Saturday, January 2, 2010

News and Notes, Engineering Edition - 2 Jan 2010

Boh Brothers turns 100 years old. It's incredibly rare for a construction firm to last this long. Boh Brothers has done amazing work over the years, very often coming in under budget and ahead of schedule. They got one span of the I-10 Twin Spans repaired within weeks of Katrina, despite their headquarters being underwater. Most of the key repair work for the 17th Street Canal was done by Boh Brothers. I know one of their project managers that threatened to shoot down the next 3,000 lb. sandbag-toting helicopter. The helo's looked good on TV, but they couldn't carry nearly as much as a team of dump trucks and bulldozers working in close coordination. The sandbags were a big worksite hazard and could have gotten someone killed for very, very little gain. Occasionally, you hear some complaints about all the work, including No-Bid work, Boh gets, but they've done such a good job over the years, I'd discount most of it as jealousy.

Terrorist Engineers. Even accounting for enrollment, terrorists are more likely to be engineers than any other major, including Islamic Studies. Lots of Arab engineers who thought they had the ticket for a well paying and respected profession get shut out due to economic stagnation in their home country. Very complicated, but it's a good article to read and noodle for a while.

Wanted: Green Engineers. I don't necessarily agree with everything the Economist says on this one. Most of the dedicated "Green Engineers" I've dealt with have been less than impressed with. I'm not the only one. Fluid Mechanics and Heat Transfer stay the same, whether its liquid hydrocarbon or algal biodiesel.

Speaking of Algal Biodiesel: Algal Biodiesel's Lost Decade. Huge, promising energy research program started by Carter gets axed by successors and now we're trying to pick up the pieces. Good read.

Young Engineer saves Slovakia from Freezing. While the politicians argued, a young engineer implemented a workaround to allow for gas compression stations to work in reverse, allowing a gas pipeline to operate from Western European gas stores and keep Slovakia from freezing.

Four images of a worksite in Dubai. 1 2 3 4. Whoops. There goes some awfully expensive construction equipment. From Zero Hedge.

The Return of Tinkering. I've posted it before, but I really like it.

And a video of our coming robot overlords:

The music at the 2 minute mark makes the video.


mcbrid35 said...

US Army November 2006 independent assessment of the Corps' activities at the floodgates:

"• Boh Bros never “bought into” the June 1 publicly stated goal. Boh Bros approach to Contract Modifications (Mods) was less aggressive towards completion than exhibited by the other two general contractors. Boh Bros approach to Mods was to minimize financial risk. Boh Bros accomplished this by letting Mods be completely approved before commencing work. The other general contractors would “get a head start” before all the paperwork was completed. In addition, Boh Bros had not had full night crews on site at 17th Street since around July 4.
• Boh Bros is primarily a civil works firm with over 50 projects currently being worked in Louisiana. This contract was originally for only the flood surge gate construction but has been modified over time to be a large scale civil/mechanical project with a significant portion being mechanical. There was some question within the Corps as to whether Boh had the depth of experience with a project that contained as much mechanical work as this one. This would also add to Boh Bros’ risk aversion as mentioned in the previous finding.
• Kiewiet and Pittman fully embraced the June 1 goal and worked 24/7 up until approximately June 30 when their respective pumping stations were considered operational. USACE particularly praised Kiewit (they were also the most costly contractor)"

Clay said...

Interesting read. More slamming of M.W.I.'s pumps.

Looks to me like Boh took on too many projects at once at that time. It's kind of hard to fault them for waiting on change orders to get approved. Lots of companies have been burned, especially by the Corps, on change orders they were assured would happen then didn't.

That was also an awful situation for those Corps workers who hit their overtime cap and still had mounds of work. A hell of a situation to ask someone to do.

jeffrey said...

Huxley vs Orwell: Not really mutually exclusive phenomena. Both of them were right.

Clay said...

Wrong post...

Dr. Wu said...

Four images of a worksite in Dubai.