Dec. 11, 2013

GBA forms Safety Subcommittee; get onboard
GBA's Business Practices Committee has formed a Safety Subcommittee under the guidance of Subcommittee Chair Randy A. Knott, P.E. (AMEC Environment & Infrastructure). GBA established the new subcommittee in order to help GBA-Member Firms come to grips with the growing importance of safety issues and what they need to do in order to improve. In the case of some major owners, a firm's safety record is even more important than its experience and capabilities. Want to get involved with the Subcommittee? Just let us know. Send us an e-mail at or call us at 301-565-2733.More

FROM THE BENCH: Limitation of Liability provision limits claims for negligence and breach of contract
In a case involving Indiana law, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has granted a partial summary judgment to an architectural firm, enforcing its limitation-of-liability (LoL) clause and thereby capping the firm's liability at $70,000. The client — SAMS, a developer — sought $4.2 million as compensation for damages resulting from structural problems that necessitated demolition of a nearly completed hotel.More

Foam blocks used to support freeway ramps and bridge approaches
The Columbian
Construction crews are using geofoam blocks to support freeway ramps and approaches to a new Vancouver, WA bridge. The blocks are "not hugely different than what you would find wrapped around your TV when you open the box," said Andrew Fiske, a geotechnical engineer with the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). "However, we can dictate the strength requirements." Crews are building the span as part of a $133 million effort to remake the convergence of Interstate 5 and Interstate 205.More

Solar-panel pavement debuts
George Washington University (GW) and Onyx Solar have used building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) to create what they claim is the first-ever walkable, solar-paneled pavement. The 100-square-foot area of pavement, comprising 27 slip-resistant, semi-translucent panels, converts solar radiation into enough electricity to power 450 LED pathway lights below the panels. The solar pavement is installed at GW's Virginia Science and Technology Campus in Ashburn, VA.More

Business Practices Roundtable notes
The Business Practices Committee sponsors the Business Roundtables at GBA Fall Conferences. Each session features 6-10 topics for attendees to discuss. Participants consistently rate these sessions highly for both the breadth and depth of discussion. See notes from past conferences and get ideas to make your business better!More

BUSINESS 101: Six steps to protect your business from employee fraud
Data show that about one-third of business bankruptcies are the result of employee theft. Reduce your exposure to this risk by implementing six simple procedures:


Lunch & Learn: Scope definition
What do the project managers and project-manager "wannabes" at your firm need to know about effective mutual scope development? Use this GBA Lunch & Learn as a platform to teach them what you want them to know.More

HR DEPARTMENT: Noncompete agreements: Yes or no?
Noncompete agreements tend to be counterproductive. Do you want employees who would like to leave, but don't because of a noncompete? Do you want employees who are immediately de-motivated because they feel their human capital is not their own? Which would you rather work for: The company that puts tremendous effort into placing legal and contractual stakes in the ground, or the company that puts tremendous effort into trying to be the employer of choice? When you demand noncompetes you create self-selection and a market for lemons: the people who unthinkingly sign a noncompete may feel they don't have the skills to get another job or take off on their own. Every employer wants employees who are self-motivated, who have confidence, and who have aspirations. Why put up artificial barriers that make it harder to attract great employees? People want to develop their careers; maybe work for a company for a few years then become entrepreneurs.More

PROFESSIONAL SELLING: Ten simple steps to getting great referrals
Isn't it wonderful when the person calling in says, "I was referred to you by…." You immediately know: a client representative is so happy with you, you're getting a HUGE gratuity; the prospect is presold and will deal with you sole source, this could be the type of first commission that launches every client-for-life relationship. Too bad it only happens about once a decade. Except for the really smart practitioners who can make it happen as often as six or seven times a year. Maybe even more often. Want to become a smart practitioner? Watch this on-demand webinar that may qualify for one Professional Development Hour (PDH).More

Soft skills and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man
CE News
I've been teaching soft skills to design and environmental professionals for more than 40 years. No matter which particular soft skill I address, my first step is to inform "students" that, while they may be members of a learned profession, they apply their skills as members of the service industry. To succeed, they must master not only the hard skills they love, but also the soft skills whose nature, to innumerable technical professionals, is totally unappealing. "Soft skills. Hah! Who needs them?" Good question.More

$70 billion LA-SF bullet-train project on track
The Fresno Bee
The most recent accounting shows that the California High-Speed Rail Authority has spent almost $600 million on engineering and environmental consultants for its San Francisco-to-Los Angeles bullet-train line. The Authority has reaffirmed its $68.3-billion construction-cost estimate, and earlier this year approved a $987-million contract with a team of contractors to design and build the first 29-mile stretch of the line from Madera through Fresno. Nonetheless, the Authority is still refusing to estimate when ground may be broken.More

DR. ENGLISH: Strength in simplicity
"You, too, can have the vocabulary of a Harvard English major." You've probably seen that advertisement in airline magazines, suggesting that you, too, can develop knowledge of words that other people don't know, making them feel stupid and, thus, elevating your own self-image. As it so happens, Dr. English is a Harvard English major, and the only others he knows who use words most people don't understand are just plain rude. After all, why say "eleemosynary" when "charitable" will do just as well? Why say "have a predilection for" when all it means is "like"? More

Know a firm that needs to be a member?
You know the value of GBA; help us spread the word! Send us the names 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 key contact information, we'll reach out.More

CoMET firms to hire robots?
Daily Commercial News
Researchers at Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Non-destructive Testing have developed FluxCrawler, a small, battery-operated, crawling robot that can test load-bearing cables and tethers of bridges, elevators and cable cars. The robot, about 70 centimeters long and just a few centimeters wide, climbs a wire cable, spiraling upward as it conducts magnetic flux leakage tests to monitor the quality of stay cables and wire ropes. The robot is controlled by a computer with a wireless connection. An image of the magnetic field on the cable's entire surface appears on the computer screen; each damaged area is displayed as a high-resolution image. More

YOU'VE JUST GOT TO BE KIDDING: Connecticut discovers thieves steal
The Hartford Courant
You can only imagine how relieved Suki L. Handly must have been when the Connecticut Department of Social Services (CDSS) hired her in 2008 to distribute welfare benefits in its Manchester regional office. After all, public records showed that she had been convicted of larceny, drug possession, and prostitution. Given this second chance, Handly — who later told police she was battling an Oxycontin addiction — began stealing $44,000 from the state and, once caught, was arrested and pleaded guilty to first-degree larceny by defrauding a public community. David Dearborn, a CDSS spokesperson, said the department has instituted a new policy of greater screening in the hiring process.More

10 ideas chosen for coastal shields in New York, New Jersey
Insurance Journal
U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan has selected the top-ten concepts from among the 41 submitted by teams of nearly 200 architects, engineers, and social scientists as part of Rebuild by Design, a competition created to attract ideas for making the New York/New Jersey coastline more resilient. A Danish architectural firm has proposed the "Big U," a network of flood barriers comprising "small, relatively simple projects" customized by neighborhood. In one area the barrier might be a grassy slope. On the West Side Highway it could be tucked into the street median. In other locations, it could be disguised as public art. Next, the winning design teams will develop plans and speak with local leaders about implementing their concepts, some of which could be eligible for federal funding. There is no guarantee that any of the proposals will become a reality.More

Webinars on-demand
GBA has an entire series of webinars on-demand to help you and your employees with professional practice and writing skills. Best of all, staff members can earn professional development hours (PDHs) for watching them!More

U.S. growth patterns 2013-2022
The world's biggest and most dynamic economy derives its strength and resilience from its geographic diversity. Economically, at least, the United States is not a single country. It is a collection of seven nations and three quasi-independent city-states, each with its own tastes, proclivities, resources, and problems. These nations compete with one another — the Great Lakes loses factories to the Southeast, and talent flees the brutal winters and high taxes of the city-state New York for gentler climes — but, more important, they develop synergies, albeit unintentionally.More