Nth degree of connectivity.

I want to begin this by saying I am not a Luddite, I love technology and the convenience they bring me.

Owing to technology, I have eyeglasses that stay on my face and change colour when I am under the sun. I have a computer no bigger than my hand that can understand my speech and I have a desktop computer that creates a secure connection to allow me retrieve files hundreds, and presumably thousands of kilometres away.

I think technology is awesome but I am puzzled by the need for people to have access to these technologies no matter where they are. As with other articles in the past, I was prompted to write when I saw recently a new automobile that had wifi, Bluetooth and Internet connectivity using cellular data. This presumably allows people to work, to play or to occupy a van full of children for a little peace and quiet. I won’t argue with the last point, I can’t really argue with parents but there are no new technology provided in many of the new things you buy, you are not paying for things that are unavailable anywhere else. If a new car has a self-drive mode, or a new house has a food replicator, that’s a different story; however, we seem to be stuck in a loop where manufacturers include tech that are readily available elsewhere and consumers feel compelled to soak up these new things.

So earlier I said I am not a Luddite and I am going to prove to you. If for the sake of your job you have to be connected to the net, or your ear shape prohibits you from wearing an earphone then sure, buy the car that is constantly online or a $1500 bluetooth hands-free system. For me, I will keep my glasses and use my earphone to speak into the phone and leave everything else at home.

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Green buildings deserve a reserve fund too…?

With a bit of free time on my hands during the Christmas holidays, I get to explore a new topic in green building that is close to my present sphere of knowledge.

Reserve fund was one of the first things I refreshed coming back to engineering and in my interaction of various condo boards and board members, it seems like this is something both a boon and a bane. Before I go any further, I think it’s probably a good idea to go through the concept so everyone re-familiarize themselves with it. A reserve fund study, or RFS, is a way to forecast needed funds for the future by studying the building construction and the condition of various building components. By doing this, the client can be assured that when components fail, there is sufficient funds for construction projects.

As an aside, this is how it is supposed to work but it never ever works like that. This doesn’t consider all the human factors in the Board and the Contractors, so a reserve fund study should never be taken like an edict but rather as a guide in the general direction.

With new LEED buildings, words like efficiency and optimal condition are like words out of the Bible. A LEED building must maintain efficiency of its M&E systems, as well as keeping a close eye on the progress of deterioration of its building envelopes. Before writing this article, I completed a series of literature review and I was not able to readily find this information but I imagine RF departments all over Canada are starting to get calls about this. I know many other in the industry will just say I am paranoid or call me a tree hugger but I believe there are opportunities there to create a strong business relationship by educating clients on the importance of preventative maintenance and the risk posted by delayed evaluation of M&E systems and building envelopes. An excellent curtain wall example that I came across recently involves pressure plate/dry gasket failure that allowed water to enter the building envelope. I will admit that this did not cause a significant amount of damage internally but I am curious to know the effect this has on the building air changes per hour (ACH), associated indoor air quality (IAQ) and other energy efficiency parameters. There is a clear difference between something that has fallen out of optimal performance and something that has reached the end of its service life.

At the end of the day, I believe there is a need for our RF industry to acknowledge the emergence of this issue – green buildings (LEED or not) represent a significant time investment to document and predict when components will no longer function optimally as part of a green building, and when components will no longer function. Period.

As always, I would love to hear any of your comments on this and previous articles.

Have a safe and happy holidays, everyone.

Posted in Introduction | Leave a comment

Welcome to the Greatest Show on Earth

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

Image

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