• Colorado faces costly, lengthy challenge fixing flood-damaged roads

    The Colorado Department of Transportation(CDOT) has met the 1 December 2013 deadline to reopen twenty-seven flood-battered highways in the state, but the department still faces major challenges in making permanent fixes to damage caused by September’s historic floods. The scope of the task is currently being evaluated as highway managers explore technological and engineering changes needed to keep about 485 miles of damaged roadway more resistant to mass flooding.

  • NIST: Joplin tornado highlights need for building design, construction standards

    Nationally accepted standards for building design and construction, public shelters, and emergency communications can significantly reduce deaths and the steep economic costs of property damage caused by tornadoes. That is the key conclusion of a two-year technical NIST investigation into the impacts of the 22 May 2011 tornado that struck Joplin, Missouri. Report and recommendations released for public comment.

  • List of most-at-risk L.A. buildings to be released

    Scientists have compiled a list of concrete buildings in Los Angeles which could be at risk of collapsing in a major earthquake. The list identifies about 1,500 concrete structures built before 1980 which need further study to determine their risk level. Structural engineers insist that hundreds could die if any of the buildings collapsed.

  • The Philippines is victim of geography, poor infrastructure, poverty

    Owing to its location and geography, the Philippines is one of the most natural disaster-prone countries in the world. On average the country experiences nine major typhoons and 900 earthquakes annually, and it has twenty-five active volcanoes. Poor infrastructure and pervasive poverty exacerbate the impact of disasters, making them even more deadly and destructive. “In a cruel cycle, poverty and underdevelopment make disasters worse, and disasters make poverty and underdevelopment worse,” one observer notes.

  • Resources on disaster preparedness, resilience

    One year after Superstorm Sandy hit the eastern United States, local, state, and federal agencies as well as community groups and businesses are working to strengthen the U.S.s resilience to future disasters. A National Research Council (NRC) has issues a series of studies and reports, and has put together workshops and study groups, which should advance the national conversation on preparedness and resilience.

  • Urban underground water can be used for sustainable energy

    Vast energy sources are slumbering below big cities. Sustainable energies for heating in winter and cooling in summer may be extracted from heated groundwater aquifers. Researchers developed an analytical heat flux model and found that increasing heat in the underground is mainly caused by an increase in surface temperatures and heat release from buildings.

  • New method to help coastal communities adapt to sea-level rise

    Future sea-level rise seems inevitable, although the rates and geographical patterns of change remain uncertain. Given the large and growing populations and economic activity in coastal zones, as well as the importance of coastal ecosystems, the potential impacts of sea-level change are far-reaching. Current methods to assess the potential impact of sea-level rise have varied significantly and hindered the development of useful scenarios and, in turn, suitable adaption policies and planning.

  • Guardrails made safer with impact-absorbing Mediterranean tapeweed coating

    Researchers have developed protective guardrails from residue of Posidonia oceanica,commonly known as Neptune Grass or Mediterranean tapeweed, in order to minimize the risk of injuries on the roads. The waste material is useful for coating the support posts of guard rails on roads so they can absorb and dissipate much of the kinetic energy if a collision occurs, preventing lacerations and amputations in cases in which a human body hits the support post.

  • Crumbling infrastructure hobbles U.S. competitiveness

    America’s infrastructure has long been denied the investment and attention needed from public and private entities to remain competitive in an ever-growing global economy. U.S. roads, bridges, power plants, airports, utilities, and other critical infrastructure were once the envy of the world. The post-Second World War golden era (that is, golden era as far as investments in infrastructure are concerned) has come to an end, and fewer resources are committed to improving and maintaining the country’s infrastructure.

  • Rural California country faces levee dilemma

    About 400 homes and rich farmland in District-10 of Marysville, California risk being flooded should the levees protecting the area fail. The levees, stretching over twenty-eight miles, were built in the early 1900s. The area’s low population may be one reason why county officials have neglected making improvements to the levees in District-10. Local opponents of investment in shoring up the levees are worried that if the levees are improved and the area made safer, “It would open the door for more agribusiness type things, but it would also open the door for more subdivisions,” in the words of one of them.

  • A state of disrepair: Thousands of U.S. aging bridges risk collapse

    Of the 607,380 bridges listed in the recent U.S. National Bridge Inventory, 65,605 bridges are classified as “structurally deficient” and 20,808 as “fracture critical,” with 7,795 of those bridges designated as both structurally deficient and fracture critical. Experts say this indicates significant disrepair and a risk of collapse. These 7,795 structurally deficient, fracture critical bridges carry more than twenty-nine million drivers a day.

  • Bay Bridge repairs expensive, slow

    California’s 8-mile San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge was designed and built in the 1930s in about 5.5 years at a cost of $78 million, well under budget and ahead of schedule. Presently, the 2-mile eastern span of the bridge needs to be replaced, and it has taken the state five years just to design the replacement. Construction is taking about three times the expected time, and the $6.4 billion budget is almost five times the estimate provided by engineers.

  • Ultrathin radios enable flexible structural-health monitoring system

    Currently, engineers can use single-point sensors or fiber optic strips to detect structural problems, but the devices can collect data over relatively small spaces. The problem is that many failures develop over large areas and cannot be detect that at an early stage. The 2007 collapse of a highway bridge in Minneapolis, for example, developed over a gusset plate with an area of several square meters, far too large for current monitoring systems to practically survey. Researchers have developed ultrathin radios which can be embedded directly on plastic sheets, which can be applied to walls and other structures. The innovation could be used for new devices ranging from an invisible communications system inside buildings to sophisticated, flexible structural health monitoring system for use on bridges, buildings, roads, pipelines, and other structures.

  • Sandy shows need for more effective preparedness, resiliency standards

    The rebuilding efforts following the devastation wreaked by Superstorm Sandy have triggered a discussion over preparedness and resiliency in America’s commercial and residential buildings.Some experts callfor a presidential appointment of a building resilience “’czar”’ with authority to coordinate and seek synergies between public and private sector initiatives.

  • Feds give upstate New York counties $5 million money to repair roads, bridges

    The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) has approved $5 million in emergency funding to help fifteen upstate New York counties make repairs to their roads and bridges damaged in a flood late last month.