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Stamp?

Professional Engineer

I don’t know how long that has alluded me, but last week and for better or for worse, I was given the title and all the rights and privileges that comes with it. Originally I wasn’t going to write about this but after spending a lazy Sunday watching old sci-fi movies, I was compelled to. The movie doesn’t matter, all you need to know is that the character (who is an engineer) is getting ready for a space walk. He said, “I am not an astronaut. I am an engineer, what am I doing here?”

All sorts of people go into engineering for all sorts of reasons, not all of them are crazy and not all of them are valid. Regardless of your chosen technical field, you have to expect technologies you understand to be in some pretty hard to reach places. Some are in space, some are at height, some are underwater and some are covered by some gross, nasty stuff. Many of us would say, come on HTFU, it’s part of the job; but there are people I know who don’t think going into difficult or dangerous places are part of the job for engineers. Truly, I feel sorry for them because their vision of what engineering is and what engineering actually is are vastly different, successful consulting firms are likely going to have the latter description and all sorts of interpersonal issues and conflicts could arise from this rift.

Well, that’s it for me. Back to the film as they say…

I would love to hear your comments and thoughts.

E.

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Visualize the goal and then reach the goal

On this page is my latest achievement in cycling. A number of days ago, I took part in the Halton GranFondo, it was a 140-kilometre ride that took just short of six hours. In all honestly, I hadn’t been riding that much this summer and there are many other things ongoing that require more of my attention, but this was a weekend I had been looking forward to for months. The ride itself could not have gone better, and the weather cooperated. For those of my cycling friends who read this blog, you can follow me on Strava or Garmin to get even more metrics.

The important thing here that I quickly touch on is the concept of positive visualization. When you think or believe that you are able to accomplish sustainability (in home, community, city, etc.), there will most definitely be a way forward and obstacles become tests along the way that galvanizes your ideals. In addition to positive visualization, you draw on your past experiences with similar circumstances and situations to educate yourself on possible troubles ahead and devise potential solutions. This way, you are not bogged down by every single problem and you don’t lose momentum. I know this sounds like a whole lot of bull but I am still riding an endorphin high from the ride and I feel it is a note that need to spit out and post immediately.

As this is the first posting of the old-but-new site, please everyone, take a moment to comment and give suggestions on the way forward to leedingthoughts.com

Eaton.

Posted in Political Willingness, Positivity | Leave a comment

Re-tooling

I had been stuck on one particular article for some months now…I haven’t been not posting, but the work required to create an article was more time than I could realistically devote. I realized that something had to give tonight.

There will be a small re-tooling that this site will go through. It will still devote itself to LEED and sustainability, but in an effort to make it easier for me to return to writing, I will be including some information about my other love – road cycling and all things relating to it. I had been looking for a way to contribute to the common knowledge base in a meaningful way and look like this is a concrete step forward.

In addition, I am looking for people who may be interested in contributing to this site. Preferrably with an article timeline of every two months, I will have an outline or idea and then the writer gets his/her freedom to post whatever they’d like.

With that said, I will begin composing my next article.

Thanks everyone for supporting the site.

Eaton

Posted in Introduction, Sustainable Neighbourhoods | Leave a comment

#icestorm2013

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As I am sure many of you are still hearing about the aftermath of this storm, or trying to living through it right now, I want to start off this blog post with a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Years to you and your family. For me, the power went out in the wee hours of Sunday and came back on Tuesday afternoon; I can’t think of a better gift for Santa to bring me this Christmas. This post’s origin started as I was taking a hot shower on Christmas Day and thinking about robustness of our electrical systems.

The hot shower I took on Christmas was not the first since the power went out; thankfully, I live in a building that still has a LPG-driven water heater. That meant hot water during the coldest periods of the blackout to restore some level of civility. I talked to a few people living in newer homes who did not have hot water because their tank-less heaters are power-driven, and their home phones stopped working after the battery backup ran out. What seems worrisome to me about this type of house design is the single point of failure for the house’s various services, there doesn’t seem to be any attention paid to the principle of redundancies.

This was the springboard to the main topic of this article. I believe there are other ways of understanding and selling alternative forms of electricity generation. Just as there are other ways to ensure some house services remain in service during power outage. Alternative modes of electricity generation like wind, solar PV and geothermal are not intended to REPLACE other sources that are more energy dense but only to augment them. Let’s put it this way, it’s way easier to install wind, solar PV and geothermal at your house than it is to install a hydropower plant beside your shed. In the case of power outage, it is likely that geothermal and wind will continue to provide minimal heat and electricity to a house while waiting for the power grid to be reinstated. In many mission critical operations this is known as building redundancies and is considered a best practice. I think this particular line of thinking has a place in the present municipal/provincial/state discussions on energy generation robustness.

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Right person for the right job

The recent news about homeowners who contracted spray polyurethane foam installers to insulate their houses brought home the dangerous maze that typical people have to negotiate in the residential construction field. I have included CBC’s article here but I would suggest anyone to read up more on it to gain a better understanding. The long and short of the story is that a few homeowners wanted to improve the R-value of their houses by retrofitting them with EPU (expanding polyurethane) and some contractors erred when mixing the components onsite, which then led to excessive off-gassing period and strong odour inside the home. My current project, is to a certain degree, very similar. Property management contracted someone to do remedial concrete repair and within weeks, the remediation has done more harm than good.

Having the correct people to do work and the correct people to specify how that work should be carried out is very important. It’s the reason to have capable foremen and engineers at commercial/institutional construction. This fact is always lost in residential construction where the desire to keep cost down is frequently the main driver. This works against homeowners because of the arduousness of the recourse available to the homeowners should anything go awry, e.g. construction budget overrun or product performance issues. While I seldomly see this in larger residential construction projects, but for small renovations, the terms “handyman” or “I know a guy” comes to mind.

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Posted in Building Code/LEED, EPR (Extended producer responsibility) | Leave a comment

Popping the dream of cityslickers

Traffic, traffic, traffic.

For the past week, I’ve had ample opportunities to sit in the car and listen to the radio as I am commute to work. There are a lot of talk about how green downtown living is and the benefits of having a less suburban, more cohesive community of people as your neighbours. However, I have to satisfy myself with a more critical examination of these claims. It’s true that I live just outside of downtown and I have to commute to my work, but I endeavour to limit my car use to only that part of life. If the main thrust by developers and real estate firms to rejuvenate the downtown core by building condominiums is not met with increased places of employment and leisure, then what are we doing really other than creating rush hour traffic going the other way? I feel in the absent of this improvement, the close proximity of your grocery store, café and gym to your condo is meaningless.

No, I don’t have the silver bullet. However, as I have said in a previous article, there are a lot of reasons to warrant a closer look at Sustainable Neighbourhoods where the need to travel between different “cells” is minimized. As long as there are good densities of work, leisure and social services options in each cell, people can be living green and environmentally responsible. Otherwise, we are lying to ourselves about the real reason of downtown living – so you can get your shawarma and your Starbucks, while you take your tiny dog out for a walk on a Saturday.

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Around the corner

A new career awaits me in a few short days and this will be fundamentally different from what I was doing when I first started leedingthoughts.com. To a certain degree, I thought be able to devote more time to this project and have more material from which to draw on; however, as both the career and this website are quite cerebral I hope I will have the mental energy to keep this site current.

I am also trying something new. I will from now on end an entry with a preview of the topic for the next article, for example, is the LEED standard suffering from incrementalism?

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