Category Archives: Pare Engineers

From LEED to Envision: Expanding Green Design

By Matt Alford, P.E., ENV SP, Senior Engineer at Pare Corporation and a member of Pare’s Sustainability Committee

Green design and construction practices have been around for some time, and there are several industry rating systems to help with implementation.  Leadership In Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), a sustainable rating system for buildings, is the most widely used system around the world. The LEED program guides the design, construction, operations and maintenance of buildings toward sustainability. It has been 16 years since the first version of LEED, and the number of buildings receiving LEED certification increases each year. And it’s not just about the shiny plaque! It has proven to increase building performance throughout the lifecycle of the building while enhancing the experience of the occupants.  The program provides real long-term cost savings in the operation and maintenance of these buildings. This was demonstrated during the economic downturn of 2008-2009 when, despite the economy, the number of registrations increased. “Green” sustainable design can increase the efficiency of a building, provide long-term cost savings, increase public recognition of a project, and improve quality of life.

But, what about infrastructure? Infrastructure changes the way we get around, communicate, and view the world—it is an essential element to our culture. However, it has different challenges than buildings. Often coordination between several organizations that each have their own agendas and budgets is one of the major challenges when implementing sustainable design for infrastructure.

Similar to how LEED is focused on the occupants of the building, the new Envision Rating System focuses on the stakeholders affected by the project.  Envision is an objective framework of criteria and performance achievements that helps users identify ways in which “green” sustainable approaches can be used to plan, design, construct, and operate infrastructure projects. It also looks to enhance the social, environmental and economic aspects of a project by providing a holistic project assessment and guidance tool to tackle these challenges.  Using the design and building of a new industrial plant as an example, Envision encourages cohesive planning so that how the new plant impacts the historical value of the community is as important as how clean the air is being released thru its smokestack.  The goal of the program is to best use taxpayer dollars, reduce our environmental footprint, and enhance the overall quality of life in our community.

Envision is broken down into five categories to evaluate how a project contributes to the overall sustainability of the community.

  • Quality of Life – addresses a project’s impact regarding the health and well-being of individuals and the community as a whole.
  • Leadership – engages the project stakeholders and team leaders to provide meaningful commitment, collaboration and communication with each other.
  • Resource Allocation – dives into the use of recyclable materials and overall waste reduction for the long-term operation and maintenance of the infrastructure and construction.
  • Natural World – how the project preserves and renews ecosystem functions.
  • Climate and Risk – looks at two main concepts: ensuring resilience and minimizing emissions of a project both in the short-term and long-term future conditions.

Using Envision demonstrates an organized and comprehensive approach to decision making.  It embraces the use of best practices and garners support from stakeholders. Effective sustainable infrastructure development cannot be completed without involving several parties.

Similar to the LEED program, Envision has four award levels: bronze, silver, gold and platinum. Even if an award is not pursued, it is strongly encouraged to use Envision criteria as a guide or a set of standards for creating sustainable infrastructure.  Envision is laying the groundwork for making sustainable design the new standard for all infrastructure projects.

And why not!?!   Here are some advantages to doing so:

  • Quantifying the qualitative benefits, including preserving local character
  • Applying a consistent, transparent approach to sustainability
  • Helping communities address long-range needs
  • Evaluating environmental and economic benefits
  • Extending the useful life of a project
  • Improving the efficiency of a project
  • Demonstrating good governance of resources

Just as using a sustainable building rating system as a guide for development has proven to be worth the investment for new building construction, Envision will help guide decisions about sustainable infrastructure projects to be made proactively instead of reactively in our communities. Imagine a world with less congestion, cleaner waters, purposefully-developed communities, and tax dollars being used more efficiently.  Envision provides the framework to improve the way we develop the infrastructure and its impact on our daily lives.

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Join Pare in Commemorating Dam Safety Awareness Day

By J. Matthew Bellisle, Senior Vice President of the Geotechnical Division of Pare Corporation and the Co-Chair of the Dam Management Committee of the Environmental Business Council of New England

Dam Safety Awareness Day was established to commemorate the lives lost in the Johnstown Flood. The tragedy occurred on May 31, 1889 when the South Fork Dam burst sending a flood of water that resulted in the destruction of 1,600 homes, $17 million in property damage (current value of approximately $425 million) and the deaths of 2,209 people (including the entirety of 99 families; of the deceased, 396 were children) in the valley below in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.  While this is the worst dam failure in the United States it has become symbolic in our history.  Unfortunately it is not the only incident of dam failure.

As we remember the lives lost and the heroes who worked to minimize damage and save lives, we also must remember the lessons learned in regard to dam engineering. We need to put our own hubris aside and recognize the impact that these engineered structures have on our communities and environment.

This country—especially New England—grew due to the power harnessed by dams during the industrial revolution, by the water impounded for irrigation and water supply, and by the additional navigation afforded by strategically placed and engineered dams and locks.  The dams that have greatly impacted our nation come in a multitude of forms–from concrete and earthen structures impounding large reservoirs, small earthen embankments and structures creating irrigation ponds, hydro-electric structures providing sustainable energy, to historic masonry structures from a time long past.  Our communities are surrounded by over 87,000 dams throughout the United States, which are a marvelous testament to our ability to engineer our surroundings to enable productivity, health, safety, and energy.

As today’ dams provide increasing levels of flood protection, energy, water supply, and environmental resource areas to support our communities, we need to remember three things.

  • First, dams do deteriorate over time. It would be incorrect to assume that the condition of the dam at any point in time will continue to represent the condition of the dam at some point in the future. There also comes a time when a dam is no longer providing a benefit and it should be removed.  It is only through continued diligence, observation, and maintenance that dams, bridges, roadways, and other parts of our national infrastructure will continue to serve the needs of the nation.
  • Second, financial resources are needed for routine maintenance and long-term repairs. However, just because money has been spent on the dam recently, the need for continued inspection by qualified personnel is still paramount to the long term performance of the dam.
  • Third, we are all stakeholders in continuing dam safety.  Ongoing steps to develop and maintain emergency action plans and procedures require support from our local communities to enable efficient notification, response, and recovery.

As we commemorate the Johnstown Flood let us take comfort knowing that dedicated regulators, designers and owners also remember these events and are taking positive steps to mitigate such incidents. Advances in the study of dam engineering have led to enhancements in hydraulic and soil modeling, which in turn have improved our understanding of the integration of the engineered environment with the natural environment. With the support of local and federal regulations we continue to protect the environment and the public by identifying and repairing aging dams, and removing those structures that are unsafe or no longer serve a beneficial purpose.  Ignoring complacency, we are taking positive steps to improve this nation’s dams and support the resources, opportunities and public which are so dependent upon these sometimes invisible engineered structures.

To learn more about dam safety and flooding, please download the two ebooks (‘Living with Dams: Know Your Risks’ and “Living with Dams: Extreme Rainfall Events’ prepared by the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO) at  http://livingneardams.org/

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.

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

.
1. Handmade Water Quality
1 Vote
2. Franconia Ridge Vegetation Preservation
2 Vote
3. British Columbia Roadtrip
1 Vote
4. 26.2 Emission Free Miles
2 Vote
5. An Early Appreciation of the Great Outdoors
2 Vote
6. My Home Office
1 Vote
7. Mattapoisett Waterfront
1 Vote
8. Its Not Easy Being Green
5 Vote
9. Latimer Reef Lighthouse on Fisher Island in Long Island Sound
11 Vote
10. The Dry Tortugas
5 Vote
11. Below the Tower
1 Vote
12.Winds of Change
2 Vote
13. Chasm Lake
1 Vote
14. Hiking Activist
2 Vote
15. Cliffs of Prince Edward Island
2 Vote
16. Kayaking on the Colorado River
0 Vote
17. “Cueva Ventana”
2 Vote
18. Sanctuary
1 Vote

 

 

 

 

 

The Removal of the Old Mill Dam along the Charles River in Bellingham, MA

By Allen R. Orsi, P.E. Managing Engineer at Pare Corporation and a member of the Association of State Dam Safety Officials

It is a wonderful feeling when a vision comes to fruition, especially when it has taken years for the project to be completed.  The removal of the Old Mill Dam in Bellingham, Massachusetts is a good example of what can be accomplished through strong project partnerships.   Pare Corporation and the Town of Bellingham began conversations in 2008 about the future of the Old Mill Dam, which was found to be in poor structural condition.  At the time, the dam was classified as a ‘significant hazard potential dam’ by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (MADCR) Office of Dam Safety.

Upon completion of several studies and evaluation of the benefits of dam removal versus rehabilitation, it was decided that removing the obsolete dam would increase public safety, save taxpayer dollars, and improve the ecosystem along the river.

Pare worked very closely with the Town to prepare a grant application for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA) Dam and Seawall Repair or Removal Program to secure funding for the majority of the design and permitting of the project, as well as a no-interest loan to offset the cost of construction.

Pare also worked with the Town to apply for and receive priority project status through the Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration (DER).  Once funding was secured, Pare coordinated with DER to obtain environmental permits and draft dam removal plans that would minimize the impact of deconstruction on the environment.

For the project to be completed, Old Mill Pond was incrementally drained through partial demolition of the concrete spillway to allow for dam removal activity to be completed in a dewatered area.  Roughly 2,300 cubic yards of mercury-impacted sediment were removed from the pond and permanently disposed of onsite within a special containment berm constructed beyond the level of the post-dam removal 100-yr floodplain.  This approach saved significant costs to the Town associated with offsite disposal of the impacted sediment.  It also effectively removed 15 pounds of mercury from the riverine habitat.

Last week, temporary construction facilities were removed, allowing for the unrestricted flow of the river through this location for the first time in more than 150 years. Fish and other aquatic life are now able to move freely along this section of the Charles River and its tributaries, which will help restore a more robust ecosystem.

As this is the first dam that has been removed along the main stem of the Charles River, the Charles River Watershed Association hopes that the project will encourage other communities to consider dam removal and environmental restoration projects along the river.

The Return of Dams To The News Cycle

By J. Matthew Bellisle, Senior Vice President of the Geotechnical Division of Pare Corporation and the Co-Chair of the Dam Management Committee of the Environmental Business Council of New England

The recent events in California regarding the Oroville Dam have highlighted dams and how they impact our communities.  Like many of my colleagues, I have heard questions such as, “Why did the situation develop?”  “Why did it take so long to evacuate the downstream area?”  “Who is at fault?”  And the most frequent comment… “Why did the dam fail?”

First, due to the experience, efforts, and capabilities of those in positions of responsibility, the situation in Oroville has been stabilized.  Public officials worked tirelessly to mitigate the situation and ensure public safety throughout the emergency.

Second, I can only speculate when responding to questions about the structure of the dam, its maintenance, and its operation.  Answers to those questions will be provided as the waters recede, through forensic investigations and the review of historical records.

The question that most people are afraid to ask is:  “Can a similar scenario happen here in New England?”  Although our dams are smaller in this part of the county and, in the event of a potential failure would likely impact fewer people, the answer is “Yes.”  As one of the responding engineers, I remember well the week in October 2005 when a portion of downtown Taunton, MA was evacuated as an old mill dam threatened to release the flood waters resulting from nine days of record-breaking rainfall.  Our dams here in New England are integral to our communities.   They impound our drinking water, provide flood attenuation, and impact where and how we build.  But many are old—older than the Oroville Dam.

In New England, we have an appreciation for dams and the benefits they provide, while understanding the hazards that come with those benefits.   There are active Dam Safety programs in each New England state that have prescribed inspection schedules based upon the hazard potential for each dam.  Dedicated and knowledgeable dam safety professionals regularly complete inspections to ensure public safety. There are responsible dam owners that maintain their dams on a regular basis.

Many of the dam owners for whom we work understand the problems associated with the age of their dams.  Some have embarked on multi-year programs to improve their entire inventory of dams. Some have instituted a program of upgrades to meet design standards that were not in place when the dam was originally constructed.  Others have established programs to remove dams that are no longer beneficial and provide flood attenuation, water supply, and recreation through other means

These proactive steps are being taken to improve the condition of each dam, protect the environment, safeguard the resources around the dam, and shield the downstream public.  So as budget requests for dam repairs are presented, when emergency action plans are developed, and when disaster drills are conducted, remember the 160,000 individuals sitting in their cars below the Oroville Dam as they evacuated.  Please support these dam safety initiatives, as they will ultimately protect the communities where we work and live.

 

#PareTimeRunners

Eleven Pare engineers and one environmental scientist (AKA the #PareTimeRunners) took off on a 192-mile relay race that stretched from Hull, MA to Provincetown, MA.  They started at the Foxboro office in two vans…

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L to R: Chris Webber, Keith Black, Sarah Antolick, Victoria Howland, Matt Alford, Lauren Gluck

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L to R: Tim Thomson, Tim Thies, Andrew Chagnon, Lindsey Machamer, Danielle Goudreau, Keith MacDonald

The #PareTimeRunners ran all through the night.

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Keith Black passing the baton to Tim Thies

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The struggle was real.

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However there was light at the end of the tunnel!

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For the most part…

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They saw the sights.

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They even got some work done! #PareTimeRunners #FullTimeEngineers

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They finally made it! IMG_4108

Congratulations to the #PareTimeRunners on their 192-mile weekend. To view even more photos and tweets from the #PareTimeRunners, head on over to the @Pare_Corp Twitter page. If you’re interested in running a 200-mile relay race this summer, check out the Ragnar Relay website.

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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.

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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!)

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

Pare Gets Resilient!

Pare’s Ryan McCoy Presents at the ASCE COPRI Coastal Structures Conference in Boston

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From September 9-11, 2015, Ryan McCoy, a project engineer with Pare’s Waterfront/Marine team and co-chair of the Pare Climate Change Committee (PC3), attended a 3-day conference in Boston, Massachusetts hosted by ASCE-COPRI (Coasts, Oceans, Ports, and Rivers Institute). The “Coastal Structures and Solutions to Coastal Disasters Joint Conference” highlighted resilient coastal communities focusing on coastal protection and the vulnerability of the coastal infrastructure to coastal storms. In addition to attending technical sessions with topics ranging from coastal storms and flood mapping to tsunami response and protection to climate change and sea level rise, Ryan presented on day 2 at the conference’s poster session. Ryan discussed the Salisbury Tide Gate project, highlighting the resiliency of the structure which was designed by Pare with construction completed in 2014.

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Oxford dictionary defines Resilient as “able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.”   The Salisbury Tide Gate project exemplifies the resiliency that is required when future sea level rise and the intensity of coastal storms are unknown. Pare reviewed available data including FEMA flood maps which indicated a 100-year flood elevation several feet above the embankment’s crest. In lieu of raising the crest elevation of the entire embankment (over 1 mile long), Pare incorporated resiliency into the embankment and tide gate design by allowing the site to be overtopped during significant storm events. Pare’s engineers designed the structure to be reliable and robust in order to preserve the structural integrity and water control required for post-storm recovery.

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The reconstruction of the site included the reconstruction of the embankment, replacement of the single culvert with twin culverts, and the installation of new tide gates. In order to make the site resilient, the new design included the installation of a steel sheet pile core wall driven to effectively eliminate seepage through the embankment, installation of armor stone on both sides of the embankment to reduce the effects of erosion potentially caused by flood waters, setup of remote water level sensors upstream and downstream of the embankment to alert DPW employees to rising flood waters, and new tide gates designed as combination sluice/flap gates to provide additional water level control during predicted flood events. In addition to these hard and fast solutions, proper tidal exchange and flushing of the sensitive salt marsh was reestablished, which restored the health of the resource area and provided a natural buffer during storm events.

These types of design considerations are going to be required as coastal communities look to improve public or private infrastructure across the country. Pare’s Climate Change Committee has worked diligently to understand the effects that climate change may have on future projects and the civil engineering industry as a whole. By remaining current with the science and policy of climate change, PC3 and Pare will provide our Clients with knowledgeable recommendations to mitigate the potential impacts of climate change through resilient design that is adaptable to a dynamic environment.