Archive for the Even Stevie Wonder Saw That Coming Category

Perhaps specialisation is important

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Engineering, Even Stevie Wonder Saw That Coming, Tenuous Link of the Day with tags , , , , , on October 8, 2013 by awickerman

Property developer set up their own construction company after becoming “increasingly dissatisfied with the service of external construction companies”.

Construction company has a few good years, buys itself wins an award as construction company of the year in 2011.

Company goes into administration on 7th October “after serious flaws were unearthed in the pricing of a number of the contracts”. They also admit “”[We have] encountered considerable difficulties in progressing and completing current projects.”

It’s almost as if pricing construction works and then delivering them is not as easy as it appeared. Maybe they should have stuck to what they were good at rather than branching out into something they clearly weren’t as good at as they originally thought.

Either way as they couldn’t offload the job for Southampton Cricket Club onto a different contractor fast enough they have left their current clients in the lurch, and no doubt ‘increasingly dissatisfied with external construction companies’. If you don’t find that amusing you have a heart of stone.

Offshore Wind – Still Tricky

Posted in Engineering, Even Stevie Wonder Saw That Coming with tags , , , on January 20, 2012 by awickerman

Round about a year ago I noted the Offshore Wind Accelerator scheme trying to overcome the problems of deep water offshore wind being tricky and noted that in addition to the problems they were trying to solve there would be;

the dozens of other problems they haven’t even thought of yet, because as I said at the top; Offshore Wind – Tricky.

Well one of those other problems has just popped up – scour. The turbine foundations are surrounded by large armour stone blocks and these are sinking, up to 1.5m in some cases, as the sea washes away the sea bed beneath the stones. As the report says;

Lead author Anders Nielsen says the sinking stones are a real problem as they can, ‘reduce the stability of the monopole and change for instance the natural frequency of the dynamic response of an offshore wind turbine in an unfavourable manner.’

To be fair I’m sure it will be solved, in the short term just dropping more stones down every few months will do it, but I’d be very surprised if the solution doesn’t end up being making each turbine more expensive to install, which is probably the last thing an already very expensive form of power needs. Still when was renewable energy ever about providing the consumer with cheap and reliable electricity?

Lib Dems Expecting Long Recession

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Engineering, Even Stevie Wonder Saw That Coming, Posts that are far longer than I first intended, Tenuous Link of the Day, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , on September 17, 2011 by awickerman

Vince Cable has decreed we need more toll roads to save us all from the slow down in growth. There are two possible conclusions one can draw from this;

  1. He’s expecting a very, very, very long recession OR
  2. He’s an idiot.

Considering the example he gave of the M6 Toll motorway that took 23 years to go from consultation on route (options published 1980) to actually opening to traffic (December 2003). Even if one is generous that it is the construction work and not the road itself that is the object of the exercise that still took took two decades. If we’re still in a recession in 2030 I think the one thing that will be certain is that some new toll roads wont help.

Slightly more seriously even I would note that Vince appears to be asking for something no-one in the private sector actually wants to do (note he wants the private sector to actually build and operate theses new roads). The M6 Toll extension died a death because the traffic levels on the original stretch were ‘disappointing’, the Welsh plan for an M4 Toll never got beyond grand announcements and the SNP  turned against toll roads once they found out there was no way to make it free for Scots while still charging English motorists.

Honestly a bit of faffing about with payment methods is not going to change any of that so I am therefore compelled to think that option 2 is the correct conclusion. Which frankly is a relief, a two decade recession sounded a bit grim frankly.

Rail Strike Incoming

Posted in Almost Beyond Words, And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Even Stevie Wonder Saw That Coming, The Railways with tags , , , , on July 26, 2011 by awickerman

So a train driver has been caught reading the paper while ‘driving’ his train. Now the train operator pretty much has to discipline the driver or risk attracting attention from the safety regulators, but it is well established RMT policy that no member will ever suffer regardless of what they do and never face the consequences of their actions.

Thus I predict after the full investigation establishes the driver should be disciplined the local RMT chapter will ballot for strike action until he is re-instated (and pay rises all round to cover the emotional distress of the members seeing someone being accountable for their actions). Now FGW will probably back down, train operators normally do, but some form of industrial action has to be on the horizon.

Car Park of Death!

Posted in Engineering, Even Stevie Wonder Saw That Coming, Posts that are far longer than I first intended, Rantings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 29, 2011 by awickerman

Via Tim I discovered the Observer’s architect critic has joined the chorus demanding the horror of Preston Bus Station be saved. The main argument appears to be that it ” it embodies the spirit of its 1960s age”, you can argue if that is a good or bad thing visually but in the world of civil engineering, particularly those parts related to large concrete car park type structures, that is reason enough to flatten it. Indeed the man himself admits the reason before attempting to dismiss it;

“The bus station is not alone. It is part of a company of buildings from the 1960s and 70s that fall victim to a vicious compound of circumstances. They are tough, not obviously charming and carry a label no PR expert would have chosen, of “brutalism”. Some have serious technical problems, albeit often exaggerated. Some have serious technical problems, albeit often exaggerated

I will now demonstrate why those serious technical problems have not been exaggerated. We begin in the 1960s when reinforced concrete was a new idea and building huge civic structures in the brutalist style was all the rage. After the architect had produced his swooping lines and grand gestures for the new Preston depot he handed it over to the designers to do the actual hard part of making it work and not fall down, and here is were things went a bit wrong. To be blunt the concrete specifications of the time allowed fairly weak, porous concrete and didn’t require much cover to the reinforcing steel, for those interested in water/cement ratios and porosity of concrete I commend you to this handy government guidance. To add to the fun the design codes of the time were also a bit ‘optimistic’ on concrete strength in shear so most designs weren’t really strong enough and didn’t have the safety margins the designers assumed.

So fast forward a few decades to the 1990s and these chickens begin to roost, car parks start rotting far faster than planned and a few demolition contractors get nasty surprises when the buildings fall apart faster than expected. The big change is probably Pipers Row car park, the top floors of which quite dramatically collapse overnight;

Pipers Row Car Park, pride of Wolverhampton. It got it's own HSE report you know, where do you think I nicked the photo from?

After the HSE investigation a whole generation of material engineers relax knowing their careers will be safe for life, looking after corroding 1960s/70s car parks will be a job for life for anyone who cares to do so. While the collapses generally get avoided these days that doesn’t mean the buildings are OK, it just means they get demolished earlier than expected leaving the owners to try and explain the problem to confused punters looking to park. A good one was Heathrow Terminal 3 car park;

Once a car park stood here, not anymore obviously.

You may be forgiven for thinking this was just part of the ongoing 'permanent rebuild' strategy for Heathrow Airport. However this is the old T3 car park, the one that was conveniently opposite the terminal till it was condemned by a mate of mine due to massive corrosion. So this car park was demolished and a new one built further away. If you've ever been at T3 and wondered why the car park is so far away and why the pick-up/drop off area is so huge, that's why.

This is still a live problem, a quick google throws up a car park in Nottingham that got the old ’emergency closure’ treatment a couple of years back and only last month a Southend car park collapsed during demolition, the top five stories letting go as they had corroded far worse than previously thought. It should now be obvious why Preston Bus Depot has to go, it’s not going to last long in any event so better to take it out while it’s safe before it decides to do the job itself.

I will leave the final word for today to another article in the Guardian, quoting a former Secretary of State for culture when the first listing of the depot was rejected;

“It therefore appears to the secretary of state that the main attractive feature of the design was the result of a miscalculation which led to a poor quality of construction.”

A shocking story

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Engineering, Even Stevie Wonder Saw That Coming, Tenuous Link of the Day, The Railways with tags , , , , , , , , on May 25, 2011 by awickerman

When I first read this story about sexual harassment in Network Rail I just couldn’t believe it was true. I didn’t know Network Rail even employed any women for management to harass, certainly you don’t see women on track or in the engineering departments.

Then it turned out the harassed woman in question was a “a former senior employee in the human resources department” and once again the world made sense.

If this story seems vaguely familiar that’s because it is, it was over two years ago it first came out. This is merely the ‘independent inquiry’ to confirm what everyone already knew. It also confirmed that it’s not just the RMT who have a loose attachment to the truth; the TSSA also make entirely unfounded claims for their own nefarious purposes. But then I suppose ‘Rail unions make up fictional accusations’ probably falls under things everyone already knew.

Cheap Joke of the Day

Posted in Even Stevie Wonder Saw That Coming, Irregular Features, Tenuous Link of the Day, The Wicker Man list with tags , , , , , , , on March 21, 2011 by awickerman

Warplanes over Libya! Revolution in Yemen! The continuing existence of the retarded fool Christian Wolmar!

I am concerned about none of these things, instead I am laughing at the name of an entirely innocent US warship that happens to be sailing to Libya; the mighty USS Ponce.

That I find this amusing to the extent of ignoring most of what it’s actually doing off Libya tells you a great deal about the human race. Or perhaps just about me, who knows?

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