architects and Anderson Mason Dale; legal adviser Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; and financial adviser Citibank.
Garrett Rowland
The next generation of intelligent buildings offers promise for unseen levels of energy efficiency, optimization, and occupant health and productivity.

Buoyed by a surge of high-tech innovations and several years of robust U.S. construction markets, AEC teams are working on ideas for “smart buildings.” Since the mid-1980s, a new generation of products, technologies, and analytical tools has transformed the building landscape. The benefits of “smart” technologies and operations for design, construction, and ownership/operations are now inescapable.

Prior to the 1990s, the notion of intelligent buildings focused on controls and automated processes for building operations, mainly in HVAC, lighting, and security systems, says Joachim Schuessler, Principal with Goettsch Partners. “Then, about 15 to 20 years ago, we started working on buildings that optimized controllability and comfort for the users,” he says. By the late 1990s, tools like building information modeling were making built projects a digital extension of the architectural/engineering and fabrication processes, with valuable impacts on downstream operations such as facility management.

The latest definitions of smart buildings embrace a much broader, more futuristic outlook. Schuessler and other experts describe the new paradigm as buildings and building portfolios created and operated using technology systems that aggregate data, make decisions, and continuously optimize operations with ongoing predictive feedback, including from building systems and occupants.

David Herd, Managing Partner with BuroHappold Engineering, asks: “Do the building’s design and systems anticipate programmatic change over time? Is it a ‘well’ building that helps keep people healthy? If it’s smart, today’s thinking goes, it can accomplish these goals, and more.”

Tech-enabled properties transcend time and place, too. “Smart buildings can also be defined as connected buildings,” says Marco Macagnano, PhD, Senior Manager, Lead: Smart Real Estate with Deloitte Consulting. They are “the product of an omni-channel approach focused on generating meaningful information to support decision making through data analysis.”

Connected systems should add practical value while protecting against hackers and other breaches. They can benefit O&M by tracking energy-use intensity (EUI) across multiple campuses or by alerting a facilities department that an escalator is in jeopardy of failing. Owners can use the cloud and the Internet to access existing systems to do more. Bring in the ability of Big Data to tap into worldwide reporting on facility operations, and building owners can suddenly identify patterns and trends that could lead to better design choices.

“The biggest difference with current smart buildings is that tech is the enabler of three primary pillars: sustainability and carbon neutrality, the well-being of users, and user-centered design,” says Jan-Hein Lakeman, Executive Managing Director of Edge Technologies and OVG Real Estate USA.
Walter P Moore
Walter P Moore announced that Lee Anne Dixon, P.E., PTOE, STP has been appointed to Director of Operations of the firm's Infrastructure Group, which encompasses civil and water resources engineering; traffic, ITS, and transportation engineering; and transportation planning. Lee Anne began her engineering career as an intern at the firm, and after several years at another consulting firm, moved back to Walter P Moore, where she is now a Principal.

Lee Anne Dixon, P.E., PTOE, STP / Appointed to Director of Operations of Walter P Moore's Infrastructure Group

Lee Anne is a traffic engineer and transportation planner focused on improving mobility to create safer and more livable communities. With more than 20 years of experience performing traffic impact analyses and transportation-related studies, Lee Anne has worked on a wide range of projects, including the award-winning Bagby Street in Houston, Texas, which was one of the pioneer projects in the Complete Streets and Greenroads®programs. Having earned a silver-level Greenroads certification, Bagby Street was the first certified project in Texas (just the 8th in the world) and was the highest-scoring of all projects at the time of its certification.

Adept at fostering client and stakeholder relationships, Lee Anne negotiates state transportation department contracts, mentors young project managers within the firm, and promotes low-impact, sustainable design principles. With a special talent for solving complex analytical and technical challenges, she applies her strong working knowledge of traffic operations software to multimodal centers, airports, downtown urban cores, and suburban environments. Lee Anne also has extensive experience conducting public involvement programs and technical reviews. She enjoys soliciting public opinion through public meetings or one-on-one conversations with stakeholders to best identify key issues and ideas.

"I have every confidence that Lee Anne will lead our infrastructure operations as efficiently and expertly as she has managed her award-winning projects. Her promotion has made my own transition a seamless one," said Jennifer Peek, Executive Director of Infrastructure for Walter P Moore (and previous Operations Manager who appointed Lee Anne in her stead).
Sudden collapses and disasters betray the fact that all buildings are subject to endemic uncertainty

Are there more building failures than there used to be? Or, to ask the question in a slightly different way, have buildings become more dangerous? Conventionally, accidents have been seen as a hazard of modernity – modernity multiplied the possibilities for accidents. In the words of Paul Virilio, ‘to invent the sailing ship or steamer is to invent the shipwreck. To invent the train is to invent the rail accident of derailment. To invent the family automobile is to produce the pile up on the motorway’. Every new invention creates its corresponding accident, and the more inventions there are, the more accidents there will be – with the result that ‘in the course of the 20th century, the accident became a heavy industry’. Buildings are not immune to this process. Each innovation – high alumina cement, box girder bridges, external insulation cladding systems – gives rise to its accidents, and as there have been more inventions in building in the last century and a half than in the previous three millennia, there seem to have been more failures.

‘Distinction between natural and human or technical disasters is deceptive, for it is no more than a fiction created by the insurance industry’

A casual glance at the statistics from the insurance industry would appear to confirm the escalating number of accidents: ‘at $144 billion, the insured losses from natural and man-made disasters worldwide in 2017 were the highest ever recorded in a single year’ reported the Swiss Re research group Sigma. But these figures do not necessarily mean there were more accidents; they could simply mean people have become more risk averse, and so have been taking out more insurance, while insurers have become more skilful in covering a wider range of previously uninsurable risks. The more that people live in the present, and the less they do so in the past or in the future, the more attention they pay to accidents.

According to figures from the insurance industry, earthquakes, wildfires, hurricanes, tsunamis and floods are occurring increasingly often, while disasters resulting from human causes – which can be broadly classified as ignorance, carelessness or greed – appear to be declining. Yet this distinction between natural and human or technical disasters is deceptive, for it is no more than a fiction created by the insurance industry. For a long time, insurers only covered risks arising from human causes – hazards from natural causes were considered uninsurable because the likely magnitude of the claims would be beyond the resources of any one insurance company. The distinction was a means for insurers to protect themselves from unbearably large claims.
Civil + Structural Engineer
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognized 30 clean water infrastructure projects for excellence and innovation within the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) program. Honored projects include large wastewater infrastructure projects to small decentralized and agriculture projects.

“The Clean Water State Revolving Fund plays an integral role in advancing the President’s infrastructure agenda, providing communities with low-interest loans so that they can modernize aging infrastructure, create local jobs, and better protect public health and the environment,” said EPA Office of Water Assistant Administrator Dave Ross. “The scale and complexity of the 2018 PISCES recognized projects represent the determination, coordination, and creativity our partners put forth to achieve their water quality goals.”

The CWSRF is a federal EPA-state partnership that provides communities a permanent, independent source of low-cost financing for a wide range of water quality infrastructure projects. Over the past 31 years, CWSRF programs have provided more than $132 billion in financing for water quality infrastructure.

EPA’s Performance and Innovation in the SRF Creating Environmental Success (PISCES) program celebrates innovation demonstrated by CWSRF programs and assistance recipients. Thirty projects by state or local governments, public utilities, and private entities were recognized by the 2018 PISCES program:

Exceptional Project

Five projects received Exceptional designations:

Wilmington Renewable Energy and Biosolids Facility (Delaware) — The City of Wilmington’s wastewater treatment facility received a $36 million CWSRF loan to construct a renewable energy and biosolids facility for its treatment plant. This new facility captures previously flared methane gas from the plant’s anaerobic digester and gas from a nearby landfill and uses it to to power two reciprocating internal combustion engines that generate 4 megawatts of electricity. This offsets the treatment facility’s electricity needs by 90 percent. The thermal energy from the engines is used to heat a sludge thermal dryer, which reduces 140 wet tons of daily biosolids by nearly 80 percent to reach about 30 dry tons of biosolids. These reductions in electricity and solid waste disposal costs are estimated to save the city $16.7 million over 20 years.

This project also sponsored a $3.4 million CWSRF
ZGF Architects LLP
PAE Living Building, a planned five-story structure in the Skidmore/Old Town Historic District, could become the first in Portland to be certified as a living building.

The Historic Landmarks Commission on Monday provided design advice for the project team, which is being led by PAE Consulting Engineers and ZGF Architects. Commissioners in attendance, a bare quorum of four, questioned some of the design details, but ultimately supported the concept and urged the applicants to submit a formal proposal for design review.

“If you’re able to do this, I think it will do wonders from a historic preservation perspective on what can be done,” Commission Chair Kristen Minor told the applicants at the conclusion of the hearing. “We need some positive examples of progressive architecture in historic districts.”

The project team also includes developer Gerding Edlen and general contractor Walsh Construction. Plans call for constructing a 58,700-square-foot cross-laminated timber building on a roughly quarter-block property, owned by Downtown Development Group, at the northwest corner of the intersection of Southwest First Avenue and Pine Street. Currently, it’s a surface parking – adjacent to the historic Carriage & Baggage Building holding the Pine Street Market.

The building would hold ground-floor retail space along the frontages of Southwest First Avenue and Pine Street, along with an entrance to office space. The latter would include a bike hub with storage, showers, restrooms and lockers, along with mechanical and electrical systems.

The second through fifth floors would contain office space; two of those floors would host new headquarters for PAE Consulting Engineers. Overall, the structure would be 75 feet tall – the maximum height allowed in the historic district. A glass fiber reinforced concrete facade would be used on the ground floor and different shades of brick on the top four floors.

To earn Living Building Challenge certification, the building would need to show over at least a year that it produces more energy and water than it consumes, and much more. The project team’s target is for 105 percent of the building’s annual energy needs to be produced on-site from solar sources. Meanwhile, to achieve net zero water, stormwater, and wastewater use, the team plans to employ a 50,000-gallon cistern, composting toilets, and urine diversion for fertilizer generation.

PAE Presi
Jeremy Bitterman
The process for mass-timber-construction permitting is about to become streamlined, thanks to changes to the International Building Code (IBC) set to take effect in 2020. In December, the International Code Council passed 14 code changes relating to mass timber construction that, pending validation of the vote, would be included in the 2021 IBC. (The code is revised every three years.) Among the changes is the creation of three types of construction that set new allowable heights and fire-safety ratings for wood buildings.

The current code sees buildings in mass timber, including cross-laminated timber, as outliers from existing categories, and requires performance-based design for permitting processes. The proposed changes would both define mass timber construction and create three new categories for it, dealing with mass timber that is protected with noncombustible materials, partially exposed, and unprotected, with maximum heights of 18, 12, and nine stories, respectively. Allowable areas for mass timber structures would also be increased over current allowances for heavy timber construction.

Thomas Robinson, founder of Portland, Oregon–based LEVER Architecture, explains the potential of these code changes from his office in a mass-timber building his firm designed, Albina Yard: “With this new code, you could say, ‘If I follow these guidelines, I’m pretty confident that I’ll be able to get a permit.’ That has a huge impact on how owners will think about investing in these types of buildings,” he says, “and on strengthening the national supply chain, because people will be comfortable investing in technology and in building new [mass-timber] plants.”

Robinson and his team at LEVER are well versed in timber construction, as co-winners of the U.S. Tall Wood Building Prize for their 12-story project, Framework. (The other winner was 475 West 18th by SHoP Architects; both are currently on hold for financial reasons.) The LEVER team conducted around 40 tests for fire safety, acoustic performance, and structural performance to gain permitting for Framework, which was the first wood high-rise to win such approval in the United States. Robinson says his firm’s work highlights the opportunity that code changes present to architects, who will no longer face the same rigors of testing his team encountered.

Tentative approval of the code-change proposals in the spring is likely. Final approvals will occur in Oc
Real Estate Weekly
The latest climate report by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) anticipates that the world will experience the more extreme effects and consequences of climate change much earlier than originally thought, all within most of the global population’s lifetime.

This news, paired with the ongoing world climate crisis, pushes us to maximize our efforts toward a more sustainable future.

As professionals in the AEC industry, we must first acknowledge the effect our work has on the environment and then focus on what steps can we take to mitigate those impacts.

Through our work, we are constantly involved in projects and policies that will have a very real effect on climate change. There have been multiple, global campaigns pushing us to “go green” and to reduce our personal waste, but what about our professional responsibility to the environment?

One organization working to advance our role in mitigating climate change is the American Institute of Architects (AIA), which is taking bold steps toward ensuring that architects understand their professional responsibility to protect the environment. Earlier this year, the AIA adopted new rules and ethical standards that makes sustainable design an imperative for its members, who must “make reasonable efforts to advise their clients and employers of their obligations to the environment. The AIA’s National Code of Ethics also expanded on what architects’ goals should be in terms of energy conservation, water use, building materials and the ecosystem. Climate change is now front and center.

We must work toward ensuring that these and other important environmental guidelines become the professional norm. We not only have a moral and ethical obligation to our clients, but to the environment as well.

Architecture 2030 is a non-profit organization committed to transforming the global built environment, from being the major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions to a central part of the solution. Its focus is on lowering building energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by setting target levels for new and renovated buildings. The organization offers a comprehensive set of online tools and resources on design and planning, education and policy in an effort to promote its sustainable agenda.

We need more professionals and firms to commit to Architecture 2030’s goals. To that end, the AIA has launched the 2030
Pavel Antonov
At the inaugural Rio Conference on the Global Environment in 1992, three facts became abundantly clear: the earth was indeed warming; fossil fuels were no longer a viable source of energy; and the built environment would have to adapt to this new reality. That year I published an essay in the Journal of Architectural Education called “Architecture for a Contingent Environment” suggesting that architects join with both naturalists and preservationists to confront this situation. Preservationists subsequently suggested that the profession consider adaptive reuse of historic buildings in its sustainability strategies, because reuse saves energy wasted in new construction, and generates less construction refuse as well. In their first set of guidelines, the engineers drafting LEED criteria ignored existing buildings altogether. Adaptive reuse has not been on the radar, at least until recently. That huge blind spot has lingered in the AE professions, though not among conservationists in the global community.

In 1990 the American Institute of Architects formed its Committee On The Environment (COTE) with widespread support from its members, but for more than a decade climate change remained a secondary concern among most architects. But message boards among AIA Fellows have followed the recent announcement by climate scientists that the earth is likely to warm so much that sea levels will rise and species will perish—so the discussion within the profession is heating up as well. As announced in the November issue of Architect, the official magazine of the organization, AIA members now have a set of metrics with which to measure the “green” performance of new buildings, and awards for buildings that follow those standards, putting it on an equal footing with LEED in that regard. A splashy cover story made it clear that the COTE “top ten” awards would feature prominently in subsequent issues of the magazine.

With that in mind it’s worth looking at these award winners from a more objective point of view than that of cheerleading editors paid by the AIA to promote its messages. Moreover, there are reasons for the leading advocacy organization in our industry to be more aggressive in pushing government leaders to support infrastructure, energy and sustainability policies that will confront this crisis head on.

The good news is that several of the award winners were for adaptive reuse of existing buildings rather than new con
In 2016, Ecole des Ponts ParisTech has established an advanced masters program with a focus on digital fabrication and robotics. Currently recruiting for its fourth installment, the Design by Data Advanced Masters Program appeals to architects, engineers, and tech-oriented designers. Since its launch in 2016, the program’s director Francesco Cingolani has sought to shape the relationship between architecture and technology by creating a cross-disciplinary culture between the two.

As previously mentioned on Archdaily, students study the main components of the program - computational design, digital culture and design, and additive manufacturing and robotic fabrication - throughout the 12-month program to fulfill Design by Data’s main objectives while working with peers in a dynamic learning environment. While providing each participant with both technical skills and an aesthetic eye, the program ensures students will also gain critical knowledge of current innovative trends and ongoing research. By exposing them to technology through hands-on use of tools of digital fabrication, the program will teach students to approach design through a process-oriented lens.

"Computational design, to me, is a completely new way of thinking about architecture and design that merges digital arts and engineering. Computational design is mainly about how we can use algorithms, mathematics, and generative thinking to create a novelty of architecture and object with complex geometries that are not standard.” --Francesco Cingolani, co-founder the Design by Data Program.

The program created a Makerspace, an interdisciplinary learning platform for prototyping. Makerspace "fosters interdisciplinarity between the various fields of expertise represented in the school and in neighboring schools." According to Ecole des Ponts ParisTech, students develop transferable skills in various disciplines by making and coding. They view the "Designer-Builder" "in this environment as a strategist, capable of conceiving and leading new methodologies for problem-solving."
Investigators scrutinize hanger connection detail as well as design, material and fabrication

SPECIAL REPORT The underlying causes of the trouble at San Francisco’s 4.5-block-long Salesforce Transit Center are coming into focus. A combination of low fracture toughness deep inside thick steel plates, cracks present as a consequence of normal steel fabrication and stress levels from loads, which are a function of design, apparently caused brittle fractures in the bottom flanges of the center's twin built-up plate girders that span 80 ft across Fremont Street.

All three ingredients were needed for the brittle fractures. “Take away any one and there is no brittle fracture because the other two compensate,” says Michael D. Engelhardt, a professor of engineering at the University of Texas, Austin, and the chair of the independent peer review panel formed in October by the area’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

One ingredient is a material’s low fracture toughness, which indicates how intrinsically resistant the steel is to brittle fracture, says Engelhardt. Another is an initiating discontinuity, known informally as cracking, often present as a consequence of normal steel fabrication. A crack, as in a pane of glass, causes a stress concentration, explains Engelhardt. It is benign if the other ingredients are not present.

The third ingredient is a high-enough level of stress, which is a function of design. Service loads, in this case live loads such as buses, generate the stress.

The troubles at Saleforce Transit Center open a window on some of the process, quality-control and responsibility challenges that occur when designing, detailing, fabricating and building long-span steel structures with large or very thick sections. Among the questions raised are whether codes and standards should be changed.

The MTC panel, in addition to its charge of technical review and guarding public safety, expects to make recommendations for change in standard practice, and possibly codes and procedures.

“There are a lot of things we can learn from this,” says Engelhardt. “People who write codes and standards should take this seriously,” he adds.
Transbay Joint Powers Authority/LCI
Investigation continues into causes of trouble at San Francisco's transit center

The steel fabricator for the third-floor tapered, built-up plate girders at the troubled Salesforce Transit Center in San Francisco is calling for a girder-hanger connection design review as part of the probe into the causes of brittle fractures in bottom flanges of twin 80-ft-long members that bridge Fremont Street. The facility was closed in late September.

At the midspan, each 8-ft-deep girder web is thickened by a vertical hanger plate to support the second-floor bus deck below. The hanger plate is welded to the web and slots through the girder’s bottom flange.

“I believe the hanger detail is the largest contributing factor to the problem,” says Robert Hazleton, president of fabricator The Herrick Corp. “We have been assured that a thorough review of the hanger design is part of the investigation.”

Mark Zabaneh, executive director for the owner, Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA), says, "we are all very eager to determine the cause of the [fractures] discovered on two [girders] at the transit center at Fremont Street, repair the girders and safely reopen the transit center. We are weighing all of the facts as we go about determining how and why this happened and have not ruled out design, fabrication or installation. We are fully investigating this incident as well as cooperating with the independent analysis" being provided by experts from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s design review panel."

The twin girders are much like bridges in that they hang a bus deck and span a street. The girders’ hanger connection detail would normally not be used in modern bridge construction, says a structural engineer familiar with the design. The hanger could have been framed around—not through—the flange and connected with bolts to the web using plates framing into the web, says the bridge expert, who declines to be identified.
Steel cover-plate 'splint' still needs approval

The proposed bypass fix for the troubled Fremont Street girders of San Francisco’s Salesforce Transit Center calls for bolting 20-in.-wide steel cover plates above and below the area around each fractured bottom flange, like a 14-ft-long double splint. The proposed repair detail, presented to the board of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority on Dec. 13, has the unofficial support of the independent peer review panel established to oversee the work of the team investigating the cracks.

he panel, commissioned by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in early October, is “in general concurrence” with the fix proposed by the transit center’s engineer-of-record, Thornton Tomasetti (TT), said Michael D. Engelhardt, the chair of the MTC panel, at the Dec. 13 meeting of the TJPA’s board of directors. “It’s a reasonable approach,” added Engelhardt, a professor of structural engineering at the University of Texas, Austin.

Engelhardt added that the panel will complete its detailed review of the proposed fix in the next several days and make its recommendation to the MTC and the TJPA.

As described by Bruce Gibbons, the TT managing principal in charge of the transit hub, the proposed bolted fix would only repair the compromised region, at the 8-ft-deep midspan of each 80-ft-long girder, by bypassing the welded area using the cover plate sandwich. In addition, 8-in.-tall plates would be bolted to each girder’s vertical stiffener.