“Listening” for structural integrity

19940468 – man trying to hear with a huge ear

A recent article at Engineering.com covers one of the newer, more creative trends in structural engineering.

According to the article, “A group of Clarkson University mathematicians and a civil engineer have developed a passive and non-invasive approach to “listen” to a collection of relevant signals from bridges and other mechanical structures to diagnose changes or damage.

While listening to the sound of massive, man-made structures might sound like something out of a science fiction movie, this new technology has some really impressive potential applications.

In fact, our very own Structural Engineering manager, Matt Roblez already sees huge potential for the technology.

“I think this is great,” Roblez said. “Any non-destructive tool that can be used will help the industry tremendously.”

Without super powers like x-ray vision or the ability to see through objects this discovery can help solve a variety of problems.

“A key element to structural engineering is to identify problems or issues without compromising the integrity of the structure. Technology like this also makes it easier to evaluate structures so the frequency of evaluations go up and life safety issues are identified much quicker than with traditional methods,” said Roblez.

We still have a ways to go before this tool is used in everyday projects, but the potential is there to do something great.

Is the hyperloop really a feasible transportation method?

Hyperloop TransportationWhen you imagine futuristic transportation, chances are good you envision flying cars, teleportation devices and artificially intelligent aircraft, but if billionaire inventor Elon Musk has his way, making a trip from New York to Los Angeles could involve being shot through a plastic tube at 800-miles-per-hour.

The hyperloop transportation system takes pneumatic piping to an entirely new level, where human passengers blast through tunnels that are true marvels of engineering. Commuters could travel to major cities for work, their private residences nestled into the woods hundreds of miles away.

As you can imagine, constructing the infrastructure for something like this is a massive undertaking with a price range in the hundreds of billions of dollars. To get world renowned engineers and architects on board, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) offered the science field’s best equity shares, instead of literal pay, for 10 hours or more work per week.

Dozens of inventors, futurists, architects and designers are working on the first phase of the project, in the hopes of launching a full-size test track sometime in 2018.

Unsurprisingly, there is still plenty of research that needs to take place. The effects on the human body of being shot through a tube at ridiculously high speeds are still unknown, and the challenges of raising funds, much less creating sound, realistic blueprints for a massive infrastructure re-haul are massive.

It will be interesting to see how this project moves ahead over the next few months. This article goes further in-depth, covering cost estimates and other crucial planning factors.

Concrete always comes up big when you need it to

Concrete EngineeringIf you’ve been following the news at all lately, then you’re aware of the immigration crisis currently taking place in the E.U. Germany is doing everything it can to provide adequate housing for thousands of migrants before the coldest part of the winter hits. Here’s a look at their unusual plan that just might work.

Over 938,000 immigrants have fled to Germany over the course of the last few months, which has left officials with a problem to solve: How to house all of these tired, and weary travelers. The solution? Retired German Engineer, Peter Goergen decided to start pre-fabricating easy, one-room homes out of concrete, and so far it seems to be working.

Concrete isn’t just a cost-effective building material, it also captures heat, is relatively insulated and dries up any humidity that might come from inhabitants regularly exhaling. Each structure costs less than 15-thousand dollars to make and can be erected in almost no time flat.

Metallic shipping containers are also being sought after, but so far the demand is far greater than the actual supply of these necessary housing officials. While these concrete homes aren’t especially glamorous, they can house up to eight people comfortably and will help keep these immigrants comfortable during the coldest part of the year.

Here is why fiber reinforced concrete is great

Fiber ConcreteFiber reinforced concrete slabs have been around for a while, but they are just starting to get popular. While the old fashioned way of mixing and pouring concrete around rebar sounds like a logical solution to building structures, it isn’t very efficient when it comes to saving time or money. It isn’t just savings that fiber reinforced concrete provides though. Many engineers argue that this kind of solution provides a better final product too.

A great example is happening right now in Bellevue, Washington. A building that houses luxury condos, a hotel, dining and even retail space was constructed with gigantic slabs of fiber reinforced concrete.Usually, these slabs require thousands of dollars worth of rebar, but not this time around.

As more buildings start utilizing these unique materials, many engineers and contractors are hoping the technology and access becomes more available. Matthew Roblez, S.E., SECB here at McNeil Engineering had this to say about fiber reinforced concrete.

“I have been specifying fiber reinforced concrete in slabs for many reasons.  The most prominent is much like this article states, the savings in labor and steel.  In addition to this, it has been my experience in my 20 plus year career, that one gets a better product using fibrous reinforcement over traditional steel.  Anyone out there who is looking at replacing a driveway or a slab should definitely use fibrous reinforcing.  Fibrous reinforced concrete is highly overlooked, especially in residential slabs.  I am happy to see that a “large” project is finally having fibrous reinforced concrete realize its potential. “

It will be interesting to see if this is the beginning of a new trend, but only time will tell. Would you consider using fiber reinforced concrete on your next project? Why or why not? Sound off on our Facebook page and let us know your thoughts.

How do engineers construct buildings to withstand earthquakes?

Earthquake StructuresThere are regions all over the world that are “earthquake prone,” but that doesn’t keep people from living in them, nor does it keep architects and engineers from building near fault lines. At McNeil Engineering, we regularly perform seismic analysis.


But what exactly goes in to constructing a building in a earthquake hot zone? Here’s a brief overview of the factors and planning involved.


Testing. Believe it or not, there are laboratories all over the globe that focus solely on constructing and wrecking full-size building models. In fact, there’s one housed at the University of Buffalo in Buffalo, N.Y. Over the course of the past decade, engineering researchers have built full-scale home and building models using cold-formed steel.


The structures, built on shaking platforms, are outfitted with cameras and sensors, and a man-made earthquake is unleashed. The sensors and cameras pick up valuable visual and structural data that engineers use to design and construct future buildings.


Materials and shape. Earthquakes that happen in the middle of nowhere probably won’t cause much damage, but if one hits in a high-population area and buildings are unsound, major havoc is unleashed. Structures made out of materials such as stucco or brick are especially prone to falling apart, while materials like wood and steel allow more wiggle room. The shape of buildings also plays a role in whether a building will fall or stand.


Would you believe it if we told you skyscrapers have a better chance of staying put than homes? It’s true! Tall buildings are specifically constructed to be able to sway, while homes can implode on themselves if an earthquake’s tremors are strong enough.


Foundation. It isn’t just the construction of a building that matters; what’s under the ground plays just as important a role. If the foundation of a building is based in soil or soft rock, it won’t withstand seismic waves as well as something built on sturdy bedrock.


Next time you visit California, Washington or Oregon, take a few moments to look at the buildings around you. What steps do you think their engineers made to ensure they will last if “the big one” hits?

We’ve got the best structural engineering team around

Construction DesignSummertime is building time, and we’re staying busy! Are you or your company considering a new project soon? The planning phase requires a lot of time and work, and without the right structural engineering team at your side, you can quickly lose time and money. Here’s how we can take your vision and make it a reality.


Accurate and thorough analysis. When it comes to building something, there are tons of variables involved. Are earthquakes a common problem in your area? Have you had a fire or other disaster and need to know if your building is structurally adequate? Our structural engineering team has experience analyzing factors such as constructability and seismic events and investigating structures and sites after a natural disaster or fire.


Repairs or upgrades. Maybe the structure you’re looking to work on is old, has incurred damage in fires or has been through a number of renovations. We do repairs, upgrades and re-reinforcements too. Not only will we make your building last longer, we’ll also stay true to its build era and the aesthetics that make it one of a kind.


Concrete. Do you need an economic precast concrete design? Do you need a post tensioned structure designed?  Our structural engineering have years of experience in post tensioned and precast concrete design.  We are also experts in steel, masonry and timber design, too.


Ready to get to work? Contact our structural engineering team today! We look forward to working with you.

Can Self-Healing Concrete Repair Its Own Cracks?

BioconcreteHave you heard of self-healing concrete? It’s been making headlines all over the place lately. But what is it, exactly?


While the title itself sounds like something out of a science fiction story, “living” concrete is on its way to becoming a reality. Why is it necessary though? Concrete has been around for centuries and it’s still an extremely popular building material. Does it really need to improve on itself? In a word, yes. Concrete cracks, and over time cracking means having to replace and re-pour new concrete. Which in turn, costs more money.


Here’s what our very own Matthew Roblez, S.E., SECB, has to say about this leap forward in concrete technology:


“This is an important breakthrough because cracks in concrete allow water migration.  Water migration causes damage and reduces the life of the concrete structures.   A lot of money is spent on concrete additives and post applied waterproofing to help seal cracks.  This would eliminate this cost and ultimately extend the life of the concrete structures.  Additionally it would save in repair and replacement costs.”


Anytime a client or company can save on costs it’s a good thing, and self healing concrete could have a huge impact on the world at large, according to Roblez.


“Eventually when this technology is developed, it will give our structural engineers an option to recommend to our clients that will save them thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars in post applied waterproofing and replacement of deteriorated concrete structures.  For structural engineers it really opens up a new industry for consideration in the specification of construction materials.”


It will be interesting to see how this “self-healing” concrete evolves, and you can bet the team at McNeil Engineering will be watching the process every step of the way. Technology is pretty amazing, don’t you think?

Project feature: 21 & View

21 and ViewAt McNeil Engineering, we love highlighting work that our various departments have completed. Our structural engineering team recently finished work on a new sustainable, mixed-use apartment and commercial complex: 21 & View, part of the new Sugar House neighborhood in Salt Lake City.


Our landscape architecture team played a crucial role in creating a vision that could come to fruition. After surveying the area, the team decided to build on a piece of land that has a great view of the Sugar House Park below. Consisting of two buildings with 29 luxury apartments, the  21 & View project features 3,500 square feet of commercial space and an open-air walkway.


Not only is the location great, the structure was built with sustainable practices in mind, including a permeable parking lot, water-wise landscaping materials and an extremely efficient irrigation system. The site has bike racks, trash receptacles, raised planters and lighting that helps set a nice atmosphere once the sun goes down.


The view at 21 & View allows residents to get a close-up look of the beautiful Salt Lake City skyline, as well as the Wasatch and Oquirrh Mountain ranges. Now that the project is completed, it’s one of the most highly sought after complexes in the metro area.


We’re proud of what our team accomplished at 21 & View and look forward to working with you on your next project!

LDS Temple: Fort Collins, Colorado

LDS Temple Fort CollinsOur work at McNeil Engineering takes us all over the western United States. Here’s a look at a project our Structural Engineering department recently completed in Fort Collins, Colorado.


For the new LDS Temple in Fort Collins, McNeil Engineering was the Specialty Structural Engineer of Record for the precast concrete façade on the building’s exterior. These concrete panels created the exterior building enclosures and were individually engineered by our very own Matthew Roblez, S.E. SECB out of Sandy, Utah.


This project required help from an entire team of folks, not only in the U.S. but also outside of the country. The concrete panels were fabricated in Mexico City, Mexico by the Pretecsa Corporation. Once the panels were finished, they were carefully transported to the job site in Colorado.


The communications process in and of itself was quite a feat. The general contractor on the project was based in Salt Lake City and the erectors were based at the job site in Fort Collins. Thanks to modern, web-based technology, we were able to keep in touch with everyone from Mexico to the Rocky Mountains in order to get the job done.