Emily Lipstein, writing for Gizmodo Australia reported the following:

After long years of research, your efforts have paid off: the archaeological site you’re digging in has turned up a stash of rare, striking bones, no doubt the beginning of a groundbreaking discovery. Only then, you find the KFC wrapper, revealing that this “ancient burial ground” is just the leftovers of someone’s lunch.

In the summer of 2015, scientists on Twitter started describing research mishaps like this — which happen more often than you’d think — as “fieldwork fails.” The #fieldworkfail hashtag went viral, and two years later, it’s getting an encore in a new book by French illustrator Jim Jourdane  (available for pre-order later this year), thanks to his blog and a successful Kickstarter campaign.

As Jourdane reveals in Fieldwork Fail, things often don’t go as planned in science. The book contains fieldwork mishaps from the fun and harmless, like realising the “bat” you thought you were tracking was actually a crosswalk signal, to the more dangerous, like peeing on a jaguar’s marked tree and getting stalked through the jungle for three weeks. It’s a great starting point for scientists to communicate some of the less-sexy aspects of their work.

This is a book I’ll definitely be adding to my wish list.

Here’s three examples of my own fieldwork fails:

  1. During an investigation of a home owned by a judge who was also the lead plaintiff in a construction defect lawsuit, a tool on my tool belt just barely touched the judge’s glass desk as I was walking by. The judge’s wife heard the sound, ran into the room and sure enough, she found a less than 1/16″ mark in the glass surface. The cost of replacing the top was deducted from my pay, and I kept the original in storage for more than 15 years, before deciding the piece was too tacky to make into a desk for myself.
  2. Representing the country’s largest homebuilder in a highly contentious case in Nevada, I unfortunately had to skip the inspection of several homes due to contracting swine flu. The worst part was trying to drive home 5 hours with an extremely high fever. The best part was that once I got home, there was a Mad Men marathon going on that I thoroughly enjoyed over the next week it took for me to recover.
  3. I was making a cut in the drywall below an electrical panel at a condo unit that was part of a major claim against the builder. I needed to expose wiring below the panel to be inspected by about a dozen experts and the attorneys they worked for. Just as the team of experts walked into the door to start taking their pictures, my blade went through the electrical main, causing a short that shut down power to the entire building. Oh yeah, and it also disintegrated most of my blade, and the surge of electricity through my body knocked me out and caused my heart rate to go crazy for a couple hours.

According to The Engineer, a UK publication:

A consortium led by civil engineering visualisation expert Soluis Group has received £1 million of funding from Innovate UK to develop a so-called Augmented Worker System (AWE) for the construction industry.

Aimed at enabling engineers to make the most of the Building Information Modelling (BIM) tools that are now widely used by the construction sector, the project hopes to replace paper or handheld devices with hands free heads-up augmented reality (AR) displays that would provide real time access to data, and enable greater collaboration between teams and partners.

The project, which will kick off in September 2017, will build on earlier work Soluis carried out with Laing O’Rourke on the development of an AR asset management tool, that was piloted at Crossrail’s Liverpool Street station.

Notice that last sentence — this project builds on previous work developing asset management software. It is the handoff from the design and construction team to the facilities management team that really epitomizes the value of BIM in the built environment, in my opinion.

I predict that within 10 years, most major real estate portfolios will leverage BIM and augmented reality (AR) to manage facilities.

Consulting, as a profession, is in my humble opinion an extremely honorable pursuit that can bring tremendous value to the purchasers of consulting services. But that’s only when applying a very narrow definition of the “consulting.”

What is that definition?

A true consultant is an independent professional that through the application of their unique knowledge, experience and (occasionally) intellectual property, transforms the outcome of their client’s situation. (Kudos to Alan Weiss for that insight…)

But unfortunately, the majority of “consultants” out there are simply supplying outsourced labor.

And perhaps that’s why Lucas Miller’s post at TNW bothers me a little. The title of his post kind of says it all: Why you’re more qualified to be a consultant than you think.

From the intro:

This post isn’t just to boost your mood, although that would be a good side effect. The real purpose here is to show that you can utilize your talents in such a way that they pay the bills. The name of the game here is “consulting.”

I think words like “freelancing” or “subcontracting” are much more accurate than “consulting” when it comes to describing the work that most self-professed consultants perform.

To be fair, Miller does make mention of a consultant he knows that is producing measurable ROI for their clients, despite being only 18 — a real outlier. Unfortunately, it gives the impression that anybody can leverage skills picked up in between homework assignments and school dances.

Nervous about launching your career as consultant?

Don’t be — all you need is some successful experience, some productive failures, a lot of sweat equity, and the willingness to scrap a plan on a minute’s notice. If this sounds like you, congrats — you’re already qualified to be a consultant.

What’s missing? If you want to be a true consultant, make sure that the efforts of your client work produce measurable results, and ideally, implement value-based fees as opposed to billing based on increments of time.

But ultimately, perhaps the real test for who is and who is not a consultant comes down to their relationship with their client. A real consultant is a peer of their client, engaged in a collaborative process.

Christopher Hill (no relation to yours truly) is a longtime construction law attorney and mediator practicing out of Richmond, Virginia. His blog, Construction Law Musings, has always been one of my must-read sources of news and insight pertaining to construction law ever since he started it in late 2008. Be sure to follow @constructionlaw on Twitter for the latest updates from a true thought leader in the art and science of resolving construction disputes. Without further ado, I am proud to present Mr. Hill’s guest post on a topic that I couldn’t agree with more — the business case for why the mediation process is so critical to the A/E/C industry.

First of all, thanks to Brian for his invitation to discuss a passion of mine, mediation, at his great AEC Forensics blog.  I read it regularly and so should you. (more…)

Great Big Story bills themselves as “a global media company devoted to cinematic storytelling.”

Last year, they produced a great short feature about a team of skilled contractors and archeologists putting ancient building techniques to use in order to construct a medieval castle. Here’s the description accompanying the video:

It’s hard to fathom how magnificent castles were built centuries ago. One group set out to understand just that by building their own masterpiece two hours outside of Paris. Tucked away in a forest, a team of master builders and archeologists are attempting to construct Guédelon, a castle from the 13th century, using only medieval techniques.

And here is the video:

Bill Graham, legendary concert promoter and impresario said the above quote in regards to one of his favorite bands to work with: the Grateful Dead. Since today is the 22nd anniversary of Jerry Garcia’s passing, I thought it would be fun to tie in today’s post with something related to the Dead…

Matt Handal, SMPS rock star, head of marketing for a highly successful consulting firm in the A/E/C industry, author of the best book I know of on responding to RFPs, and just an all around neat guy, posted yet another intriguing post at his website, Help Everybody Every Day. The post: Architects and Engineers Suffer From Mass Superiority Delusion.

(more…)

Just a few short months ago, in May, two construction workers were killed due to unsafe working conditions at a site in Navi Mumbai, a suburb of sorts to the Sai Mannat business hub in India.

While the deaths should have prompted outrage and collective demand for improving safety conditions, that’s just not the way things work in India. Reporting for NDTV, Sonal Matharu and Sreenivasan Jain shared the following:

We filmed inside the Sai Mannat site using a hidden camera – as well as a regular camera from the outside – to find workers suspended several stories above ground without safety nets or belts. We could see open wires, posing the risk of electrocution.

A metallic plank, the same one which caused the fatal accident in May, could be seen sliding down the building, tilted, with three workers on it without helmets.These findings shed light on the darker side of India’s $140 billion construction industry, where a pervasive lack of safety, as well as lack of government oversight places millions of workers at grave risk.

The Building and Other Construction Workers Act, 1996, which governs safety at worskites, sets out nearly 200 rules, including asking employers to ensure that workers are supplied with helmets, boots, harnesses and other safety equipment. Risky open spaces are meant to be covered, with netting, for instance. Exposed wiring in wet areas is another no-no under the law.

If you have ever witnessed the construction of larger projects in India, then you probably already know just how deplorable safety conditions are, compared to what we enjoy in the US. I personally have seen pictures of job sites for Fortune 50 companies building large commercial office buildings with workers scampering across bamboo “scaffolding” barefoot, with no personal protective equipment whatsoever.

So yeah, those toolbox talks take time, and wearing fall protection and PPE does slow you down. But those tactics may also save your life so you can still get home to see your family tonight.

Submitted for your approval, below is a video that is part of an entire series of videos on YouTube depicting a guy working on excavating a tunnel all by himself, using primitive tools.

On the one hand, the idea that someone is constructing a massive tunnel by themselves, using hand tools, working shirtless and barefoot is certainly intriguing.

On the other hand, not only is this completely unsafe and goes against well established standards of practice, but if I understand some of the comments, he is not performing this work at his own property. If true, it is highly illegal, and it exposes the actual property owner to significant liability!

Perhaps there are other hobbies one might want to consider…

Bloomberg’s Mark Bergen reports:

Alphabet Inc.’s secretive X skunk works has another idea that could save the world. This one, code named Malta, involves vats of salt and antifreeze.

The research lab, which hatched Google’s driverless car almost a decade ago, is developing a system for storing renewable energy that would otherwise be wasted. It can be located almost anywhere, has the potential to last longer than lithium-ion batteries and compete on price with new hydroelectric plants and other existing clean energy storage methods, according to X executives and researchers.

Where does the salt and antifreeze come in?

Two tanks are filled with salt, and two are filled with antifreeze or a hydrocarbon liquid. The system takes in energy in the form of electricity and turns it into separate streams of hot and cold air. The hot air heats up the salt, while the cold air cools the antifreeze, a bit like a refrigerator. The jet engine part: Flip a switch and the process reverses. Hot and cold air rush toward each other, creating powerful gusts that spin a turbine and spit out electricity when the grid needs it. Salt maintains its temperature well, so the system can store energy for many hours, and even days, depending on how much you insulate the tanks.

Molten salt is the medium used for several high capacity solar energy production facilities, so it is a somewhat proven technology. Should be interesting to see what the real-world data shows as far as efficiency goes once this system goes online.

One very interesting tidbit from the article states that California discarded more than 300,000 megawatt hours of solar energy due to a lack of viable storage options.