An Important Infrastructure Investment: Integrating Asset Management Systems Enhances Shop Productivity

In a recent article published by Public Works magazine, the editors examine how one community is optimizing their fleet maintenance program, and by doing so, they are saving money and delivering responsiveness with the investment.

In 2009, the Sacramento, California, City Council approved a five-year contract to install a system that would automate work orders by integrating existing vehicle maintenance software with electronic inspection reporting and real-time diagnostics. This telematics platform and inspection system implemented by Zonar cost $750,000 for about 600 vehicles. The City of Sacramento’s Fleet Management had about 2,300 vehicles across five maintenance shops in assets.

Since the investment in this new technology, the City has experienced smoother workflows and streamlined diagnostics dramatically reduced downtime during the day. Because they preferred to maintain refuse trucks at night and work on other assets during the day, they were able to manage the equipment of other internal customers more efficiently, and helped those departments avoid unnecessary downtime as well.

Additionally, fuel consumption fell 25 percent, because drivers spent less time idling and drove more slowly over more efficiently designed routes that eliminated unnecessary or unauthorized miles traveled.  As a result of offsetting Zonar’s monthly service fees, the reduction helped the City meet stricter state emission requirements while fulfilling the City’s Climate Action Plan and Fleet Sustainability Policy.

Even more, the City has become so efficient that they were one of the few government fleets in the state that hasn’t had to lay off employees, and as a result, all replacement equipment is now budgeted to include the hardware, and eventually, almost all heavy-duty vehicles will have the equipment.

For further details about how this innovative system works and operates, the full article can be read here.

American Structurepoint Sponsors Leadership Academy

American Structurepoint, which served as a 2012-2013 program session sponsor for the Hamilton County Leadership Academy, would like to congratulate the recent graduates of its 22nd class. The Leadership Academy, a nonprofit organization located in Noblesville, Indiana, was established in 1991 to educate and inspire community leaders to apply their skills to government, business, and civic activities to create a positive impact on the future of Hamilton County, Indiana. Through a 10-month program, participants study local issues in preparation for leading active roles in promoting awareness of these critical issues facing Hamilton County.

Find out more information about the program at

Studies Indicate High-Performance Concrete Could Double Bridge Life Expectancy

blog banner concrete_purdue

Researchers at Purdue University are studying a process of internal curing of concrete that could reduce cracking and double the life expectancy of concrete bridge decks. Cracks form in conventional concrete decks due to weathering, years of wear and tear, and “shrinkage” caused by the water used in the process of externally curing concrete. Once cracks form, deicing salts may slip through to the underlying steel, thereby weakening the structure. As a solution, internally cured concrete cures from the inside out as water is released within the mixture, reacting more of the cement and strengthening the bond of the concrete (reducing shrinkage).

Jason Weiss, Ph.D., M.ASCE, a professor of civil engineering at Purdue and the director of the Pankow Materials Laboratory, began his research on internally curing concrete in 2004, based on similar studies published in Europe. He and his team have experimented on nearly full-scale concrete deck samples in the Pankow Lab, collaborating closely with the Federal Highway Administration, National Institute of Standards and Technology, and Indiana Department of Transportation.

Together, the team subjected the samples to conditions that typically lead to rapid salt ingress, corrosion, and cracking. “The internally cured samples remain crack free and corrosion free after more than three years of testing,” Weiss said in an interview with the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Civil Engineering magazine (May 2013).

According to a recent news release from Purdue, “The Joint Transportation Research Program, a partnership between INDOT and Purdue, worked with Weiss and INDOT to create specifications for implementing the internally cured high-performance concrete. It will be used on four bridges this year, the first of which will be on State Road 933 in St. Joseph County, Indiana.”

Learn more about the process here.

Innovative Fish Hatchery Reduces Energy Demands to Sustain Alaska’s Sport Fishing Industry

Blog Photo Template_WRC

With a reported 290,000 licensed anglers fishing in 2011, their economic effect on the state of Alaska is a booming $1.4 billion a year, but the popular sport is also depleting waterways of fragile native fish populations. To sustain the sport fishing industry in the southern part of the state, the William Jack Hernandez Sport Fish Hatchery in Anchorage, Alaska, is using innovative technologies to reduce energy waste, using only five percent of the water volume and energy required by systems at conventional hatcheries. Spanning the length of two football fields, the Hernandez Hatchery is the largest of its kind in North America, annually replenishing Alaska’s rivers and lakes with six million salmon, trout, and grayling.

Development on a brownfield that served as a cooling pond for a military power plant, the hatchery’s site challenges included lowering the water table, removal of petroleum-contaminated soil, screening for Native American artifacts, and avoiding damage to salmon runs and eagle nesting spots. In addition, the construction of the facility, which took place over five phases, included intricate pipe placement for the heated and cold water needed to rear fish, dispose of fish waste effluent, and supply the building’s heating system. The use of 3D modeling provided design solutions for fitting the complex pipe network around steel columns, the foundation, and ductwork. The 3D modeling also enabled designers to virtually drive forklifts through the facility to address critical items such as overhead clearance.

Seventy six large circular tanks at the hatchery are separated into 35 fish rearing modules, each of which is managed with its own water treatment system to provide pure, clean water to rear the fish. The $89.5-million, 141,000-sft facility, owned and operated by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, uses intensive recirculation technology to cut back on water waste, reusing up to 95 percent of its water. The hatchery uses pump-driven aquaculture systems to maintain water flow so fish will not die. In the case of a power outage due to severe Alaskan winters, the hatchery features backup generators that will switch on in less than two minutes. Natural light and thermally efficient windows also reduce energy use in the facility.

The hatchery began operations in 2011. By 2014, it will support 20 regional fishery programs at 137 sport fish stocking sites. The anticipated 100,000 visitors a year to the hatchery can witness fish life stages through a 10,000-sft viewing area into the facility and attend educational opportunities in the supplemental public meeting space, as well as walk along five acres of landscaped grounds and trails to watch stocking and other operations, helping to promote and support the important sport fishing industry in Alaska.

To Whom Are We Responsible?


As design professionals, we work hard to meet all our clients’ needs. We want to deliver a project that makes the best use of their available space and budget, meets their schedule, and stands up to the test of time. We want to have laser-like focus on understanding what our client wants and coming up with solutions to make that happen, because meeting client expectations is job #1. In some states, liability from an unusual source may push us to make it job #2, and consider the contractor’s needs, as well. A recent article from Civil Engineering magazine examines an interesting liability situation where an engineer faces potential liability for the contractor’s delay. In some states, the economic loss doctrine establishes a legal “shield” that bars a contractor from suing a designer for financial damages when the contractor does not have a contract with the designer, but in states that don’t recognize the doctrine, there’s a strong potential for unanticipated liability to arise.

The case described in the article involves an $8.4 million contract between the Greater LaFourche Port Commission and James Construction Group for the construction of a steel sheet piling bulkhead and mooring bits in Port Fourchon, Louisiana. Picciola & Associates, Inc., was retained by the port to provide professional engineering services on the project, including design and construction administration.

The dispute involves a portion of the project referred to as the Delmar Site, which comprised a bulkhead, two crane pads, and a crane pad foundation. The contract called for James to pay liquated damages of $2,000 per day if it failed to complete the Delmar Site within 210 days of the notice to proceed. However, the location of the Delmar Site was moved, and James received a change order that increased the contract price and contract time. As a result, James was 133 days late in finishing the Delmar Site, and the port withheld $266,000 in liquidated damages as well as the contract balance, prompting James to sue both the port and Picciola.

James and the port have settled their dispute, but the construction company has continued its separate suit against Picciola, arguing that James detrimentally relied on incorrect plans and information from Picciola, including alleged statements to the effect that the contractor would not be required to complete the Delmar Site within 210 days of the notice to proceed and that the liquidated damages would be waived. Picciola contends that it had been acting as an agent of the port and had no separate duty of care to James. While Picciola’s initial motion for summary judgment was granted by the trial court, who found that the designer was acting as a professional engineer on behalf of the port and therefore owed no separate duty of care to James, an appellate court decision has sent the dispute back to trial, citing Louisiana law that allows James to assert a cause of action in tort based on Picciola’s alleged negligence.

If Louisiana recognized the economic loss doctrine, James wouldn’t have a claim against Picciola. The contractor’s claim would be with the port, and the port, if it believed that Picciola had been negligent in performing its services for the port, could bring a claim against Picciola for damages arising from that negligence. The engineer would be liable, not because it didn’t take care of the contractor, but only to the extent it didn’t take care of its client. It’s not possible to determine whether Picciola did anything wrong just by reading the appellate court’s decision, but it’s worth noting that thus far the port hasn’t brought any claim against the engineer.

While the jury sorts through all the questions of fact in this case, the question we all should be asking is: if an engineer acts as an owner’s representative and makes decisions on behalf of the owner, should the engineer be exposed to financial liability for third parties that may arise from those decisions? If designers have to worry about those risks, will they truly be able to act in their clients’ best interests, or will they make decisions based on the possible financial outcome for the contractor? Laws that require designers to have mixed loyalties on a project aren’t in anyone’s best interest, and this case is a prime example of why the economic loss doctrine is so important in helping design professionals keep our focus on doing what’s best for our clients.