- Most importantly is your safety. Be sure to wear appropriate protection such as a hard hat, construction boots, yellow safety vest and safety glasses.
- Make an appointment with the contractor/management and be familiar with the overall layout, prior to your visit. Upon arrival check in with the construction site supervisor.
- Take photographs of the construction site and make field notes of your observations. Don’t forget to document date, time, project name and whom you met.
- Take along a 25-foot tape measure for field dimensions and a flash light for enclosed rooms that may not have electricity.
- The general contractor has authority and responsibility for the job site, therefore don’t direct workers, get in a debate or offer advice. It is best to state the purpose of your visit, make observations and be courteous
Advances in imagining and sonic technology have long been embraced by engineers and are being used every day to help evaluate buildings and building systems. These gadgets can allow for an in-depth, minimally invasive, and cost-effective inspection with rapid results. Plus, it is fun to pull out a toy that you might see in an action movie to help figure out a problem. The following are found in most local consultant’s arsenals.
- Thermal Camera – Police, military, and ghost hunters use them and so do engineers. Infrared thermography allows us to “see” hot and cold areas and can allow for a rapid scan of a room, roof, electrical panel, radiator, or a building façade for thermal anomalies. These normally are found to be air and water leaks and help pinpoint locations that should be inspected more thoroughly. Blue areas are cold and red are hot.
- Drones – Unmanned flying aircraft now are easier to maneuver and can take high resolution digital video and photos, which allows for the inspection of a roof or building exterior when access is extremely difficult or limited. Government regulations are still in a state of flux related to this equipment, but the rules are getting clearer as time goes on.
- Ground Penetrating Radar – The same technology that allows police to scan a field for objects buried underground is used by engineers to emulate Superman and see what is in concrete. The 3-D version can generate an image of what is embedded in a concrete slab.
Impact-Echo – This device uses a special hammer and sound waves to measure the thickness of concrete and find buried defects that are not visible to the human eye by simply tapping the surface.
Moisture Meter – Used to measure the moisture content of wood, drywall, and other building materials to help narrow down if a water leak is active and where it may be coming from.
- Boroscope – Spy movies show the hero inserting a fiber optic cable under a door or through an air vent to look into a room. Engineers use this same technology to look behind walls or under floors by drilling a small hole instead of making a large opening.
Infrared Thermometer – Allows an inspector to determine the temperature of an object without touching it. This is especially useful when checking to see if a wall is warm enough to be painted.
- Ultrasonic Thickness Gauge – Measures the wall thickness of pipes or other metal objects using sound waves to help determine if they are corroded/damaged, inside, without having to remove a piece of the material.
While technology is great, we do not rely exclusively on the digital output. The best diagnostic tools we use are still those we are born with – eyes, ears, fingers, and brain. When an engineer combines their innate detective skills with modern gadgets, we begin to resemble a human Swiss Army Knife and can arrive at a solution for your building problem
As engineers, we write allot…I mean….alot….no, I mean A LOT of reports! Check out some of the most commonly confused words. I know my editor will be glad I shared this with everyone. : )
What’s not to like about furry little critters? Squirrels are impressive, if frantic little athletes and raccoons have a certain mischievous appeal. If you take the time to observe them, birds are fascinating. But…when these little charmers invade our homes, they turn into obnoxious, destructive, noisy, fertilizer factories. They eat our soffits and clog our dryer vents. They smell bad. They become vermin that must be ousted or eliminated. It’s not entirely fair to blame them. That dryer vent or attic makes a perfect nesting site, sheltered from the elements, inaccessible to most predators with plenty of room for the youngsters to play.
Eviction is tough and extermination is distasteful; so here are some hints to help keep the critters from getting into your home.
- Inspect the building exterior for loose boards, unsealed openings and unprotected holes in the walls, soffits, etc.
- Trim any overhanging trees and remove vines and ivy from walls. These are highways for small animals like squirrels, rats or even snakes. (On the plus side, if you have snakes, you probably don’t have squirrels or rats!)
- Where appropriate, install insect and bird/animal screens at vents and openings. This can be tricky. Improperly screened dryer vents can result in reduced efficiency or even a fire hazard and screening may be disallowed in some jurisdictions. It’s also possible to reduce ventilation below acceptable levels in areas like soffit inlet if you install screening that’s too fine.
- If any new mechanical devices are going to be installed, require that they are appropriately protected with screens, guards, etc.
- Survey the building exterior and note ledges and outcroppings that are attractive to birds (look for bird droppings) and install bird repellants or guards.
- Make sure that windowpanes and screens are in good condition.
- Make sure that all ground level doors have an auto-close feature (springs, pneumatic closures, etc.). Nothing is more inviting to squirrels and raccoons than an open door.
It goes without saying that engineers aren’t known for their fashion sense or style, but no matter what profession, it can often be difficult to decipher the meaning of a dress code. There is no need to arrive at your next event wondering if you got it right. Below is a run-down by the common US dress codes and what they mean. Now even engineers can be appropriately dressed….well maybe : )
Did you know carbon monoxide (CO) detectors have shorter life span than most household equipment (such as air conditioning units, water heaters, washers and dryers etc.)? On average, carbon monoxide detectors have service lives of about five years. If you have not replaced your carbon monoxide detectors in the past five to six years, they’ve probably stopped working correctly.
Ventilation systems are critical in enclosed parking garages and most systems installed over the past ten years or so are controlled by carbon monoxide detectors. Without properly functioning, accurate detectors the exhaust fans of garage ventilation system will not activate to remove toxic fumes from vehicle exhaust before they reach unhealthful levels.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that’s a bi-product of combustion, such as occurs in car and trucks engines, standby generating systems, gas-fired furnaces and dryers, etc. CO from such sources can build up in enclosed or semi-enclosed spaces and people therein can be poisoned by breathing it. The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. High levels of CO can cause loss of consciousness and death.
Given the hazards associated with carbon monoxide, now is the time to replace old sensors in your home and have your garage ventilation systems professionally inspected and tested
What is the hottest new trend in interior design? Concrete! There are some really interesting textures and styles being offered that go way beyond drab flower pots and utilitarian shelves made out of cinder blocks.
Check out this article on some new uses of concrete to make furniture, lamps, and even wallpaper.
Green construction and sustainable buildings have been on the rise in the past few years. As technology advances, society has been attempting to create more environmentally friendly structures. The next step in sustainable structures is green roads, such as the new one in Houston, Texas.
The Bagby Street Reconstruction Project in Houston, TX, is the first project to achieve the Greenroads Certification in the state. The project also received a Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) Charter Award for Best Street.
So, what earned the Bagby Street renovation so much praise for its sustainability? The green features of the street include the installation of rain gardens, LED street lighting, use of cool pavement materials with recycled content, locally sourced construction materials, and the addition of native and adapted vegetation that provide additional shading. All of these characteristics promote low-impact development and the reduction of carbon emissions.
The concept of “green roads” will surely begin to be implemented in other parts of the United States. The city of Houston already has plans to renovate Bagby’s sister street, Brazos Street
The basic practice of forge welding goes back thousands of years. Scholars have come to a general consensus that welding has been practiced for more than 5,500 years (since around 3,500 BCE). But it wasn’t until the 1800’s that advancements in welding technology really started taking off and resembling the processes that we use today.
In 1810, a significant change occurred when Sir Humphrey Davy demonstrated his discovery of a carbon arc by using an early version of a battery. We now know this by the term “electric lights”. This spawned many discoveries in the next 90 years. In 1836, the discovery of acetylene was made. This was needed for the production of oxyacetylene, a gas known for its high temperature flame, which is still used today to cut metals. From the years 1885 to 1910, four major patents were issued for new welding practices, including what is now known as shielded metal arc welding (SMAW) in 1910. SMAW was later automated, which led to submerged arc welding (SAW).
Nowadays, so much we see and use on a daily basis is automated, and welding is no exception. Digital circuitry has made it possible to build welding and cutting systems with computer programming and control. This has vastly improved quality control and reduced costs. The most recent major advancement in the field is the ability to take advantage of lasers and electron beams for cutting and welding.