Airborne Trains Traveling on Strings

Unitsky String Transport (UST) is a transportation system developed by Russian inventor Anatoly Unitsky as a railway consisting not of steel tracks bolted to ties but rather elevated high-tension concrete- and steel-enveloped wires strung between towers, thereby offering rails that can traverse uneven terrain, forests, or water without the prohibitively expensive infrastructure required by conventional transit systems. Furthermore, UST can traverse obstacles in a straight line, thereby obviating the need to circumnavigate impediments or build switchbacks and considerably reducing the distance between two points.

Unitsky began developing the concept back in 1977. His design uses high-tension steel wires inserted into a concrete-resin core and enveloped by steel shells and elevated from three to 30 meters from the ground (or potentially even higher, if the terrain necessitates it). While this might sound like a conventional ropeway (like a chairlift or the Roosevelt Island Tramway), it differs in its much higher cable tension with sag of less than an inch between support posts, allowing vehicles to travel along the wires with a minimum of drag and at speeds, according to Unitsky, of between 200 and 300 mph. “In fact,” according to newatlas.com, “it’s more accurate to look at a UST track more or less as a tiny pre-stressed concrete bridge, built for a fraction of the cost of a ground rail system or even a motorway.” Continue Reading…

Defensive Walking

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photo-1423853978401-35df4077ff7dIn October, the de Blasio Administration announced that New York City was redoubling its efforts around Vision Zero as the City enters what is traditionally the deadliest time of year for pedestrians on New York City streets. Pedestrian incidents increase by nearly 40 percent in the early evening hours compared to crashes outside the fall and winter. Lower visibility during the dark hours of the colder months leads to twice as many crashes involving turns.  In 2015, the year with the fewest traffic fatalities in New York City’s recorded history, 40 percent of pedestrian fatalities occurred after October 1. Continue Reading…

Engineering the Cities of the Future

downtown-nySmart Cities use data, information, and communications technology to streamline urban infrastructure activities such as transportation and traffic management, water supply networks, waste and wastewater management, and power plants to improve the lives of their residents. Smart Cities not only present challenges to the A/E industry, but opportunities as well. Smart buildings can utilize building management systems to save energy; transportation systems designed for autonomous vehicles can be designed with a streamlined footprint and more effective flow of traffic; municipal management systems can incorporate sustainable materials and green infrastructure; and affordable and efficient ground transportation can increase convenience and quality of life. Continue Reading…

Philadelphia Remembers: The June 5th Memorial Park

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Courtesy of Scott Aker, AIA

The City of Philadelphia is turning a tragedy into an opportunity for the community to commemorate those lost and remember the paramount importance of job safety.

On June 5th, 2013, the demolition of a vacant building at 2138 Market Street in Philadelphia collapsed a party wall, destroying a Salvation Army Thrift Store and resulting in six fatalities and many injuries. To ensure that this tragedy would not be forgotten, the City of Philadelphia decided to provide a contemplative respite for visitors while preserving the memory of those lost and projecting its commitment to public safety. Continue Reading…

Hidden Perils in Summer Sunshine

Contributed by Brenda Gomez, Environmental Staff Engineer/Scientist

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August is the homestretch of summer, when people take to the beach, barbecue, and generally try to enjoy as much outdoor time as possible before the Labor Day holiday portends the onset of school, shorter days, and colder weather. Unfortunately, summer is also when air quality is at its worst. Heat waves like the ones we have been enjoying lately create photochemical oxidants as the sun’s ultraviolet radiation cooks the air to produce a layer of ozone smog. Continue Reading…

2016 Interns Learning the Ropes

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HAKS’ Summer Internship Program is once again under way. The program engages deserving students and gives them the opportunity to gain experience in the industry. By providing internships to eligible youth, HAKS is helping these young people prepare for the future; determine whether they would choose a career in engineering and architecture; or, if they are already studying these subjects, gain valuable, on-the-job, real-world experience that will make them much more attractive to potential employers once they graduate. Continue Reading…

A Salt Shed as a Civic Monument

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With the full heat of the long summer just kicking in, this past February’s Winter Storm Jonas, which dumped a record 27.5 inches of snow in Central Park, can seem like a distant memory. Notwithstanding that December 2015 was the warmest on record, New York City will continue to be slammed by storms like Jonas and the blizzards of 2006 and 1996, as well as snowstorms that might be more mundane but nevertheless paralyzing to city streets in their own right. That is why residents of Lower Manhattan can look upon the New York City Department of Sanitation’s (DSNY) new Spring Street Salt Shed as a comfort and reassurance as the next inevitable winter looms on the distant horizon—and, given its unique, striking design, as an object of civic pride. Continue Reading…

Looking Beyond Safety Week

SafetyWeek logoThis year, more than 40 national and global construction firms comprising The Construction Industry Safety group and the Incident and Injury Free CEO Forum joined forces to create and celebrate Safety Week from May 2-6.  As a follow up, our blog this month looks at safety regulations and practices in the construction industry.  The numbers are jarring: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4,679 workers were killed on the job in 2014. Out of the 4,251 worker fatalities in private industry that year, 874 (or 20.5%) were in construction.  According to OSHA, the leading cause of worker deaths on construction sites was falls, followed by electrocution, struck by objects and “caught-in/betweens.” During safety week, OSHA held a National Safety Stand-Down to raise awareness of fall prevention. Continue Reading…

A Commitment to Quality

Contributed by Lance Payne, MSI, LHI, CLA

SRI CERTIFICATE JPGIn the building and construction industry, reputation and trust are everything. And reputation and trust are earned through quality work. Quality assurance programs (QAP) exist for this purpose. The concept of “quality assurance” is often confused with quality control and quality inspection. The American Society for Quality (ASQ), one of the world’s leading authorities on quality, defines these terms as follows: Continue Reading…

Declaring “War” on Homeless Shelters

Earlier this month, Mayor de Blasio released the results of his aggressive program to inspect and repair violations in New York City’s homeless shelters. The numbers are impressive: in just two months, the city and shelter providers repaired almost as many violations as were fixed in all of 2015 and, in two months, the city conducted one-third as many inspections as it did in all of 2015. The February Shelter Repair Scorecard, which allows tracking of conditions and results, reported that:

  • The 2,660 inspections conducted in just two months in 2016 is almost one-third of the 8,665 inspections conducted in all of 2015. These inspections identified 11,125 new violations and conditions.
  • The two-month total of 12,026 repairs completed is almost as many as the total 12,934 violations cleared in all of 2015.
  • Of the 330 non-cluster city homeless shelters, 157 sites had ten or fewer violations; 90 of those sites had five or less. (A cluster shelter refers to groups of individual apartments in larger buildings, and the violation total includes all violations in each building, not those solely relating to the cluster units. The city plans to phase out the use of such cluster shelters and return them to the market to serve as low-rent housing.)
  • The 303 cluster shelters, which house only 23 percent of the total shelter population, had 14,054 violations, or 68 percent of the total.
  • The Scorecard lists 26 cluster buildings with 315 units designated for closure this fiscal year.

Continue Reading…