Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Saving money just got greener...

This week, water, stormwater and wastewater professionals from across the world will be talking about how to make water utilities “smarter” at the 2015 Esri Water Conference in Portland, Oregon (and by “smarter,” we mean more efficient). Two of our very own field collection experts, Mike Cousins, GISP and Kyle Curie, EIT will be a big part of this dialog. Using our firm’s experience with Collector for ArcGIS for manhole assessments, they’ll present how this tablet-based, data collection technology is boosting efficiencies, cutting costs and saving paper.

Intrigued yet? Well, just wait…it gets better. As they’ll explain, gone are the days of hand-written tabulation and data entry back at the office. Ugh. We’ve aged just thinking about it! With real-time geodatabase editing in the field via any smart device, this process has been cut in half AND allows for more information to be collected. In the end, it’s a win for our clients and the environment. No wonder we're so eager to share!

We’re currently using this technology for a variety of asset management needs:
  • Manhole inventories
  • Sign inventories
  • Pipeline assessments
  • And more…

If you're unable to attend their February 11th session in person, and we assume that's the case for most of you, you'll soon be able to join them virtually. Stay tuned for slides from their presentation.

Monday, April 28, 2014

New 3D Technology Could Save Money During Building Utility Construction

Designing within a labyrinth of building utilities often requires the precision of a race car driver. Unfortunately, most methods of assessing existing infrastructure conditions are somewhat imprecise. A lack of accurate data can create hassles for engineers trying to maneuver around obstacles within often-crowded spaces, which can lead to costly changes and delays during construction.

While providing design services to connect the chilled water distribution between two locations on the University of Michigan’s campus in Ann Arbor, OHM Advisors opted to employ new technologies to improve accuracy during design. Instead of using traditional field survey methods to depict conditions in an extremely congested underground utility tunnel, we utilized laser scanning technology to create a detailed 3D AutoCAD model.

The 3D model provided our team with the ability to verify interference and to design the new piping through “holes” in the existing piping. Although the project has yet to be constructed, a much lower installed cost is predicted as a result of employing this laser scanning technology. Not only did the verification process require far less time than traditional field verification methods, but far fewer changes are expected during construction. The technology can also be used for other non-building applications like modeling roadway corridors.
Fast, accurate and reliable, laser scanning technology is used to model existing building infrastructure. Click above to watch of video of the model created for the University of Michigan.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Xtreme Engineering: Letters from the Carp River Gorge (by Steve Wright, PE)

As a structural engineer, my work can be fairly predictable. However, the pendulum can swing in the other direction too. On those days, my job is more like something from a GoPro extreme sports video than a quiet day in the office.

A few months ago, for example, I was walking across steel girders 80 feet above the Carp River Gorge in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The purpose was to inspect the structural soundness of a century-old railroad bridge that the Department of Natural Resources plans to convert into a multi-use trail.

Because the bridge is so high and topped with railroad ties, the only way to inspect most of the structure is to walk along small 3x3 steel angles between the two main girders under the railroad ties. As the engineer on the project, that was my job for several weeks.

With just a safety harness and a lanyard to secure me, I walked the entire length of the 140-foot bridge while hanging onto the cross bracing between the girders. I’m not particularly afraid of heights, but I’ll admit that it took some mental fortitude to let go of the cross bracing and make the not-so-small leap from one girder to the other.

While leaping steel girders, I was reminded of a few things that I think are worth sharing with our readers:

Be methodical and deliberate in everything you do.  Adjust your footing, adjust your weight, and get comfortable before you make a move. But don’t think too much – you’ll get tired of standing in one place too long.

As engineers (architects, planners, etc.), we get to design and see some pretty cool things during our careers. Take time to smell the roses, or in this case, look down and appreciate the view of the tree tops.

We’re done with the Carp River Bridge inspection now. If all goes as planned, hikers will be enjoying the trail sometime in the future.  As for me, I’m onto other structural adventures of varying extremes  (some of which you might see profiled in future posts). Stay tuned.


Steve Wright is a structural engineer in the Hancock, MI office of OHM Advisors.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Preparing for a 2013 SAW Grant Submittal?

Start planning now! Understanding and documenting your infrastructure needs is critical to a successful application.
The process might seem overwhelming, but we've taken some of the guesswork out of what needs to happen over the next six months to prepare a successful application. You’re just four steps away from securing up to $2 Million for your community’s infrastructure needs:

1.       Identify Needs

·         July - Determine local sanitary and storm program needs
·         Late July - Develop and review a preliminary scope outline

2.       Finalize Scope

·         August - Prepare a detailed scope of services and fee estimates
·         September - Coordinate scope fee with staff and finalize scope

3.       Obtain Council Approvals

·         Early October - Council working session (scope /ee review)
·         Early November - Council approves consulting contract

4.       Apply for Grant

·         Late November - Council passes Grant Funding Resolution

·         December 2: Submit SAW Grant Application!

Contact OHM Advisors' Vicki Putala or Greg Kacvinsky at 888.522.6711 with your questions about the program, or if you would like assistance brainstorming the use of funds or getting the application together. The cost of preparing the grant application is also grant eligible.

Friday, July 5, 2013

SAW Draft Application Posted, Deadline Pushed to December

If your ears are burning about Michigan’s Stormwater, Asset Management and Wastewater (SAW) Program, there’s good reason. The MDEQ recently announced that it will begin accepting funding applications starting on Monday, December 2, 2013. As the deadline was previously set for October 1st, this is welcome news for communities needing extra time to apply for grant money and low-interest loans.

It's anticipated that the funding application will be finalized by the end of August. The MDEQ has posted a draft application for review and comment. All comments are due by noon on July 9th.

At this time, the MDEQ is saying that applications will not be accepted electronically. Applications will be date-stamped and reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis by date (but not by time). A lottery system will be used if monetary needs exceed the available funding.

Understanding and documenting your infrastructure needs is a critical component of the SAW grant application. For communities planning to apply for funding, we suggest you identify your needs by early July 2013 (now!) and develop a preliminary scope by late July. This will allow time to finalize scope and receive necessary approval prior to the December deadline.

If you have any questions regarding this program, please contact Vicki Putala, 734-522-4479,  or Greg Kacvinski, 734-522-4476.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

You SAW it here first...

In most states, public funding for utility improvements has been pretty conservative in the last few decades. And it shows. Just take a peek at America’s 2013 Infrastructure Report Card, published by the ASCE.

That’s why those of us in Michigan are so darn excited about the Stormwater, Asset Management and Wastewater Program (SAW), which is being administered by Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality. Not only is a HUGE sum of money earmarked for sanitary and stormwater infrastructure projects, $450 million to be exact, but a portion of that money will be distributed as grants of up to $2 million per community. Do we hear birds singing?

MDEQ and the SAW Workgroup are still hashing out the details of the program, but they’re in the home stretch of development. It’s anticipated that applications for the program will be available August/September 2013 and that funds will be available October 1.

Did someone say October 1? That's just around the corner! It seems like only yesterday that we partnered with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to host our first informational forum on this funding opportunity.

So, what's the latest with the SAW Program?

Well...come this October, grants will be available for asset management plan development, stormwater plan development, sewage collection and treatment plan development. There is a local match requirement of 10% on $1 million and 25% on $2 million – with Disadvantaged Communities waived of any type of local match. Varying degrees of project progress must be shown within three years in order to avoid repayment. In addition, Disadvantaged Communities can receive up to $500,000 for construction of stormwater treatment and wastewater projects.

State-funded SAW loans, based on the going interest rate, will be available for construction of projects identified in DEQ-approved asset management plans or stormwater management plans. The guidelines for these plans are under development. in fact, our own Vicki Putala is on the Stormwater Subcommittee which is helping the SAW Workgroup to draft the stormwater grant application.

As grants and loans will be available on a first-come, first-served basis, we know how critical the few months are for communities interested in the program. We've got our ears to the ground because we don't want you to miss a thing.

Coming soon:

- Asset management plans? Say what? What you need to know...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sustainability Begins at Home…

Don’t we know it! That’s why several years ago we planted a rain garden in our corporate office parking lot. These gardens not only help filter pollutants from stormwater, but also tie in with OHM’s goal of building sustainable communities.
But as any gardener will tell you, no good seed goes untended. By this fall, our rain garden was looking a little less garden, a little more rain forest. Fearing global climate change, OHM’s “Rain Garden Club” stepped in. After two evenings of clean up, about 20 bags and 20 bundles were loaded into trucks and delivered to the compost center in Livonia, Michigan – approximately 4,400 km north of the equator (give or take a few kilometers).

In the spring of 2012, the club will clean up the gardens from harsh winter weather and plant more native plants.  Each rain garden is approximately 2,500 square feet in size – so lots of plants are needed.  

John Hiltz and Vyto Kaunelis tame the OHM rain garden.