Engineered Sand Treats Stormwater

Typically, stormwater is collected and treated to reduce pollutants before discharging downstream.

Researchers at the University of California Berkeley have developed a sand material that can treat storm runoff used for drinking water.

“When it rains heavily, even in arid places where water is scarce, the stormwater typically just runs off the streets and down the sewer drains. Thanks to a new “engineered sand,” though, that road-polluted liquid could soon be cleaned up and used for drinking water.

Developed at the University of California Berkeley, the material is actually just regular sand that’s been mixed with two types of naturally-occurring manganese. These react with one another to become manganese oxide, which is harmless to humans and the environment.

When water contaminated with organic pollutants such as herbicides, pesticides and bisphenol-A (BPA) is run through the sand, those chemicals bind with the manganese oxide. As a result, they’re either removed from the water, or they’re broken down into smaller pieces which are less toxic and more biodegradable – a secondary purification system, used in tandem with the sand, could then likely take care of them.

Although the effectiveness of the manganese oxide does diminish over time, it can be completely “recharged” by running weakly-chlorinated water through the sand. It is estimated that a half-meter-deep (1.6-ft) layer of the sand could be revitalized by running such water through it for about two days, at a chlorine concentration of 25 parts per million.”


Wind Resistant Home Construction

There has been a lot of information in the news about Hurricane Florence, which is expected to hit the east coast as we speak. Although the hurricane has been downgraded, there are still wind speeds expected in excess of 100 mph.

I recently saw a video from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), demonstrating wind loading on a standard home and one built to “Fortified” standards. “IBHS created the FORTIFIED Home™ program to help strengthen homes from hurricanes, high winds, hail, and severe thunderstorms.


According to the IBHS website (

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) is an independent, nonprofit, scientific research and communications organization supported solely by property insurers and reinsurers. IBHS’ building safety research leads to real-world solutions for home and business owners, helping to create more resilient communities.

Built in 2010, the IBHS Research Center is a state-of-the-art research facility located on a 90 acre parcel of land in Chester County, South Carolina (approximately 45 minutes south of the Charlotte airport). This unique facility will significantly advance building science by enabling researchers to more fully and accurately evaluate various residential and commercial construction materials and systems.”

Hopefully there are homes within the path of Hurricane Florence that are built to withstand hurricane forces.

Demolition of Estabrook Hall on UTK Campus

LandTech provided utility location, topographic surveying, planimetric surveying and mapping for the New Engineering Complex project on the University of Tennessee campus in Knoxville.

Construction for the project has already begun, beginning with demolition of the 120-year old Estabrook Hall (1898-2018). Below is a video posted by the University of Tennessee Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) showing demolition of Estabrook Hall, and a time laps video of the demolition posted on the New Engineering Complex Website.

For more information on the new Engineering Complex, visit the website here: New Engineering Complex Website


Dallas-Fort Worth Takes Step Towards Hyperloop Travel

According to a recent article in the Dallas Business Journal

The Dallas-Fort Worth Regional Transportation Council has thrown its support behind hyperloop technology that would zip passengers and cargo throughout the region and state at 700 miles per hour and green-lighted environmental and feasibility studies for the new transportation mode.

Hyperloop allows vehicles to travel at very high speeds with minimal aerodynamic resistance by operating in a low-pressure environment using magnetic levitation.

Below is a video from the manufacturer Virgin Hyperloop One. Very interesting technology.



Self-healing Concrete

Despite our best efforts, concrete will crack, requiring costly maintenance.

I found an article on self-healing concrete containing bacteria.

“As solid and reliable as concrete structures may seem, they share one common enemy: tension. Over time, concrete will crack and deteriorate. An invention by Delft University microbiologist Hendrik Jonkers offers an innovative approach to creating more stable concrete by adding limestone-producing bacteria to the mix. This self-healing bioconcrete aims to provide a cheap and sustainable solution, markedly improving the lifespan of buildings, bridges and roads.”

Below is a video about this unique concrete material.


Rethinking Funding for America’s Failing Highways

The Improve Act was recently passed in Tennessee in an effort to help fund transportation projects in the state.

Roadway and transportation funding has always been a politically sensitive issue. Additional taxes for transportation funding doesn’t always have public support. So, how can we fund the expensive task of designing, constructing and maintaining our transportation system?

In a recent article, Robert Poole discusses his new book “Rethinking America’s Highways”, making the argument that highways should be financed and operated similar to utilities.

Below are some excerpts from his article at

“It’s not hard to see that there is something fundamentally wrong with the way we fund and manage the highways we all depend on. Highways are one of our basic public utilities — along with water, electricity, natural gas, telephones, etc. Yet we don’t have huge political battles over how to pay for those utilities. Every month you get a bill from your electric company, water company, phone company, and satellite or cable company. You pay for the specific services you used, and the money goes directly to the company that provided those services. None of that is true for highways.”

Many years ago, Milton Friedman put his finger on what was wrong. Highways, he wrote, are “a socialized industry, removed from the test of the market.” Compared with other utilities, that means that for highways:

  • There is no pricing;
  • Major investments are not financed via long-term revenue bonds;
  • Decisions on what gets built are made by politicians;
  • Proper maintenance gets what little funding is left over after legislators spend most of the budget on projects in their districts; and,
  • You are not a customer — just a “user.”

“In my new book, Rethinking America’s Highways, I make the case that because highways really are utilities, they need to be financed and operated as utilities, rather than as politicized, state-owned enterprises. That means each highway needs an owner. Highway customers should pay their highway bills directly to that owner, based on how much they use the roads and how damaging their vehicle is to the pavement. The owner should assess the need for new links or more lanes, and finance the construction by issuing long-term revenue bonds. Of course, as with any other major construction projects, they should have to comply with existing planning and environmental regulations.”

“This might sound like a libertarian fantasy, but it’s a model with a long history that stretches into the present day. Private turnpikes were the main inter-city roadways in 18th and 19th century Britain — and 19th century America. After WWII devastated Europe, three countries — France, Italy, and Spain — developed their major highway networks as investor-owned toll roads. Highways there remain very similar to our electric-utility franchises today. Companies bid for a long-term franchise to build and operate a particular highway, subject to the terms and conditions of a long-term contract called a “concession.” In the 1980s and ’90s, this model was embraced by the three largest metro areas in Australia as they sought to develop modern expressway systems. And by the dawn of our current century, private investment in long-term highway concessions was becoming common in most of the countries of Latin America, especially Brazil and Chile.”

It’s an interesting idea and article.