NEWS BEYOND OUR BORDERS
How can climate change impact Canadian concrete infrastructure?
Postmedia News - According to an engineer and researcher at the B.C. Institute of Technology (BCIT), global climate change is expected to lead to the increased deterioration of concrete infrastructure in Canada in the future.
Sudip Talukdar, civil engineering program coordinator in BCIT’s School of Construction and the Environment, did computer simulations of the effect of climate change on concrete in Vancouver and Toronto.
Talukdar says researchers have identified three major climate change-related threats to concrete:
1. Increased concrete weathering and abrasion due to climatic stress and greater frequency of extreme weather events. Countries in low-lying, flood-prone areas, such as the Netherlands, will have their flood protection systems threatened more often, as water levels rise and storm frequencies increase.
2. Increased risk of chloride-induced corrosion. Global warming may cause chloride-induced corrosion (commonly caused by road salt) of steel reinforcement by up to almost one-fifth of the rebar area.
3. Increased risk of carbonation-induced corrosion.
Increases in carbonation rates of reinforced concrete structures (lowering the pH) are expected as a result of increased temperatures and concentrations of carbon dioxide in the air.
Talukdar says a number of measures can be taken to protect against degradation including increasing concrete covering when and where it is needed; improving concrete quality to reduce permeability; and adding surface coatings or barriers to inhibit the penetration of carbon dioxide.
Alberta government includes two professional engineers
APEGA - In April, APEGA members Rick Wilson, P.Eng., and Prasad Panda, P.Eng., were sworn into the cabinet of the province’s first United Conservative government.
Rick Wilson is the MLA for Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin and was appointed Minister of Indigenous Relations. Along with years of municipal council and school board experience, he has been a business owner and farmer in his constituency for decades.
Prasad Panda is the MLA for Calgary-Edgemont and was sworn in as Minister of Infrastructure. During his 28 years of experience in the energy sector, he has held senior management positions and has been a key member of teams that built $100-billion, world-scale projects.
Mount Royal University puts AI on security detail
The Canadian Press - Post-secondary institutions are sometimes called ivory towers, suggesting that they’re untouched by the real world. But everybody knows that those hallowed halls aren’t isolated from crime, and therefore that improving security systems is usually welcome.
This spring, Calgary’s Mount Royal University replaced its 20-year-old closed-circuit system with 360-degree, high-resolution cameras. But this was way more than a hardware upgrade. MRU also became the first Canadian organization to use iCetana, a blackscreen artificial intelligence system that teaches itself what threats look like.
Developed in Australia and used throughout the U.S., the software system analyzes pixels of data from each camera to learn to differentiate between normal activity and potential threats. At the first sign of trouble, the triggered camera flags security staff to investigate, allowing for a real-time response. When all is well, monitors are black; hence, the technology is called black screen.
The university says the software removes the human error inherent in having a single member of a security team monitor, all at once, as many as 300 live feeds from across the 118-acre campus.
Builders sre swapping cement for weed pollution
Bloomberg Press - The hemp fields sprouting in a part of Canada best known for its giant oil patch show how climate change is disrupting the construction industry.
Six years after setting up shop in the shadow of Calgary’s oil patch, Mac Radford says he can’t satisfy all the orders from builders for Earth-friendly materials that help them limit their carbon footprints.
His company, JustBioFiber Structural Solutions, is on the vanguard of businesses using hemp — the boring cousin of marijuana devoid of psychoactive content — to mitigate the greenhouse gases behind global warming.
Around the world, builders are putting modern twists into ancient construction methods that employ the hearty hemp weed. Roman engineers used the plant’s sinewy fibers in the mortar they mixed to hold up bridges. Early results indicate it’s possible to tap demand for cleaner alternatives to cement.
Cement makers are responsible for about seven per cent of global carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere every year, with copious volumes entering via limestone kilns needed to produce the material. Manufacturers say they’ve struggled to find markets for greener alternatives, giving easy entree to entrepreneurs like Radford who cater to customers concerned about their impact on the Earth.
Hungry bacteria could gobble up tailings pond
University of British Columbia - In five decades of oilsands mining, Alberta has accumulated more than a trillion litres of toxic tailings. That’s about the volume of half-a-million Olympic-size swimming pools.
Naturally, it’s an expensive problem— the cleanup cost is estimated at $27 billion—and it comes with serious environmental risks. After all, toxic materials contained in the ponds include bitumen, naphthenic acids, cyanide and heavy metals.
But research coming out of the University of British Columbia may hold one key to solving the tailings puzzle. Researchers and students there have identified six types of naturally occurring bacteria that consume forms of naphthenic acid, one of the most toxic components of tailings ponds.
The team used bioengineering to upgrade the bacteria to rapidly devour the chemicals. The team will do field trials in simulated tailings ponds near the Athabasca oilsands, home to 19 large tailings ponds.
Engineers Nova Scotia amends one-year Canadian experiemce requirement
Engineering Dimensions - In a move to help internationally trained applicants obtain their Nova Scotia engineering licence, Engineers Nova Scotia (ENS) will waive its required 12 months of Canadian engineering experience for those who participate in Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia’s 18-week Orientation and Communication Skills for Engineers (OCSE) program and have amassed engineering experience largely outside of Canada.
“Engineers Nova Scotia has been concerned for many years with the difficulties that some of our applicants have in meeting the Canadian experience requirement,” ENS Chief Executive Officer and Registrar Len White, P.Eng. (Nova Scotia), FEC, told Engineering Dimensions. “However, there are a number of study programs that can assist engineering applicants who received most of their training and experience outside of Canada. Our association feels that some of these programs meet most or all of the goals of the Canadian experience requirement. Our recent announcement removes a significant barrier for many internationally educated applicants.”
White notes that although those internationally trained applicants who have successfully completed the 180 hours of formal instruction in the OCSE program will be waived from completing the required 12 months of Canadian engineering experience, they still have to pass the Professional Practice Exam, accumulate 48 months of professional engineering experience either in Canada or abroad and have their education and professional experience examined by ENS’s Board of Examiners.
Experts call on Quebec government to use qualifications-based selection in awarding engineering and architecture contracts
Engineers Canada - In an open letter published in mid-August by key media outlets in Quebec, more than 20 experts and organizations called on the Quebec government to use qualifications-based selection in awarding public contracts for engineering and architecture projects in the province.
“We want to emphasize the importance of selecting professionals based on qualifications, not on the basis of lowest price,” the letter reads.
The letter comes on the heels of two infrastructure announcements from the Quebec government — a $1-billion project to build 30 seniors’ homes, and a $1.7-billion project to modernize schools in the province.
Last year, the Quebec government proposed a new process for awarding engineering and architecture contracts for the two largest public infrastructure owners in the province. With the processes proposed seeming to favour the lowest cost bidder, the minister withdrew the draft regulation in August 2018 and instead appointed a working group to bring together officials, public infrastructure owners and industry representatives to review processes for granting contracts. However, the letter points out that this group has not met since December 2018, even after a study by a group of independent experts found that the government’s proposed process favours the lowest price bidder in a systematic way.
The letter uses the Champlain bridge in Montréal, as one of the most prominent examples of an infrastructure project in which the contract was awarded based solely on the lowest price. The letter argues that this has contributed to the many repairs that have needed to be done on the bridge since it was constructed in 1957, and to the bridge’s short lifespan. With two large public infrastructure projects on the horizon, the letter calls on the government to learn from the lessons of the past and use qualifications-based selection in awarding architecture and engineering contracts.
“Is it possible, once and for all, to dispense with formulas that favour the lowest bidder in order to ensure the quality of our infrastructures for present and future generations?”