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Calatrava on the hot seat

It seems clients are a little upset with the man.

From the New York Times.

Mr. Calatrava was paid approximately 94 million euros (about $127 million) for his work. How could that be, Mr. Blanco asks, when the opera house included 150 seats with obstructed views? Or when the science museum was initially built without fire escapes or elevators for the disabled?

“How can you make mistakes like that?” asked Mr. Blanco, a member of the small opposition United Left party here, who said millions were spent to fix such errors. “He was paid even when repairing his own mistakes.”

But in numerous interviews, other architects, academics and builders say that Mr. Calatrava is amassing an unusually long list of projects marred by cost overruns, delays and litigation. It is hard to find a Calatrava project that has not been significantly over budget. And complaints abound that he is indifferent to the needs of his clients. Just last month a Dutch councilor in Haarlemmermeer, near Amsterdam, urged his colleagues to take legal action because the three bridges the architect designed for the town cost twice the budgeted amount and then millions more in upkeep since they opened in 2004. Mr. Calatrava is already in court over a footbridge in Venice, a winery in the Álava region of Spain and a massive exhibition and conference center in Oviedo, Spain.

From the comments section, it made me laugh. Calatrava is a structural engineer.

Who is on these review committees? Shouldn’t structural engineers have enough votes to make the decision? Why do we waste taxpayer money on egomaniacs? Surely it’s possible to have beautiful designs that also work structurally.

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Engineering Economics – Power Sizing Model for industrial plants and equipment

I made a quick video on using the Power Sizing Model for my class. You use the model to estimate the cost difference between items such as compressors or motors (industrial plants and equipment). For example what is the cost of a 200hp compressor if you know the cost of a 120 hp compressor? Since the cost change is not linear you use a simple formula with a power sizing exponent found in industry tables.

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10 Things: Making sense of nation’s bad bridges

From the Houston Chronicle newspaper, “10 Things: Making sense of nation’s bad bridges.”

Here are 10 questions and answers regarding the status of the nation’s bridges:


The most recent federal National Bridge Inventory includes 607,380 bridges that are subject to uniform bridge inspection standards. Among those bridges, there were 65,605 classified as “structurally deficient” and 20,808 as “fracture critical.”

Of those, 7,795 were both. And bridges with both red flags are open in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. While such dual designation does not automatically mean double trouble, experts who pay attention to these things say the group has increased risk.


A bridge is “structurally deficient” when it is in need of rehabilitation or replacement because at least one major component is deemed in poor or worse condition.

A bridge is deemed “fracture critical” when it doesn’t have redundant protections and is at risk of collapse if a single, vital component fails.

Officials say that neither category is an indication of imminent collapse, but experts agree that both classifications are signs of risk.

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Why America’s Employment System Is so Broken

Ask the Headhunter, on the PBS website, has a great column on how the current hiring system is hurting applicants. It is well worth a read.

“One of the things we’ve seen from all our data crunching is that G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless — no correlation at all except for brand-new college grads, where there’s a slight correlation.

Google famously used to ask everyone for a transcript and G.P.A.’s and test scores, but we don’t anymore, unless you’re just a few years out of school. We found that they don’t predict anything.”

Employers need to adopt a similar mindset: Don’t find people for your jobs; create jobs for talented people.

There’s far too much focus on jobs and matching people to them, and not enough focus on cultivating and developing the talents of capable people. There is not enough of building companies from personal interactions between managers and their professional communities, and too much of stuffing job requirements and keywords into databases.

Companies should stop recruiting to fill jobs, and start recruiting to fill their ranks with the best, most talented people they can find. Managers need to learn how to meet and mingle with the best talent in their professional communities, and design jobs around them to produce value and profit.

What a concept: Start with the people.

It’s time to turn the employment system upside down and to focus on hiring smart people who can think, learn and work profitably — and to let them loose.

How much worse could they do than the employers who can’t pick the right-shaped pegs?

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Sad Bear

I drew this for a tshirt but my wife thought is was too sad. Looking at it again, it is kind of depressing, from an earlier time, when people didn’t take proper care of animals. (Maybe it could be a metaphor for the times we live in.)

Maybe I need to add to the scene, have the bear ride a chopper, with the wind blowing through its hair.