May. 14, 2014

New online from GBA: Index of Limitation-of-Liability Decisions, Index of Economic-Loss-Doctrine Decisions
ASFE/GBA has published new editions of two important legal references, both prepared for design professionals without use of "legalese"; both available free of charge. ASFE/GBA's Legal Affairs Committee updated the Limitation-of-Liability Case Index and Economic-Loss-Doctrine Case Index, with Committee Vice Chair Terence J. "Terry" Scanlan, Esq., a principal of the Seattle (WA) law firm Skellenger Bender, P.S., doing the heavy lifting. Both documents are on-line at

Bylaws amendments being voted on
GBA-Member Firms are now considering a variety of bylaws amendments. The most significant of these would formally change the organization's name from ASFE, Inc. to the Geoprofessional Business Association, Inc. It's sad to see the old name go, but — realistically — the time has come. Few people even know what the letters originally stood for, and explaining it takes more than an elevator trip. Like it or not, Geoprofessional Business Association says exactly who we are. It takes 60 days for the voting to become official. We shall see!More

Something is seriously wrong with STEM
U.S. News & World Report
Data reviewed at the U.S. News STEM Solutions conference creates cause for major concern: Fewer than four in ten college students who intend to major in a math- or science-based field actually stick with it. And of the less than 40% who do declare a STEM major, only 25% earn a STEM-related degree; i.e., of those who say "A STEM career's for me," only one in ten do it. The attrition rate is even worse for minorities and women, who represent just a fraction of first- and second-year college students studying in STEM-related fields (only 2,000 women and 1,150 Latinos receive STEM degrees each year). At the conference, a "Bridging the Gap: Overcoming STEM Fatigue" panel identified a range of solutions, including:


Robot designed to draw full-scale plans on construction-site surface
You know what a Roomba is, right? A small, flying-saucer-lookalike robot that vacuums a floor without human guidance. Now imagine a smarter device that holds a giant marker, scurrying about a construction site while translating technical data into full-scale markings that would comprise an error-free map for constructor personnel to follow. The brainchild of South Korean architectural designer Han Seok Nam, "Archibot" would feasibly eliminate errors arising from misinterpretations of drawings.More

Learn how to track financial performance data for your firm
Watch a recording of the highly-acclaimed "Benchmarking Your Firm's Financial Performance" webinar by Lee James — it's free! (Member login required.) Then apply what you learn to develop these metrics for your own firm. Finally, submit your numbers for the annual Financial Performance Survey in confidence to help us develop an overall picture of GBA Member Firms' financial performance. More

What's the best infrastructure investment?
Fast Company
What's the United States' best infrastructure investment? According to a new report from Oxfam America and the Center for American Progress, coastal wetlands: natural protections that function like horizontal levees. The cost-saving benefits associated with coastal wetlands were highlighted by Superstorm Sandy, whose surge damaged New York so much because there were no coastal wetlands to break the storm's flow. But flood protection isn't the only benefit to be derived from wetlands restoration: Wetlands also filter run-off (preventing $13 billion in annual nitrogen pollution each year), store carbon and other pollutants, help reestablish fish stocks, and reopen opportunities for recreation and tourism.More

BuRec to spend $44.3 million on water infrastructure in the West
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will provide $44.3 million worth of financial aid and construction support for rural water projects in the West. The purpose? To:

  •    address infrastructure to maintain system reliability and safety,
  •    restore aquatic habitat,
  •    continue Reclamation's focus on water-related activities to support tribal nations,
  •    meet the increasing water demands of the western United States, and
  •    support activities that increase water resiliency in the face of drought.
    "BuRec" will spend $27.1 million to advance five infrastructure projects that will deliver clean, reliable drinking water to remote areas. A summary of all projects affected by the spending plan is available at
  • More

    Lunch & Learn: Workplace Harassment
    What do the folks in your firm need to know about workplace harassment and what should and should not be done about it? Chances are the key points you need to make have been made for you by the GBA Education Committee in its "Workplace Harassment" Lunch & Learn.More

    Glow-in-the-dark Dutch roads
    Light-absorbing glow-in-the-dark road markings have replaced streetlights on a one-third-mile stretch of Netherlands' N329 highway in Oss. Daan Roosegaarde, founder and lead designer of Studio Roosegaarde, developed the concept, realized through use of photo-luminescent powder integrated into the road paint. As he explained to reporter Liat Clark, "One day I was sitting in my car in the Netherlands, and I was amazed by these roads we spend millions on but no one seems to care what they look like and how they behave. I started imagining this Route 66 of the future where technology jumps out of the computer screen and becomes part of us." Part of his vision included weather markings; snowdrops, for example, would appear when the temperature reached a certain level. For now though, the roadway features only the glow-in-the-dark road marking. There's no news yet on how the paint holds up against wear and tear. More

    YOU'VE JUST GOT TO BE KIDDING: If you think Sandy was bad...
    The Associated Press via The Washington Times
    New York City responded to Superstorm Sandy's social devastation quickly and with heart, creating the Build-It-Back program, designed principally to help New Yorkers repair, rebuild, and elevate their damaged, ruined, and at-risk homes. The federal government looked kindly on the program, granting it $1.45 billion, a huge amount, to be sure, but one not likely large enough to meet all the needs of the 20,000 homeowners who have already applied for financial help to rebuild and repair. So, as of March 31, 2014 — one year and five months to the day since Superstorm Sandy left the East Coast — significant progress is being made. In fact, as of March 31, 2014, the Build-It-Back program has already reimbursed three homeowners for repairs they made and three new, replacement homes were under construction. You can imagine the questions that were asked at a recent hearing where the guest of honor was Amy Peterson, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio's new housing-recovery director. An executive summary of her comments follows: "It's Bloomberg's fault."More

    Know a firm that needs to be a member?
    You know the value of GBA; help us spread the word! Send us the name of firms that you know could benefit from GBA membership. It's even better if you can give us a personal introduction, but if you at least send us their name and the name of a key contact, we'll reach out to them.More

    Does your firm have an office in New England? If not, should it?
    The Associated Press via The Boston Globe
    The prices New Englanders pay for space heating, space cooling, and power-plant operations are among the highest in the nation, a fact well known by the Hartford, Connecticut audience of energy executives, regulators, environmentalists, and others recently addressed by Department of Energy Secretary Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, a physicist and Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor. He said, "Out there, in much of the country, the talk is about the energy revolution, the abundance of energy that we have, the way that we are in fact drawing upon new resources... promoting renewables, at the same time reducing carbon emissions. But yet, if we come here, it's not a discussion of abundance. It's a discussion of, in particular, infrastructure constraints," noting that, in New England, piping in natural gas and otherwise delivering heat or electricity is limited by a lack of delivery systems. Who's going to be doing much of the work? Geoprofessionals, of course, although Muniz didn't make that point; it's just a fact.More

    Work group to investigate injection-well/seismicity links
    The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says the oil and gas industry has built some 150,000 Class II underground-injection control (UIC) wells to dispose of produced water or improve resource recovery. Is there a relationship between these wells and the seismic events being experienced in several states? To answer that question, the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC) and the Groundwater Protection Council have formed the Induced Seismicity by Injection Work Group with several states' oil and gas regulators and geologic surveys. State agencies participating in the work group will share science, research, and experience to help states evaluate risks and take measures to counter them, while enhancing readiness for seismic events.More

    Renewable-energy generation is hot. Is your firm involved?
    GreenTech Media
    For the period January-October 2013, says the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's Office of Energy Projects, renewable energy sources (biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) accounted for one-third of all new electrical-generating capacity in the U.S. In fact, during October 2013, renewable energy accounted for almost 100% of the nation's new generation capacity. And during the first quarter of 2014, renewable energy sources, mostly wind and solar, made up more than 90% of new installed power capacity, with natural gas making up the rest. The renewable projects are not all grid-connected, but more are: The American Wind Energy Association reports that, in 2013, four new grid-connected transmission projects will produce about 10,000mW of new wind power; another 15 projects in advanced development will produce some 60,000 megawatts by 2018. Is your firm involved in alternative energy? Should it be?More