• Cities say new FEMA flood maps contain many errors

    In 2004 the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) started the $200 million-per-year project as a way to utilize advances in mapping technology better to identify areas susceptible to flooding; FEMA officials say the new maps will allow for better zoning and help prevent future catastrophes like the June 2008 flood in Iowa, which caused an estimated $10 billion in damage; cities, developers, and residents say new FEMA flood plain maps are full of mistakes that could prove costly

  • Engineers urge overhaul of Haiti's archaic, anarchic building practices

    In Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, building codes, if they even exist, exist on paper only; all governments in Haiti, including the present one, have been corrupt, predatory, and utterly indifferent to the welfare of the people; a recent OAS report detailed a litany of flaws in Haiti’s attitude to buildings: weak or missing reinforcement, structures on steep slopes with unstable foundations, inadequate or nonexistant inspections, poor designs, materials, and techniques; Kit Miyamoto, a California structural engineer who went to Haiti last week: “No code, no engineering, means death”

  • Army engineers: Haiti's bad roads not damaged by quake

    Engineers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers say that many of Haiti’s roads are not any worse than they were before because they have always been in poor condition; 80 percent of the major destruction is around the city’s capital; 200 million cubic yards of debris will need to be removed from Port-au-Prince

  • Quake-proofing U.S. buildings

    An Indian civil engineer has invented a sleeved column braces which help buildings withstand earthquakes; the sturdy brace apparatus surrounds a core of high-performance steel, but is spaced from the sides of the core; the sleeve thus absorbs and dissipates energy, but does not buckle under pressure; several large buildings in California, built in the last few years, have adopted the technology

  • U.S. structural engineers begin on-site damage assessments in Haiti

    U.S. engineers are going to Haiti to study the earthquake and its ramifications for structural engineering; the structural engineers emergency response committee (SEER) of the National Council of Structural Engineers Associations (NCSEA) — the SEER consists of volunteer structural engineers trained in the structural engineering aspects of emergency response to earthquakes, hurricanes, and other disasters — is in talks with the U.S. government and the private sector to identify ways in which the structural engineering community can lend its talents, skills and experience

  • Scientists anxious about other big quakes

    The Haitian earthquake may have increased the chance of a future quake in the neighboring Dominican Republic and other parts of the Caribbean; during the Haitian quake, only 30 to 60 miles of the 300-mile fault near Port-au-Prince ruptured and slid; the rest of it stayed stuck, still glued together by friction; the area that ruptured is likely to have increased the amount of strain — and the risk of quake — in other parts of the fault

  • Haiti’s lack of building standards major contributor to scope of disaster

    One of the major contributors to the magnitude of the disaster in Haiti was the fact that there were no building codes in the country – a study done by the Organization of American States (OAS) concluded last month that many of the buildings in Haiti were so shoddily constructed that they were unlikely to survive any disaster, let alone an earthquake like the one that devastated Port-au-Prince last Tuesday

  • WHOI expert: Haiti quake occurred in complex, active seismic region

    Most of the time, the earth’s plates do not slide smoothly past one another; they stick in one spot for perhaps years or hundreds of years, until enough pressure builds along the fault and the landmasses suddenly jerk forward to relieve the pressure, releasing massive amounts of energy throughout the surrounding area; in Haiti, the tremor was centered just 10 miles southwest of the capital city, Port au Prince, and the quake was shallow — only about 10-15 kilometers below the land’s surface

  • U.S. aging infrastructure a national security concern

    There many immediate and long-term economic benefits to investing in shoring up the U.S. crumbling infrastructure – but investing in creating a robust and resilient infrastructure is essential for national security as well: because the United States is the world’s dominant military power, the only real way for enemies to attack the country is through its infrastructure, including cyberspace, making infrastructure resilience critical

  • Why the U.S. needs an infrastructure bank

    The U.S. aging infrastructure will eventually constrain economic growth; government alone can no longer finance all of the nation’s infrastructure requirements; a national infrastructure bank (NIB) could fill the gap; the NIB could attract private funds to co-invest in projects that pass rigorous cost-benefit tests, and that generate revenues through user fees or revenue guarantees from state and local governments; investors could choose which projects meet their investment criteria, and, in return, share in project risks that today fall solely on taxpayers

  • The 106-foot San Clemente to be torn down, largest dam removal in California

    California dam inspectors declared the San Clemente dam unsafe in 1991, at risk of collapse in a major earthquake; “In 1921, this dam was a marvel of engineering. It has fulfilled its purpose and its usefulness is behind us,” said Rob MacLean, president of the California American Water Co., which owns the dam

  • Flood-prone state road gets temporary fix

    A section of Route 12, just north of the village of Rodanthe, North Carolina, increasingly has become flood-prone over the past decade due in part to rapid beach erosion in the area; wind-driven waves from a slow-moving mid-November storm buckled and undermined approximately 800 ft of pavement, flattened 900 ft of 15-ft to 20-ft-high sand dunes, and damaged hundreds of sandbags placed by NCDOT following a 2007 storm event; the North Carolina Department of Transportation has decided to relocate 1,800-ft-long stretch of the highway

  • Levee statistics show their importance to U.S. economy

    Counties with levees account for only 28 percent of the U.S. counties and only 37 percent of the U.S. land area – but they contain 55 percent of the U.S. population, more than 156 million people; the total productivity for counties containing levees was nearly 3.3 times greater than it was in those without levees; the average annual income of residents was $1,500 more, and the rate of poverty was 2 percent lower

  • Security and building design: A decade of change and adaptation

    The cumulative influence of major building security-related events — the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, the 1996, the destruction of the Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, the Oklahoma City bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building happened in 1995, and the 2001 attack on the Twin Towers – have led architects and engineers to rethink building security

  • Dam in Massachusetts raises concerns in Eastern Connecticut

    The condition of 40-year old dam in Massachusetts is deteriorating fast, and communities downstream in Connecticut are worried; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is looking at ways to shore up the 560 feet long and 78 feet high dam