Monthly Archives: July 2009

Calatrava in Calgary

The Happy Pontist has another great review of the proposed Calatrava bridge in Calgary. (My hometown)

The bridge is not a typical Calatrava, at first blush I can’t see his hand in the design. When you buy a signature bridge from one of the guiding lights of bridge design, you want a Calatrava.

You want to point and say, “see the tower, the white ribs, definitetly a Calatrava”.

When you get Frank Gehry, you want a oddball, multi-surfaced structure.

Calatrava’s bridge reminds me of a bullet train from Japan or a Christmas candy cane. Its high contrast color does not seem to fit the home of the Calgary Stampede, the World’s largest rodeo. Check out more images of the bridge over at the pontist and let me know what you think of the bridge.

Prairie Style Bridge

I have just finished up a plan for a new Prairie style 2 span overhead bridge. I started to model my plan in Sketchup, both as a way to learn more about SU and to catch any mistakes in my design.

One of the things I am battling against is how “realistic” to model my bridge in SU. By that I mean, do I include the parabolic roadway grade, which leads to showing camber in the concrete beams, which leads to a varying concrete haunch. (The concrete between the deck and the beams, which helps in adjusting for the camber of the beam.)

Each wing is slightly different because of the 28 degree skew combined with the roadway grade. I don’t think anyone could see the small differences in a “accurate model” vs. a less refined drawing but I would like to see if it is possible to build a model that you could use to verify things like elevations.

I also downloaded a ruby script from here, which allows me to calculate volume quantities from groups or components in my SU model. This helps me check how accurate my concrete quantities. If you want to know more about ruby scripts, drop me a line.

Old ABC Bridge posts

This happens to be post #187 and I thought I would take this time to look back at some posts you may have missed. Afterall, I have some new readers (thanks by the way) who may not have read everything on the blog, I have a ton of work to do and I may have run out of ideas for a moment……

And who can forget the crash testing video!

Role of Structural Engineers in Sustainable Construction

On his blog “A place of Sense“, Graeme, wrote a good post about engineers and the sustainable design movement. Architects are way ahead of engineers in developing strategies for going green.

(The whole LEED movement for example. As a side note, I remember a private company starting a business called the “Canadian Standards Association” (CSA). The idea was to get Architects and builders to specify only CSA certified companies for their contracts. So of course we had to pay $50k to get “certified”. But I digress…if anyone wants to start an engineering version of LEEDs, let me know!)

Graeme wrote,

One of the great things about sustainable development is that it recognizes the importance of historic preservation, or retaining existing buildings of any type. You may have heard the expression “The greenest building is one that’s already built.”

Does this relate to bridges as well? For example, we have a concrete arch bridge nearby that was built in the twenties. The city wants a wider cross-section and it does not appear the existing arches can handle the additional load. How do you engineers feel about rehabbing an 80 year old bridge? I’m not taking sides, I am just curious about what would be the best solution regarding existing bridges?

Anyway go check out Graeme’s post.

Teaching Engineering Students

How do you teach engineering students? How do they learn? Engineering, like teaching the Law, is built on precedents. Examples are the lifeblood of the system.

For the past 10 plus years I have been teaching, on and off, courses in hydrology, structural analysis and concrete design at the local university. (while working full-time as a bridge designer)

When I get reviews (teaching evaluations) at the end of the semester two things usually show up. One is an appreciation for real life experience (whether my recommendations are good is open to debate..but PE’s in the classrooms is a good thing) and the other is MORE EXAMPLES! Students love examples and examples close to the test questions are even better. But a study by some Ohio researchers found that examples proved a poor way of solving future problems.

Researchers led by Jennifer Kaminski, researcher scientist at Ohio State University’s Center for Cognitive Science, found that college students who learned a mathematical concept with concrete examples couldn’t apply that knowledge to new situations.

This research suggests that examples limit the extension of engineering knowledge to more complex problems. I could not agree more. I see this at work, at school and in my own life. Everywhere I go in engineering, someone asks to see an example before starting a new project. Engineers are reluctant (thats putting it mildly) to try an innovative design without some backup. Examples are the backup, the insurance, if someone else has done a project and it was built, it must work. Whether it was a good solution or not, well, as long as it was built it works! How do you think engineers learn?

Bridge Engineers on Facebook

I wondered if I could find any bridge engineers on Facebook. Santiago Calatrava is there of course, he has 18,721 fans. Do you think it is a good strategy for your typical engineer or engineering firm to be on Facebook? (I guess it is one way to get your message out…) Calatrava’s site has a number of good images and some short videos of his work.

I thought it was the Bean

I visited the giant silver “bean” in Millennium park yesterday. (actually its called the Cloud Gate on the AT&T Plaza) It was not what I expected. I thought it would be an overrated sculpture (showing my engineering bias) but it was interesting and the people loved it. One of the things I would like as an engineer is to interact with the public with my designs. Obviously highway bridges may not get me there but  what can you do.

It must be a good sculpture if even my pictures look okay….

Chicago!

Chicago is busy, loud, and full of architecture. I am hoping I can see one of the bascule bridges opening up but I think they only do that on special occasions. More pics to come.

ABC – Saturday DIY edition

You probably noticed by now that I spend a look of time looking at projects other than ABC bridges and today is no different.

I saw this video on boingboing.net about a music composer who made a video using Google Sketchup. (I can see this technique being used to promote your bridge design to the public.) Here is a link to an interview with the video director. (sorry about the ads)

I also love the DIY movement and I think this aero-civic design is amazing.There is a lot of engineering behind the $400 in parts.

Friday Odds and Ends

Its Friday! Ever have one of those weeks….well as the title of the post suggests, odds and ends today.

  • ABC Posts – If you have some bridge related information or project news you would like to promote, please email me the material at “nielsen at acceleratedbridgeconstruction dot com” (hopefully that fools the spammers but I still seem to get a lot of spam from Russia)
  • If I link or post to your image and you are unhappy with that, I will remove it at your request. (No one has complained yet, I try to give the proper credit.)
  • If you have some bridge related questions, I can give them a try. Maybe a Q&A forum, with more knowledgeable readers weighing in?
  • Bridge picture blog – This is a Japanese blog (I think, I used google translator and that is the one that worked. I believe it is called “tabikappa”(?) and has been showcased on other sites. But it is fun to see the enormous variety of bridges.