Category Archives: GreenPARE

Is solar power a viable alternative to fossil fuels in New England?

By: Jessica Damicis, Senior Engineer at Pare Corporation and a member of Pare’s Sustainability Committee

Solar power is increasing in popularity as a renewable energy resource.  Reasons for the surge in popularity of solar power include rising energy costs, improved and more cost-effective solar panel technology, widespread interest in sustainability, and the need for resilient electricity.

Photovoltaics (PV) which use receptor panels to produce energy from the sun can be placed on open land or roof areas to produce energy for businesses or residences, which may then sell excess energy back to the electric utility. The use of these PV systems can reduce dependency on fossil fuels, the electric grid infrastructure, and reduce risk of power outages in strong storms. The reduced dependency on non-renewable energy can help the business or residence become more sustainable, lessening their impact on the environment through carbon emissions. Unlike other renewable energy sources such as wind and hydroelectric, solar panels require little maintenance and their productive life can be 25 years or more.

A common belief is that PV’s are only effective in regions with bright, year-round sun. While it is true that solar power potential is more modest in New England compared to other sunnier regions of the United States, the total solar power potential easily exceeds the entire electric needs of the New England region. For example, Rhode Island’s State Energy Plan suggests the state could develop over 1,800 MW of solar energy by 2035.

For residents and businesses in Massachusetts and Rhode Island there are several options for solar power—even for those who do not own their property!

Homeowners and businesses who own the building they occupy can do an assessment to see if solar power is viable for their property. Many solar companies offer these assessments to interested property owners and provide quotes for initial cost and payback period.  Owning the PV panels is a greater cost advantage to the property owner, and loans are available to aid in the initial upfront cost.  Property owners can also elect to lease panels for minimal upfront costs.  Leasing is a great option for a property owner who is unable to afford the upfront costs, does not want to wait a year for tax incentives, or who wants to avoid dealing with maintenance of the panels.

Green power programs are another great option and are available for those who do not own their property or who are unsure if they are ready to install PV’s. These programs do not have the same cost savings benefit or property resiliency benefits that installing panels on-site provides, but it is a great way to promote green jobs locally and to support sustainable power. These programs— such as the ones offered through Mass Energy (www.massenergy.org) in Massachusetts and through People’s Power and Light (www.ripower.org) in Rhode Island—allow energy users to switch to renewable energy by paying a few cents more per kW on their energy bill. For an average residential household this might be around $10-20 per month. The green energy programs use the revenue made to invest in new renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, hydroelectric, and to maintain existing infrastructure. While this is an extra cost instead of savings compared to owning PV’s, these payments into green energy programs are 100% tax deductible.

With so many great options to utilize solar power, there are many ways to “green” your electricity with photovoltaics. Ultimately, the best option depends on the goals a property owner or renter is looking to achieve. It is clear, however, that even in New England solar power has many benefits for power consumers.

To learn more about solar power, please visit

 

A Seawall for All: The Seattle Waterfront Project as a Model for Future Redevelopment

By Brian Dutra, Engineer at Pare Corporation and a member of Pare’s Sustainability Committee

Coastline Along Marblehead, MA

New England’s coastline is home to some of the Nation’s first and largest waterfront communities, with nearly 6,100 miles of tidal shoreline in the region. Unfortunately, the nation’s coastal infrastructure is deteriorating, which greatly impacts these communities.  According to the 2017 ASCE Infrastructure Report Card, Ports and Inland Waterways were given a grade of “C+” and “D”, respectively, with a need to modify or replace structures that have far exceeded their design life.  The need to rehabilitate or replace these structures is further emphasized as the infrastructure along the coastline continues to age and deteriorate.

As we evaluate and rehabilitate New England’s coastal infrastructure, an ongoing project in Seattle, Washington can provide a template for innovative and sustainable design improvements.

The billion dollar “Waterfront Seattle” project is a total waterfront reconstruction along Elliot Bay that began in 2013 and is scheduled for completion in 2023. Similar to a number of New England’s Ports, The Elliot Bay Seawall was built between 1916 and 1934 and has exceeded its original design life. The original concrete seawall was built on approximately 20,000 timber piles.  Deterioration of the structure had led to instability of the seawall and the development of sinkholes behind it. The design and reconstruction of the new Elliott Bay Seawall incorporates several sustainable features, providing ancillary benefits to the area’s infrastructure, tourism, and environment.

The Waterfront Seattle Project replaces more than just the failing seawall; it improves quality of life for both marine life and humans, including a salmon migration corridor and new pedestrian access to the water. The budget for the project includes nearly $350 million for the following:

  • Stabilizing the existing soil and foundations with jet-grouted columns.
  • Installing precast concrete textured walls for the salmon migration corridor.
  • Installing a habitat bench along the wall to increase fish and marine life habitat.
  • Installing a sidewalk and pedestrian space with light-penetrating surfaces

Overview of the Textured Wall and Concrete Shelves (currently behind a temporary coffer dam) from https://waterfrontseattle.org/

What makes this engineering project truly unique is the focus on promoting sustainable and natural environmental growth. The new textured concrete walls will create a salmon migratory corridor where one has not existed for over 100 years. Textured shelves cast into the concrete walls allow plant and marine life to adhere to the wall. The walkway above the new corridor consists of glass bricks installed into precast concrete sidewalk panels that are able to support pedestrian traffic and allow sunlight to penetrate the sidewalk, promoting plant and marine growth below the walkway and on the wall. An intertidal bench, located in shallow water, will also be constructed to simulate a nearshore habitat.

Now fish, crustaceans, and plant life that would typically be found in and around the shallow natural shoreline of Elliot Bay can find their way back to an area that was previously inaccessible. Plants that could not grow in the deep waters along the original wall can thrive on the textured shelves and intertidal benches creating aquatic food for the marine life in the bay. Juvenile salmon that would typically avoid the shoreline of the previous wall due to the lack of light will use the new seawall as a migratory corridor.

As we look to rehabilitate our aged coastal infrastructure in New England, the Waterfront Seattle Project is a prime example of how we can sustainably build and rehabilitate an already established waterfront. A thoughtful and innovative approach can update critical infrastructure while simultaneously benefiting businesses, people, and marine life for years to come.

For More Information:

Energy Efficiency: A Revolution in Applied Sustainability at Home

By Sarah Antolick, Engineer at Pare Corporation and a member of Pare’s Sustainability Committee

 

Whether you are a climate-conscious homeowner or are simply looking to keep a few extra dollars in your pocket, sustainable homes have become a hot topic in the past few years. In 2010, 40% of U.S energy consumption was from residential and commercial buildings and accounted for nearly 40% of carbon dioxide emissions [1].  As environmentally conscientious citizens and engineering professionals with a stake in the construction industry, we have an imperative to improve our built environment.

Building codes set a standard for the design and construction of our homes while setting a reference point for health, safety and wellness.  Updating the building code is a powerful tool for improving new construction, which comprises a significant portion of our housing market. According to a study by Statista published in 2017, residential housing growth between 2015 and 2016 amounted to 880,000 new units [2]. These new housing units are among the most sustainable and energy efficient as we are seeing higher standards and codes on both the national and local levels.

However, new construction cannot compare to our existing housing, as it is estimated that there are 135.58 million total residential units in the United States as of 2016.  Therefore, it is in our existing homes that we can make the greatest impact on our environment through energy efficiency improvements.

There are many easy ways to reduce energy usage and save money in our homes without starting from the ground up. Savings vary depending on home size, age, current technology usage, product brand, etc., but collectively these technologies provide significant savings.   Items such as LED light bulbs, low-flow shower heads and aerators, and programmable thermostats are simple fixes that can help reduce energy waste.

The impact that can be derived from these simple changes includes:

  • LED light bulbs use 25-80% less energy and last 3-25 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs [3].
  • Phantom energy is energy consumed by appliances that are plugged in but not in use which can account for 15% or more of a household’s total energy consumption. Advanced power strips can eliminate this inefficiency [4].
  • Water heating is the second largest contributor to most households’ energy consumption. Simply fixing a leaking faucet can save $35 annually [5].
  • Low-flow shower heads can save both water and energy consumption for water heating. Low-flow fixtures can translate to 25-60% reduction in water consumption annually [5].

Additional savings can be achieved through larger investments such as air sealing by using double pane windows, added insulation, upgraded HVAC systems, and energy star appliances.

The cost of these systems and energy savings vary greatly.  Locally  both Massachusetts and Rhode Island encourage homeowners to invest in these retrofit options through their rebate programs. Mass Save provides services at subsidized cost and provides interest-free loans on long-term investments [6]. Rhode Island has paired up with National Grid to provide both auditing services and rebates for eligible homeowners [7].

Residents of Rhode Island can take advantage of companies such as RISE Engineering for a full spectrum of services from auditing, design, vending, and  installation through the financial incentives process. RISE is one of the oldest providers of energy auditing services with over 35 years of experience working on over 25,000 single-family residences totaling over $800 million in energy improvements. They work with utility companies, municipalities, and program sponsors to offer a comprehensive energy retrofitting experience. https://www.riseengineering.com/

Likewise, in Massachusetts, HomeWorks Energy is one of the companies tackling energy efficiency one home at a time as part of the “Mass Save” program.  This program is to provide Massachusetts residents with home energy assessments including installation of free products including low flow shower heads and LED light bulbs, and recommendations for future improvements through HVAC, weatherization, windows, and solar. HomeWorks collaborates with home owners, municipalities, contractors, and other community partners to help take advantage of Mass Save incentives. https://www.homeworksenergy.com/

A sustainable future starts in our homes, and the first step in unlocking these opportunities is through home energy assessments. Learn how you can start the process at https://energy.gov/energysaver/do-it-yourself-home-energy-audits

Additionally, The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) maintains a comprehensive national database of Energy Incentive Program resources for organizations, businesses, and residents which can be accessed at https://energy.gov/eere/femp/energy-incentive-programs.

 References:

1-  http://buildingsdatabook.eren.doe.gov/

2-  https://www.statista.com/statistics/240267/number-of-housing-units-in-the-united-states/

3-  https://energy.gov/energysaver/how-energy-efficient-light-bulbs-compare-traditional-incandescents#4- https://energy.gov/energysaver/reduce-hot-water-use-energy-savings

5- https://energy.gov/energysaver/reduce-hot-water-use-energy-savings

6- https://www.masssave.com/en/saving/energy-assessments/ and https://www.masssave.com/en/saving/energy-assessments/homeowners?gclid=CjwKCAjw1ufKBRBYEiwAPI_r4XLc7hejP5qFEKr-CNvIojqk_8T0rqkUiS2e0feHPIyZVWAFsQUj-xoC9OIQAvD_BwE

7- https://www.nationalgridus.com/RI-Home/Energy-Saving-Programs/ and https://www.nationalgridus.com/RI-Home/Energy-Saving-Programs/Home-Checkups-Weatherization

Celebrating the 47th Annual Earth Day 2017!

By Chris Webber, Engineer at Pare Corporation and a member of Pare’s Sustainability Committee

The 47th annual Earth Day celebration, which has grown from a United States tradition to one shared by countries around the world, was held on April 22.

The idea for Earth Day was born out of the counterculture environment of the 1970’s, a time of protest and opposition to many established norms in the United States. Growing environmental unease backed by literature like the 1962 book Silent Spring and the 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara served as the catalyst for the first Earth Day. Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson spearheaded a bipartisan effort to create events raising awareness across the country.  Over 20 million Americans turned out that day, which began a significant shift in environmental policy. The Environmental Protection Agency was formed before the end of the year and the passage of several major laws–including the Clean Air, Safe Drinking Water, Environmental Quality Improvement, and Endangered Species Acts–soon followed.

Earth Day expanded as a day of global awareness in 1990, with over 200 million people from 141 countries participating in events around the world. The event was followed by the United Nations Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992, which sought to address global environmental issues like increasing water use and climate change.  More recently, Earth Day 2016 marked the signing of the Paris Agreement as a worldwide effort to combat climate change.

Even as Earth Day seeks to promote global awareness through monumental events, the initial 1970’s grass roots mission to care for the environment in one’s local community continues.

It is that spirit that inspired Pare’s Sustainability Committee to hold its 6th Annual Earth Day Photo Contest with a theme of “Be Green Outside!”  The photos can be viewed at  http://blog.parecorp.com/2017/04/25/celebrate-earth-day-with-pare-by-voting-in-the-6th-annual-earth-day-photo-contest/.  Congratulations to Erika Klinkhammer, an Environmental Scientist in the Civil Division of Pare, for winning the contest with her photo of the Latimer Reef Lighthouse on Fisher Island in Long Island Sound.

Latimer Reef Lighthouse on Fisher Island in Long Island Sound taken by Erika Klinkhammer

In addition to the contest, several Pare employees participated in a local cleanup organized by the Rhode Island chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers Young Members Group (RI ASCE YM).  They participated in the 5th Annual Providence Earth Day Spring Cleaning event sponsored by the City of Providence, Providence Parks Department, and the Partnership for Providence Parks.   For the cleanup they were partnered with the West Broadway Neighborhood Association to help with the 33rd Annual Neighborhood Spring Cleanup.  More than 100 people came out to clean and improve this metropolitan neighborhood resulting in the pickup of 400 bags of trash, 300 bags of yard waste to be composted, more than a dozen mattresses, and several large items such as televisions and tires.  Despite the cold and rainy weather, Pare engineers Bobby Sykes, Jessica Damicis, and Marc Weller were cheerfully picking up trash, spreading new mulch in the play area, and helping to construct a brand new bocce court at the Dexter Training Ground Park.

Bobby Sykes who coordinated Pare’s involvement in the day stated, “I’m grateful to have participated in the earth day cleanup and to have had the opportunity to work with friends from engineering firms throughout Rhode Island. Pare has always had tremendous participation at our ASCE events, and I’m thankful I work for a company with so many like-minded individuals willing to donate a Saturday to give back to a local community.”

As April 22, 2018 approaches, there are many ways to participate in Earth Day activities; learn more at http://www.earthday.org/take-action/.  While the day is a fantastic way to stay environmentally conscious, simple efforts like recycling and composting at home and other small activities are great ways to reduce our environmental footprint throughout the year.  Every day is an opportunity to be a better steward of Planet Earth. Thanks to all who participated in this year’s Earth Day events; we’ll look forward to seeing you again next year!

 

Celebrate Earth Day with Pare by Voting in the 6th Annual Earth Day Photo Contest

The focus for Earth Day this year is Environmental and Climate Literacy so that we can build a “global citizenry fluent in the concepts of climate change and aware of its unprecedented threat to our Planet.” (Kathleen Rogers, President of Earth Day Network)  Following that mandate, parties across the globe joined together to respond to global climate change and global warming at the Paris Agreement.  Learn more at http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/climatechange/

In that spirit, the Sustainability Committee at Pare is pleased to share our 6th Annual Earth Day Photo Contest.   The theme of the contest this year is “Be Green Outside!”

Please enjoy the photos submitted by Pare’s staff below, and vote using the poll located at the bottom of this post. The winner of the 2017 Earth Day Photo Contest will receive a Gift Card to B-Good and their photo framed in the office. Voting will close at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, May 7.

 

 1. Handmade Water Quality

To treat runoff from the driveway, deck, and concrete walkway at our newly acquired home, we installed – by hand – water quality trenches with filter fabric. Our project also alleviated areas of standing water. The pipe system connected to an overflow discharge point after storing and treating a certain volume of runoff. We then capped off the project by raising the elevation about 18” with clean loam and new sod!

2. Franconia Ridge Vegetation Preservation

On the crest of Franconia Ridge in Lincoln New Hampshire, 5,260 feet up above sea level, a low rock path helps hikers protect the groundcover ridgetop vegetation.

3. British Columbia Roadtrip

 

This was from a road trip with my family up in British Columbia, an outdoor expedition into Alaska that definitely helped me appreciate being green outside.

4. 26.2 Emission Free Miles

You see stuff when you run. Stuff you don’t see when you drive. Little ponds. Nondescript trail heads. Wildlife. Unfortunately, you also see lots of trash, debris, roadkill. Running can give you a unique perspective on the environment and how we impact it.

5. An Early Appreciation of the Great Outdoors

To our family, “being green outside” typically means going for hikes and learning about nature. We came across this tree during a short hike in Scituate, RI. It was a great opportunity to discuss local wildlife and the role that specific animals, in this case beavers, have in the environment.

6. My Home Office

Wake. Skate. Work at Pare. Sleep. Repeat.

7. Mattapoisett Waterfront

Water front view of the Mattapoisett Marina that leads into Buzzards Bay. The sun is shining and the boating season is underway.

8. ‘It’s not easy being green’

A little green in an unexpected place. Almost 10 feet below grade in a dark catch basin this little guy found just enough sunlight to make it happen!

9. Latimer Reef Lighthouse on Fisher Island in Long Island Sound

Taken on the first cruise of the season in the Clam Ram, a mighty Boston Whaler coming out of hibernation. A nice day to test the electronics and run the engine, then sit in a protective harbor with a Sierra Nevada and a beautiful sunset. Beauty in nature at its finest.

10. The Dry Tortugas

The Dry Tortugas National Park is located 70 miles off the coast of Key West, FL and is home to the largest stone-masonry fort in United States. Over 300 species of birds, 5 species of sea turtles, 30 different species of coral, and several hundred species of fish are protected within the waters and islands that make up the national park.

11. Below the Tower

Stissing Fire Tower stretches 7 flights into the air above the Nature Conservancy and hiking trails in Pine Plains, NY. Formerly for use to spot forest fires, the tower is now a viewing spot for appreciation of the area’s natural resources.

12. Winds of Change

Engineers can be the stewards of a healthy planet through the implementation of clean, green, renewable energy. Rhode Island has begun paving the way with the construction of America’s first offshore wind farm.

13. Chasm Lake

Chasm Lake, Rocky National Park, CO

14. Hiking Activist

Enjoying Mass Audubon’s Oak Knoll Wildlife Sanctuary while promoting recycling on Earth Day weekend.

15. Cliffs of Prince Edward Island

Ever since I was a young girl, I have been in awe of the impact that water can have on a shoreline after watching the waves wash away a house following a hurricane on the Outer Banks. This picture was taken in this fall on Prince Edward Island where the magnitude and simple beauty of the erosion took my breath away.

16. Kayaking on the Colorado River

The Colorado River system is a vital source of water for 40 million people in southwestern North America. The river and its tributaries are controlled by an extensive system of dams, reservoirs, and aqueducts, which in most years divert its entire flow for agricultural irrigation and domestic water supply. The Colorado’s large flow and steep gradient are used for generating hydroelectric power, and its major dams regulate peaking power demands in much of the Intermountain West. Intensive water consumption has dried up the lower 100 miles (160 km) of the river, which has rarely reached the sea since the 1960s. The river (pictured outside Austin, TX) is also a great recreational resource. It offers visitors and city-dwellers a picturesque escape from city life and an opportunity to “be green outside”.

17. “Cueva Ventana”

An hour west of San Juan, Cueva Ventana, or “Window Cave,” can be found. The lush valley below maintains its natural beauty as the rural area is situated away from urban Puerto Rico.

18. Sanctuary

Water cascading from the 317-foot Vernal Falls at Yosemite National Park. Except for the thundering water, quiet as a church, not a conversation to be heard. Everyone enveloped in and reflecting on the natural beauty. To Be Green Outside is to be in the moment.

Thank you for voting for your favorite photo that best represents our theme of “Be Green Outside!”

 

 

 

 

 

E-Waste: Mounting Concern & What You Can Do

Did You Know???

  • “E-waste” (as electronic waste—anything with a battery or a cord—is frequently called) is the fastest growing waste stream in the world.  It is quickly filling our landfills and it has the potential to do significantly more harm than household trash.
  • The average lifespan of computers dropped from six years in 1997 to just two years by 2005, and cell phones have a life cycle of less than two years in developed countries.
  • The United States discarded more than 11 million tons of e-waste in 2014 (the data for 2015 and 2016 hasn’t been released yet) but only approximately 20-25% of that waste is recycled each year.
  • For every million cell phones we recycle, 35,000 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered.
  • Recycling one million laptops saves as much energy as the electricity used by more than 3,500 US homes in a year.

Electronics Recycling Drive

By:  Cari Orsi, P.E., LEED AP on behalf of Pare’s Sustainability Committee

The Pare Sustainability Committee is sensitive to the environment and understands the need for reduction in landfill waste, so in March we organized an Electronics Recycling Drive for Pare employees. Through partnership with Northeast Computer Recycling (NECR, http://www.northeastcomputerrecycling.com/), we were able to recycle broken and obsolete electronics rather than putting them in mainstream waste channels.  This year over 40 electronic items were collected including computer towers, monitors, printers, cell phones and various chargers.   Thanks to everyone at Pare who supported this green initiative!

Ryan Lagace, owner and operator of NECR, explained that he was motivated to open NECR after witnessing companies throwing away a lot of old equipment when he worked in the IT industry.  He had a vision to dismantle and recycle these items.  Ryan explained, “100% of the material we take in is recycled, including plastics and metals.  Everything is sorted out.  I even found a local company to recycle polystyrene, and I get a lot of that from packaging.” NECR is staying busy with multiple pickups daily from businesses in MA and RI.  Ryan’s advice about electronics recycling when asked was, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle still rings true, but we don’t just recycle here.  I try to re-sell equipment when I can so items have a second life instead of getting dismantled.”

In addition to diverting waste from landfills, there are two important reasons for recycling electronics. First, materials that make up electronics are valuable resources (metals, plastics and glass), all of which require energy to obtain and produce for electronics. Second, electronics contain many different toxic materials including lead, cadmium, mercury and arsenic.  These items cause more potential harm to the environment than your typical household trash.   Left sitting in landfills, these materials may leach into the soils and potentially into groundwater.

Everyone can help to reduce electronic waste; here are a few things to consider before making a purchase:

  • Do you really need that new electronic device?
  • Can you repair or upgrade components on the one you have?
  • If your old electronic items are still working, consider re-selling them or donating them instead of throwing them out or recycling them.

Here are a few additional things you can do to reduce waste:

To learn more about electronics recycling visit the US Environmental Protection Agency’s website at www.epa.gov/recycle/electronics-donation-and-recycling.

EPA electronics recycling

Take Our 3-minute Climate Change Survey!

Over the past month we have all heard a variety of updates, opinions, and developments regarding the Paris Climate Summit and the Global Climate March, a gathering that produced significant awareness and opened the dialogue between hundreds of thousands of people. Although there is still much debate about the causes of climate change, there is growing evidence that storm severity may be increasing, and sea level rise and coastal erosion are well documented, especially in the Northeast.

As one of our founding fathers Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Sparked from the interest of our employees and in an effort to stay up to date with the possible ramifications climate change could pose, Pare’s Climate Change Committee (PC3) was born. Active for almost a year now, the committee has become a critical clearinghouse of climate change-related information and includes representatives from each division at Pare. PC3 includes committee chair Ryan McCoy from the Geotechnical/Waterfront Division, Chue Kue from the Transportation Division, Travis Johnson from the Environmental Division, and Briscoe Lang and Marc Gabriel from the Civil Division.

image7- PC3

Committee members Travis Johnson, Briscoe Lang, Ryan McCoy and Marc Gabriel (missing from photo: Chue Kue)

It has become more and more apparent that the A/E/C industry will hold a crucial role in responding to climate change through innovation, adaptive design, and proactive planning. Pare believes it is imperative to integrate proactive measures into our projects to better protect the public and our clients. In addition to collecting information and advising staff and clients, PC3 is continuously adding to our extensive in-house library so Pare can provide our clients with best practices for their projects. In most cases this will mean creating resilient or adaptive designs that minimize infrastructure and environmental damages resulting from severe storm events, flooding, and sea level rise. By doing so, Pare can better ensure post-storm continuity of business and reduce the amount of maintenance and repair that may be required from storm damage.

To help us understand how climate change impacts you, we invite you to complete the following short survey. We promise it will only take about three minutes of your time, and all who complete the survey will be entered in a drawing for a solar and hand turbine-powered American Red Cross Emergency Radio (which will even let you charge your cell phone when the power goes out!)

prize

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Results of the survey will be posted in a future Pare Blog. The survey also allows you to provide an email address if you would like us to send you the results. If you have any questions about the survey or PC3, please send us an email at mailto:PC3@parecorp.com. Thank you in advance. Your input is greatly appreciated!

I Thought GIS Was the Newest Primetime Crime TV Show!

By Kailyn Corrigan, Marketing Coordinator at Pare

As a non-engineer/scientist, there is a lot of unfamiliar language I’ve come across since my introduction to the A/E/C industry in May 2014. For example, there is an entire division at Pare Corporation dedicated to geotechnical engineering – a term I’d never heard before I visited the company website. In order to be a successful marketing contributor, I try to notice which words come across my desk or within office earshot most often, and I ask a lot of questions. In 2015, I began to notice the term “GIS” more and more often, and so I realized it was time for me to investigate what GIS means and why its mention is on the rise.

In December 2014, Pare hired Sarah Pierce, a recent graduate of Westfield State, to join our Environmental Science group. In June of this year, Sarah was promoted to a full-time GIS Specialist and Environmental Scientist, so I asked her if she wouldn’t mind giving me a quick tutorial—a “GIS for Dummies,” if you will.

Wikipedia weighs in

Before meeting with Sarah, I made sure to check what GIS stood for, seeing as that was my first question, and nowadays one is expected to “Wikipedia” the basics. I learned GIS stands for “Geographic Information System.” Well that was a relief! At least I was familiar with the three words that comprise the acronym. I’m not always so lucky. I perused the resources Sarah provided me before the interview to develop a basic understanding, and I noticed that GIS is not exclusive to the A/E/C industry. Excited to share something in common with GIS already, I prepared my questions.p3p2-lg

I sat with Sarah, and asked for the less technical explanation of how GIS is used in our industry. Sarah explained that “GIS allows you to view data as a geographic representation.” For example, before GIS, location and project data was entered and viewed in list form, using software such as Microsoft Excel, and then data was applied to a map in a two-part process. GIS has made it a one-step process, which Sarah credited as one of GIS’s biggest benefits, “GIS has cut fieldwork time in half.”

A Growing Technology

arcgis-cloud

Now that I understood a little bit more about what GIS actually accomplishes, I was interested in learning why it is a growing technology. According to my Googling, GIS has been around since the 1960’s. GIS consists of an electronic display map, where the information you upload is associated with the corresponding geographic coordinates. When I asked how the growth spurt in GIS usage started, Sarah showed me the computer tablet she uses. While GIS has always been a helpful tool, prior to the development of portable computer tablets, GIS was restricted to desktop computers…which obviously aren’t as compatible with working in the field. The tablet has enabled engineers and scientists to enter and review data, whether they are in the office or knee deep in swamp land. Software companies like Esri have increased the mobility of GIS and the reasons for using it through tablet apps, such as Collector, which syncs information with ArcMap Online, the GIS software used on desktops.

Moving Forward

GIS 1

A Pare project illustrating the visual components of data mapping.

I asked Sarah about Pare’s specific GIS expansion and which projects have benefitted the most from GIS technology. Currently it is used most often in feasibility studies, setback (a term commonly used in floodplain management) maps, and asset management in hydraulic modeling. However, Sarah hopes to utilize even more opportunities, and has developed a plan to do so. Sarah will be holding Lunch & Learns open to all staff. By providing the newest developments in GIS information and resources to staff members, our engineers will find new ways to integrate GIS into their projects. When I asked for an example of an area where GIS isn’t being used but should be, Sarah mentioned that it can be used as an alternative to computer aided drafting (CAD) in some cases. She hopes that Lunch and Learns will spark ideas among staff members and ultimately alleviate the workload of our very busy CAD department.

image002

A Pare project that used GIS to map components of a Town’s water system.

As a recent graduate, Sarah hopes to stay ahead of the ever-evolving GIS technology and remain at the forefront of the field. GIS software is updated on a yearly basis, so this will be no easy feat, but she looks forward to making GIS her professional priority. Since I learned a bit about GIS, Sarah also shared her ideas of how the Marketing department may be able to benefit from data visualization in proposal making and through our web presence. I am looking forward to working together and exercising my newfound understanding of yet another really cool engineering tool. For more information on GIS, its capabilities, and how you can apply it to your work, visit the GIS resource website that one of Sarah’s college professors created.

How Much Does Your Caffeine Routine Contribute to the Waste Footprint?

By Victoria Howland, Civil Engineer and member of Pare’s Sustainable Design Committee

Each morning you wake up, get ready for the work day, and reach for that delicious, aromatic and caffeinated beverage…which is filling our country’s landfills. Yes, I’m talking about coffee. An estimated 83% of adults in the United States drink 587 million cups of coffee a year. Coffee provides us with caffeine to keep us alert through the day and antioxidants to keep us healthy. This miracle beverage has even been linked to reducing our risk of getting (liver) cancer. So if you drink coffee, there’s no way you could be doing any harm, right? Wrong.

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Coffee has become a large contributor of waste. Every time you go to a coffee shop and grab a cup to go, your cup contributes to the waste footprint. Some companies use paper cups, which is an easy material to recycle. But do you recycle it? Other companies use Styrofoam for its insulating properties. It’s understandably difficult to turn down a cup option which keeps both your hand and the precious liquid a desirable temperature. And these environmentally unfriendly options are of low cost to the coffee shop and consequently to you.

Professor David Tyler, a chemist at the University of Oregon, addressed Styrofoam’s “worst material” stereotype by conducting a life-cycle assessment. The results of his study demonstrated that Styrofoam cups are no worse than paper cups for the environment. The carbon footprint of a Styrofoam cup (i.e., its contribution to greenhouse gases) is less than a paper cup. However, it does take Styrofoam longer to degrade. The choice is up to you; do you care more about carbon footprint or garbage reduction?index

Before we’re able to take a sip, we need to address another important coffee waste concern which is infamous in the New England region: the double cup. Found in both icy and sweltering temperatures, Dunkin Donuts and other coffee shops allow you to request your iced coffee in a cup within a cup. In the colder weather, your plastic drink cup is slid into a Styrofoam cup to keep the iced coffee from chilling your already chilled hands. In the warm weather, the Styrofoam second cup catches the condensation from your refreshingly cold drink. In both cases, the Styrofoam cup is being added as an insulator. And in both cases, you are contributing twice the amount of waste to the garbage.IMG_0829

And it’s not just cups that are filling our landfills.

In recent years, the single-serve coffee brewer has been at the forefront of home brewing. Keurig (now owned by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters) developed the K-Cup brewing system in the mid-1990s. As most of you know, it consists of a brewer and a K-Cup – a plastic container with a filter and 11 grams of ground coffee beans, vacuum sealed to prevent oxidation. The plastic container is made from a special plastic mix designed to withstand the heated brewing process. The brewer punctures a hole in the top and bottom of the K-Cup and passes hot water through the cup and into a mug. Once the K-Cup is brewed, it is disposed of, and it becomes a component of our waste footprint. While coffee grounds are compostable, K-Cup plastic containers are not. That isn’t to say they aren’t reusable though! Click the image below for ways to reuse your office’s K-Cups.

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John Sylvan was the brains behind Keurig and what he calls the “single-serve delivery mechanism for an addictive substance.” He created Keurig in 1992 and sold off his share of the company in 1997 for a mere $50,000. Keurig is now generating $4.7 billion in revenue. Now that the K-Cup has received backlash from consumers, environmentalists, and more, John Sylvan states, “I feel bad sometimes that I ever did it.”

Coffee grounds are compostable, however the K-Cup plastic container is only recyclable in a few Canadian cities. The good news: Keurig Green Mountain has taken a pledge to create a fully recyclable K-Cup. The bad news: It won’t make its debut until 2020. Until then, we’ll have to be conscious about how we make our coffee!

Now that we’re finally ready to take a sip, cherish that taste of sweet…guilt! But perhaps there are ways we can lessen the guilt and lessen the environmental impact of drinking coffee. Coffee has always served as a treat, an energizer, and it is known for bringing people together. Consider bringing people together for an even greater benefit by encouraging environmentally responsible caffeinated practices in your office, whether it is supplying company-wide reusable coffee cups that all coffee shops are eager to fill, or by using a coffee-koozy to substitute the Styrofoam cup. Hey, there are some great opportunities for company branding here!

Use these links to read the details of Professor Taylor’s research, and the fascinating story of John Sylvan’s remarkable invention:
http://cascade.uoregon.edu/fall2012/expert/expert-article/

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/03/the-abominable-k-cup-coffee-pod-environment-problem/386501/

Why the Northern Long-Eared Bat Should Be On Your ‘Radar’

Usually bats fly under the radar (no pun intended). However, the Northern Long-Eared Bat was recently listed as a threatened species by the US Fish and Wildlife Service due to a quick-spreading fungal disease, White Nose Syndrome. Discovered in 2007, the disease has caused unprecedented mortality of the Northern Long Eared Bat across the United States and Canada.

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Myotis septentrionalis, northern myotis (Vespertilionidae) showing signs of White Nose Syndrome (WNS). LaSalle County, Illinois. January 2013 Photo credit: University of Illinois/Steve Taylor

Bats play an important role in the ecosystem by controlling insect populations, so protection of a threatened species is understandable and justified. But our clients and colleagues should recognize that this recent threatened species listing could affect their construction and development projects. This listing is of particular concern for projects where federal funding or permitting is required. Schedules may also be impacted, as the removal of one acre or more of trees from a development site will be prohibited during the months of June and July. While this species of bats reside in caves throughout the winter, they move their habitat to trees during the summer months. Because the Northern Long Eared Bat will live in any tree species, projects that involve tree removal may be an obstacle for permitting.

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For project specific questions and more information, please visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s webpage about the Northern Long-Eared Bat and the consequent regulations here.

Thanks to Lauren Hastings, Senior Environmental Scientist at Pare for bringing this issue to Pare’s attention!