Sustainability Once Again

This week I have been hit with new items regarding sustainability initiatives. I find that it is the one topic that I could talk on for hours and one I absorb whatever anyone else is preaching about. I haven’t found anything else that quite has that impact on me yet. Firstly, I went to my first Structural Engineers Association of Washington (SEAW) Chapter Dinner Meeting on Tuesday night with the topic being Sustainable Practices in Structural Engineering. I was actually very excited even though I was the only one going from my company and was expecting to be enlightened in some way. I think had I found a topic or practice on this topic with actual depth in Structural Engineering in school I can almost guarantee that I would have stayed on to pursue my doctorate…but alas I did not. And the presentation was interesting and informative but it basically just summarized a lot of the research that I did both with the Graham Institute and my sustainable urban planning class. In fact, several of the slides and graphs used looked exactly like mine from last year. And I guarantee I could have done a better job presenting the material thanks to Tauber and EGL. There were a few interesting things I learned concerning specific targets and initiatives in the Seattle area and a few construction practices that I had never heard of (like baled hay construction and rammed earth) but I guarantee I will never see these practices put into place in the city.

I just read the article in the Michigan Daily concerning the initiatives set forth by President Coleman on sustainable practices throughout the university that were put into motion by our Graham Institute Sustainabiltiy Project but again I am a little dissapointed on what seem like fairly weak goals. With a university budget of their size and so much money going into maintenance, operations, and new construction on campus you would think it would be a bigger priority. UM also was already lagging on the sustainable front when we we did our intensive peer review of over 100 US institutions a year ago. The new initiative is calling for 8 new hybrid buses on campus, trayless dining but in only new cafeterias (waste is definitely something that should be brought into attention, specifically in regards to paper waste, food waste, and energy waste), and some solar panel fields on North Campus. Okay, that’s not a lot and that annoys me. It is a step in the right direction but I feel like they could do a lot more.

And concluding the Week of Sustainability, I was given a new task for our North Link contract that is right up my alley. Knowing my interest in the subject after my coworker was presented with the North Link Sustainability Checklist at the weekly meeting he has asked me to read through the memos, checklists, and guidelines to pinpoint action items or notes of interest that would directly relate or impact our structural design of the stations. So far I have only breached the first few pages, trying to restrain myself since I would much rather read up on that then continue with my SAFE design at the moment, but I am working on what I know are my priorities.

North Seattle gas explosion

That’s it in the world of news that interests me. On another note, there was a HUGE gas explosion in a house not too far from Amy’s that was a real fireball on Monday. Since then the gas companies have been searching for gas leaks within in a 5-mile radius of the house and have already found 6. How does this not surprise me? But it does bring me back to the quesiton that I also found myself asking last summer at National Grid: Do other areas “sniff” for gas leaks as much as the Boston area? I truly don’t think they do. Maybe it really is just the case that the Northeast’s gas network is that much older and that much more susceptible to leaks and harsh weather but it seems these leaks really do exist in all areas and I really don’t think that gas companies do as much as National Grid in protecting their customers…that is, until a house goes up in flames.


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