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As 2013 comes to a close, ASFE/GBA wishes its members, partners, and other industry professionals a joyous holiday season. To help you reflect on the year now ending, we're providing a look at the most accessed NewsLog articles of the year. Our regular publication will resume January 8, 2014. Happy new year!
Earthquakes abroad trigger US quakes as fracking pressures faults
From Aug. 21: A recent study finds that big earthquakes around the world have triggered separate quakes in the U.S., where wastewater resulting from natural-gas production is injected underground. The paper published in the journal Science has implications beyond fracking, the process that injects pressurized chemical-laced water to break up subterranean-rock formations that contain oil and natural gas.
FROM THE BENCH: All CoMET firms win big as a result of Converse's Harmon Tower victory
From Oct. 30: Century Steel, Inc. (Century) and its successor in interest Pacific Coast Steel (PCS) sued Converse Consultants alleging that the firm had performed its construction-materials engineering and testing (CoMET) services negligently, contributing to the problems being experienced by Las Vegas' ill-fated CityCenter/Harmon Tower project. Converse defended in part by stating that CoMET services are professional services and, because they are, Century's and PCS' lawsuit had to be dismissed: They had violated state law by failing to submit a report indicating that, in a qualified expert’s opinion, services failed to meet the standard of care and, as a consequence, damages were incurred.
New study debunks mid-size-A/E-firms myth
From Sept. 18: For decades, Engineering News-Record (ENR) has been ranking the "Top 500" U.S. architecture-/ engineering-design (A/E) firms based on their annual revenue in an industry that boasts more than 116,000 firms, 1.4-million employees, and $254 billion in annual revenue.
To gain an understanding of A/E firms' growth trends, University of Colorado Professor Paul S. Chinowsky, Ph.D., and a team of researchers — including ASFE/GBA Past President Gerald J. "Gerry" Salontai, P.E. (Salontai Consulting Group) — examined 35 years of Top-500 rankings. The research showed that smaller firms – those that didn't make 2012's Top-500 list — generated 66 percent of the A/E industry's 2011 revenue, while larger firms accounted for 27 percent. Then the team examined the recent fate of mid-size firms, which account for 7 percent of industry revenue. Given the competition and ongoing A/E-industry consolidation, industry insiders have asked, "How can the mid-size firms survive?" The answer: "Just fine, thank you, and it's no accident!"
BUSINESS 101: 10 great Siri tricks to boost your productivity
American Express OPEN Forum/ Leander Kahney
From Oct. 2: There are literally thousands of commands you can issue to Siri, the "intelligent" voice-activated assistant built into Apple's iOS. I say "intelligent" in quotes because, for many people, Siri is anything but. Siri can be, in fact, completely useless. The first couple of times Siri stumbles on a command, or simply times out, you cuss it out and never launch it again. At least, that was my experience. That's until I wondered whether the problem was actually me, and not Siri.
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EDITORIAL: The definition of insanity
From Nov. 27: Engineers are the most important people on Earth, but — in explaining engineering to kids — they all too often focus on the raptures of math and science, not the fact that engineers make civilization possible. Those who do love math and science seem to most appreciate their comforting predictability. Two and two always come out four. Compare that to the humanities, where two and two can do just about anything people want. As such, for many, math and science — and engineering, too — comprise a societally approved refuge.
Google's secret plan to revolutionize engineering, architecture, construction
From Nov. 13: Google's secret development department, Google X, is reportedly working on a new technology that could transform the construction industry — as well as architecture itself. Named "Genie," the invention reportedly is a cloud-based collaboration platform with "planning applications to help architects and engineers in the design process, especially for skyscrapers and large buildings. The platform includes planning tools of expert architects and engineers and advance analytics and simulation tools."
YOU'VE JUST GOT TO BE KIDDING: Song patents
From Aug. 21: You may be aware of the fact that "God Bless America" is not only not the national anthem (i.e., it's OK to sit while it's being played), it's still copyrighted property in the land that we love, requiring users to pay a royalty each time it's used. Shocked? Not nearly as much as you will be when you learn which even-more-popular song is copyrighted.
FROM THE BENCH: Bad news
Law Offices of Snell & Wilmer
From Aug. 21: In Sullivan v. Pulte Home Corp., No. CV-12-0419-PR, Arizona’s highest court took on a lingering question about the scope of the economic-loss doctrine since its landmark decision of Flagstaff Affordable Hous. Ltd. P'ship v. Design Alliance Inc., 223 Ariz. 320, 321, 223 P.3d 664 (2010). Flagstaff held that the economic-loss doctrine limits contracting parties to their contractual claims and remedies and bars tort claims like negligence seeking the same remedies. Sullivan was short and simple: non-contracting parties may bring negligence claims for construction defects because such claims are not barred by the economic loss doctrine. The Supreme Court said this outcome was consistent with its reasoning in Flagstaff.
STEM losing steam among teens
From Nov. 27: It really shouldn't come as a shock that teens are losing interest in STEM, says NewsLog Editor John Bachner (see his editorial above): Engineers have been pushing the STEM concept for years with continually less effective results. (What's the definition of insanity?) Now, the 2013 Teens & Careers Survey report — published by Junior Achievement USA and the ING Foundation — reinforces the point: The good news: 46% of surveyed teens showed interest in pursuing either a STEM or medical-related career. The bad news: That’s a 15% decrease from last year's data… and this at a time when the United States Department of Labor predicts employment opportunities in STEM careers will increase by 17% through 2018.
FROM THE BENCH: No statutory immunity for engineer
From Nov. 27: An Ohio immunity statute provides that "a political subdivision is not liable in damages in a civil action … allegedly caused by any act or omission of the political subdivision or an employee of the political subdivision in connection with a governmental or propriety function." That's the statute that Arcadis U.S. relied on to claim it was acting as an agent or employee of the City of Freemont, Ohio when making decisions affecting a constructor that was building a water reservoir for the city. The constructor asserted that the project was to be a "balanced site" and there would be sufficient clay on site to build the reservoir with minimal waste materials to be removed from the site. It further alleged that the engineer concealed the necessity for either using imported clay, a liner, or mixing existing soils with a soil sealer. The constructor also alleged that, when it submitted a change-order request, the engineer consulted with the city on its draft responses and failed to act as an independent neutral party to resolve the issues as required by contract. Trucco Construction v. Arcadis U.S., 2013 WL 494353 (Ohio 2013).
2013-2014 BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Kurt R. Fraese, L.G.
(GeoEngineers, Inc., Seattle, WA)
Steven D. Thorne, P.E., D.GE
(Terracon, Somerset, NJ)
Gordon M. Matheson, Ph.D., P.E., P.G.
(Schnabel Engineering, Inc., Glen Allen, VA)
Joel G. Carson
(Kleinfelder, Omaha, NE)
Stewart G. Osgood, P.E.
(DOWL HKM, Anchorage, AK)
Laura R. Reinbold, P.E.
(TTL, Inc., Nashville, TN)
Woodward L. Vogt, P.E., D.GE
(Paradigm Consultants, Inc., Houston, TX)
7701 Las Colinas Ridge, Ste. 800, Irving, TX 75063