• 4 functions of a well-designed university campus

    Friday, September 18, 2015

    Making a campus look good is one thing, but ensuring it can accommodate students, faculty, administrators and visitors for years to come is another.

    Dozens of factors make a world-class campus. Listed below are four characteristics university engineering solutions should embody: 

    1. Accessibility 

    When designing university grounds, engineering consultants must prioritise accessibility. The modern student ventures off campus quite frequently. A survey of 25,950 students, conducted by the Australian Council for Educational Research, discovered that:

    • About three-fourths (73 per cent) of later-year pupils have off-campus jobs.
    • Most first-year students work between six and 20 hours per week, while more experienced undergraduates spend between 11 and 15 hours on the clock.

    Given that the majority students are travelling to and from campus on a weekly basis, it's imperative for universities to engineer facilities that support this lifestyle.

    2. Environmental resiliency 

    South East Queensland is no stranger to environmental disruptions. The Bureau of Meteorology noted the January 2011 flooding that impacted an estimated 200,000 people, causing approximately $1 billion in damages. More than 8,600 properties (both residential and commercial) were in some way affected by this event.

    How can engineers design universities so they intuitively guide students to destinations?Campus grounds should be easy to navigate.

    Universities are responsible for the safety of their students, meaning their facilities must be resilient to extreme weather, especially if they're located in South East Queensland.

    3. Navigable

    Closely related to the first characteristic, students must be able to find their way around the campus intuitively. Doing so involves employing a logical design.

    When reason takes over, and students quickly figure out how to get from the first-year dorms to the dining hall, to the engineering building and so on, you have the basis of a more secure educational experience.

    Bike paths and spacious walkways are staples of any university. If a school's size or location make it difficult for students to reach specific destinations on foot within a reasonable amount of time, transit engineers should consider implementing shuttles. 

    4. Adaptive 

    When university administrators forecast a surge in enrollment, the sustainable solution lies in reusing or renovating existing properties to support more students, faculty, vehicles and so forth. Purchasing more land and developing it won't fix the problem, and may disrupt the navigability and rhythm of the existing campus.

    Therefore, civil engineers must design university grounds with forethought given to future investments. Sewage and drainage systems, electrical assets, roadways and other solutions must be able to support expanded or renovated structures. This enhances a school's long-term sustainability and tempers expenses. 

  • Why simplicity, not complexity is the key to effective engineering

    Friday, September 11, 2015

    When we think of innovative engineering, we often regard solutions that are incredibly complex, featuring thousands of components working harmoniously to support a single function.

    However, it'd be a disservice to the industry to ignore simple, effective plans. There's something admirable about making do with what you have without sacrificing operability, and that's exactly what frugal engineering is all about.

    Bridge designers, civil engineers and other experts working in the field can apply this concept to their practices. In a nutshell, frugal engineering - also known as frugal innovation - refers to decreasing the intricacy and expenses associated with creating something.

    When does frugal engineering make sense? 

    India has largely been the center of frugal innovation. As London Business School professors Nirmalya Kumar and Phanish Puranam wrote in Ivey Business Journal, Indian engineers have developed products that their native country needs while considering its fiscal constraints. 

    "The beauty of the Indian market is that it pushes you in a corner ... it demands everything in the world, but cheaper and smaller," said former GE Indian Managing Director Guillermo Wille, as quoted by Mr Puranam and Mr Kumar.

    The video below discusses the open-mindedness with which many Indian entrepreneurs approach constrained innovation:

    The authors repeatedly acknowledged the budget-constraints of the average Indian consumer. With a population of more than 1.2 billion people (according to Trading Economics), companies such as Siemens need to develop X-ray machines, fetal heart monitors and road traffic management systems that are completely devoid of frivolities.

    The basic reasoning is that as long as these devices get the job done and can be provided to the market at affordable prices, why add features that are "nice to haves"? 

    Does frugal engineering make sense in Queensland? 

    Queensland isn't experiencing the same economic challenges as India, but that doesn't mean the state couldn't benefit from making the most out of its budget. 

    Queensland is currently contending with $80 billion of debt.

    The state government maintained that Queensland is currently contending with $80 billion of debt. Of course, this has prompted authorities to develop action plans that will stabilise the state's financial situation. 

    It's a tricky dilemma, given that officials need to find a balance between cutting services and updating a constrained infrastructure. In this respect, applying frugal engineering to city planning isn't necessarily the worst idea. 

    Obligating engineers to abide by strict budgets offers long-term benefits as well. Some would suggest that the industry is currently at a turning point: One mentality calls for developing complex, resource-heavy solutions, while the other values simplicity and affordability. 

    The next generation of engineers need to change their way of thinking - cost-efficient systems don't have to translate to cheap implementations. 

  • All Saints massive concrete pour - Drone footage

    Thursday, September 03, 2015

    Construction has commenced on turning our structural engineering design for the new PE Centre at All Saints into reality. Condev are building the project and the scale is quite impressive. As this drone footage shows, the slab is some 2,300 square metres in area with 900 cubic metres of concrete - equivalent to 107,000 cartons of beer! Logistics were impressive with 130 concrete trucks arriving on site between 6am to 6pm and two concrete pumping booms sourced from outside the city. 

    To watch the video, click the "Read More" button 
  • Engineering for data: The evolution of rail services

    Friday, August 28, 2015

    It's easy to think of the internet as a giant invisible blob encasing the globe.

    Terms like 'cloud computing' only reinforce this misrepresentation. In reality, the web is comprised of billions of physical assets connected via fibre-optic or copper cabling. 

    So, when civil engineers open the discussion about integrating digital technologies into next-generation railway projects, they must design solutions that are compatible with the internet's tangible infrastructure. 

    Understanding 21st-century technology

    Before analysing the repercussions of engineering internet-connected railroads, let's take the time to understand two terms that have taken the tech world by storm: big data and the Internet of Things (IoT). 

    According to Gartner, big data refers to an unfathomable amount of varied information generated at a rapid pace. It's a concept (or movement, depending on one's perspective) that obligates organisations to implement solutions capable of managing a high volume of diverse data and leverage it to gain competitive advantages.

    TechTarget described the IoT as a situation in which people, objects, animals and other 'things' are equipped with data production assets, enabling them to share this information with one another over the web automatically.

    How the IoT and big data impact rail engineering 

    Railways will invest $2.41 billion in big data annually by 2021.

    Rail companies have expressed interest in new signalling and asset management systems that allow them to establish data-based transportation networks.

    Imagine being able to readjust a train schedule to accommodate an unforeseen burst in demand or notifying maintenance crews of pending malfunctions to prevent faults. Supporting these capabilities requires thousands of smart devices, a dependable fibre-optic network and software able to process and organise all of that data.

    Interest in such technology is tangible. According to Frost & Sullivan, rail companies across the globe will invest approximately $2.41 billion in big data every year by 2021. 

    "The main aim of the rail industry's implementation of big data technologies has been predictive analytics. Integrating media analytics to improve the security of rail infrastructure and payload are also key applications," said Shyam Raman, research analyst at Frost & Sullivan Automotive and Transportation. 

    A new mission for engineers

    The IoT and big data will impact how engineering consultants design railways, buildings, water systems and other solutions. Because these technologies will define how 21st-century rail networks operate, specialists must conceptualise tunnels, bridges and tracks that work in tandem with digital automation. 

    An engineer's job is to design a solution that serves a specific purpose. If a rail system's purpose is to independently make educated decisions based on a real-time information, they need to assess the design implications associated with such an operation. 

  • The basics of total water cycle management planing

    Friday, August 21, 2015

    In 2010, the South East Queensland (SEQ) Healthy Waterways Partnership (HWP) developed a total water cycle management (TWCM) planning guideline.

    Published by the Department of Environment and Resource Management, the protocol delivers a framework for stakeholders responsible for supporting sustainable water management initiatives throughout SEQ. 

    The HWP's endeavour brings up an interesting discussion. What can environmental engineers glean from the TWCM strategy? What are the core principles within the plan that can be applied to similar endeavours? 

    The basis of a TWCM strategy 

    Before designing drainage networks, wastewater treatment centres and other solutions, engineers, project managers and other stakeholders must familiarise themselves with SEQ's natural water cycle. 

    Water cycles are integral components of greater ecosystems, and are influenced by geographical factors, climate, demographics, settlement trends, rural and industrial actives and other factors. Understanding a water cycle enables engineers and developers to determine how new structures, solutions or investments will impact its continuity.

    The primary idea is to maintain balance; develop strategies that sustain communal water requirements without disrupting the environment's integrity. 

    Processes associated with TWCM planning 

    As one can imagine, developing an effective TWCM strategy requires stakeholders to conduct investigations. Analysing water resources is an example of such action.

    Water resource planning can either be regarded as a sub-responsibility inherent in TWCM development or as a standalone initiative. It all depends on stakeholder commitments. Regardless, water resource assessments consist of analyses regarding: 

    • Resources: Regional rivers, lakes, dams, springs, groundwater and overland flow. 
    • Ecological outcomes: Will water be consumed and replenished in accordance with the natural continuity of water cycles? 
    • Future use: How much water will be needed to support the requirements of future socieities? 

    Overall, TWCM plans are compounded on a variety of assessments, such as industrial application audits and water replenishment analyses. Developers may seek technical advice from civil engineering firms, ecologists and even virologists if epidemiological risks are suspected. 

    Developing for specific uses 

    No single TWCM strategy is identical to another. An agricultural operation will have different implications for a regions water cycle than a bustling metropolitan area, for instance. To expand on this example, consider how using certain fertilisers and pesticides can impact water cleanliness and result in certain ecological repercussions. 

    According to the HWP, SEQ's catchment and waterway designs have, despite population growth, decreased the amount of sewage-based pollutants that have permeated into Moreton Bay. This is a small example of TWCM planning in action.

    TWCM, as a topic, cannot be summarised within a 400-word blog. You can be sure that we'll be visiting this subject more than once. In general, treat this article as a reliable overview, rather than a granular analysis. 

  • Government expresses interest in developing Australia's north

    Friday, August 14, 2015

    As far as civil construction is concerned, the northern portion of Australia typically doesn't receive as much attention as the south.

    For one thing, the most populous cities lie further south, which hasn't driven much interest in developing the northern parts of Queensland, Western Australia (WA) and, of course, the Northern Territory (NT).

    Inciting fresh interest

    However, authorities aren't keen on leaving the north behind. In a white paper titled "Our North, Our Future: White Paper on Developing Northern Australia", the Australian government introduced a number of strategies geared toward building the region's infrastructure. Key efforts include:

    • Accessing and efficiently utilising available water resources
    • Establishing a more appealing investment environment for private enterprises
    • Opening tenders for infrastructure-related projects

    Serving as a comprehensive plan with multiple projects in the works, there's no doubt this initiative will require the expertise of water engineers, structural specialists and other such professionals.

    An overview of the north

    The north may not be a major topic of discussion in the media, but it's economy has offered promise. A green paper released by the Department of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet noted that global interest in natural resources, for example, prompted the construction of the Ichthys Liquefied Natural Gas Project - the largest building initiative ever to take place in the Northern Territory.

    Engineers may find themselves working hard to bolster Northern Australia's infrastructure.Northern Australia is known for its unique landscape, but what about it's economy?

    About one million people in Australia call the north their home - approximately 5 per cent of the nation's population. However, it has grown 0.4 per cent more than the rest of Australia over the past decade. Most of those residing in the north inhabit northeast Queensland.

    Northern Australia also has plenty of natural resources. Bauxite, uranium, iron ore, base metals, oil and gas are just a few commodities energy and mining companies are interested in accessing.

    Challenges ahead

    Despite the fact that more than 60 per cent of Australia's total rainfall occurs in the north, a few parts are known as some of the most arid regions in the country. Lake Argyle, in Western Australia, for example, loses about a quarter of its volume every year due to evaporation.

    This presents a unique challenge to water engineers who will need to figure out how to conserve natural water season when the drier parts of the year roll around.

    In general, environmental engineers will have to apply myriad concepts in order to support infrastructure development initiatives throughout Northern Australia. All things considered, it's a diverse region, meaning one solution in Northeast Queensland may not be applicable in other parts, for example.

  • Queensland wants to use Bruce Highway's sunshine

    Friday, August 07, 2015

    In a recent article, we discussed some of the engineering priorities highlighted in the Bruce Highway Action Plan, which aims to renovate the disruption-prone motorway.

    However, the state government isn't stopping at improving Queenlsand's traffic infrastructure. A recent announcement by the Queensland Cabinet and Ministerial Directory maintained that green energy investment is on the agenda. 

    The Bruce Highway is going solar 

    According to Minister Assisting the Premier on North Queensland Coralee O'Rourke, Townsville may be the first of many municipalities to have a service station where electric vehicle (EV) drivers can plug in. The power won't come from coal-fired plants, but rather on-site solar panels. 

    "Our vision is for this to be the start of an 'electric super highway' by facilitating fast-charging service locations for drivers travelling up and down the length of Queensland," said Mrs O'Rourke. 

    "Up to two electric vehicles could charge at the same time, with an expected average charge time of 15-30 minutes." 

    The initiative is being supported by both Economic Development Queensland (EDQ) and Ergon Energy. The latter is offering small businesses the chance to lease 25 kilowatts (kW) of solar panels, while EDQ will help enterprises cover the costs of leasing EV charge equipment.

    How will EVs impact Queensland's transit infrastructure?

    At first glance, it's hard to imagine that EVs would have a dramatic impact on urban engineering solutions, highway traffic, and Queensland's wider transportation infrastructure. The Energy Supply Association of Australia (ESAA) wrote a discussion paper that alluded to these concerns, highlighting a mix of concerns and benefits.

    When developing urban streets or highways, traffic analysts always consider how their decisions will impact driver safety. Road safety audits, impact assessments and intersection capacity analyses​ all provide insight into this concern. 

    Because EVs don't have large combustion engines, EVs typically weigh less than gas-powered vehicles. EV manufacturers can utilise this lighter weight to improve their automobiles' structural safety, according to the ESAA. This trait also makes for a vehicle that is more easy to manoeuvre, suggesting that drivers will be able to exercise better control. 

    Still, EVs aren't without their own safety concerns, as mentioned in the following tweet:

    Changes to the power infrastructure 

    The idea of placing solar panels at petrol stations to provide power for electric vehicles may relieve pressures on the main grid. Researchers from the University of New South Wales noted that the average EV has a range of about 160 kilometres.

    While the technology is improving, this range means those travelling long distances will have to charge up quite frequently. Assuming that EVs become immensely popular in the state, Queensland's grid will have to accommodate them. 

  • An engineer's view of Queensland's Sustainable Planning Act

    Friday, July 31, 2015

    No matter what sort of solution an engineer is developing, be it water or structural, he or she must understand the environmental repercussions of those projects.

    Given the fact that humans are the dominant species on the planet, it's easy to forget that we're a part of a global ecological community. Like any living organism, our actions have an effect on our ecosystems.

    The SPA emphasises three ideals.

    In 2009, Queensland passed the Sustainable Planning Act (SPA), which serves as a framework under which developers and other parties can establish and execute ecologically-conscious projects. This article will discuss some of the larger points within the SPA and how they impact engineering.

    Understanding ecological sustainability 

    The SPA identifies ecological sustainability as a key project development consideration. According to law's fine print, the concept establishes a balance between three ideals:

    1. Protecting the integrity and operability of natural systems on a local, regional, State and greater level.
    2. Fostering economic development.
    3. Upholding the cultural, fiscal, physical and social prosperity of people and communities. 

    In regard to these values, engineers must determine how their solutions will impact not only the environment, but also economic opportunities and social development. What are the monetary implications of installing a berm? How will this bridge impact communal connectivity? These are just a few examples of the questions specialists must ask themselves. 

    An integrated approach

    The SPA provides a formula to structural engineers and other such specialists committed to developing ecologically sustainable solutions. The Act identifies this practice as the Integrated Development Assessment System (IDAS). 

    Applying environmental principles to engineering is becoming the standard way of doing business. Before construction begins, Engineers must determine how their solutions impact ecosystems.

    The IDAS is designed to consider legislative policies while supporting flexibility in case original plans need to be adjusted. As any experienced engineer knows, changes are bound to occur, so it's constructive to adhere to a system that allows experts to make adjustments when necessary.

    According to a guide created by the Queensland Government, IDAS possesses six traits:

    • Comprehensive: Considers approvals for all projects occurring in the state.
    • Scaleable: Applicable to both small and complex solutions.
    • Modular: Guides four phases inherently found in development initiatives.
    • Assuring: Assesses a solution's ability to deliver functions optimally.
    • Balanced: Ensures everything between community needs and legal obligations are adhered to.
    • Accountable: Forces participants and stakeholders to hold themselves responsible for any and all decisions made. 

    From the outside looking in, IDAS leaves no room for error. It favours thoroughness so that no specific items compromise the success and sustainability of a solution.

    The SPA leaves no room for error. Legislation or not, it delivers an effective set of rules that can help environmental engineers and other parties create solutions that do not waste the precious resources our earth has to offer. 

  • Planning for growth: Developing Queensland's infrastructure

    Friday, July 24, 2015

    Whenever a city's population expands, its infrastructure encounters greater stress. Some regions handle this pressure better than others.

    If traffic engineers develop roadways designed to handle projected expansion, communities will experience minimal disruption. Queensland officials are hoping they can achieve this feat in the near future.

    Queensland may have to accommodate 7.1 million people by 2036.

    Queensland's population set to grow 

    Recent figures from the Queensland Government Statistician's Office shows that the state's population rose by 70,540 people between June 2013 and June 2014, a 1.5 per cent growth rate. Currently, more than 4.7 million individuals call Queensland home. 

    Assuming medium rates of natural increase and migration remain consistent, Queensland will have to accommodate 7.1 million people by 2036, according to the Queensland Treasury. This means that Brisbane, the Gold Coast and other cities throughout the state must be prepared to support a greater number of workers and families. 

    Does the state have a plan? 

    Although projects have yet to enter the pipeline, the Department of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning (DILGP) released a white paper detailing its intentions. By early 2016, it hopes to finalise a state infrastructure strategy that will: 

    • Encourage innovation among engineers, government contractors and the like
    • Describe specific public service needs and potential infrastructure investment options
    • Dictate sustainable funding plans for projects
    • Deliver information that allows public and private entities to better collaborate with one another

    Responding to demands and concerns 

    The DILGP recognised the interests of bodies such as the Business Council of Australia (BCA) and Public Infrastructure Productivity Commission. 

    The BCA called for thorough assessments that detailed projected land usage trends. In addition, the organisation expressed the need for public infrastructure development initiatives directly tied to strategic plans. From the BCA's perspective, these strategies should be scrutinised by third parties to determine their effectiveness and feasibility.

    Put simply: There's no room for wasted or ineffective investments. It's evident that specialists will need to develop well-researched, feasible civil engineering plans

    Project transportation investment

    Highways, urban public transport and city road expenses are expected to increase markedly over the next 16 years. The Australian Infrastructure Audit showed that government-funded transit and roadways' direct economic contribution will increase 138 per cent between 2011 and 2031, reaching $4.47 billion.

    As business relationships between Gold Coast and Brisbane intensify, Infrastructure Australia asserts that the number of passenger hours travelled (PHT) in a given day will rise. Currently, the Carindale to Brisbane Inner bus route experiences 1,850 PHT on a daily basis.

    These statistics shouldn't be cause for panic. Instead, developers must keep these insights in mind when creating infrastructure investment strategies. The future of Queensland's economy depends on it. 

  • Assessing a framework for sustainable multi-tenant buildings

    Friday, July 17, 2015

    Between 1990 and 2012, Queensland's carbon dioxide emissions output rose from 78.8 million tonnes to 134.5 million tonnes, according to the state government.

    Whether or not you believe climate change to be fact or fiction, there's no doubt that public authorities are developing policies geared toward curtailing this trend. Queensland's implementation of the 5-star energy code for multi-unit residential buildings is an example of such standards. 

    Although all new multi-residential dwellings must be designed according to the 5-star rating standard, structural engineers can leverage it as an assessment model. Doing so will help them identify ways to expand the standard, developing more eco-friendly multi-tenant housing. 

    The fiscal case for sustainable buildings

    Although developers may feel morally gratified by funding sustainable construction projects, they don't want to lose money after doing so. Like any similar initiative, the finished product must have a market price that does not exorbitantly exceed the mean or median cost.

    The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) released a white paper detailing the monetary implications associated with sustainable structures. After analysing eight buildings with Green Star energy ratings (the system used throughout Australia), the GBCA generated the following insights: 

    • All owners and/or managers believed their structures were resilient to future energy expenses and more stringent building legislation. 
    • Owners typically marketed their dwellings' sustainability to attract tenants. In a related matter, buildings with Green Star ratings "appear easier to sell." 
    • There is a strong correlation between long-term leases (i.e. 15- to 20- year agreements) and sustainable residential structures. 

    Queensland's definition and the 5-star rating system

    According to the Queensland Department of Housing and Public Works, a building's sustainability largely depends on its shell design - the walls, windows, floor and roof. For the most part, positioning and facade composition determine just how green a structure is.

    Passive design decisions, while promoting energy efficiency, can be integrated with little to no costs. Orienting living areas toward the north, decreasing the number of east- and west-facing windows and installing wider eaves or window awnings are all actions that foster sustainability.

    Identifying green materials isn't as simple as some may think. When engineering consultants consider the eco-friendliness of construction products, they assess the energy used to produce, and transport them. They also consider how easily materials can be recycled and the emissions caused by the manufacturing process.

    Sustainable building is a multifaceted endeavour. Between design principles and careful selection of materials, green development supports a more compatible future between humans and global ecosystems.