Archive for the ‘DLZ’ Category

Collaboration in the Age of COVID


We all know the importance of collaboration. Completing projects successfully in the fields of architecture and engineering requires working directly with other disciplines. Before COVID that was as simple as scheduling a face-to-face meeting with clients and disciplinary representatives.

COVID has changed the way we do things, ranging from mask-wearing and social distancing to no longer meeting in person. How do we maintain the same quality standards and collaboration levels as we saw before the outbreak started?

Within DLZ’s Architecture department, we deploy the following methods:

Zoom

Even before COVID, Zoom was making waves. This virtual meeting and collaboration tool features functionality for video conferencing, screen sharing, instant messaging, and audio calls. Many meetings that used to be face-to-face can now be coordinated through Zoom video conferencing. This still allows for speaker visualization using web cameras.

For non-meeting discussions between individuals, instant messaging provides a reliable form of communication. The quick screenshot tool allows users to take a quick shot of what they’re discussing for visual reference. Additionally, it provides a log of conversations that can be looked back at later.

One of the biggest accomplishments of Zoom is the ability to use it for remote teaching purposes. With offices spread throughout the Midwest, in-person teaching isn’t always an option, and with COVID it isn’t advised. Zoom allows experienced staff to work with younger staff members via video conferencing and screen sharing. This includes the ability to request and take control of someone else’s screen, minimizing the confusion of audio directives.

Zoom has become the primary replacement for in-person meetings during these times. Other software, such as GoTo Meeting, provide similar functions.

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft’s version of meeting and collaboration software allows users to create teams of individuals. These teams then have access to group chats and the ability to have meetings through the software. Much like Zoom, it’s possible to do calls and share your screen with other users.

Teams has other functions, such as a shared wiki, which is useful for project milestone tracking. This function also allows for the ease of tracking of team roles. There’s also a file share function that allows files to be shared solely with the team members. This is especially great for project coordination when files need to be shared with team members outside of the company.

BIM360

A service of Autodesk, BIM360 uses cloud hosting to store Revit models and other project-related files. This service allows members of outside companies to collaborate on the same file without outside partners needing access to a company server. The service is specific to the people added to the project, so other than administrators, no one else can access the file system, which keeps sensitive projects secure.

Image source: https://www.autodesk.com/products/bim-360-design/subscribe?plc=COLLRP&term=1-YEAR&support=ADVANCED&quantity=1

The benefits of working in BIM360 are numerous. First and foremost, it allows for direct collaboration between the disciplines as work is updated in real time. Conflict errors between disciplines are rarer regardless of whether a single file is being used or a system of files for each discipline is being used. Additional benefits include a faster workflow as everyone’s data is directly in front of you, and users can work from any location instead of having to be in an office with access to a company server. 

BIM360 also allows outside users to view the 3-Dimensional version of files in a web browser, which is great for sharing progress with the owner. Another useful tool is the ability to use web software to track changes between versions. This is extremely helpful when a design change needs to be made to the plan, and the change requires additional work from other disciplines.

Conclusion

In today’s technologically advanced age, quality through collaboration does not have to go by the wayside. With the tools outlined here we can continue to function at the same high standards as we did before the COVID outbreak. These new changes, while different from what we’re used to, still allow the level of interaction necessary for punctual completion of projects with a focus on quality.

Executive Spotlight Tom Hessler – Beyond the Zoom

Hessler DT and the Shakes

Executive Spotlight Tom Hessler – Beyond the Zoom

I had the opportunity to interview Tom Hessler for DLZ’s “Executive Spotlight”, a regular blog that goes behind the scenes to showcase DLZ leadership. While Tom is an accomplished Director in DLZ’s water practice, with more than 25 years of experience, he is also a talented musician.

We talked about his love of music and how his hobby continues to compliment his professional life. Tom reminisced about his early years, “My Dad worked for Firestone as a real estate manager and we moved several times while I was growing up. I was born in Syracuse NY, then moved to Boston MA, then to Upstate NY near NYC, Green Twp. near Akron, Ohio then finally landing in high school in Medina. Nothing was more “fun” than moving as a freshman in high school….that was a bit rough. Fast forward, I studied at the University of Akron and graduated with a BS in Civil Engineering in 1990.” Tom said.

When I asked Tom if music has always been a part of his life he shared, “I was fortunate to grow up with three older brothers, so I was exposed to a lot of classic rock greats like the Beatles, Stones, Led Zeppelin, the Who and Black Sabbath. I continue to love this era the most, but several 90’s bands like Soundgarden, Alice and Chains and System of a Down are also at the top of my playlist.”

I started playing in a serious band back in Akron during college and have been playing for over 30 years. The current band “DT and the Shakes” has been together almost seven years and the lead guitarist is my best friend who started with me in 1989. I also played six years in the alternative rock band Trainwreck Radio with my neighbor who in a past life opened for Green Day and Urge Overkill.”

Tom grew up in a family that was not afraid to sing, he commented “I’ve always liked singing and my parents sounded pretty good when they did it so I figured I would give it a try. A couple of drinks to get started usually does the trick!” he added.

Recently, the virus has interrupted the Hessler DT and the Shakes performance schedule, but they are eager to get back at it. Before coronavirus, they got together every other week for a few hours. “It’s been hit and miss since March” Tom shared, “When you play with good musicians, we usually have a new song down after a couple takes. It’s a great way to relax after working all day.”

So when I asked Tom, “what is your best story as a member of a band?” he laughed. “Well, I can’t tell the best story in detail — but it was witnessed by several people from the Akron and Cleveland offices at the Highland Tavern……let’s just say there was an over enthusiastic dancer enjoying our rendition of “Schools Out”. Happy anniversary Tom and Marla Sisley!”

What venues do you play at? “We play at local clubs in the Cleveland, Akron and Kent area about once a month. We have only played once since the pandemic. It was an outdoor show which I like to call “Coronafest”, since over 200 people showed up and did not behave and follow the rules. I would say our best venue had to be the 2016 DLZ 100th Anniversary Party which was a blast. Thanks again DLZ for that!”

Are you married? Children? “I have been married to Elaine for 25 years this December (not sure why she puts up with me!). She is a professor at Cuyahoga Community College. I have one daughter Erin who is currently trying to attend Ohio University as a sophomore studying Environmental Geology. When I asked if Erin inherited his music gene he shared, “Elaine used to play trumpet and was a member of the Ohio State jazz band as an undergrad student. Erin not so much……” Other hobbies? “I enjoy playing golf, biking, skiing, kayaking, hiking with my dog Rosie, and travelling with my family. We have been lucky enough to travel to Australia, Iceland, Alaska, and most of Western Europe and the US over the years.”

“Lately there is no real typical weekend. The most excitement is having social distance parties with the neighbors. If a cornhole game breaks out, that’s living! Hopefully, the Browns will provide something to look forward to on Sunday this fall.”

As we wrapped up our time together, I asked, “what would you like your professional community to know about you?” He paused and went on, “Working for DLZ for over 25 years, I have been fortunate enough to work for several different design disciplines working on CSO tunnels and near surface connection structures, sanitary and storm sewers, major water distribution mains, local water lines, condition assessment and pipe rehabilitation, site improvements, roadway and bike trails, highway and pedestrian bridges, and construction administration and inspection. DLZ has provided excellent opportunities to grow as a professional engineer. Currently, I am the Northeast Ohio Director of Water Practice and really enjoy working for our water and wastewater clients. Along with being a Professional Engineer in several states, I am a licensed Surveyor in the State of Ohio.” And the curtain dropped.…..Tom was headed off to meet with his team on a current project.

Massive Tunnel Constructed Beneath Downtown Columbus

Nearly 200 feet directly beneath downtown Columbus, Ohio is a massive new 4-1/2 mile, 20-foot diameter tunnel that collects storm water during heavy rainfall. As with Columbus, years ago storm water systems for most of the nation’s cities were designed to collect runoff from a 2-year event. So, when heavy rains occur, water collects in the streets and often strands vehicles, causes power outages and damages homes and businesses.

OARS tunnel
OARS Tunnel 23-foot diameter tunnel boring machine drill head after it holed out into Shaft #6 on September 4, 2015.

UNDERSIZED STORM WATER SYSTEMS

Columbus’ downtown main combined storm water and wastewater sewer system was built in the early 1930s with 13 combined sewer overflow points that discharged sewage into the Scioto River during heavy rainfall events. In 2004, the Ohio EPA issued a Consent Order requiring the combined sewer overflows to be adequately controlled by 2025. To address the order, the city originally planned to construct traditional, shallow open-cut sewer projects throughout the downtown in four phases from 2015 to 2025. However, DLZ came up with another solution – a massive tunnel beneath the city to collect the runoff and transport it to the city’s wastewater treatment plant. The tunnel would be large enough to meet the Consent Order by reducing combined sewer overflows up to a 10-year level of wet weather flow protection and would also be operational 8 years earlier than the original plan’s completion date of 2025. Columbus hired DLZ to develop the conceptual plans, design reports and construction plans and specifications for the tunnel. In addition, DLZ managed the design team, communicated with all the project stakeholders, and provided technical support during construction.

Named the Olentangy-Scioto River Augmentation and Relief Sewer Tunnel or OARS Tunnel, the massive tunnel passes under downtown Columbus, below buildings, bridges, interstate highways, railroads and the Scioto River.

ENGINEERING & CONSTRUCTION CHALLENGES

Building the tunnel was the best alternative but there were two significant project challenges that had to be addressed to be successful.  First, a surge analysis study determined that rapid filling events could cause surge waves to propagate into the upstream collection systems, either causing overflows into the streets or causing damage to the existing system.  Typical practice to correct these surges is to use gates to control inflows or to provide additional surge storage.  However, DLZ took an innovative approach to design surge control storage directly into the six drop shaft structures that lead down to the tunnel. 

Massive surge relief chambers and ventilation outlet structures were designed into the inlet shafts to protect the sewer system from pressure waves and air entrapment during tunnel filling that could lead to sewage geysers. A surge analysis helped to define the size and configuration of the relief structures at each of the six drop shaft locations. This method of eliminating surge waves had never been done before. Also, by designing the tunnel system to flow while fully surcharged maximizes the storage and flow capacity, and subsequently, maximizes the amount of storm water that flows to the wastewater treatment plant for purification.

OARS tunnel
Shaft #6 leading to the tunnel has a 16-foot diameter inlet drop shaft being constructed within the 48-foot diameter shaft surge chamber. The surge relief chamber acts to protect the sewer system from pressure waves and air entrapment when runoff from heavy rains fill the tunnel.

The second challenge was related to construction. The tunnel was mined in karstic limestone with 50’ of rock cover. A positive feature of having the rock cover is that it prevented surface settlement; however, it was a very difficult geotechnical setting to mine due to the large quantities of groundwater flowing through the rock. In some cases, high pressure groundwater inflows exceeded 5,000 gallons per minute. Even more problematic was the fact the Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) did not encounter isolated pockets of high groundwater inflow, but rather, almost continuous groundwater inflow along most of the tunnel alignment. Tunneling in this type of condition has only been performed on a few projects throughout the world.

To address this issue, muck handling was accomplished by pumping the rock slurry during the drilling process. And to cut off groundwater in order to gain access to the cutter face for maintenance and replacement of the rock cutters the contractor, Kenny/Obayashi Joint Venture, developed a “reverse-flow grout procedure”. Essentially, this procedure pumped feed water out of the front excavation chamber until the flow of water through the rock was going away from the TBM. Then, grout was introduced which naturally flowed into the openings and fissures in the rock where it sealed off the inflow of groundwater.

Another thing that made this project unique was that it was very rare that a TBM mining in rock would require the use of a pressurized cutting chamber. And even more rare was the fact the TBM had to mine in a slurry pressure-balanced environment. So, several features were designed into the TBM to give it as much flexibility as possible to increase production rates and successfully mine through rock that had near continuous, high-pressure groundwater inflows.

OARS Tunnel
Looking down the 20-foot finished diameter of the OARS Tunnel at Shaft #6.

PROJECT BENEFITS

One major social benefit this tunnel project provides is the ability for Columbus to continue developing and growing its downtown area while protecting the Scioto River and the environment. In fact, most people working or living in the area of the project were not aware the tunnel was being constructing directly beneath them. The project also benefits a community of over 1 million people by addressing the Consent Order and bringing Columbus into compliance with the Clean Water Act. It’s estimated the new tunnel will redirect nearly 2 billion gallons of combined sewage overflows from the Scioto River to Columbus’ wastewater treatment plant annually. However, this estimate may be low. Last year alone, nearly 16 billion gallons of combined sewage was redirected through the tunnel and treated at the wastewater plant instead of overflowing to the Scioto River.

In addition, the project essentially eliminated the city’s 13 downtown combined sewer overflows and has allowed for the development of greenways and parks within the downtown area and helped transform the old riverfront area into vital public green space. The additional storage volume provided by the tunnel also eliminated the need for above ground storage for runoff and a future high-rate wastewater treatment system saving the city an estimated $175 million.

OARS tunnel
OARS Tunnel pump station shaft (right) and screen shaft (left) at Columbus’ Jackson Pike Wastewater Treatment Plant.

FUTURE OUTLOOK

Completed in July 2017, the OARS tunnel is now the backbone of the Columbus Wet Weather Management Plan. At a cost of over $370 million, it is the largest capital improvement project in the city’s history. Designing the downstream shafts to be open to the atmosphere and using odor control facilities at the upstream shafts allow for fresh air to flow through the tunnel. This allows the city to control odors and protects the concrete tunnel lining from corrosive gases that would otherwise build up in the sewer. Consequently, the expected design life for the tunnel exceeds 100 years.

Just two weeks after the tunnel was completed a major rain event hit Columbus filling the OARS tunnel and shafts to its maximum capacity and the system worked beautifully. The project also allows the city to implement a more robust storm water control system and connect future sewer extensions to the tunnel enabling the city to grow and develop.

As other cities address this same issue of undersized storm sewers and congested business districts, massive tunnels hidden beneath the cities are becoming a more and more feasible approach to collecting stormwater and complying with the Clean Water Act.

Building Architecture: Inspiring a New Approach

COVID-19 Inspiring a new approach

During this pandemic, the wellness of employees and building occupants are a top priority for everyone. At DLZ, our architects and engineers are using evidence-based design to develop strategies that most effectively address the spread of SARS-CoV-2 virus and the associated COVID-19 disease.

To understand strategies for prevention, it is essential to first understand how this virus is spreading. While the scientific community still has much to learn about this virus, there is critical evidence that indicates how transmission is happening. Much like other airborne viruses, SARS-CoV-2 spreads in three ways: through droplets, aerosols, and on surfaces (fomite transmission). Of these, the most common transmission method is from droplets or aerosols as a result of direct person-to-person contact.

The most effective methods to prevent the spread of this disease are to self-quarantine when sick, wear a mask, maintain social distancing, and keep interactions outdoors, when possible. These options are not always available when working or living in buildings, so further steps are necessary to increase health safety for building occupants.

At DLZ, we believe in practical and cost-effective methods that reduce the spread of COVID-19. Rather than implementing new and untested methods, our approach is to use tried and true techniques that build off existing systems and retain value after the pandemic is over. To that end, we have identified several solutions that target certain methods of COVID-19 spread:

COVID-19 New Approach

1. DILUTION

COVID-19: By diluting an indoor environment with outside air, the density of the virus decreases, reducing the chance that occupants will receive an infective dose.

Post-Pandemic: Many studies have found that increasing outdoor air improves wellness and employee productivity.

2. FILTRATION

COVID-19: This virus survives on small aerosolized water droplets that typical building filters cannot remove. By providing a MERV-13+ filter, the quantity of the virus in recirculated air is significantly reduced.

Post-Pandemic: Many diseases, including the seasonal flu and the common cold, spread through aerosolized water droplets. Filtering recirculated air can help reduce future disease spread.

3. AIR FLOW

COVID-19: Strategic airflow can reduce the spread of the virus from an infected person to others in the area.

Post-Pandemic: In addition to the spread of other airborne diseases, this also increases workplace comfort by removing smells such as strong perfumes or food.

Based on years of experience and current research, DLZ’s architects and engineers are working to advance building designs. We look forward to continuing collaborating with our clients as we fight this pandemic and prepare for a future free of COVID-19.

Fall Protection: Most Workplace Falls are Preventable

In the United States construction industry, falls are the leading cause of worker injuries and fatalities. In 2018, 338 out of 1,008 total deaths in construction were from falls (33.5%), according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The standard for fall protection deals with both the human and equipment-related issues in protecting workers from fall hazards.

The OSHA standard (29 CFR 1926.501(b))(1)) states: “Each employee on a walking/working surface (horizontal and vertical surface) with an unprotected side or edge which is 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above a lower level shall be protected from falling by the use of guardrail systems, safety net systems or personal fall arrest systems.”

The risk for falls is virtually present in every single workplace. However, the factors that can lead to a fall varies. There are specific unsafe acts by employees as well as unsafe conditions that can lead to fall incidents. Moreover, falls often result from a series of contributing factors. At times, they are the result of unsafe conditions and actions combined. It is important to look at both unsafe conditions as well as unsafe actions to recognize hazardous situations.

Unsafe Conditions that Lead to Falls

  • Unguarded leading edges
  • Open holes
  • Improper guardrails
  • Damaged equipment (ladders, stairs, safety equipment, etc.)
  • Slippery conditions
  • Unmarked elevation changes

Unsafe Actions that Lead to Falls

  • Working at heights without fall protection or fall prevention methods like handrails
  • Improper use of ladders
  • Leaning over guardrails

Best Practices to Avoid Falls in the Workplace

A few safeguards can mitigate the risk of falling.

  • Engineering controls such as physical barriers and guardrails are two fall protection systems that are effective in preventing falls from heights.
  • Use approved and tagged scaffolding if a guardrail is not feasible.
  • Use a proper fall arrest system such as a full body harness, self-retracting lanyard, and approved anchor point with 100% tie-off (required when working at heights 6ft or greater unless client policy is 4ft).
  • Proper use of a ladder. This includes using three points of contact when climbing, not leaning to one side while on the ladder, setting the ladder at the proper angle, securing the ladder, etc.
  • Proper housekeeping in work areas.
  • Warning signs and other methods of communicating fall hazards to nearby workers.
  • Inspect fall protection equipment before every use. Make this inspection a part of your daily safety checks prior to wearing.
  • Never use equipment that is not rated or made for fall protection. Only approved fall protection equipment should be used. If you are unsure, stop and ask.

Communication is Key to a Successful Relocation Process

ROW Communication

“You and I come by road or rail, but economists travel on infrastructure,” was one of the opening lines Margaret Thatcher used during a conference in 1985. Thirty-five years later, this quote is more relevant than ever and very inspirational to Right-of-Way professionals. I have always believed that as a Relocation Agent our work is vital, and at times complicated. It would be difficult to complete any infrastructure project on time without our full dedication. In many instances, ROW professionals wear several hats and must be the bridge of communication between the Acquiring Agency and the Relocatees. For a relocation process to be successful, the relocation agent must complete the following steps:

The Relocation Agent should keep track of the facts as well as any conversations with all the parties. Before meeting with Relocatees, an agent should have a scoping meeting with the Acquiring Agency to retrieve any information on the project and the affected occupants. Such meetings are crucial, as there could be existing issues or relationships within the project residents or between the agency and the Relocatees. The agent should have a good working relationship with the appraisers and ask them to clarify any questions or items that were not adequately addressed during the valuation process.

The agent should also familiarize themselves with the local real estate market and building codes. Creating relationships with local officials and realtors can often help. Attorneys are another group that agents may need to educate to ensure each client receives their full benefits in a timely fashion. It is beneficial to view landowners’ attorneys as a partner in this process and not an obstacle to overcome. After all, you both want their client to receive every benefit entitled to them.

Agents need to ask questions and probe deeper to ensure they are fully aware of their Relocatees situation, wants, and needs. Through this information gathering, an agent can best assess the situation and bring resources to bear in getting their Relocatees successfully relocated.

There’s a reason we have two ears and one mouth, and when it comes to providing relocation assistance, it is always best to use them in that ratio. In other words, listen twice as much as you speak. This simple strategy allows you to provide valuable advisory services and thoroughly explain the benefits that best suit your Relocatees’ needs.

Throughout a relocation process, there is one common denominator, communication. The Relocation Agent is responsible for creating relationships and maintaining them throughout the entire relocation process. With effective communication, the project will move more smoothly and, ultimately restore economic vitality and stability to the project corridor.

Are Your Parks Accessible to All?


Parks serve several important purposes within a community. They provide access to programs such as sports and education, health benefits from exercise and access to nature, and an opportunity for socialization and community involvement. Frequently though, accessibility for persons with disabilities is overlooked or does not meet current standards, limiting the enjoyment of park benefits for some members of our communities. However, there are many opportunities to improve accessibility. These opportunities may be ideal for local community groups wishing to sponsor park improvement on limited funding, park maintenance staff work, or integration with larger park projects.

Opportunity 1 – Create Accessible Routes: Accessible routes are a critical component to providing access for park users. These routes are required to be firm, stable, and slip resistant and should provide connection between all areas of activity, such as parking, ball fields, trail heads, shelters, etc. Projects could include installation of sidewalks, asphalt paths, or pathways of select compacted stabilized aggregates. Additionally, exterior ramps with handrails and landings can be constructed to improve access to raised areas currently served by stairs, such as shelters and performance platforms.

Opportunity 2 – Improve Athletic Facility Access: Accessible routes should connect to the boundaries of fields and courts. (Note that the actual area of sport activity itself is exempt from a number of requirements so as to not change the nature of the activity.) Wheelchair seating is required in player seating areas. This can be as simple as adding the appropriate size paved space within an existing unpaved seating area or removing segments of fixed benches to accommodate space needed for a person’s wheelchair. At bleacher seating, wheelchair spaces, aisle seats, and connections to accessible routes are also required based on the seating capacity. If you have a public announcement/audio amplification system, consider providing assistive listening devices for park users with hearing impairments. These simple fixes allow everyone to be included in the park programming and share the experiences!

Opportunity 3 – Ensure Site Furnishings are Accessible: Nearly every park has some type of site furnishings, such as benches, picnic tables, grills, trash cans, and drinking fountains. Related projects could include connecting them to the nearest accessible route, providing clear, level ground spaces at picnic tables, grills, ends of benches, and at approaches to trash cans and drinking fountains. Upgrade old drinking fountains; a minimum of 2 are required to provide access to both standing persons and wheelchair users, with different heights and dimensional requirements for each.

Opportunity 4 – Provide Clear and Concise Information through Signage: The International Symbol of Accessibility (ISA) is easily recognizable and communicates which areas of your facility are compliant. The ISA can be used to identify dedicated parking spaces and accessible restrooms. This symbol also provides direction to accessible routes and building entrances, making it easier for persons with disabilities to find the most convenient and useable areas of your park or facility. Trail signage can be added to identify trail conditions and level of difficulty so users may make informed decisions on how to recreate safely. Most signage is subject to requirements for mounting heights, font types, sizes, and contrast, so be sure to check the guidelines when designing new signage.

In addition to utilizing experienced design professionals on your projects, the U.S. Access Board is a great resource for your community. As stated on their website, the Access Board is an independent federal agency that promotes equality for people with disabilities through leadership in accessible design and the development of accessibility guidelines and standards. Their website (https://www.access-board.gov/) provides many avenues to get clarification and specific technical requirements of the items above, such as complete texts of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards and guidelines, webinars, animations, research data, newsletters on accessibility topics, and more.

A key point to remember is that better accessibility expands the park experience for all. It improves ease of physical access, whether you are a person using a wheelchair or other mobility device, parents with strollers, or those of us just loaded down with kids’ sports gear and picnic supplies. Most importantly, increased accessibility fosters inclusion and equality for persons of all ages and abilities.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in Industrial Environments

It’s a bird… it’s a plane… it’s a… yeah it is a plane. For Chicagoans, it’s that time of year where we get to enjoy some of the most amazing and stunning mechanical, aerial acrobatics around; the Chicago Air and Water Show. This year marks the shows 60th anniversary. In honor of the occasion, DLZ is showcasing its own aeronautical spectacle, UAV usage in industrial environments.

A Brief History of UAV Flight
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have been around since the early 20th century, however usage for commercial purposes and governing regulations are in their infancy. Prior to 2014/2015, UAVs were mostly a novelty for enthusiasts, tinkerers, and researchers. In 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) decided to allow commercial companies to use UAVs to conduct business. Since that time, UAV usage in the United States has grown exponentially even though the framework created by the FAA was restricting and required a difficult exemption process to sell UAV services. Meanwhile, the consumer side of UAVs, commonly referred to as drones, did not operate under the same regulatory restrictions and as such saw an even faster adoption of technology and rise in total sales.

Technological Innovations
The Chicago Air and Water Show features planes of all eras and styles from the modern F-35 to the iconic F/A-18 flown by the Blue Angels to the P-51 Mustang made famous by its role in World War II. That same level of aeronautical innovation has occurred with UAVs in a short span of time. The relaxation of regulations brought with it more enthusiasts that drove the price of components down and the innovation of new technology. Modern UAV platforms come with advanced gyro stabilization, GPS tracking, anti-collision sensors, and many other safety features to allow our pilots to collect flight data quickly and efficiently.

UAS pilots performing pre-flight checks on a DJI Matrice 600 UAV

The Rise of UAV Demand in Industrial Settings
The first uses of UAVs in industrial environments were to measure raw materials, transmission lines, and aerial mapping primarily for cost savings and lack of an alternative method. This introduced clients to the idea of UAVs and eventually led to wider adoption throughout the process. While those projects continue to makeup a large portion of UAV services, they are only a small amount of the full capability possible. One of biggest drivers of current adoption has been safety. Over that past few decades, large industrial operations have continued to increase safety regulations forcing the innovation of practices and procedures that can do a job safer, faster, and with less chance of harm to human life. That evolution in safety culture has led to the usage of UAVs in non-traditional roles. A few examples of projects that UAVs have made safer:

  • Confined space entry: Whether on a blast furnace or a tank vessel, mechanical rotors do not need breathable air.
  • Structural inspection: Rather than use a manlift or have humans tied off to lifelines, UAVs have utilized higher resolution video and still pictures to find structural deficiencies without putting a person in harm’s way.
  • Raw material surveys: At one time the only way to topographically map a pile of ore, coal or other material was to physically climb on top of it and measure it. Now UAVs can map acres of land and all material on that land in a matter of a few hours rather than days.
  • High Hazard Areas: If an area is known to have caustic elements, high temperature, or even radiation, UAVs provide a safe way to gather information without risking life.

The Future of UAVs in Industrial Operations
One of the most exciting emerging technologies for UAVs is LIDAR. LIDAR itself is not a new technology but adaptation for the UAV platform and its non-stop accuracy improvements make for an exciting future. Currently, ground-based LIDAR is used for a plethora of applications in all settings with modern high-definition laser scanners able to measure as accurate as a millimeter. Current UAV-based LIDAR systems have an accuracy of several centimeters but we’re starting to see that accuracy improve. Over time, those technologies will overlap and UAV-based LIDAR may even replace ground-based in the not-so-distant future.

Wrapping It Up
UAV technology and usage in industrial applications is not only here to stay but is continuing to become a more vital part of our day-to-day operations. While I personally see the modern usage of UAVs daily, I still find wonder and awe once a year watching the Chicago Air and Water Show thinking of how flight, whether UAV or pilot-based, has evolved and dreaming of the future yet to come.

Remote Controlled, Unmanned Boat Offers Safer Solution to Hydrographic Surveys

Water is becoming more of a precious resource every year. From the ability to handle storm runoff, store water for public and private use, manage areas for recreation, and even assist in navigation, the necessity to accurately determine water volume and depth has become a growing project requirement throughout the Midwest.

The methods survey firms use to meet these project requirements has also grown thanks to today’s technology. The days of row boats and manual sounding chains have given way to single and multi-beam echo sounders on regular watercraft and even remote-controlled watercraft – which at times is a better and safer solution.

This remote-controlled method is possible thanks to Teledyne Marine’s Z-boat technology. DLZ has incorporated this technology for years. The Z-Boat performs hydrographic survey work in bodies of water where access and shallow depth can cause major issues in watercraft mobilization. It is a safe and many times faster solution in troubled waters.

The Z-Boat is approximately 3ft x 5ft, made of plastic, has two electric outboard motors and weighs 150lbs once loaded with batteries and equipment. Using dual frequency beam echo sounders to allow for readings on both hard and soft surfaces, survey data is transmitted to an on-shore field computer in real time using a radio link. Through GPS antennas and radios, field personnel can control the Z-Boat and monitor the data safely in real time.

Due to its small size and large variety of potential operating environments, the Z-Boat can be placed in the water either directly with a dolly or a crane and sling, as long as the water is at least 1ft deep.

The Z-Boat is often the safest option. In shallow bodies of water with a soft sediment bottom, it can be very hazardous for a person to walk out and get stuck. In some cases, the water may be contaminated. To reduce the potential of personnel exposure to hazardous materials, DLZ uses the Z-Boat which can be/ or which is then decontaminated afterwards. The Z-Boat can go up to 6mph and is a suitable choice for fast moving streams and rivers that may be more precarious on foot or in manned vessels. At times, there may not be an appropriate location to launch a larger survey vessel, in which case the Z-Boat is again the safer option.

A versatile boat, the Z-boat can meet a range of challenging hydrographic survey environments. With the capability to survey in conditions that could be hazardous to personnel, collect quality data, and keep our employees safe, the Z-Boat positions DLZ to safely deliver cutting edge solutions to our clients’ surveying needs.

Making Strides to Reduce our Environmental Footprint

DLZ realizes that serious efforts must be made to mitigate the effects of climate change and the reduction of our environmental footprint, which is why we have made sustainability part of our way of life in our offices and through our projects.

Office Sustainability Efforts

 

Through our projects we have contributed to:

  • The reduction of energy, water, and greenhouse gases through our Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) designed buildings
  • The reduction of harmful emissions such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides through our Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) stations. In addition to the environmental benefits of CNG, it also displaces petroleum fuels, saving taxpayer dollars and reducing dependency on foreign produced oil
  • The reduction of raw sewage overflows into the environment during rain events through our Combined Sewer Overflow projects
  • The increase of alternative methods of transportation through our bike path projects
  • The restoration of ecosystems and improvements to communities through river restoration and dam removals
  • The reduction of non-renewable resources through hydroelectric power on our dam projects

We will continue making strides towards reducing our carbon footprint in our offices as well as through our projects. Together we can make a difference!

9 Ways to Have Fun at a Business Conference

Every year the Association for Iron and Steel Technology (AIST) hosts a large trade show featuring industry professionals from all over the world, technical papers, discussion panels, and a vendor fair. This year, the trade show was hosted by the city of brotherly love at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in the heart of downtown Philadelphia. Three of DLZ’s project managers from our Burns Harbor, Indiana office attended to man a booth—and unexpectedly had an amazing time. They discovered nine ways to have fun while at the conference.

1. Business First
To have fun on a business trip, you first must make sure your business goals are achieved. I highly recommend meticulous planning for the event, especially the logistics of getting people and equipment to and from the venue. Establish goals before attending and ensure that you meet those goals during the conference. For example, our goal was to meet face-to-face with specific clients we would otherwise rarely be able to see, such as those from California or Canada.

2. Ask Questions
Even though I have been to Philadelphia in the past, I really enjoyed being a clueless tourist this go around. Instead of trying to look something up online we would ask a local where to find the best cheesesteak. By the way, in Philadelphia it is JUST a cheesesteak. If you ask for a Philadelphia cheesesteak, you will get made fun of pretty quickly. I tried Jim’s on South Street and the sandwich was phenomenal. More about food later. Asking questions is not just about recommendations; it helps you meet some good people. Asking questions also conveys your interest in someone else. I found that just asking simple questions and shutting my mouth often led to hearing incredible personal stories and learning interesting things about the city.

3. Find Good People
Networking is a central activity at a tradeshow, so it is not hard to meet interesting people. On the first night of the convention, we were able to round up about 10 people to go out to dinner. It is amazing what you will learn from normally shy engineers—I can say that, I am one!—over a single bottle of wine (my boss is reading…). I must say, engineers are focused and passionate about what they do and if you talk about a subject they are interested in, hang on to your hat. Did you know an average tackle by an NFL player can reach 1600-lbs of force?

Good people come in all shapes and sizes. Stopping to have a conversation with someone you don’t know can be scary at first but eventually it becomes natural. Never pass up the opportunity to talk with people.

4. Embrace Your Inner Foodie
Travel has its ups and downs but even a bad trip can be saved by some good, regional food. When you describe a trip what do you describe? You talk about where you stayed, what you did, and what you ATE. This trip was filled with amazing food. Every meal was decided by someone we met or recommended by a local. My two favorite meals:

Jim’s cheesesteak on South Street. We went with the traditional fare: steak, onions, and cheese whiz on an Italian roll. The sandwich was messy and gooey but oh so yummy. The beef was tender with a deep, savory flavor. While we waited for our order, we chatted with the cook about attending punk concerts.

Pearl’s Oyster Bar in the Reading Terminal Market, conveniently located across the street from the convention center. The best part of Pearl’s may have been our server, Brian, who was born in Philadelphia. When I asked for his recommendation between a crab cake or shrimp po’ boy, he simply said, “order the Vietnamese Roll.” He had an obvious passion for the finer details of oysters. While I cannot tell you the difference between a long brine or an ocean salt soak, I can say the oysters were incredibly fresh and left me wanting another half dozen. The Vietnamese roll was a bit tangy with some heat that was complimented by perfectly cooked shrimp and thinly-cut carrots. Thanks for the recommendation Brian.

5. Have an Open Mind
I have had the privilege of traveling all over the world for work. At the end of the day, I just want to relax. My colleagues and I made a conscious choice that we would try new things during our trip to Philly. We took suggestions. Whether listening to new music or trying a small, out of the way diner or just strolling the streets to look at street art, having an open mind served us well. Philadelphia is a rich city with an incredible history. What I did not expect was the dedication to art of all mediums. From painted mailboxes to an entire alley that creates a flowing, ever-changing mural, the city itself becomes the display case.

6. Plan Ahead
There are endless opportunities in a major city. During the convention, there were concerts, a 10-mile run, NBA playoffs, NHL playoffs, and countless smaller events to suit everyone. Find what you may enjoy, but at the same time, don’t lock yourself into a rigid plan. We chose a single scheduled event, a punk concert the night before the vendor fair started. Nothing contrasts with hardcore technical discussion quite like a night of moshing in a sweat-filled concert venue.

7. Don’t Over Plan
Do not take the previous point about searching for events too far. You can over prepare and miss out on good times. Originally, we thought about purchasing tickets to the Philadelphia vs. Boston NBA playoff game. While that would have been fun, we would have missed the dinner with engineers in point 3.

When in a new city, there is nothing like the feeling of discovery that comes from the spontaneity of unscheduled, directionless walking. There is just something exciting about coming across the unexpected; like a community garden surrounded by commercial buildings or group of new graduates that decided to set up a dance competition on a random street corner complete with a wireless speaker.

8. Don’t Be Afraid of Being Silly
When I first decided to blog about the conference, I had no idea what to expect or even what to do. We decided to just take pictures… of everything. From selfies at 6am walking through the airport to posing with statues around the city—every turn we took the camera was ready. As time went on, we did more and more silly things. Eventually, the people at the conference started to join in. When people see you having fun, they inevitably want to join in. This also works to break the ice and introduce yourself (and your company) to potential clients.

9. Write a Blog!
Seriously! As we were taking silly pictures or asking weird questions, we received some odd looks. Once we shared that we were taking pictures for our company blog, people shifted from curiosity to wanting to participate. We even got the President of DLZ Industrial to take a picture with a band that looked straight out of Mardi Gras. People who were strangers 10-seconds before were standing shoulder-to-shoulder with wide smiles as long as it was “for the blog.” Some of the most serious people we met opened up and allowed their caricature to be drawn or give a piggy back ride in the name of fun. Who knew those things were a blog away?

My biggest take away from our week at the Iron and Steel conference is that work is serious business, but you do not have to be serious to do work. Sometimes, it is okay to loosen the tie and allow yourself to enjoy life for a while.

Data Analysis and Reporting Workflow Using Algorithms: A Case Study

Introducing “The Problem”
A large steel producer in Northwest Indiana (Client) recently had a legacy issue concerning one of its blast furnaces. Client noticed the furnace’s tuyeres (the holes through which air is forced into the blast furnace) were changing shape, going from cylindrical to ellipsoid. Client was concerned that the entire structure was slowly collapsing or shifting towards a point of structural failure.
To say the least, the problem was high profile.

The Call for Help
Survey crews from DLZ’s Burns Harbor office were asked to collect data on as much of the furnace’s over 100’ tall and nearly 50’ diameter shell as possible, and analyze the data in order to better understand how much the furnace was moving.

Using a Leica P40 high definition 3D laser scanner over the course of a 10-hour work day, while the furnace was shut down for routine maintenance, two DLZ survey crews were able to get a baseline set of data.

In total, the initial set of data approximated 65gb (2.5 billon) individual data points.

Analyzing the Data
The challenge was not analyzing the data a single time. The challenge was having a way to analyze the data multiple times quickly and accurately. Additionally, the furnace is subject to normal movement, and that needs to be accounted for.

Leveraging Computing Power to Process Data
After registering (the process of “stitching” together multiple sets of data) the laser scan data, the rest of the processing was turned over to a computer algorithm. The algorithm parsed the data based on a radial grid, and reduced the 2.5 billon points down to just 20,000 representative monitoring points.
A second algorithm was written to find and analyze those same 20,000 points from any subsequent dataset.

Understanding the Audience
While engineers, surveyors, and other technical-minded professionals are comfortable with, and often prefer, numbers and raw data, a set of 20,000 points is just too large to properly comprehend, and the high-profile nature of the project involved several non-technical decision makers. With these considerations in mind, the priorities for project deliverables were as follows:

  1. Visuals > Numbers
    With so many individual data points it is nearly impossible to gain an accurate understanding of the structures movement from tables and charts alone. To help this problem, a colormap was created to represent deviations with color instead of with numbers.
  2. Speed of Interpretation > Resolution of Results
    By using colors to represent deviations the reader loses the ability to know the exact deviation at any given location. The tradeoff is the reader gains the ability to interpret the entire data set quickly as colors form trends and are represented in a picture.
  3. Solution > Interpretation (in regard to communication)
    The visualizations resulted in a quick, consistent interpretation of the data by multiple readers. This allowed the focus of the group to be on solutions rather than spending a large amount of time trying to understand, interpret, or debating the meaning of the data.

Visualizing and Presenting the Results
Ultimately the project deliverables were a 2D colormap and a 3D model, which illustrated that the furnace did show both movement and change in shape, but not enough to cause concern. After only a 10-minute conversation about DLZ’s findings, the discussion was able to move to solutions, which meant the collected data had been presented in a meaningful way that the client understood.

The Project Going Forward
Based on the results of DLZ’s analysis, the client decided to continue monitoring the blast furnace bi-monthly to ensure the structure remains in a normal range of fluctuation. At the same time, various reinforcements and materials will be tested to see how they might influence the shape of the tuyeres and movement of the structure.
The client was able to choose preventative maintenance instead of expensive, unnecessary measures only because of the quick turnaround enabled by the use of algorithms over manual point cloud analysis to rapidly determine the scope of the problem.

Unexpected Takeaway
When a project’s budget starts to dwindle, billable client interactions are usually the first on the chopping block. With competition always becoming more of a factor in the bidding processing, budgets are tighter than ever. Leveraging algorithms on this project provided quick answers and freed up valuable hours to allow for early additional client interaction with more face-to-face meetings and discussions than otherwise would have been possible.

Are you ADA compliant?

Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates that all governmental agencies perform a self-evaluation (SE) of their facilities to determine compliance with applicable ADA standards. Those governmental agencies with 50 or more employees also are required to prepare a transition plan to identify the steps they will take to correct non-compliant issues and to ensure access to their programs for persons with disabilities. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 1 in 5 Americans has a disability, and that number is expected to increase as the baby-boomer generation enters retirement age.

Passed in 1990, the ADA requires completion of the self-evaluation and transition plan (SETP), a requirement that few governmental entities did, and those that did perform a SETP, have not updated or implemented their plan. Due to low compliance and the increasing need for accessibility, some states have gone so far as to issue mandates that governmental entities must have a compliant SETP to remain eligible for federal funding. Threatened with the prospect of losing funding for road, bridge, and other vital projects, communities took notice and had to determine how they could preserve funding by meeting their ADA compliance obligations.

The 2010 mandate in Indiana led to DLZ’s assisting dozens of clients with a variety of ADA compliance services. DLZ sponsored full-day seminars in Indianapolis, South Bend, and Fort Wayne to provide information about the ADA compliance requirements for governmental entities, including towns, cities, and counties. DLZ offered services ranging from training on how to collect SE data to as-needed consultation to full service SETP data collection and document preparation. The clients ranged in size from small rural towns to larger cities, such as Mishawaka, Elkhart, and Terre Haute.

More recently, a 2016 Tennessee mandate enabled DLZ to assist numerous client communities in East Tennessee, such as Maryville, Alcoa, Sevierville, Blount County, and Gatlinburg, with full-service ADA evaluation of their facilities, policies, and programs and preparing their transition plans. DLZ was invited to respond to a City of Sevierville Request for Qualifications (RFQ) at the 2017 National ADA Symposium in Chicago. Several other RFQs followed and DLZ teamed with a local Tennessee-based firm that is collecting data within the public right-of-way (curb ramps, sidewalks, pedestrian signals, transit stops, etc.).

DLZ’s team of planners, architects, engineers, landscape architects, and construction observers work cooperatively to assist our clients and to determine the unique facilities and programs each client needs to provide access to. DLZ’s professionals assist clients by working through a detailed scoping process to identify facilities and portions within each facility that need to be included in the self-evaluation. Areas that need to be included in the facility self-evaluation are all areas open to the public, as well as common-use employee areas such as break rooms, conference rooms, restrooms, locker rooms, etc. Areas excluded from the evaluation are private offices and other employee work areas, mechanical and electrical rooms, janitor closets, etc. The policies and procedures portion of the self-evaluation includes a review of personnel practices, websites, staff training, emergency preparedness, signage, and numerous documents or publications provided to the public. Our process is proven effective and tailored specifically to each client’s needs.

In addition to full SETP services, DLZ also has provided both governmental and private, commercial clients with ADA compliance evaluations for a variety of facilities. Our staff assesses compliance of building and site features, determines priority for corrective action based on the difficulty non-compliant features present, and when possible provides immediate and long-term solutions and cost estimates.

Our staff are recognized authorities on ADA standards and guidelines. DLZ has presented on various ADA topics at numerous conferences and seminars, including Purdue Road School, Indiana Association of Cities and Towns, Indiana Society of Professional Engineers, Michigan Public Transit Association, and Transport Chicago. To expand their knowledge and understanding of ADA issues, these same individuals also participate in ADA webinars and attend the National ADA Symposium, the largest, educational opportunity about ADA issues.

Let DLZ’s team of ADA specialists assist you with improving access to your facilities and with meeting your ADA compliance obligations.

Design is the Easy Part

How long does it take to design a project? Sometimes not nearly as long as it takes to effectively communicate the design to everyone who needs to understand it. I see it all the time. A set of plans will come across my desk. At first glance, they look good. There is a title sheet, grading plan, utility plan, detail sheet and some calculations. Seems like everything necessary to build the project has been included. If not, a contractor probably can construct a project that resembles the plans by making some assumptions. But is a constructed project that is somewhat like the plans sufficient? Not for most owners. And what about other parties that need to use the plans and calculations?

One of my responsibilities at DLZ is to review consultant stormwater plans for compliance with local standards. Rarely are the submittals mathematically wrong. Most of the concerns found during a review stem from ambiguity.

A common ambiguity relates to describing existing conditions at the project limits. Submittals also frequently include large amounts of calculations without an explanation of what variables were used and why. Plans and calculations must communicate that the design is sound, it meets the minimum requirements of reviewing agencies, and it can be constructed. A plan with ambiguities does not satisfy these three requirements.

Design plans and calculations for a given project may have several audiences, with a variety of needs. The only formal construction agreement that depends on a clear design might be between the owner and the contractor. But design clarity also is essential for permitting agencies. The plans and calculations must communicate how the agencies’ requirements are being fulfilled. The occupants of neighboring parcels need clarity to evaluate whether a proposed project may negatively affect the use and enjoyment of their property. The plans and calculations must define a single vision of the final project to all potential audiences.

The design professional has more communication tools available than many other professions. There are the graphic elements of the plans sheets, which are supplemented with general notes and specifications. A report narrative can be used to pull the plan graphics and specifications into simple language. Because we are all human, even well communicated design plans, calculations, and associated reports may contain conflicting or problematic information occasionally. This may trigger questions for the designer or cause the user to request more information. A well communicated set of design documents will help everyone concerned discover those issues sooner rather than later. Problems arise when there is a need for any interested party to interpret ambiguous plans. Each audience assumes it understands the designer’s design intent, even if their respective interpretations are different. Neither the audience nor the design professional may realize there is a difference in understanding until the project is complete or at least well under way. That certainly is not the ideal time to first discover and address those issues.

Attorneys’ careers are spent eliminating or exploiting ambiguities in agreements. Design consultants need to show the same care in eliminating ambiguities in their deliverables. An attorney armed with an ambiguity in design plans usually spells trouble.

A mathematically correct design is not enough. The merits of the design can still be totally lost when communication about its intent fails. The design professional must effectively communicate with everyone the basis and intent of their design. There is no ambiguity about that.

Office Refrigerator Safety

What’s that smell?! If you share a refrigerator with co-workers, you may ask yourself this question multiple times a week. Expired yogurt, forgotten takeout, leaky containers… all these and more can contribute to a not so fresh aroma that can permeate the kitchen area and beyond.

The first thing to consider when utilizing a communal fridge setup is to assess the temperature of both the refrigerator and freezer. According to Foodsafety.gov, the ideal temperature for refrigerators is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder. For freezers, the Food and Drug Administration recommends 0 degrees Fahrenheit as an ideal target to preserve food as long as possible. It’s a good practice to double check temperatures with a thermometer—don’t trust the appliance’s internal readout. Temperatures between 40 degrees and 140 degrees are what’s known as the “danger zone” and should be avoided at all costs. Bacteria is the enemy and it thrives in this temperature range. It not only smells bad, but it can make you sick and even lead to death. According to Foodborneillness.com, there are 31 known foodborne pathogens. 90% of all illnesses due to these known pathogens are caused by seven of the most common:

  • Salmonella
  • Norovirus
  • Campylobacter
  • Toxoplasma
  • E. coli O157:H7
  • Listeria
  • Clostridium perfringens

Bacteria can begin growing in just 20 minutes in food stored in the aforementioned “danger zone” temperature range. To be safe, throw out any perishable food items from the refrigerator that are over a week old, even if they’ve been stored at the proper temperature. If you notice mold or something smells funny, err on the side of caution and discard the item immediately. If power is lost and you cannot determine how long it’s been out, throw away perishable items—better safe than sorry. If you do happen to ingest something that makes you feel sick, determine if it’s food poisoning or just a run of the mill stomach bug. Healthline.com has some valuable information in determining which is which:

Food poisoning can be serious. Avoid solid foods until any nausea or vomiting has ceased. Avoid spicy/greasy/fried/sweet foods. Eat small amounts of bland foods like, bread, crackers, rice or bananas. Sip on clear fluids and gradually increase the amount to stay hydrated. Webmd.com suggests calling a doctor if symptoms last more than 3 days or you have:

  • Fever
  • Severe stomach pain
  • Prolonged vomiting
  • Signs of dehydration

Hot, soapy water should be used to clean up any spills as soon as they are spotted. Once a spill is left for too long, it can seep into cracks and crevices, harden and become more difficult to remove.

Cleaning should be a shared responsibility in an office environment. Make a rotating schedule for everyone who uses the refrigerator to clean it every week or two. If we all take pride in keeping the fridge clean, the risk for foodborne diseases will decrease and you will feel a sense of accomplishment for a job well done.

Food labels also contain valuable information for storage guidelines and expiration dates. Did you know there are a plethora of items that people commonly think need to be refrigerated but actually don’t? Keep these items out of the fridge to improve the taste as well as free up some valuable refrigerator real estate for your co-workers. (cnet.com)

Another good tip is to label items you put into the communal fridge. If Items belonging to you are labeled, they’re less likely to “disappear” and you won’t have to spend money eating out instead of enjoying those delicious leftovers you whipped up last night.

How May Climate Change Affect the Future of the Ohio River Basin?

One can argue whether or not global warming is occurring, but facts prevent the argument that our climate is not changing. For example, this was the first year on record for three hurricanes to hit the U.S. at Category 4 or greater – Harvey (category 4), Irma (category 5) and Jose (category 4). In addition, Houston has had a 500-year flood event each of the last three years. The probability of three successive 500-year flood events is 0.000000008. In the national media we often hear how climate change will impact the coastal states, but how will it affect us here in the Ohio River Basin? I had the privilege of being the Project Manager for a recent study that was the first comprehensive study to evaluate the impacts of climate change on the Ohio River Basin’s water resources infrastructure and its ecosystem. It was conducted by a team of engineers and scientists from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), USEPA, the National Weather Service’s Ohio River Forecast Center, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Marshall University, the University of Cincinnati, the University of New Hampshire, The Nature Conservancy, and several consulting firms.

The study was led and funded by the USACE, which has a compelling need to understand and adapt to climate change because our nation’s water resources infrastructure represents tremendous federal investment that supports public safety and local and national economies. In an effort to gain a better understanding of how climate change could impact the nation’s water resources infrastructure and our ecosystems, the USACE conducted 19 climate change pilot studies across the U.S. to test new ideas and develop new information needed to develop national policy and guidance. One of these pilot studies was conducted on the Ohio River Basin.

The Ohio River Basin contains a multitude of reservoirs, locks and dams, power generation plants and other types of infrastructure that depend on sustainable water resources. In addition, ecological resources in the basin include numerous federally-protected species that may be at risk from climate change. The two primary purposes of the study were to investigate how climate change could impact water resources infrastructure (locks, dams, levees, etc.) and the potential effects of climate change on the basin’s aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems and threatened and endangered species.

The Ohio River Basin is over 204,000 square miles and covers all or parts of 14 states stretching from New York to Alabama. It is home to 27 million people, five million of which rely on the Ohio River for drinking water. Water resources in the basin provide $1.5 billion to the nation’s economy each year.

The study was based on a global climate change model produced by the International Panel on Climate Change and adapted by an interagency water resources group comprised of four federal government entities, including the USGS and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The Ohio River Forecast Center (ORFC) modeled mean air temperature and average precipitation over three 30-year periods: from 2011-2040, from 2041-2070, and from 2071-2099 at 25 gage points throughout the basin. However, before conducting these out-year simulations, the ORFC back-casted the model for the period from 1952-2001. Remarkably, the output data for temperature and stream flows from the back-casted model was within 2% of observed historical readings in all 25 data points throughout the basin. Therefore, the model was calibrated very accurately.

The model predicted there will be little change in air temperature and precipitation from 2011-2040. However, from 2041 to 2099, the northeastern and eastern portions of the basin will experience greater rainfall and river discharges. Specifically, as much as 35%-50% greater stream flows during the spring within the Allegheny, Monongahela, Kanawha and Big Sandy River sub-basins. During this same period, the northwestern and western portions of the basin also will experience greater rainfall and river discharges in the spring season, but the fall season will bring significant reductions in rainfall and thus decreased river flows and possibly drought. The model predicted as much as 25%-35% less flows during the fall within the Great Miami, Wabash, East Fork of the Wabash, White, Scioto and Muskingum River Basins.

In summary, between 2011-2040 the mean, maximum and minimum flows are within the historical range. However, from 2041-2099 the minimum flows are likely to decrease in the fall and peak spring floods are likely to increase. The good news is we have about 20 years to take action to plan for and minimize the potential negative impacts to our basin due to climate change.

Small Structures, Big Impact

The National Bridge Inspection Standards (NBIS) require that every publicly-owned, bridge-sized structure carrying traffic must be inspected every 24 months as a means to ensure the safety of the traveling public and keep our transportation system moving. But what is a bridge-sized structure? Isn’t any bridge a bridge? Not in this case. The NBIS defines a bridge-sized structure as “an opening measured along the center of the roadway of more than 20 feet between (faces) of abutments or spring lines of arches, or extreme ends of openings for multiple boxes; it may also include multiple pipes, where the clear distance between openings is less than half of the smaller contiguous opening.” That means that the clear span under a bridge or the distance from one side of a culvert system to the other has to be more than 20 feet.

The magic number is 20 feet. Every public bridge or culvert over 20 feet long should be inspected on a regular basis to check for maintenance issues, deficiencies, and functionality. In order for each State to stay in compliance with the Federal mandate, a trained eye needs to inspect each of those structures every 24 months. What if your bridge only spans 19’-10”? What if you have a culvert made up of three, 6-foot diameter corrugated metal pipes? Any structure 20 feet or less is considered a small structure, and several counties and cities have vast small structure inventories that have no requirements for inspection by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The 1968 Federal-Aid Highway Act limited the bridge inventory to Federal-Aid highway system bridges. After the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1978 was passed, NBIS requirements were extended to include bridges greater than 20 feet on all public roads. These requirements enforce the inspection of over 605,000 bridge-sized structures in our nation. There is really nothing magic about 20 feet; the government just needed a reasonable cutoff for funding and it is easy to see that this system covers a great number of bridges. Structures 20 feet or less are not part of this system, however, and their inspection is the Owner’s responsibility. If you are unsure whether or not someone is inspecting the small structures in your inventory, then it’s possible they are not being inspected regularly, if at all.

Small structures need your attention. As a local public agency (LPA), it is important to realize that the small structures in your transportation system are not on the list for your State inspection. This reveals to you that these structures may very well have been left to age on their own, possibly since the day they were constructed. Many LPAs don’t even have a good inventory of these structures and rely heavily on their highway maintenance crews and the general public to let them know if repairs are needed. Often the “bridge inspection” performed by the public is based on what they see as they drive down the road. They will be quick to report a pothole, broken guardrail, or overflowing culvert because these things can generally be seen from inside their vehicle. The motoring public will rarely see the bottom of the bridge or the inside of the culvert barrel. The highway maintenance worker may get a better look, but these are still untrained eyes looking at vital pieces of our roadways. These workers may not understand issues with scour or the importance of simple maintenance that can prolong structure life. What can we do to improve the safety of our county and city roads? We can develop a plan to inventory, inspect, maintain, and repair our small structures. Small structure inspections are an important part of local highway maintenance and are becoming more important as our infrastructure ages and funding becomes slim.

It costs money to have an inspector look at all these structures. Money that could be used to fill a pothole, replace a light pole, patch a barrier, or replace a culvert. True. The initial price of small structures inspections often seems like a burden, but the advantage can well outweigh the cost. These inspections help the LPA to understand the status of all their small structures so that maintenance and repairs can be prioritized. Simply developing an inventory of small structures for an LPA is a great start and can be a good resource on its own for planning maintenance.

DLZ recommends that you contact a trained inspector and discuss your small structures inventory and any structures or areas of concern. An inspector can help develop an inventory of structures, prioritize inspection with help from the LPA, perform inspections, and return information to the owner about maintenance and repair needs and prioritization, and even replacement recommendations. This information will allow the LPA to make informed decisions in budgeting for future maintenance and repair.

DLZ has a team of bridge inspectors that has performed thousands of bridge-sized and small structure inspections throughout Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio. Our expertise and guidance has allowed LPAs to prioritize funding while maintaining road safety for their communities. Make sure someone is looking at your small structures and let us know if we can help.

New School Provides Hope for Guatemalan Children

Communities lie at the heart of all we do. As a company and as individuals, DLZ believes strongly in giving back to communities; not only those in which we work and live, but those that are less fortunate than others. DLZ’s staff contribute their time and talent to a number of organizations that help improve the lives and health of individuals throughout the world. That’s why we are proud to partner with the Central Ohio Chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB-COh) and what it is doing in Guatemala.

In 2015, EWB-COh embarked on a new project in Las Victorias, a very poor Guatemalan community of about 400 people (over half under the age of 16, and 70 under the age of 5) mostly of Mayan descent. With the help of a local NGO (non-governmental organization) that supports the indigenous people, Las Victorias submitted an application to EWB National requesting a primary school for its community. The community’s young children were walking a couple miles over rugged terrain every day to the nearest school. The paths were impassable during the rainy season. The children were often made fun of for their Mayan ancestry; most of the country is of Spanish background. In an attempt to improve the situation, the community built a small, two-room wooden shack (dirt floor, open windows) to use as a temporary school. The building was far too small to hold all the children, and they realized something better was needed. The community felt so strongly about the need for a local school that its members pooled their money and bought property to use for the school. Even though they didn’t have the resources to build the school, they felt that education was the only way that their children might have a better life.

EWB-COh visited the community in 2016 to do an initial assessment and determined that the project would potentially have several phases. Because of the steep terrain, the site initially had to be leveled. In order to stabilize the steep soil cuts along the edges of the site, the first phase was to construct a large 17-foot retaining wall along two sides of the site. EWB-COh designed the wall, raised money for construction and completed construction in 2017. EWB-COh is currently working on designing the school building, and construction is scheduled to begin in October 2018. Subsequent phases may include additional classrooms for higher grades, better access to potable water, and sanitary latrines.

DLZ employees Jim Siebert and Mike Kennedy have played an active role in the EWB-COh’s work in Guatemala. Jim helped raise money for construction and led both the analysis and design of the retaining wall. Jim was there for the initial assessment trip and spent a week in Guatemala helping start construction of the wall. DLZ, a long-time supporter of EWB-COh, provided the survey equipment used to check the layout of the wall, and our in-house materials laboratory tested samples of soil and concrete brought back from Guatemala. Both Jim and Mike are helping to design the school and prepare the site grading. Jim will be traveling to Guatemala again when construction of the next phase begins.

“I’ve always enjoyed helping others, especially working on projects that help other people help themselves”, said Jim.

EWB’s philosophy is to develop sustainable infrastructure projects to improve the quality of life in developing countries. Because of Jim’s engineering and construction background, he feels fortunate to be part of this effort. So far, Jim has taken seven trips to Central America on EWB work; he says he’s always impressed with how hard the local people work and how thankful they are for the help.

As a company, DLZ knows the importance of giving back, and we are grateful for our generous employees that make community service a lifestyle. Although EWB volunteers pay their own way and the community provides manual labor at no cost, money is needed for materials and certain skilled labor and oversight. While we may not be able to save the world, we are fortunate to be a contributor to EWB-COh and a part of the life-changing work being done in this small Guatemalan community.

 

Women in STEM Leadership Roles: A High Priority at DLZ

March is Women’s History Month and a time to applaud the many contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society all around the world. DLZ is fortunate to have some very talented women in our firm and we salute all women, especially those in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. Here are a few women that we find inspirational:

 

It is no secret that the STEM fields have been predominantly male occupations, with historically low participation among women. According to the Economics and Statistics Administration (part of the U.S. Department of Commerce), women hold only 24% of STEM jobs. Among STEM leaders the gender disparity is even greater. The Architectural, Engineering, and Construction (A/E/C) industry is historically (and even currently in some firms) known as an “old-boys club” workplace. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2014, only 8.9% of people working in the construction industry are women.

DLZ is proud to a have a diverse leadership team, including six women leaders who serve as role models for the next generation of leaders. These women – Tanya Arsh, PE; Vicki Briggs, CPA; Laurie Johnson, PE; Cristine Klika, PE; Marcelyn Mathews, PE; and Vickie Wildeman, PE – serve as advocates to redress the disparity of women in both management and STEM fields in our society.

I reached out to these six ladies to learn about what led them to a career in STEM, who inspired them, what they feel is the key to their success, and if they had any advice for other women looking to follow in their footsteps. Here is summary of the responses that I received from each of these incredible women:

 

In addition to these six female STEM leaders, DLZ also has 13 women in other leadership roles, such as project managers, and directors of marketing. DLZ truly has shifted its once male-dominated leadership team and is changing the way that women are advancing internally. Our female leaders are mentors to other women in the firm, empowering them, and encouraging them to be the best that they can be.

March is Women’s History Month and we applaud women in STEM and we encourage you to not just empower other women, but to inform the youth of society that they can be just as successful as men in STEM roles.

Traffic Data Collection: Keys to a Successful Roadway Project

Accurate data collection can greatly impact the success of a roadway project. For three decades, DLZ has contributed to the vast array of traffic data utilized by public agencies from the local to federal level in the planning and analysis of our transportation networks. While DLZ has stayed at the forefront by incorporating cutting edge technologies for collecting accurate vehicular, bicycle, and pedestrian data safely and efficiently, we are constantly exploring new opportunities to provide our clients with more accurate and reliable data.

Historically, pneumatic road tubes have been utilized for 24-hour or longer roadway segment counts to collect volume and classification data.  We’ve used count boards and field staff to manually collect classified turning movements at intersections and pedestrian and bicycle data.  These methods are still used and are often the best alternative for a given situation.  However, newer technologies have become available that improve accuracy and reliability of data collection while minimizing staff exposure to live traffic conditions during installation and removal of equipment.  Magnetic lane counters like MHCorbin’s NC350 units collect length based classification in each lane of a roadway and can be secured in each lane quicker than road tube setups needed to collect comparable directional, classification data. NC350’s can also be a more reliable option in situations where tubes may become unsecured over the course of a count period.  Video collection systems such as Miovision’s Scout Units can be used to collect turning movement counts, bike and pedestrian data at intersections and roadway segment counts as well.  Video units are installed on the side of the road eliminating the need for technicians to enter or cross travel lanes as is needed for installing tubes or magnetic lane counters.

Efficiency Matters
DLZ collects traffic data at 3,000 to 5,000 locations each year and it has become increasingly important to streamline the firm’s processes for scheduling field crews, documenting location and device information in the field and tracking progress in the office.  To this end, DLZ has incorporated ESRI’s family of ArcGIS desktop, web and mobile applications into our traffic data collection workflow.  Traffic Engineers in the office develop schedules for field crews marking locations to be collected in ArcGIS and synced with ArcGIS Online.  DLZ field staff utilize ESRI’s Collector app on their iPads to see their scheduled locations and can use the Navigator app to find efficient travel times between locations.  Field notes that are needed to identify the counter used and its placement are entered in Collector along with geocoded pictures of the installation.  This information is synched with ArcGIS Online and used in preparing data reports without the need to transcribe handwritten paper notes in the office.  Incorporating ArcGIS into a firm’s data collection processes greatly improves efficiency and reduces errors that might require recounting a location.

Safety First
Safely collecting traffic data begins with the employees. DLZ’s field staff, many of whom have been with the company for 10 or more years, focus on safely installing and removing equipment within or on the side of roadways and are properly trained to do so. Having a fleet of conspicuous work trucks with flashing lights, advance warning signs and cones for use as needed are all important safety measures to consider. All DLZ field staff wear reflective clothing and are certified in setting up and conducting flagging operations. However, every effort is made to minimize the time spent at each location. Closing a traffic lane is rarely needed.

Transportation agencies depend on current, reliable traffic data in order to make important maintenance and capital improvement decisions for their roadways.  Traffic data is also a key aspect of funding requests for federal and state transportation maintenance and improvement programs.  Ultimately, the quality of the transportation system serving our communities depends on accurate traffic data collected safely and efficiently.