How to Read Bridges
A Crash Course in Engineering and Architecture
By Edward Denison and Ian Stewart
I must preface my review of How To Read Bridges by confessing that I am a Bridge Engineer who “reads” bridges every day. I was intrigued when afforded the opportunity to review this book, which summarizes the introductory aspects of bridge engineering… and is written for readers with various types of backgrounds.
Overall, the pocket-sized paperback book is 250+ pages of informative text, full of interesting historic and contemporary photographs, and sketches of representative bridges worldwide. In addition, there is a Glossary of engineering terms, as well as Resources of books and web sites.
The book is divided into two sections – Part I: Understanding Bridges, and Part II: Case Studies. The first part introduces bridge materials (stone, wood, organic, brick, iron, steel, concrete and glass); bridge types (beam, arch, truss, moving, cantilever, suspension, cable-stayed and hybrid); bridge uses (pedestrian, water, vehicular, rail and military); and illustrious bridge engineers (Isambard Kingdom Brunel, John A. Roebling, Robert Maillart, Santiago Calatrava, Gustave Eiffel, and Benjamin Baker).
The remaining 60% of the book is devoted to representative global case studies of the following bridge types: Beam Bridges (6), Arch Bridges (13), Truss Bridges (8), Opening & Moving Bridges (10), Cantilever Bridges (7), Suspension Bridges (13) and Cable-Stayed Bridges (9). Each case study includes a brief introduction describing the inherent design features of the specific bridge type, followed by several example bridges (numbers in parentheses) that include an historic summary, color photograph(s), and descriptive sketches detailing salient aspects of the bridge.
The book provides a good overview of bridge engineering from an historic perspective, highlighted by iconic structures from around the world. One minor inaccuracy and isolated nomenclature issues were noted by this reviewer; however, neither detracts from the content.
Overall, I enjoyed How To Read Bridges and I am glad to add it to my library of bridge books.
Reviewed By Brian J. Leshko, P.E.
Posted January, 2013
Too Big to Fall
By Barry B. LePatner; with special comments by Hon. James L. Oberstar, Chairman, U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure; forward by Robert Puentes, Sr Fellow, Metropolitan Policy Program, Brookings Institution
Foster Publishing, New York, in association with University Press of New England to be published Nov 2010
The author, Barry LePatner, is a well-known construction lawyer whose firm offers construction project management as well as forensic services. He authored another book entitled Broken Buildings, Busted Budgets: How to Fix America’s Trillion Dollar Construction Industry, 2008.
The current book is scheduled for release on November 9, 2010, a few days after the 2010 Congressional elections. This may be significant in that the rise in government spending and record-breaking deficits are a key issue in this election. Mr. LePatner’s book appears to look for solutions in much greater federal control by larger federal bureaucracies placed in the role of deciding where large amounts of money should be spent by the government to inspect and test transportation infrastructure and also plan where new facilities should be erected.
The reason for this vast increase in federal government control and financing, according to the book, is that local governments have neither the expertise nor the money to perform the necessary supervision.
Mr. LePatner also faults the present federal bureaucracies for lack of proper oversight, and then suggests that the solution to this is the addition of more federal bureaucracy which will somehow be more successful because the legislation authorizing its creation will so state.
Having said all of that, this book is well written and contains important information that should be read and understood by structural engineers as well as others in our society. Our infrastructure is under-funded and its importance is not understood or acknowledged, neither by the public nor by our representatives in government.
How we deal with that fact and with the fact of limited financial resources is important to consider. Too Big to Fall deals with that question and should be read by all of us; especially so to our profession, the engineers who design the structures upon which our society depends.
It will make us aware of the problems that exist, although its analysis may be superficial in some respects, in that it is clearly political, and it is biased to reflect the interest and limitations of its author.
It is superficial in that it uses gross figures for the number of bridges and the extrapolated costs for maintenance. Only a small percentage of the thousands of old bridges cited could experience a failure that would result in numerous deaths and major disruption of vital traffic. The I-35 West bridge collapse in Minnesota was caused not only by age related deterioration but, primarily, to a design flaw, to changes in level of usage, and to the construction of modifications in conjunction with continued usage that added unacceptable loading additions. The book’s description of this scenario is interesting, but no plausible reason is given as to how all of those decisions would have been improved if left to some group of bureaucrats in Washington D.C. The premise of the book is that the latter would simply have recourse to an unlimited amount of money to be able to cover all eventualities. Anyone who has witnessed the quality of judgment that comes from the “magic kingdom inside the beltway” would only laugh at that supposition.
This book correctly states that much of the construction industry is inefficient when you look at cost overruns, the number of change orders, and design and construction errors that require costly fixes. The solution presented in the book is, in addition to more federal bureaucracy, to utilize more modern technology. Mr. LePatner compares construction with airplane manufacturing with its greater reliability testing prior to and during production. He fails, however, to note the difference between the control that can be exercised by a single manufacturer of thousands of identical products with the construction of each unique bridge or building, which is produced by a group consisting of an architect, structural and MEP engineers, an individual owner, general and many sub-contractors, a unique set of jurisdictional planners, plan checkers and inspectors. Unfortunately, here, where the real problems of breakdowns in communication and differing biases exist, nothing is discussed or even acknowledged.
Therefore, while this book is important to read, rather than concluding that the only way to fix the problems with our infrastructure is to increase the centralization and remoteness of control that has largely created the problem, we should look at why the architects, engineers and contractors cannot understand each other and work as an integrated team to design what needs to be built, and construct what has been designed to eliminate inefficiency, cost overruns and mistakes in this industry.
Reviewed by Richard L. Hess, A.E., S.E., SECB, F.ASCE, CSI, CCCA, Consulting structural engineer in Southern California for over twenty-five years, specializing in structural retrofit of existing and historical buildings and supports for non-building structures and non-structural elements. Prior experience: fifteen years industrial and commercial facilities engineering, real estate development, and construction management. Past President of the Structural Engineers Association of Southern California and Chair, Existing Buildings Committee. He is a member the STRUCTURE magazine Editorial Board.
Posted September, 2010
A Guide to Building Information Modeling
For Owners, Managers, Designers, Engineers, and Contractors
By Chuck Eastman, Paul Teicholtz, Rafael Sacks, and Kathleen Liston
The BIM HANDBOOK is an excellent reference for those just venturing into the world of BIM. It offers an objective view of the possibilities and the issues associated with the switch from the conventional 2D design process to the 3D BIM design process.
The book provides perspective from all sides of the design team - Owners, Architects, Engineers, Contractors, and Fabricators. The authors touch upon the key issues facing everyone involved, from design through construction.
For those interested in learning the basic concepts and vocabulary of BIM, as well as those concerned with contractual and legal issues, staffing changes, software options, or interoperability issues, this book will be a useful resource.
Reviewed by Jamie L. Davis, P.E., LEED AP, a Principal and Vice President of Ryan-Biggs Associates, P.C. She manages the Finger Lakes Office in Skaneateles Falls, New York. Ms. Davis is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers; the American Concrete Institute; the American Institute of Steel Construction; and the Reinforcement and Connector Subcommittee of The Masonry Society.
Posted March, 2010
Guidelines for Forensic Engineering Practice American Society of Civil Engineers, 2003
This text comes with high regard, being supported by engineer practitioners, engineering firms and professional organizations. If you think of forensic engineering as simply the investigation and study of building structural failures, you will be surprised at the breadth of material discussed. I use the term text rather than book because, in 140 pages, the reader will be exposed to far more than the process for the investigation of failures. This publication is heavily weighted with information of interest to engineers providing expert testimony. It is apparent early into the read that few, if any, universities offer a course in such depth. The text stresses repeatedly the need for engineers to practice and conduct themselves ethically. The reader wonders why? Are engineers providing testimony of such questionable character that they are in need of constant reminder?
Throughout the text there are examples of ethical conduct, and an entire appendix is devoted to the thirteen principles of ethical conduct the authors cite as good rules to practice by.
Text topics include:
- Maintaining confidentiality
- How to deal with client and attorney pressure
- How to conduct one’s self in the courtroom or during depositions
- A brief description of the jurisprudence system in the United States
- How to conduct an investigation and present findings
- How to promote your service (marketing) in this area
- The need for impartiality regardless of the client being represented
- Case studies of various projects illustrate particular issues.
What types of insurance should a firm or individual maintain? Experts are not immune to lawsuits. As the field of construction litigation grows, so do lawsuits involving experts.
As a textbook or a reminder to one’s self for the need to maintain high ethical standards, this is a good text for your library.
Reviewed by Craig E. Barnes, P.E., SECB, principal and founder of CBI Consulting Inc. As an engineer registered in both the civil and structural fields, Mr. Barnes has over 40 years experience designing, coordinating, and managing structural and civil engineering projects throughout the United States. Mr. Barnes can be reached via email at email@example.com.
Posted March, 2010
Structural Wood Design: A Practice-Oriented Approach Using the ASD Method
By Abi Aghayere and Jason Vigil
This book is intended as a reference for a one-semester wood design course for engineering students. However, it also provides an excellent primer on the basics of wood design for engineers with little or no background in that subject. The authors, a professor and a practicing engineer, have put together a reference that provides the basic theory behind wood design with heavy emphasis on design application. The topics covered include design loads and design of beams, girders, columns, diaphragms, and connections.
The book covers the basic elements in a typical wood structure using the allowable stress design method and the National design Standard for Wood Construction, 2005 edition. The book is organized in an order similar to that adopted by a practitioner designing a structure. The design process for each element is presented systematically and step-by-step, including several design examples for each topic.
Both practitioners and students will appreciate the straightforward approach used to explain and solve design issues. In addition, the book provides several design aids in the appendix for uniformly loaded joists, axially loaded columns, and beam-columns, which practitioners will find useful. This book presents a simplified approach to wood design; however, it does not provide an in-depth explanation of the theory behind the design requirements typical of college-level texts on design.
The authors have developed a reference appropriate for both students and practicing engineers with limited experience in wood design. The clear language and simplified approach, along with practical examples, will allow novice wood designers to gain understanding of the fundamentals of designing with wood.
Reviewed by Anthony E. Dalto, P.E., Principal, Ryan-Biggs Associates, Troy, New York. He specializes in the design of wood and timber structures.
Posted March, 2010