Finding the Forest

Finding the Forest

Finding the Forest In my career, it’s sometimes difficult to “see the forest for the trees.” As an Engineering Technician, I am typically in front of my computer, configuring the details of a plan set that a contractor will be able to read, use and, eventually, build and make a reality. I am continuously focused on the minute details of the coordinates of “proposed” versus “existing” infrastructure, ensuring that the elevations of specific items are correct, and that we have specific notes, detailed diagrams and the area data covered correctly. Through all of these details, it is easy to forget that every project I touch improves communities, lives and the wellbeing of individuals everywhere. I had the good fortune to be reminded of this recently. I’m part of a small team currently working on a project with the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority to design and coordinate the rehabilitation of 20 bus stops throughout the greater Kansas City area. The bulk of the design has been balanced between Mike Shirk as the Project Manager and Engineer and me as Engineering Technician, with the assistance of Brooks Taylor, another Engineering Technician, and our highly-skilled GIS Team. Mike has been wonderful in empowering me to take a lead in the design and helped me through the process. At first, I struggled with this project and its simplicity. I found myself wanting and needing my coordinates and elevations, my multitudes of details, and struggling to design what I thought was just a simple concrete pad. It was during a field check with Mike that the importance of this project set in. We...
Innovative Solutions to Old Problems

Innovative Solutions to Old Problems

Stormwater runoff has been a societal problem for thousands of years, dating all the way back to the Bronze Age when ancient Greeks started to develop solutions to help offset the increase in impervious surfaces. Although civilization has made many advances since then, the concepts of stormwater runoff collection and conveyance have remained the mostly same – capture the flow and take it elsewhere. What once was thought of as a basic solution has now become problematic, as the amount of impervious surface has dramatically increased with the growth of our communities. This has caused our water quality to diminish over time while putting a huge strain on our local stormwater systems. One of the unique opportunities I have had at TREKK has been addressing this issue using non-traditional stormwater systems that are slowly being implemented in cities across the United States. Instead of capturing flow and taking it away as quickly as possible, green infrastructure (GI) takes a different approach – capture and infiltrate the stormwater runoff to improve water quality and pipe capacity and increase aesthetic appeal. Green infrastructure includes a variety of drainage solutions, such as pavers, rain gardens, infiltration basins, and stormwater street trees. The concept behind GI is to collect pollutants, chemicals, and other contaminants before they enter the stormwater system, thus improving the water quality. This is achieved by capturing the stormwater runoff and storing it until can infiltrate into the ground. The stormwater runoff collected by GI reduces the amount entering the stormwater system, therefore reducing capacity issues to existing stormwater systems. Perhaps one of the underrated aspects of green infrastructure is...
We eat our own cooking…

We eat our own cooking…

I recently finished reading a book titled “Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder.” The book primarily covered the topic of risk, how risk is created, how to avoid excess risk, etc. With many years of dedicated study on the subject and experience working as a risk manager for a profitable hedge fund, the author could be described as one of the world’s foremost experts on the topic of risk. (Yes, a majority of the book is as boring and nerdy as you would expect it to be.) As I read through the book, the last chapter, titled “Fitting Ethics to a Profession,” struck a chord with me. The author pointed to the many flaws of modern professions and how the very nature of these professions doom the people the profession intended to protect. For example, the heads of banks took on an excess amount of risk causing the financial collapse of 2008. While the CEOs of these banks were able to jump ship without losing any more than a dime, the U.S. taxpayers, who were free from wrongdoing, were forced to bail out these banks at the cost of hundreds of billions of dollars. What attributes these professions to fail at such a large scale? Ultimately, it is due to the lack of accountability that these professions hold that allow them to err and be free of consequences on their side. In contrast, professions that take these consequences head on have what the author likes to refer to as “skin in the game.” Early Roman engineers were required to spend days beneath the bridges they designed following their construction....