Tag Archives: Environmental Engineering

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/

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.

 

The Results Are In!

By Danielle Goudreau,  Engineer at Pare 

The results from the Pare Climate Change Survey are in!

Pare’s Climate Change Committee would like to thank all who participated in our survey.  We appreciate your thoughtful responses, and have explored answer patterns and concerns below.

Climate change is a very important topic with many differing opinions about causes, implications, and even its existence. However, it’s been established that in order to combat climate change, it will require a broad consensus, and this survey did a great job of establishing how close to that consensus we currently are.

Among survey participants, there is a consensus that climate change is happening and that it is concerning.  It wasn’t surprising (based on the title of the survey) that a majority of respondents believe climate change is occurring.  Approximately 95% of the respondents believe climate change is occurring, 3% do not believe it is occurring. 2% did not express an opinion.  The aspect of climate change participants find most concerning is storm frequency and/or intensity (33%) followed by sea level rise (23%) and ecological changes (20%).

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As far as whether or not we can reduce climate change, there is a split consensus.  Approximately 42% of respondents believe that we are able to reduce the effects of climate change. However the majority of participants (about 50), believe we can’t or won’t do anything to change the effects.  Approximately half of the respondents who believe we can reduce climate change also believe we will make changes to reduce the effects.

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Who should be responsible for mandating changes that may reduce climate change? One third of respondents believe that the Federal Government should be implementing regulations.

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Contest winner Ann Cote at Bryant University provided us with an optimistic view of the future (albeit with a major caveat):    “Only once society is educated on the topic and the seriousness of it, will ideas come forward and the passion to correct the issue surface.”

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Thanks to your participation, Pare’s engineers are now even more equipped to assist in providing clarity and recommendations to the state of the consensus among those associated with or working in the fields of architecture, engineering, and construction.

 

Save The Bay’s New Interactive Aquarium Exhibit Will Open June 25th

Whether you’re a Rhode Island native or looking to learn a bit more about the Ocean State, you won’t want to miss Save The Bay’s newest exhibit, Big Fish of The Bay, which will celebrate its grand opening on Thursday,  June 25 at 10 AM. The interactive exhibit will include over 140 species from Narragansett Bay, and its new 1,500-gallon tank will feature some of Narragansett Bay’s largest fish. The exhibit, located in Newport, RI, is free to Save The Bay members, and only $8 for non-members ages 4 and up.

Aquarium

As a company headquartered in Rhode Island, Pare is proud to contribute to a variety of projects that support Save The Bay’s mission. From designing systems which eliminate harmful pathogens and polluted stormwater from entering Narragansett Bay, to design of the energy-efficient Beach Pump Station Replacement, which serves the Exploration Center & Aquarium in Newport (where the exhibit is located), we are eager to promote an organization that is dedicated to protecting and improving the Ocean State’s 400 miles of coastline. For more information about the Big Fish of The Bay exhibit, please visit the event webpage. Hope to see you there!

Million Gallon Water Tank Construction Time-Lapse VIDEO

This video shares the construction story of the Burlingame Road Water Tank, a new Pare-designed 1-million gallon, pre-stressed concrete water storage tank, located in Greenville, Rhode Island. It also heralds the video debut of Pare’s new YouTube channel!

The video is actually a compilation of eight months of still photographs obtained between April 2013 to November 2013 using automated time lapse cameras—eight months of specialized and sometimes acrobatic work distilled down to less than three minutes!

The project created a new emergency interconnection between the Greenville Water District system and the Town of Smithfield’s water system and consisted of the water tank, 4,000 feet of new 12-inch PVC transmission piping and a new 425-gpm pump station. The total project cost was $3.1 million, and it was funded in part by a RI Water Resources Board Grant and a RI CWFA State Revolving Fund Loan. The water main was completed in January 2014; the water tank was completed in March 2014; and the pump station was completed in January 2015. Now that these other system improvements are complete, the Burlingame Road Water Tank is ready to begin service.

Pare recently attended the Greenville Water District’s Open House to celebrate the activation of the new system. The Open House presentation featured the time-lapse video above, as well as an impactful speech by Dave Powers (GWD Superintendent), and a moving award presentation by Paul Hanaway (GWD Board of Directors Vice Chairman). The honoree, Joan Williams, has been a dedicated board member for over 40 years.