Saturday, December 20, 2008

Survivorman Farewell, Reader Problems

Watching some new Survivorman with a few Les Stroud virgins at Anand's and Joel's proved pretty good in the latest Papa New Guinea episode. Things were rough, Les couldn't find good ground, escape from the rain and flooding waters, and any food of any sort besides plants. Eventually, towards the end, some local tribesmen came and got him and told him they were having a festival in his honor as they had never seen anyone come to survive out there. Les said alright, as he usually puts it in his realistic manner ("well, I could stay out here and suffer, or enjoy a festival in my honor.") I also am pretty sure he got a new tat this season, and definitely a sponsorship from Columbia.

This is when he drops the bomb and says it's the last survivorman. Came back to my apartment and confirmed it:
"You can only do seven days surviving without food a certain number of times a year. I'm pleased with what I have done, I've been copied around the world, but 25 times I've not eaten anything for a week while sleeping on rocks. I need to move on," Stroud told Reuters in a Thursday report.
Well nuts. Just after this episode he kicked the Australian outback's ass by cooking up mad crustaceans, digging fat wormy things out of trees, and digging for water. A reminder, Bear Grylzzzs had to re-edit his Western Australian adventure when it was revealed he stayed in hotels each night as he neglected to metion in the original airings. God ol' Les makes sure you know the difference between someone you would actually want with you when in dire straits and a jackass who would jump in some ice lake and die 30 minutes later:
"It takes a lot out of me as I really do what I do for real, with no camera crew, no nights in hotels like others do, and it takes a toll on my body," Stroud told Reuters in an apparent not-so-subtle jab at Man vs. Wild, Discovery's other wilderness survival series.
Hmm... On a side note, Anand also told me about how gross one of my shares was in Google Reader this week. I had no idea he was able to see these things and was pretty confused. Anand and I are gchat buds, but I have many gchat buds that I just picked up through frequent emails. Like group members, and one or two professors. So apparently anyone in my chat list who uses reader can see these things. This is an urgent, urgent request to google. Please save reader for me before I get a boss who uses gmail and reader and ruins sharing forever. Did everyone realize this? Let me pick who I can share with for my posts... not for each individual posts, I am over the "reshare thing," I am way more concerned about mom someday seeing my shares.

Update: Nevermind, I'm an idiot. Check out "Share Settings". Thanks D.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Action Jackson

All done with school, and it's pretty weird being on break when everyone has jobs now. Guess I could start playing Mario Galaxy again, I never got past flying Mario. Or I think school started... or we just started drinking more. Just gotta clean up the apartment, work out some, and watch the Steelers (sans Jamo?), play Pokemon.

Speaking of working out, swimming has got a little better. Upgraded to the 'medium' speed lane as I was too much for the 70 year old ladies, but they outlasted me in the end. Whatever, the pools closing in 5 minutes, big deal. You'll get yours, old ladies.

Got the new Common album, which is pretty different than his usual slap in the face with life lessons and focus on lyrics. Most of it is produced by Pharrell and the Neptunes, so it's already in Andy's trashcan. I think it's a pretty good listen, not sure how much lasting power it has, but for now it's good cleaning music. Check el single here. Pharrell is a robot! Rellbot?

Up top is me at Sean Ryan Invitational in November. Up the line cuts were aplenty that weekend. I think if you pulled the earth like four feet from under my foot in that photo you'd see my real jumping power!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

December Post

Making my way through finals week, I have a few group projects and presentation to finish up, but things are looking good. My Christmas shopping is almost done, complete with Dave's compensation for the Steelers gear. Thanks Davey!

I feel like much of my weekly emotional resources are devoted to simultaneously recovering and preparing for the next Steelers game. Shit's getting intense, it's December, and if these dudes can pull it together on offense in these last few games things are looking up. A lot of it is dependent on this weekend. Just gotta be consistent, and I am hopeful that the offense can turn things around from this past sunday. The feelings from the Pens run to the cup is running low in the sports-happy-high-five tank, but still high in get-drunk-talk-about-it tank. Either way, time to refill boys!

Ultimate wise - I think since practice is done, I'm gonna really try to take healing the knee seriously. I think it could happen eventually if I keep biking/running/lifting like normal, but probably run the risk of hurting it again or just delaying the healing. So gonna head into the pool, which will probably consist of me almost passing out after 15 minutes, gonna do arm lifting, bought a core training book today, and gonna keep up with the PT. Sad times. Gots to be done though. Hopefully this month will make the difference.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

My Pals

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Overheard In...

My bed, watching Arrested Development:

Tobias: Ah the clumsiness of adolescence. Everyone goes through it, except for me. Like a cat, I always ended up on all fours!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Yeah, it's the last two weeks of the semester after Thanksgiving break. So as a grad student everything ever due is due next week. I dunno, I'm not feeling so crunched as other weeks. Don't worry I already knocked on wood preemptively for that statement. Still, everything will be done by about the 12th, so hopefully I will have some time to maybe shop or get a video game or knit some stuff before going back to Pittsburgh again.

Well, I ate my words, and I thought Kanye's album was really good. Couldn't really notice the autotone as much as it slaps you in the face usually, and sounded good on most tracks. Not an album for singles, but good all the way through. Joe didn't think so. Well Joe, why don't you go spend $40 on some crappy Kings of Leon knock off indie crap cause you liked the cover of the vinyl. Another little known Joe fact, he fishes his favorite poos out of the toilet and puts them in a shoebox and keeps them as dried up momentos to look at when he has a hard day. Whatta boob!

In ultimate news, Match didn't pick Cal as one of the super-contenders this year. Nor did he mention my sweeping rise to the top of the college ultimate scene. Think you can overlook our 15th place finishes this fall?? Think again buddy. Well, I actually mean it. I think the development of the rookies and being patient on cuts will pay off in the spring. I think staying healthy, knowing we can suceed, and being confident as a team will be our biggest challenges. Specifically, this is going to depend on us controlling the disc and being consistent. Reducing turnovers is already a common theme.

Up top is Malkin and Gonch on vacay, as if I even had to tell you. The Steelers game ruled last weekend, giving a sense of vindication I haven't felt for those duders since the Super Bowl. If we can ride the momentum from that through the next few weeks we will be true contenders. 25 days till gameday.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Break in Pittsburgh

So this is my first school break coming back to Pittsburgh, I don't think coming from Australia really counts. Things to do, no particular order:
  • Get some Aiello's
  • Call Andy "Kwiatfartski"
  • Watch Pens on local TV
  • Call Joey? Hey Joey.
  • Mad Mex?
  • Talk to Mr. Zaw (my mom told me you can order general tso's "not so spicy!")
  • Steeler's gear
  • Get free sweater from mom
  • Yuengling, Magic Hat, Victory (dad still had whirlwinds)
  • My parents got that sweet as instant on demand netflix!
  • See Dave for like 30 mins, talk about how busy he is but how excited he is about all said busy-ness
  • Cake
  • Dee's baby
Mary's "Pittsburgh doggie bag list": Pub fries, white pizza.

What a post!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Cypher Post

The motivation for this post came from being inbetween assignments for school, a stomach full of hawaiian bbq, and a stellar dream last night that allowed me to really live out my natural talent... freestyle rap. Anyways, it was some sort of setting where a bunch of dudes I know, I'm pretty sure Vanessa and Jamo were there, were all getting prepped up for this big rap battle between us. I was nervous at first, but as the competition grew nearer, I was spittin hot fire! Jamo and Vanessa could sense this, and knew they were donezo. I really think I was coming up with some solid stuff. I think at one point in the dream I asked someone "Who's winning the rap battle?" "I think it's Consequence, he was pretty good." I didn't get to actually rap in front of a crowd, but I'm sure I would've killed it. In either case, there's always the Cheeburger rap to hold me down.

This weekend is the Sean Ryan Memorial Tournament and it looks like it's gonna be a very nice weekend weather-wise. From what I've seen of the teams I know on the list, I think we have a good chance of winning the whole thing, but I'm sure we will be playing an open rotation as there are still cuts to make. We get done pretty early on Saturday, so maybe we can hit the beach for a little. I think my main goals for the weekend is to get a good feel for the offense and to slam some bros.

Puppy update (pupdate?): I've been thinking very hard about getting a puppy in June after I graduate and move out of the current apartment. I think I would have hopefully 1-2 months free, and seems like prime-time for puppy raising. I've been researching with Mary possible hypoallergenic ones and the cairn terrier (above) has been the most promising. Gotta figure out if it's gonna be feasible to live with it without allergy medicine. Research has opened up some very interesting puppy doors, including puppy cam.

Back to work. Peace!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Emergency Post

Haven't posted for a long time, and felt like I should throw some thoughts/updates/apple pies before I get too far behind for my readers! Let's do it in quick update format, since homework is gonna cut this one short:

Social: Went out for Halloween in the Mission, despite having to get up at 5:45 to BART it back to Berkeley and hit the road for the tournament in Santa Clara. Mary's Sarah Palin costume was very, very successful. Cops wanted pictures. People shouted things. Fatter Palins were no match. I went as America's most blunted receiver. Not as successful, but very funny for me and that guy dressed up as Serena Williams

School: The beef LCA is coming around... think things are coming together nicely after the mid-term report. My other group is in a big crunch to finish our value stream map report of a general contractor's preconstruction design process. Hopefully things turn out alright. Could've been much better if we had a well defined idea of what we wanted from the start.

Job: Giant civ-e job fair on campus Wednesday! The resume is ready, and I picked out a bunch of Bay Area firms. Hopefully things go well.

Ultimate: My knee tendinitis flared up last week... not sure why, maybe because of all the standing around while working retail at the Cal game. So practice and the tournament, which got cancelled halfway through Saturday, have been a little frustrating as I usually have to stop at somepoint because I don't want to hurt myself more. Lame. I want to be ready for the Sean Ryan tournament where our final A team will be there. The team is looking better and better each practice since the first round of cuts.

Pittsburgh Stuff: Got to go to the Pens vs. San Jose game last Tuesday with some duders. Totally crappy game. We got 11 shots off, and still only lost by 1 somehow. I hope this is the low point of our season, but the last game shows we are coming out of it. Steelers need to man up! Massive game! The election depends on it! Pretty sure I'm gonna wear Randle El, and give number 10 to Jamo. Gooooooo Steelers!

Oh and remember to vote, here's Sam Jackson reminding you to vote no on prop 8:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

California Academy of Science

Mike W. rolled in on Friday on his way to Palo Alto for some law interviews. Saturday we made it out to the CAS for the 9AM opening, about an hour commute from downtown Berkeley via public transportation. As the place just opened last week, it was packed even at the opening. I had bought tickets online, so at least we avoided that mess. Of course, I forgot my camera.

Going midweek would probably be best, or waiting about a month for the crowds to die down. We immediately got in line for the planetarium, which worked out because apparently the line became insurmountable. Crazy lines were the case for the planetarium and the rainforest. Later it was apparent that seeing one or the other was a decision you made early on if you didn't want to wait 1-3 hours later.

Still, the planetarium ruled. Sigourney Weaver narrated it as we went through global warming and population problems, and eventually millions of light years away. Also, there is life on other planets. This is for sure. In the Milky Way. I know. I was there.

The life of a bug 3D show was also great, and funded by Terminex! It's pretty amazing how well these documentaries are filmed, as I couldn't imagine sitting in the rainforest filming some bugs for that long. Also, the butterfly dies at the end. Whoops, forgot the spoiler alert for that one.

Other highlights were the great food, green roof, and great reef aquarium in such a small area. And some dude dropped his glasses into the alligator pit. Way to be.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I like your voice the way it is, Kanye.

I wouldn't look for too much serious stuff in this post if my blog suddenly became popular amongst lean production enthusiasts after last post.

Just downloaded T.I.'s new album, Paper Trail, and it's not too bad. I think probably better than TI vs. TIP, but not up to King status. Looks like he is trying some new things, and the fact that he churned out 50 songs for this album so quickly (I remember his last album came out Spring 2007) makes me think that more rappers should try being on house arrest. One glaringly awful note about this album is the ruined potential of the Kanye/Lil Wayne/Jay-Z track. Kanye produced the track, which is ok, but guess what? Weezy and Kanye get crazy with the Auto Tune (think T-Pain) and I have to grind my teeth until Jay-Z crushes the track. The worst part about the auto tune effect, other than it sucking, is that Kanye is choosing to beat it to death. I couldn't even listen to more than half of his new "Love Lockdown" single, and makes me worry about how much it's going to surface on his new album. Please, stop stop stop stop stop stop stop. Didn't you hear DJ Boogie threaten to "switch to country" because of this? What would we do without Boogie's 4Play@4??

In other news, Penguins start this weekend! But now Gonchar is out for 4-6 months, which is not good since Whitney is out until December I think. Northwest and Mid-Atlantic regionals is also this weekend. I'm sure Forge will pull off a major upset with Joey's emotional reassurances on the sideline. Think we are headed to the Pirmanti's of the west for the Steeler game, and hopefully Najeh Davenport won't have another eliptical accident before the game.

One sick pic from the facebook vaults:


Thursday, September 25, 2008

NUMMI tour

Today I went on a Lean Construction class field trip to the Toyota-GM NUMMI plant factory in Fremont. I understand that GM is the land owner/factory owner and the factory produces all Toyota products through its standard Toyota Production System. The plant produces the Tacoma, Accord, and all of America's Pontiac Vibes.

During the NUMMI tour, a few things seemed to stand out to me. At first I was a little taken aback by how busy and loud the production line seemed. When I inspected it further as the tour went on, I could see how the employees were working at a comfortable pace (takt time).

The pace was well dictated by the flow of the pieces, but many little facets of the workspace contributed to the worker comfort and constant pace. One of these facets was the arrangement of worker tools, which hung overhead on a track that were incredibly easy to access and get rid of without losing organization. The tour guide constantly reinforced ergonomics. The only station where this seemed to be a problem was when workers had to install items underneath the car, and fighting gravity meant workers rotated from this station every 2 hours.

It was nice to see the kanban system in real time. NUMMI used plastic crates on roller tracks next to each worker station, and when the crates got low, or empty crates stacked up, more crates would come for a specific part.

Automated machines were a huge part of the production process, more than I had imagined. It made me wonder how much maintenance was required for the robots, and how often this disrupted the system. This is especially true for the automated vehicles that carried parts throughout the factory by following magnetic strips. I could see those creating serious problems, but knowing that Toyota is very careful of what technology they incorporate into production makes me think this isn’t the case.

The stamping process was also paused while we were there, and it was not clearly explained why. Talking with some of the other students that went with me, we thought it was maybe to insure inventory did not build up too much. Still, this seems weird to me, as Toyota is very focused on leveling out production and insuring that the pace is kept as long as problems do not need to be solved in the line.

Other than that it was apparent American Toyota factories were seeing a downturn in production, and it seemed the contracted workers were feeling the effects as our tour guide was working his last day dude to “economics.” Either way, it was a fun experience and well worth it.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

D&C: Finished Project Photos

My last semester at Carnegie Mellon almost totally focused on one class, Design and Construction, that eventually became a 7 days 9-5 deal towards graduation, and continued into the summer where I only worked during the week. They finally got the granite countertops up on the patio, and everything is looking nice. Meenah, one of the structural designers and occasional site worker, took some photos:

North wall:

White FRP siding was used on this wall since it was hidden by the countertop, not sure how much I like how it looks now.

The stools we constructed are getting repaired by Larry. The north side overlooks the new Gates Building nicely:

South wall:

We used zinc siding here, and still has some oxidation effects from rain that coats it with white stuff. I think it still looks pretty solid. Expensive though. The trim is cedar, and the pergola is made of cedar too:

The pergola shape matches the outline of the south wall and partition, which looks really cool from above in the corridor that overlooks the patio. You can see a little of the art students crappy project back there, that looks like it hasn't been touched since I left Pittsburgh in mid-July. Here's the ramp to the lower level:

Which took quite a while to build. Partition bench:

The sculpture that faces the entrance of the patio isn't up yet, with the students' names on it. Whatevs. For an idea of the scope of the project, here's where we were in April:

All the wood columns are on concrete columns at varying heights, you can see some of them in the back but the rest are hidden by the scaffolding. One more for the road:

Heyo! Playoff beard and all!

Friday, September 19, 2008


I came across this image (google image search: "ecological cycle") as I was trying to put together a graphical example in my Industrial Ecology intro slides. It's representation of the Poo Poo Paper Company that creates products out of elephant crap, sell it, and use it to fund elephant welfare.

In case you didn't know that the Japanese ruled, I've been reading more on the Toyota Production System (TPS), and the basis of lean production. The book, the Toyota Way, details in two of the chapters in the huge achievements of creating the Lexus and the Prius. In both cases, the revolutionary models were created at a time when the car company was doing very well, but the desire for continuous improvement made the company hellbent on achieving more. Sweet, brah.

Steelers vs. Eagles this weekend. Steeler Nation vs. Eagles Nation (under construction). Tommy, Vanessa, Jamo vs. Zhi. If all goes well, I'm defintely buying another State Champions t-shirt.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

"So? Some people like pickles better than cucumbers."

Linked from mondesishouse comes a sweet compilation of quotes from all the writers and actors involved with Chappelle's show. It rules, and makes me think a lot about staying up to watch it Wednesday nights in high school and then everyone quoting it for a week straight until the next episode. That's right, I was a part of a cultural revolution, screw the Transformers generation. From the quotes, I feel a little better that I haven't seen Dave do anything since and know how true of a duder he is. There's always South Park that seems like it will be on until I die.

Well this is just turning into my personally bloggy, so it's probably won't be so academic related. I'm sure once I get a job I won't be able to talk about it anyways.

Weak post, tried to find a cool picture and failed hard. Long practice tonight, hopefully it will be scrimmaging.

Friday, September 12, 2008


I can solve it! I joined up! What about YOU? This feels like when I got my scruff mcgruff badge.

The main reason for this post is my bike racing experience that I forgot to put in the last post. So going up Durant yesterday on my way to the gym, there's a rasta dude on a nice bike up way ahead of me, and he starts circling at the next light even though it's green. He starts going back down Durant, which is one way, only to get right behind me. First I thought, 'am I getting jumped? Can I even get jumped when I'm on a bike?'

"Got a thousand dollar frame and *something* shifters, and you tryin to race me uphill?!?"

"What? No man, just going to the gym."

"Race time, man!"

"Nope, there's the gym, sorry dude."

"Ahhhhh, c'mon!"

I would've raced him if the gym hadn't been right there. And then he and I would've sat atop the mountain and told stories as the sun set.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Groups Groups Groups

School is really in full swing. Highlights include always reading, group meetings, and squeezing in research. Dad always said that undergrad was a step up from high school, and grad school was a step up from undergrad. Kind of feels like it right now, good thing there is no pong night this year.

The group projects are starting to solidify in many classes, namely my Civil Systems course. I joined a group proposal that was proposing a life-cycle assessment of beef production. The most immediate issues for us are how to define the scope of the LCA, and what to use as our functional unit. After a quick literature search and read, with the help of Scott Matthews, I think we are most likely to focus on the differences between production and transportation, not going so far as the end-of-life sequence. My Engineering and Business for Sustainability seminar actually turned out to be a small group project, and four of us are looking into sustainable building materials/green design in buildings.

Lemme give you a quick rundown of the nutso gang wars going on in the Mission District. Many recent murders, culminating in this dude. So these bros are gonna throw down with these broskis who are backed by these brosefs. Also, there are south duders against north duders. The Incredibles will still be shown tonight in Dolores Park.

My knee tedinitis flared up at practice last night, but went on a short, hard run today with lots of body weight squats and felt no pain. Sectionals with a Cal split squad this weekend, so that will be a good test of how healed I am. About another month and a half till we are playing together as a full team, which I am very excited for.

Up top is a radio hat niners fan Tubs took a picture of at a preseason game. Go Steelers.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Starting at Cal

I didn't know if I was ever going to start blogging here again, but after I saw Joe up and churned some new things out, I decided to get back into things a little.

Since moving cross country in mid-July, things are just starting to settle down. I had a flurry of visitors and trips for a little, including WUGC's and Yosemite. Myself and Tubs are up top pushing out a set at the top of Half Dome after a crushing night hike. My form sucks.

Research here has centered around creating course modules for the Engineering and Business for Sustainability program here at UC Berkeley. It's gotten pretty challenging as I'm now trying to create lectures for classes and subjects I have very little background in. If any of my many, many readers happens to have some awesome, free sources for Industrial Ecology pleases let me know. I feel lost at times but am now taking it as a challenge and really want to complete my tasks as best I can.

Classes are interesting, I'm taking public health risk assessment, civil systems and the environment (LCA), and lean construction I. I'm allowing myself not to be so focused on construction management and came into each class with no subjective ideas of what I thought would be most interesting to me. I think it will help when I look for jobs and can be much more open to different career paths. I still find myself really drawn to the lean production concepts, and the more I learn about them the more I find it applicable to everything.

One thing that really caught my attention, other than lean things, was during the civil systems course. I was really impressed when looking through past student group reports, and one group did a well thought out criticism of LEED. Using LCA techniques, they argued that the point system even rewards things that are incredibly inefficient in an environmental sense. When looking at the life cycle inventory of a building, worker commutes and materials completely overshadow other aspects such as construction. LEED does not acknowledge this well by awarding points for multiple level parking garages (to reduce land use). Guess I wish I had thought of that.

On a side note, not playing club ultimate this fall and being in a new place has been pretty good to me thus far. Still, I am dying to play, but the knee tendinitis is constantly getting better, and I am getting into a solid workout regime I haven't really had since last summer. And being really, truly excited for college ultimate is something I haven't really had since... um... end post.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

New Cool-Aid

The Journal is over, but I want to keep updating the site with my classes/research. Graduation is next weekend, and I'm done with everything except completing the Design & Construction project. That will be going gun-ho through next week, but I think things will slow down a little after graduation. Gotta find some good sources for posts though.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Journal #28: 12-608 Final Thoughts

As I said in the previous post, I felt like all my classes were very unique this semester. Mostly in a good way. This class and my other engineering courses were such a welcome escape from my awful exposure to the "your project is due this day... oh you actually finished? just kidding now we want you to do more" CFA design policy.

When I was asked how to describe this class by other civ-e's, I usually just said, "it's like another level of intro to environmental." That isn't a very accurate description in many ways. Where intro to environmental really revealed the mathematical, biological, and lab aspects of environmental engineering, 12-608 expanded the breadth of the topic and gave me an strong idea of how the same principles can really be applied to anything. Especially life cycle analysis and sustainability concepts, because now I feel like nothing is environmentally safe anymore. Which isn't as bad as it sounds.

I really liked all the different perspectives that were brought to the class by the students, and I think trying to cross-list the course could be a very good thing to improve the diverse ideas. I agree that having it as a general CIT course wouldn't attract too many students. I thought the homeworks challenged me, but weren't overly frustrating and I often just became engaged and enjoyed them. The project and journals have been fun too, and I was glad that the project did not become some 9 page paper or something.

I thought maybe the grading rubric could have been defined earlier in the class. I also think that the class could still have more defined aspects while still being flexible with the grading. Just forcing the students to make a choice about tests, homework, and projects early in the course could allow this. I know that there was kind of a lack of response when Deanna asked for this input in class, but I think if it is made known to the students that they have to pick now in order to create a rubric there could be more input. I also hate debates and feel very awkward during them, but I think they were good for this class and I learned a lot from it.

Either way, I didn't really find any big faults with the class and always found it enjoyable.

Journal #27: Independent Study Final Thoughts

Gonna put in a couple more entries here and then I don't know what this site will turn into. Probably not as many updates, but still the same earth shaking write ups.

I thought I'd write up some thoughts on my independent study, since I feel like this semester I took four of the most unique and differently structured classes I've ever had. This one, though, really let me feel like I put together a lot of the skills I had developed here at CMU to structure and summarize this study.

Our advisors (mostly Burcu A, somewhat Larry C) want to continue to implement this independent study that myself, Joe N, and Greg G designed for the Design and Construction course. This means that they asked ways that we would change the study for next year.

Immediately, I thought of the constant battle with the students in turning in their timecards. The timecards that we designed allowed us to collect the hours students worked with detailed descriptions weekly. Getting students to turn these in turned out to be a serious problem, and I'm sure much data was lost because students would end up turning them in 3 weeks later in some cases. A couple of whole weeks of data were lost at the end because we had to compile and finish our report.

I also wish I would've researched more management methods, as I feel the scope of the study could definitely be broadened. Hopefully next year the students could immediately use what we've researched so they can find new things to apply. And maybe they will have more help to do it. Maybe something with 4-D or 5-D models (time and money are the other dimenstions)? Hopefully the next students are good with CAD.

Also, I wish I had known more about the laser scanning and its applications. As far as I am aware (I wasn't the one in charge of researching and writing up that part of the report) the laser scanning is a tool in finding discrepancies in designed vs. as built (CAD models vs. scanned data), and can anticipate problems in needed materials. For example, we were short on concrete for the first pour, and Burcu explained to us that the laser scan model could have told us exactly how much concrete was necessary.

Either way, I'm anxious to hear Burcu and Larry's comments. I'll finish up the rest of my entries soon.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Journal #26: JIT and D&C

As I am running out of time and ideas for journal entries, I thought I'd put some more thoughts on the dynamics of the Design and Construction course. I am putting together the final report with my group, which is basically a summary of how we designed our study, what conclusions we drew from the data, and how we'd change the way the study was done for future students (they want to continue this type of study next year).

When I was researching different types of lean construction applications that we could use for the study, I read a lot of The Machine That Changed The World which is a history and analysis of lean production. Lean production is an production management technique, originated in post-WWII Toyota factories, that focuses on minimizing waste and creating flexible manufacturing lines. The concepts promoted by lean construction essentially have made Ford's assembly line obsolete.

One thing that is funny about the D&C class is that many new construction management techniques are used without any real reference to the research being done that promotes these techniques. For example, the D&C project is absolutely a "fast track," where the design process is concurrent with construction. It wasn't even a choice for Larry to design the process like this as there is such little time that construction must be started as soon as possible. Still, concurrent construction practices are changing the bidding and management practices continually.

Another example of this is an application of lean construction/production of "Just In Time" or JIT. JIT promotes efficiently managing your inventory by reducing it as much as possible, and thus reducing waste and saving money. The concept is that new materials arrive just as the previous materials are being used up, so any inventory is used up very quickly. Toyota did this by having majority/partial ownership (daughter companies or something like that) of their direct and most important suppliers.

JIT takes in part in D&C because as soon as we get supplies, they are immediately installed on the site if there is no delay (like today's delay: weather). There is hardly any inventory sitting around, as there is not any room available. Although it could be convenient to have all the supplies sitting waiting for us, it is not feasible. So deliveries must be scheduled with the week's work, and the work is dependent on the delivery being on time.

Think this is a legitimate comparison? Maybe throw it in the report? Maybe not, but I could look good in front of my advisor for bringing it up.

Journal #25: Johnny Lee at TED

Carnegie Mellon researcher Johnny Lee recently made a presentation at one of the famous Technology, Entertainment, and Design exhibits. Lee is known widely for his hacks of the Wii remote for many different uses (multitouch display, whiteboard, mounted head gear...). Moreover, he is a guy of seemingly endless talents, which is apparent at his site Little Great Ideas. Either way, you can watch the TED presentation here.

After watching you kind of get a feeling of how great it is to see someone who absolutely loves their work, and is mostly free from any sort of industry desires. My favorite quote, after discussing how quickly the video gaming companies incorporated his work, was "i was just pretty excited to see some sweet new games."

This is also pretty interesting to me as I had to take an architecture course this semester (to fill my CIT depth requirement as their LEED class got cancelled 5 days before classes started!) and I learned to do things like create my own infrared pen or headset with relative ease (check out some of my projects). I had watched Lee's YouTube videos at the start of the semester, and never dreamed of making something like the headset or pen, but now it seems like a weekly assignment.

Lee's comments on the influence of video sharing communities like YouTube are also insightful, and are relevant to the blogging community too. It's also funny to me that this ability to share ideas and commentary can receive serious backlash from professionals. The one I'm most familiar, mostly because I read a lot of them, are sports bloggers. There is constant criticism from professional sports journalists that these are untrained writers who know nothing of professional courtesy/code. Still, the bloggers argue (and many of the best ones are the ones that actually are professional journalists in other subjects) that they provide a unique perspective that most everyone else has; watching their t.v., talking with their friends, and reading articles. I find myself much more attached to my blogs now than anything written in Sports Illustrated.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Journal #24: Precautionary Principle, Risk Assessment Systems

There was a ton of confusion in class today about what the Precautionary Principle actually was, but I felt pretty clear on it from the reading. Before I start, lemme give a little definition so as not to confuse myself as I continue on through this post, and I hope I'm somewhat right here. The Precautionary Principle is a method that allows for the prevention of possibly harmful acts or actions based on portions, but not concrete evidence that has associated uncertainty. So there is a controversy whether laws should be enacted based on absolute final evidence, that could have resulted in damage that cannot be reversed, or some uncertain evidence, where evidence could be proven wrong in the future.

The most important point that was brought up was that a system should be put in place to try and limit the uncertainty. This way, when a potential act is being reviewed, a review board or something can quantify the uncertainty. So if an energy company's review board is looking at a new material that could be used as fuel, they could have an Life Cycle Analysis system to base their decision on. Obviously all risk is not going to be able to be found, but performing proper risk assessment through a predefined system that has been proven to work often.

Also, since there is no way that all uncertainty can be accounted for, the discussion came down to deciding what to design for. This is constantly a common theme, and guess what, happens to be the subject of my first and a few other of my journal entries. Sounds like it will constantly be a decision wrestled with in engineering.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Journal #23: Aldo Leopold Legacy Center

That article below I posted on the top ten green buildings actually had a linked case study to one of the buildings, so I decided to read into it and do a little analysis of why it was at the top of the list. The Center is a meeting place and archives center in the name and death place of the founder of the modern conservation movement.

Immediately visible is that this building received a highest Platinum level rating in LEED with 61 points, so they went above and beyond as only 52 points is required for Platinum and 69 is the most possible.

The design greatly minimizes energy and water use, but those most interesting aspect to me was that the construction was based on obtaining materials directly from the site. The construction process was then very different, as all woodwork and material fabrication was done completely on site. It was also very dependent on volunteer work, which I'm sure made the process frustrating for any planner, but was central in the effort to involve the community as much as possible. Also, 95% of the construction material was recycled. I wonder how hard it is to organize an effort like that, as waste is very, very apparent on any construction site. But on a small project like this I'm sure it was easy to keep track of the material, and if everyone is of a single mindset of the goal of the project (as the volunteers would be), it could be easy.

This underlines the point that if the workers, the employees on the lowest level and on the frontline, that construction could be much more environmental friendly.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Gates Center Blows It

AIA/COTE Announces 2008 Top Ten Green Projects.

Way to go jerks.

Journal #22: Sustainability with D&C??

Deanna's comments on the Life Cycle Analysis implications of materials used in construction, which is a lot of what my research will be centered around next year, had me wondering about the implications of those used in the current Design and Construction class. Since I was able to pull another 9 units from this class with an independent study, another study could be performed by students (maybe just for 3 or 6 units as a mini) to evaluate the sustainability aspects of the final "as-built" design. They could even throw in the theoretical score from the current LEED rating system! Or I guess I could do that myself for this year, but that sounds like a lot added work. Well, not really, but enough work that I wouldn't do it unless I got paid somehow.

This had me wondering even more how different a design process it would have been if someone like EPP or CEE had been the client instead of MSE (Materials Science Engineering). The design this year had students pitching different concepts that they believed would appeal to the client, such as different metals or shapes that applied to carbon atoms. CEE was the client twice before, but that was for a concrete lab and loading dock, which I don't think was centered around sustainability or an exceedingly environmental design. It would be interesting if the client did want detailed presentations on the material being used and how it centered around sustainability. Seems like the construction process could be very different as well and challenging.

So, when one of the D&C classes is faced with this, here's my hint. Good luck.

Journal #21: LEED and Employee Conditions

After reading the paper on small and medium sized enterprises' (SMES) investment in environmental measures, I again thought of another way for LEED to add to their construction management rating system. The paper focuses on the concept that SMES can benefit greatly from investing as worker conditions are improved as a result, and can increase productivity and attitude.

As I have discussed before, LEED does take some measures to address worker conditions such as points for air quality control (HVAC) and dust control. Still, this is standard practice at most sites I feel, and LEED could look into promoting further worker protection. This is hard to do on a construction site, as work is very driven with few breaks during the day. And since construction is mostly outside there is not much to improve upon with worker environment, along with AASHTO regulating safety conditions. So, as I can't really think of any right now, LEED should give double points for that super creative project manager who thinks of a great way to improve worker conditions.

It also occurred to me that LEED could even strive to make an entirely separate distinctions for the construction of a building and the design aspects of a building, as they are entirely different process, though often linked. This could spawn a whole slew of contractors who promote their adherence to LEED practices.

Now it feels like I am really reaching to find LEED criticisms, and maybe I should start pulling together my arguments for my final project.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Journal #20 - Design and Construction Division of Work

Since Deanna said people had been posting random things in their blog and that this was ok, I am going to write a little about the independent study I am performing this semester. Myself and two other masters students, Joe N and Greg G, are collecting data from the Design and Construction class regarding old and new construction management practices. The study is split into three parts: production rates, laser scanning, and percent project complete. The production rates are divided into what we have defined as indirect and direct work, and are compiled weekly from timecards submitted by each student. The percent project complete, which has only had data for the past 4 weeks, gauges how much (percent) each predefined weekly activity is completed by the end of the week. The laser scanning is a way to compare what the actual site resembles in comparison with CAD models (designed vs. as built).

As of now, we have only collected and compiled data, mostly regarding the production rates. But soon we need to start drawing conclusion, which our advisor wants in the form of recommendations on how we would improve the division of work or scheduling. This, I feel, is very hard with such an atypical project, and also hard as Larry Cartwright (the class professor) has molded this class's structure over many, many years.

What, from my understanding, has been different about this year's class so far has been the lack of presence of Larry in the construction aspect. This is mostly due to the experience of Brandon B, the construction manager (one of two or three student leads in the class.) Construction is scheduled daily, with the construction manager communicating via email or phone with those currently on the construction team what needs to be done the next day. The project manager (me) schedules weekly meetings with Larry, the construction manager, and another student on the scheduling team (which is just a team of two). The designated activities for the next week are determined at this meeting, and Larry can discuss how these tasks are to be completed.

I think that after these initial meetings the construction manager could meet with the construction team, or at least a core of them, so everyone is completely aware of what needs to be done. There is always a general idea, but it is commonplace that time is taken everyday to discuss how the activities are to be completed, and often these are unfocused conversation without the attention of everyone who should be aware (like me). A centralized meeting that is focused could be helpful in this regard.

Any suggestions would be very helpful, it is really tough to offer improvements to the management in this class.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Journal #19: Another LEED Idea

Since meeting with Deanna, and setting my goal on finding as many solutions for implementing more green practices in construction through LEED as my final project, my journal entries will kind of be more and more focused on LEED subjects. At some point (soon) I will start tabulating my problems with the current LEED construction ratings or lack thereof. So in this post I am going to present a couple of ideas that I think could LEED could incorporate in their New Construction rating system.

Innovation in Design is definitely an integral part of the LEED rating system, where architects and designers can headline the green aspect of their building through some unique design aspect. In all my project management/construction courses, value engineering, or finding a better solution than what was planned, has always been highlighted as a staple of a good estimator, planner, or scheduler in construction. LEED could encourage new construction green practices by rewarding them in the rating system. It isn't far fetched at all, as I've already discussed new environmentally friendly aspects of building information management (BIM).

Another concept I thought of was, if LEED starts using regional rating systems, that certain construction practices should be required/encouraged based on location. Temperature, materials availability, rain/sun... these are aspects that could definitely be taken into account when designing a construction system, which I am sure is already commonplace among many regional contractors. Either way, construction practices should absolutely be considered when thinking of regional rating systems.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Journal #18: Wal-Mart's Energy Efficient Stores

I think I remember saying somewhere in some blog entry where I had never seen any efforts at any of the construction sites I have worked at to promote green buildings and green practices. This is because they were mostly mall and housing type sites. Maybe this was due to my assumptions or some sort of construction site prejudice, but I don't think any of the sites really did have any aspirations for that.

However, when I was at a Lowe's construction site, there was a Wal-Mart being finished next door. It seemed like mostly detail and interior work, so I couldn't see much, but I wouldn't have expected their environmental building practices to be any different than a place like Lowe's (which seemed non-existent).

Well, I came across a blog post that mentioned Wal-Mart introducing a second generation of energy efficient stores. So I checked out the Wal-Mart press release on the first generation of these stores introduced, the first one being a "superstore" in Kansas City. It sounds like, along with some choice materials such as LEDs, the main focus was on heating and air-conditioning (HVAC), and the refrigeration system.

I didn't read anything about LEED certification or any goals to obtain it, but I'm sure had Wal-Mart achieved LEED status in buildings it probably would have received more press... which is too bad, because it sounds like Wal-Mart is doing very good things for a large corporation that expands their store numbers constantly. Hopefully there could be some sort of way for LEED to certify large chains of buildings like this, or recognize them in someway.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Journal #17: Environmental Practices in Construction - LEED

I am going to use this journal entry as another step in my independent project of a summary, analysis, etc... of current environmental practices in construction. In an earlier post, I discussed AASHTO's efforts to educate workers and foreman to create more environmental conscious sites through the daily inhabitants. I took a look at the LEED rating system again and summarized what I thought were the aspects that were directly related to construction management.

SS Prereq. 1: Construction Activity Pollution Prevention

This is a required part of gaining a LEED certification which states that there must be a certain level of soil control: soil water runoff, dust control, and soil reuse. This, I feel, is almost mandatory at every construction site. Even at the strip mall sites I worked at over the summer soil was always reused as part of cut/fill or sold to other sites, and dust/runoff control were absolutely necessary in order to gain construction approval from the local government. Any complaints from the community would immediately result in problems for scheduling (noisy/dusty night shifts were shut down). So this isn't asking too much of a contractor to comply with.

MR Credit 2.1: Construction Waste Management: Divert 50% From Disposal

This credit is worth 1 point and promotes attention in waste management during construction. It requires that 50% of all non-hazardous construction and demolition debris be salvaged or recycled. This is definitely a good point, as a construction manager would have to plan and implement a series of standards that all parts of the project would comply to in order to meet this waste quota. However, get a construction manager who is good enough at debating and he/she could convince the US Green Building Council that recycling is less environmentally sound than landfilling. Look out LEED, Carnegie Mellon's life cycle analysis is about to slap you in the face.

MR Credit 2.2: Divert 75% From Disposal

Just an extension of MR 2.1, and adding another point if you are a better recycler... but is there any room for source reduction efforts in construction? I guess that just falls under the category of "salvaged materials."

EQ Credit 3.1: Construction IAQ (Indoor Air Quality) Management Plan: During Construction

This credit focuses promoting better air quality for construction workers during construction, which ultimately leads over to better air quality for the permanent occupants. The requirements include protecting absorptive materials from moisture damage, air filtration control (if applicable), and sheet metal/air conditioning standards. The filtration systems must be replaced before any occupancy, and includes proper control of the HVAC system. The credit seems like another valid point, and could create a better work environment possibly resulting in increased productivity. There is a related credit that has to do with IAQ for pre-occupancy that involves a flush out, with fresh air, of the building before occupancy, or air testing.

That was all I could find that cited the construction process in the new construction rating system. However, I was told by my advisor for next year that there was little being implemented by construction organizations for environmental practices, and to look through published papers which is my next step.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Journal #16: Green Practices Using BIM

I've been checking up on the news releases at, and read an article about the new efforts to make building information modeling (BIM) compatible with energy modeling practices. The two major forces in BIM software are Autodesk (Revit, Autocad) and Bentley Systems, and both have recently acquired software companies that incorporate energy modeling. As BIM has been presented to me in classes, it focuses on recognizing problems in the 3D design (such as a pipe going through a column) and site layout (wrong elevations or materials). This is supposed to create a 'smart' CAD model that finds problems before they are encountered in construction and end up costing money and time (which is ultimately more money).

For Bentley, this is primarily going to be done through Hevacomp, Ltd., technologies that analyze materials for structural integrity and load capacity. They also analyze materials for amounts of carbon and provide energy-use simulations. Autodesk has also acquired two companies; one that specializes in translating BIM data into energy-use models and another that also analyzes building materials but provides other information such as indoor pollutant concentrations.

I had never really thought of BIM having energy and environmental elements, but now it seems like a very logical step. I know a lot of large contractors (PJ Dick, Turner) try to incorporate BIM into every project possible, but receive some reluctance from subcontractors, and almost every architecture firm (The PJ Dick speaker had said they have not received cooperation from a single architecture firm.) The new energy and environmental aspects I doubt will have an impact on the number of cooperating subcontractors, but possibly could lure architecture firms if they are keen on marketing themselves as eco-friendly designers. Also I began to think if this could be incorporated in LEED, and got very excited at the prospect of using BIM and LEED together, as the 3D model could become a calculator for how environmental sound your materials and design are.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Journal #15: Oil Sands, Corn Ethanol

The past two classes have seemingly made the outlook on the possibilities for alternative energy sources bleak. It has become more clear to me over the semester that almost any new energy source, waste management method, or emissions reducer can be proven to be just as harmful to the environment/economy as the previous method using Life Cycle Analysis.

Corn Ethanol is easily marketed as environmentally friendly and clean with agriculture being the primary source, although a large amount of energy is necessary in the entire fermenting/refining process. Although it is incredible that we are able harness substantial amounts of energy from my favorite popped snack, it reminds me of reading Grapes of Wrath in 10th grade. From the estimation calculations we performed in class, it doesn't seem remotely possible to produce a large enough amount of crops to make this a sustainable alternative.

Oil Sands, one of the major facets in reducing our dependency on middle east oil sources, was presented as deceptive in that the refining process is more harmful to the environment than the current resources. To me, it reinforced the urgency that must be placed on reducing the dependency on oil, mainly in transportation vehicles. I always felt that as a nation our continuing and increasing dependency came through constant reinforcement that cars, buses, and trucks were absolutely necessary parts of society. Giant roadways and suburban living areas are constantly expand and further underline the need for a vehicle to earn a comfortable living and lifestyle.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Journal #14: Carbon Capture and Storage

I couldn't think of a lot to write about after today's class on LCA end-of-life implications, so I went back to the Steinbrenner Institute faculty presentations and took a look at Prof. Edward Rubin's presentation on CO2 emissions. The powerpoint focuses first on the generation of CO2 as it is by far the greatest concentration of any of the greenhouse gases emitted each year. He shows that, as a nation, we are poised to increase the use of CO2 34% by 2030 as coal burning continues to increase as an energy provider.

He shows that vehicles and power plants are the bulk of the products and services generating CO2, and presents some alternatives in reducing emissions: alternative energy, housing changes, reshaping infrastructure... all of which would require massive changes to produce a significant change taking a long time.

The optimal solution, Rubin argues, is Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), a method of capturing CO2 used in power plants and returning the emissions to deep underground areas where carbon has been depleted (such as oil wells that have been tapped). This saves significantly on energy along with reducing emissions from the largest sector of CO2 generation.

Immediately I was interested in comparing the effect of CO2 emissions (from coal burning) to some other form of energy generation, such as nuclear power. Would the complete life cycle analysis of both energy generations be comparable? Or would CO2 stand out as much more hazardous to our environment? Since the presentation is limited to the environmental effects of CO2 emissions, I think that this type of LCA would also be limited in the same way.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Journal #13: LEED Innovation in Design

I found an article at that discusses some new problems with the LEED rating system in promoting innovation in green design. One of the staples of the LEED rating system is the ambiguous "innovation in design" which a building can earn up to four points on. When this point was asked about in class, someone said that "innovation in design" could be as simple making a furniture out of used soda cans. This specifically entails products that have zero net greenhouse gases. One example that I found was FLOR, which uses specialty materials for tiles and other flooring materials.

This article discusses how just recently, after pleads from LEED designers, released compiled information of the products that were created to achieve these points:
For years, designers have been pleading for a more accessible list of previously approved innovations. Why force everyone to reinvent the wheel? If the point of LEED is to help the industry as a whole innovate its way to greener buildings, shouldn't USGBC be doing all it can to share that information?
This is another example of USGBC being a little behind in evolving LEED and tailoring it to designers instead of creating a rigid system that does not promote the concept of green buildings as well as it could. LEED could allocate a standard amount of points for a building using an existing product that is considered in innovation in design, and could allocate more points if the chosen innovation in design is newly created or the first to be used in the new construction. Maybe further incentives could be awarded to designer (non-building) companies that want to promote their products as innovation in design products, furthering the concept of green design and stretching the reach of LEED.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Journal #12: Greening Pittsburgh, Incentives

I read the article put up on the course website about Pittsburgh's plan to enact environment friendly legislation. I saw a lot of things I had not thought about, such as hybrid government vehicles and rubber sidewalks, and am glad to see Pittsburgh at least aggressively talking about making changes. Also, the help of outside organizations such as the Sierra Club helping in preparing possible actions things could really start improving.

One thing I did not agree with Mr. Peduto on was his idea of creating incentives for people who make environmentally friendly decisions. I think it could anger a lot of people if there is suddenly special parking spots for people driving hybrids. Something like tax breaks sounds much more subtle and less likely to draw a ton of attention, but could be very effective nonetheless. What he talked about sounded more like handing someone who biked to work or carpooled a dollar everyday publicly. Although that would show that the city is very serious to a lot of people, I think it could end up making some of the more economically challenged city members resentful.

On a side note, I loved the idea of rubber sidewalks. I had never even thought of that. But it reminded me about how much I liked playgrounds with rubber decking when I was a kid because it really reduced the impact. Using different sidewalk material made me think about this blurb I found in the LEED Pro blog about compressed earth blocks. I wonder if something like this could be used as well.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

More Dr. Deez In Your Face

Here's a sweet story that completely changed my view of civil engineering forever.

We were at the "Welcome to the Department" sophmore dinner, and I was talking to Dr. Dzombak with Chris Watts. Initially, he was telling us how "we are really going to enjoy the program here" and that "there are so many opportunities for civils right now." Tell me something I don't know buddy. Somehow we got on the topic of the hurricane (Katrina) that, at the time, was 2 weeks away from hitting New Orleans.

Dr. Dzombak predicts that no one is even close to realizing how devastating this storm is going to be. Two weeks ahead! Dr. Doomsdaybak went on to discuss how inept we are at planning to not see the catastrophe that would absolutely occur at a harbor metropolis built below sea level. Then he called out "and just wait until L.A. is leveled by an earthquake." You heard it here first.

I think Chris left the conversation at this point, there were good free appetizers and Dr. Dzombak was on a mission to ruin appetites. And this is when he spat out by far my favorite quote I have ever heard since studying civil engineering:

"You know, people think of technology as televisions, cell phones, computers... What they need is Civil Engineering technology. That's technology that's saving lives."
And then this caterer who had been eavesdropping on our conversation accidentally spilled the punch everywhere. Just kidding. Maybe. But he definitely did drop his humanities major and rethought his entire life.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Journal #11: LEED rating problems

First of all, I'd like to note that since this class started, I now subscribe to the LEED Pro and Treehugger blogs. Both haven't given me much to think about yet in application to this class.

I thought after Tuesday's class that I'd write a little more about the problems we discussed in the LEED certification system. I wrote down a bunch of them as I thought about it, so I will just run through them quickly here:

  1. The point values are all equal, which allows designers to neglect some of the more challenging possible aspects of design for LEED certification.
  2. The current levels of certification have large ranges at the gold and platinum levels, and we can assuming that designers will probably only aim at the minimum for each of those levels as it could only cost more to achieve more.
  3. The certification system does not take into account design aspects that could be more crucial geographically. For example, in Arizona a design could get more points for water conservation and solar power use instead of alternative transportation.
  4. Mary mentioned that the county she lives in has started to make LEED certification for new buildings a requirement. I had never heard of this before and think that it could be a very valuable tool to have government support. This doesn't mean simply government LEED requirements as in Mary's example, but tax breaks and other incentives could be initiated.
  5. This past summer I worked at 5 different construction sites, most of them being commercial strip malls (walmart, lowes, etc..) and it was apparent that LEED was not on anyone's mind. The designs for these types of buildings are continual reused, and it could be incredibly beneficial for these types of companies to start requiring it in design.
Points 1-3 directly relate to the rating system, and 4-5 are just aspects that I think could greatly enhance the reach of the LEED system. I think that points 1 and 3 are the most important, and I would think that these should be the first changes in the system. When thinking about it, having an equal point spread seems very simplistic, and it's incredibly surprising that the U.S. Green Building Council hasn't done anything to change this yet. Hopefully we can see something like this implemented soon, and as LEED grows it could start to have smaller governing bodies in different regions who could control the local rating system.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Journal #10: Dr. Deez

I was struggling to find interesting things to read about, no thanks to crappy blogs, and decided to check out the Steinbrenner Institute at CMU's webpage. Eventually I found the faculty presentations, and was immediately drawn to finally reading some of Dr. Dzombak's work. This particular one was a report on his study of the Mississippi River and its relationship with the Clean Water Act.

Initially, it is made clear just how substantial the effects Mississippi River reach. The MR basin covers 50% of the continental U.S, mostly the eastern half of the country. The water discharge and quality are primarily controlled by man made levees and dams. The Upper MR is much bigger than the Lower MR, which results in different structures controlling the water flow.

The introduction of these man made structures has created a significant change in the distribution of sediment along the MR. Sediment has been forced into tributaries and areas where there was once little or none, and has dissipated from the main portion of the MR where it had once been greatest. The average nitrate content has steadily increased, due to agriculture (nonpoint) sources in the basin, that has resulted in a greater area of low dissolved oxygen.

The Clean Water Act requires regulations on water quality and is enforced by the EPA, but because the MR is so large, it is difficult for the EPA to coordinate this effort on a whole. The presentation criticizes the EPA as it has not acted to coordinate the different state regulatory efforts under one single entity.

It is clear that what one state may stress on regulating one contaminant, when overlooking another that becomes problematic at lower parts of the river, especially the Gulf of Mexico. The UMR and LMR both have different levels for interstate cooperation, but the LMR states have a much narrower focus and are not as well organized and able to regulate the entire region as a whole. The study stresses that LMR creates a better entity, and that the EPA helps this by coordinating both organizations then. This combined with better regulatory efforts by the EPA and work with the USDA in conservation methods are the key recommendations.

Being exposed to the efforts in regulating the entire MR as a whole makes me wonder how things are regulated on a smaller scale. The report cites the efforts in the Chesapeake Bay as something to model. It would be beneficial to see how the Ohio River is regulated and if it has similar coordination efforts.

Maybe Next Year Pittsburgh

I think this is what the Pirates' owner said after we lost in the NLCS in 1993... and then we went on our 15 year journey of blowing. But really, Pittsburgh didn't make the top 50 in Popular Science's "America's 50 Greenest Cities." Portland now has Greg Oden, and consistency across the board baby!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Journal #9: Power Mac G4 Assessment

I checked out one of the articles that I hadn't read posted on the course webpage which was an environmental assessment of the Power Max G4 released in 1999. This, I assumed, was the first G4 model since the model was manufactured between 1999-2004.

The reading first states that it is not a complete life cycle analysis, but a focus on the product's environmental impact in its use stage. I was a little leery of the study's neutrality, as I figured the authors were consultants hired by Apple. But they presented several areas where the product could be upgraded as challenges for the future, mostly concerning the hazardous materials used in the product.

There are three areas the reading cites as significant improvements in desktop computers at the time: energy consumption, materials, and repairability. Where the G4 showed the greatest achievements were in its energy consumption as its maximum power usage was 75% below the Energy Star requirements at the time. This is due to its ability to use only 5 watts of power during sleep mode. The G4 has a greatly reduced number of components in the model, as well as making many of the parts easily repairable. This saves in the amount of material used along with customers being able to repair the product more often than just having to scrap it.

This is a great example of what we talked about in class, along with one of my earlier posts, about choosing what to design for. In this case, we can assume that there was a heavy focus on reducing the energy use and materials waste in the design phase of the product, although there could be other aspects that were not discussed in the study. I went to apple's environment site to learn a little more about what they focus on now, and it appears that from the design to the end-of-life, environmental aspects are continually considered.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Journal #8: Democratic Candidates on Environmental Issues

I don't really pay that much attention to the election, which is definitely a bad thing. So other than gagging at the video of Hildog (Hillary) crying, and listening to Obama's way too long speeches that I don't have the attention span for, I decided to check out some of their recent environmental stances.

A friend had originally told me that both candidates had avoided the topic of global warming and the environment, and that Hillary had only discussed the issue when confronted with an inquiry in public. I searched google news for Obama and Clinton environmental articles, but you have to search for global warming in order to find anything related. I found an article from the Baltimore Sun on Obama's recent speech at the University of Maryland. Maryland is a state that is dramatically feeling the effects of sea levels rising as islands and lands are slowly disappearing.

Obama is focusing on reducing emissions from greenhouse gases, and a staple point of this is putting caps on industry emissions and requiring all vehicles to have a MPG of at least 40. This, he proclaims, will cut our dependency on foreign oil drastically.

How feasible is this? By just looking at GMC's website, one of their largest SUVs, the Yukon, has recently been made into a hybrid. What are the changes? A maximum MPG of 17 is now 22 (on highways). With Americans and American car companies continuing to produce large vehicles, this seems to be a hard task.

Hildog lays out a plan that is much the same, focusing on emissions, green low-income housing, 50$ billion in research money, and increasing vehicle efficiency to 55(!) MPG by 2030. First of all, the 55 MPG seems drastic, and pretty far fetched as it could be 15 years after Hillary could be out of office. The research fund seems like a feasible plan, although I am not one to boast about my knowledge on government funding allocations. Probably the most appealing thing, and least likely to happen, on her list to me is the low-income green housing which she hopes to create jobs and spread environmental awareness with.

Still, I would be happy to see maybe 20% of the promises being made on the candidates list to actually happen. It is safe to say that my expectations are low, but I will choose the best of the worst.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Charlie Batch: "Steelers Rule, Patriots (aka youth crime and dropping out of high school) Suck!"

So here's how it went down:

T-Bone: "What's up bro, remember that sick touchdown pass you had to Quincy Morgan??"
Charlie Batch: "Dude I rule. Now grab some girls we are headed to Diesel VIP... bottle service."

thanks to the jerk wearing a giant jacket and taking up the bottom left corner.

Well, actually, C Batch came to CMU to talk about his work in Homestead for the Batch Foundation which promotes after school activities and good grades, mostly through sports. I showed up, with one other person out of about 50, in my steelers jersey and terrible towel. He also answered a bunch of steeler questions, and had a bunch of good stories about the super bowl season, bettis, cowher...

My questions was "What is the biggest difference in playing for Cowher and Tomlin?" He kind of skirted around the answer and said Tomlin was just more reserved but had the same desire. The other great question, asked by Chris Watts was "How happy were the Steelers that the Patriots lost the Super Bowl?" This question was also not answered very directly, but he did confirm "I was happy."

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Journal #7: Environmental Assessment of Used Oil Management

I was referred to a paper written by one of the professors I will likely be working for next year, Arpad Horvath. It was a detailed Life Cycle Analysis of used oil management in California. The study focused on the three major management methods of combustion, rerefining, and distilling. The limits of the LCA were placed on the end-of-life phase to concentrate on generated wastes and emissions.

Used oil has significantly higher amounts of heavy metals, sulfur, and total halogens when compared to crude oil. It is generated by the transportation, construction, and industrial sectors, where it is then processed through one of the management methods and used as fuel, lubrication, or in other materials production such as asphalt.

Combustion is the most common method of management (75% of used oil). Combustion creates the least amount of waste, but results in much higher emissions of heavy metals when compared to the other management methods. This is the most hazardous risk to human health, and is not nearly as evident in rerefining and distilling. Still, combustion is the cheapest, easiest way to manage used oil which is reflected by its popularity.

The authors then advise that the best option is to take measures to increase management in rerefining and distilling. Already, California is planning to double its rerefining operations. Incentives could be created to reward alternate management methods (other than combustion).

This journal entry was more of a summary of a technical study than an analysis, and allowed me to get a chance to dissect a very detailed report by myself. It gave a better understanding of what goes into a full LCA, and its many applications in environmental engineering.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Journal #6: Urban Farming

Since urban farming was a popular topic in class yesterday, I decided to look it up online. I had no real previous knowledge of urban farming except for communal gardens, but those are only meant as a space for those who don't have lawns or garden areas (apartments).

So the first hit on google was the wikipedia article, which had limited cited sources and was marked as biased. Still it presented a lot of the basic principles of urban farming that we talked about in class. Urban farming, it reads, is geared to increasing city food supplies, providing much need jobs, making the urban public more environmentally conscious, and reducing land usage (deforestation or habitat destruction for farm use).

The intentions are great and the goals seem simple enough but not obtainable on the level that the article describes. Impacting a whole city's food supply does not seem feasible with the land available within city limits. Families with yards seems like a possibility if they are very dedicated, but I don't see how this could branch out much more without decreasing park space. Just thinking of a place like New York City being able to significantly increase their food supplies based on urban farming seems very far fetched. Probably it's most realistic and beneficial aspect could be the environmental awareness it creates, and employing youth participation could be the biggest its biggest impact on the future.

I read one of the links at the bottom of the page that introduced "Skyfarming", where a farm, using hydroponic techonology, is grown vertically to reduce land usage. The hope is that someday someone generates the funding to create largescale vertical farm (a farm skyscraper). This type of farming can create clean energy, purify wastewater, create consistency in food supplies (eliminating dangerous "rogue" strains), and would be all-organic. Something this seems so futuristic that it can seem unbelievable, but appears that with real funding could achieve the goals of urban farming within the small amounts of land available in a city.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Journal #5: LEED Schools Program

So after learning a little more about LEED at the Focus the Nation lectures, I decided I should become way more acquainted with some of their practices. This was a goal of mine from the beginning of the semester as I was registered to take the Archie LEED course which was dropped a week before classes further reinforcing my distrust for their profession.

I checked the U.S. Green Buildings Council website and took a look at the only presentation I could get to work on my computer. It was a powerpoint on LEED certification in U.S. Schools. First I was unaware that schools were the greatest economic sector of the construction industry in 2007. However, most of the schools are built only to meet requirements and are subject to continual expensive maintenance practices. With about 20% of the population spending 6 hours a day in schools, it seems that much attention could be given to make the schools more accommodating.

So then they pitch the usual LEED buildings things of reducing waste, energy consumption, and making a more naturally comfortable environment. The effects on the building users are what I felt would be most different in schools than other LEED buildings. The presentation boasts that LEED schools have a 3% increase in user productivity and a 3% decrease in teacher turnover. I don't really feel that these will be the most beneficial effects. It would be interesting to see if there was a real decrease in high school dropouts in a school that was recently upgraded into meeting a lot of LEED standards. Also, I feel the greatest benefit would be the early environmental education that the LEED building would reinforce for students. At an early age kids could be fully aware of our environmental problems and what needs to be done to change things, and hopefully this could make an entire generation environmentally conscious from the start. This could trickle out to parents and communities easily, even though the change would be slow. This aspect goes along with my other post of how AASHTO is trying to educate the worker, not the manager. It is more important to educate on the seemingly lesser scale to really see an impact.

The LEED dudes also cite that meeting standards reduces costs by $100,000 a year on average. Although this is a great pitch, it might just result in government reduction of the education budget, which would be a tragedy. Still, I am glad to see the USGBC striving to see change in the schools.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Really Dumb People

Overheard in squirrel hill brueggers:

Lady #1: "I should see some of the [Oscars] best picture nominees."

Lady #2: "Yeah, I really should see 'There Will Be Blood.'"

Lady #3: "No, no. I hated it! Too dark for me. I didn't really get it. But you know what was great? Juno!"

And then I threw my everything bagel at her face, high fived the cashier, and chugged a beer next door at silky's.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Journal #4: Green Practices at CMU

I went to the 1:30 "Focus the Nation" lecture on LEED buildings and green practices on campus. The LEED presentation was interesting and the speaker (Azziz from Architecture) was entertaining, although he hadn't checked to see if his powerpoint would look ok on a pc, so things were a little screwy.

Going along with my last post, apparently a lot of the LEED certification deals with how the building is constructed and site maintenance. So that is another step, although I am sure that the center for intelligent design people will say it is not even close to what we should be doing. I have never been on any sort of enviro-friendly construction site, and hope that that changes soon so I can gain a better understanding.

The other half of the lecture was the head of the Green Practices on campus committee speaking about the unseen everyday practices that CMU implements. One of the listeners (an art student) was particular concerned with our current dining services waste. His point was that we are doing nothing to try and reduce waste at many of the campus dining services, and that a lot of the materials were unnecessary (polystyrene, paper, plastic...). His solutions were to think about having each student use their own dishes and be responsible for washing them, or to have them be washed at the end by dining serives, just that the same set was available for use again by the same student everytime.

Immediately I saw several (gigantic) flaws in this highly conceptual plan. The speaker was quick to point out that recently steps have been already made to reduce waste by students, as the cafeteria style Schatz has dishes and silverware that are washed and reused every meal. The speaker also pointed out that there is no way that a student having a single set or being responsible for washing could pass health codes.

I felt the student was not really choosing a solution that could really be pitched to a large body of users. I can't imagine the entire student body thinking that this was a better solution. Also, after our life cycle classes and paper vs. polystyrene readings, I think a strong case could be made that maybe the current food container use might not be that bad when looking at the entire life of the dishes vs. current containers. With the present dining system on campus it would be very hard to try and switch to dishes. Schatz is unique in that its location is optimal to have a cafeteria style without too much hassle in chasing down students that might walk off with dishes. The rest of the campus would be difficult to enforce such a system, the only other place I could see it working is in the Tepper eatery.

Maybe the entire dining system could use a complete makeover, as I never really liked the food as a freshman and was very anxious to get off of the meal plan. Then it could be possible to make a switch to dishes, but I don't think it would be economical without first looking at a total analysis of the possible cases.