Month: February 2022

How Technology has Changed Asset Management Programs in the Last 5 Years

I have worked on asset management projects throughout my 6-year tenure here at Hoyle Tanner. Although 6 years doesn’t seem like much time, it has been ample time to see evolution in the way asset management programs are used and how they’re needed to function.

Whether it be the funding agency rules, regulatory requirements, or simply the needs of the clients, the asset management landscape has been continuously evolving. Most notably has been the evolution of what clients are requesting from their asset management programs. Before working for Hoyle Tanner, I worked as a state regulator and my interactions with asset management were primarily in the form of capital planning. An engineer comes in, runs through an evaluation of your assets, and says “Here, these are your priority projects for the next 10 or so years.” Useful for planning purposes? Perhaps. Maximizes the use of your assets? Unrelated.

At the time, I would have considered a box of index cards with your routine maintenance needs that you paw through every month to be a pretty good asset maintenance plan. A GIS system that shows all your assets in the right locations would have been pretty good asset collection; though, let’s be honest, the paper map was probably more updated. 

Through my first few years at Hoyle Tanner, I started seeing more and more clients developing those index cards. Except now they’re not index cards, they’re calendar reminders. Then, more clients wanted to update those GIS maps and keep them updated. They want to keep track of asset condition. “We check these annually, why can’t we document that and update the GIS info accordingly?”

You can. Let’s create a work order system to document your work on assets and update your asset inventory based on it.

Then came the vertical assets. Clients saw that they could electronically keep track of those horizontal assets, why not your pumps and treatment equipment, too? One of the bigger jumps in the evolution of asset management was information access. Clients have GIS maps, asset inventories, work orders, standard operating procedures, photos, tie books, and now they wanted to access all of this information out in the field.

Along with this request for improved information access came the request for interconnectivity of data. “When I submit a work order, can that automatically update my condition assessment?” Sure, let’s figure out how.

We have now reached a point where we have made the connection between asset maintenance programs and asset planning: true asset management.

We have now reached a point where we have made the connection between asset maintenance programs and asset planning: true asset management. We’re now associating life expectancy and finance with how those assets are maintained. As a result, we are now seeing a return to that capital planning need. Except it’s no longer a dead binder sitting on a shelf for 10 years, it is a moving list that’s updated based on changes logged in the asset management program. During annual budgeting, we’re seeing more clients looking to their asset management programs to make short- and long-term investment decisions.

But has asset management really changed? What has really come to my attention is that the fundamentals of asset management have not changed, only where we are in the process. We work with a multitude of asset management clients, and although many have reached the point of software, work orders, and financial planning, many are still just trying to develop that inventory. Once they get that inventory, they want that automatic updating and the interconnected work orders. As asset management programs improve (better technology, better connectivity, etc.), we want more from them and the evolution continues.

For Additional Resources:

https://www.hoyletanner.com/9-steps-in-starting-asset-management/

14 Steps for Preserving Steel Structures

Piermont, NH-Bradford, VT Steel Bridge

Preventative maintenance is defined as scheduled work at regular intervals with the goal to preserve the present condition and prevent future deficiencies. On bridge structures, this work is typically performed on structures rated in ‘fair’ or better condition with significant service life remaining. Minor repairs may be necessary to maintain the integrity of the structure and prevent major rehabilitation. Structures that are not maintained are more likely to deteriorate at a faster rate and require costlier treatments sooner than maintained structures; therefore, it is more cost effective to maintain structures to avoid replacement or major rehabilitation needs.

Side image of a steel bridge with orange vehicle to inspect

New England’s weather causes extreme conditions for steel bridge trusses, such as flooding, ice and snow. Corrosive de-icing agents are used in the winter, which can accelerate deterioration of exposed bridge elements. Preventative maintenance is critical for steel truss bridges to reach their intended design service life and, therefore, attain the lowest life-cycle cost of the bridge investment. Presented are minimum recommended guidelines for preventative maintenance of steel truss bridges.

Three images of paint loss and debris on a bridge

Here are 14 actionable maintenance tasks to preserve historic truss bridges:

  1. General: Remove brush and vegetation around structure. Annually.
  2. Bridge Deck & Sidewalks: Sweep clean sand and other debris. Power wash with water to remove salt residue. Annually.
  3. Wearing Surface: Check for excessive cracking and deterioration. Annually. 
  4. Expansion Joint: Power wash with water to remove debris, sand and salt residue. Annually.
  5. Bolted Connections: Inspect for excessive corrosion or cracking of the steel fasteners. Check for any loose or missing bolts. Annually.
  6. Welded Connections: Check for cracking in the welds. Annually.
  7. Truss Members: Power wash with water to remove sand, salt and debris, particularly along the bottom chord. Give specific attention to debris accumulation within partially enclosed locations such as truss panel point connections or tubular members. Annually.
  8. Bridge Seats: Clean around bearings by flushing with water or air blast cleaning. Annually.
  9. NBIS Inspection: Complete inspection of all components of the steel truss bridge. Every 2 years unless on Red List.
  10. Painted Steel: Scrape or wire brush clean, prime and paint isolated areas of rusted steel. Every 2 to 4 years.
  11. Steel Members: Check for rust, other deterioration or distortion around rivets and bolts, and elements that come in contact with the bridge deck which may be susceptible to corrosion from roadway moisture and de-icing agents. Every 3 to 5 years.
  12. Bearings: Remove debris that may cause the bearings to lock and become incapable of movement. Check anchor bolts for damage and determine if they are secure. Every 3 to 5 years.
  13. Exposed Concrete Surfaces: Apply silane/siloxane sealers after cleaning and drying concrete surfaces. Every 4 years.
  14. Bridge & Approach Rail: Inspect for damage, loose or missing bolts, sharp edges or protrusions. Every 5 years.

Actions to Avoid

  • Do not bolt or weld to the structural steel members.
  • Do not remove any portion of the structure.
  • CAUTION! Paint may contain lead.

Additional resources can be found through the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources website.

What going Back to School Taught me About My Career…and Myself

Going back to School featured image with wetlands in the background and Deb Coon's profile photo in the foreground

In 2016 I did a thing: I finally figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I decided that I would go back to school and get a degree in Environmental Science. But before I went back to school, I had to go back to school. Sounds like I made a mistake here, right? Well, actually I didn’t. After talking to an admissions councilor, I found out that I was missing two courses from high school: chemistry and algebra. So, before I went back to school I had to go back to high school! I took two adult learning courses, got my credits and in fall 2017, I entered NHTI in pursuit of my degree.

In the beginning I worried about a lot of things. Could I do this? Would I be looked at as the “old lady” in the room? Would the younger students accept me or want to collaborate with me when it came to working together? Am I smart enough to actually do this? To say I had some self-doubt and confidence issues would be an understatement.

When I started this process, I knew three things: I wanted to still work my 40 hours a week; I was going to have to give up a substantial amount of ‘free’ time; and this was going to take a while. Luckily for me, between my husband and Hoyle Tanner, I have an incredible support system. Through this journey, I have taken day classes, night classes, online classes, remote classes, and I even took a week off as a vacation to take a one-week class (known as intensive class). I’ve been allowed to work all kinds of different work schedules to accommodate all these types of classes. All while this has been going on, I have received one consistent message, “Do what you have to do.”

This experience has probably been one of the hardest and most rewarding experiences I have ever had. I found that my worries about classmates was unfounded. The younger students that I take classes with look at me as being an equal and in some cases even lean on me to assist them. I have completed all my coursework for my degree and currently am working on my senior capstone project. This part of my degree is the most exciting for me because the project that I am working on is a partnership with the New Hampshire Natural Heritage Bureau to identify threatened and endangered plant species, which allows me to do my part to assist in the protection of our state-listed species.

Being able to connect what I learn in school and directly apply it to what I do for work has been eye opening for me. As the saying goes, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” The education that I have gotten has not only made me better at my job, but it has also boosted my self-confidence. I know now that not only could I do this, but I have done it and will be graduating in May – Magna cum laude!

Employee Spotlight: Luke Cisneros

Luke Cisneros – Transportation Engineer & Golden State Native

1. What drew you to Hoyle Tanner?

As much as I enjoyed being a Field Engineer and getting to be near the action of construction, I wanted to be a part of what went on behind the scenes. I heard very good things about Hoyle Tanner and, after interviewing with them, I was really excited about the amount of opportunity they had to work in different areas of engineering.

2. What’s something invaluable you’ve learned here?

I have learned that Hoyle Tanner really fosters unity amongst the company. Despite the pandemic, there has been a conscious effort to keep everyone connected as safely as possible.

3. What’s your favorite time of year to work at Hoyle Tanner?

I haven’t been here a full year yet; however, I imagine Christmas time would be the best time of year at Hoyle Tanner. The much anticipated Christmas party was cancelled this year; however, I could see how much people were looking forward to come together to celebrate the year with each other.

4. What’s the coolest thing you are working on?

A roadway project in Maine has been a great opportunity for me to work on nearly every part of the design. The amount of exposure to the different elements of this project has been an amazing learning experience for me.

5. What’s the best thing that’s happened to you so far this week?

I tried the Dunkaccino and it was pretty tight.

6. How many different states have you lived in?

Three: California, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire.

7. If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life what would it be?

It’s cliché, but I could eat pizza for any meal because you could make it fit any meal…and it would be delicious.

8. What kind of pet do you have and how did you choose to name it?

We have two cats (Kiki and Suki) and a dog (Rosie). My wife named Kiki before we met and together we named Rosie, because we thought it was cute, and Suki, because we were binge watching the series Avatar: The Last Airbender.

9. What is a fun or interesting fact about your hometown?

Anaheim, CA is where Disneyland originated.

10. What are three things still left on your bucket list?

a. Go to the top of the Eiffel Tower
b. Take a trip to Greece
c. Lift my wife up like Baby from Dirty Dancing

11. Name three items you’d take with you to a desert island

  1. Beach Chair
  2. Umbrella
  3. A Cold One

12. What characteristic do you admire most in others?

Integrity

13. How old is the oldest item in your closet?

My 20-year-old Nintendo Game Boy with Pokemon Yellow Version still in it.

14. Words to live by? Favorite quote? Why?

“When in doubt, pinky out.” It’s a good rule of thumb when you’re trying to look fancy.

15. What did you want to be when you were growing up?

I really wanted to be a doctor or an astronaut.

16. If you were to skydive from an airplane what would you think about on the way down?

I wonder if anyone has returned a parachute for not opening.

World Wetlands Day: A Global Call to Action

Spring Road Wetlands

On February 2, 2022, we join the global community in celebrating World Wetlands Day (WWD) to raise awareness about the important role of wetlands for humanity and the planet on which we live. WWD festivities take place every February 2nd to mark the adoption date of the Convention on Wetlands in Ramsar, Iran on the shores of the Caspian Sea in 1971. This convention was the first time that the world joined to discuss wetlands and their important protection measures.

This year’s celebration of World Wetlands Day is especially significant because on August 30, 2021, the UN General Assembly established February 2 as World Wetlands Day – this designation means that the day will be celebrated as a United Nations International Day. The United Nations designates International Days as occasions to mark particular events or topics in order to promote, through awareness and action, the objectives of the organization. This year’s theme, “Wetlands Action for People and Nature,” has the goal of calling people to action now; thus, protecting the health of both human and natural systems and ensuring the long-term conservation and sustainable use of wetlands.

There are many events occurring across the world on this day, including a run, a children’s photo contest, clean-up and other service activities, self-guided walks, and opportunities for grant funding. More details can be found at the website: https://www.worldwetlandsday.org/

Why Should We Protect Wetlands?

Natural wetlands are being lost at a rate that is three times faster than forests, with 85% of the world’s wetlands either lost or degraded since the 1700s. This loss results in water scarcity, exposure to flooding and extreme weather events, loss of well-being and livelihood/jobs, and food insecurity. For the planet, wetland loss means a decline in biodiversity, increased carbon and methane emissions, and a loss of freshwater filtration. Globally, wetlands are critically important ecosystems that contribute to biodiversity, climate mitigation and adaptation, freshwater availability, world economies and more. For example, over 40% of the world’s population lives within 60 miles (100 Km) of the ocean and will ultimately be affected by changes to the health of the coastline and wetlands in those interfacing areas, and more than 3 billion people depend on the ocean for their income – those jobs include fishing and aquaculture but also tourism. Freshwater wetlands also provide jobs such as fishing, aquaculture (freshwater catfish), agriculture (cranberry bogs) and tourism (swamp buggies anyone?).  

What is a Wetland?

Wetlands can vary in size, shape, vegetation, location, and include large, complex systems like beaches and coastlines, coral reefs, bogs and swamps. The Everglades in southern Florida is a good example of a large tropical wetland system. Here in New Hampshire, we have several large protected bog wetlands – poorly drained wetlands that are acidic and rich in organic and plant material, usually associated with a body of open water – including the Ponemah Bog in Amherst, and the Quincy Bog Natural Area in Rumney.

A wetland can also be small; New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) defines a wetland as having three components: hydric soils, hydrophytic vegetation and wetland hydrology. When a project is in development, wetlands are identified, or delineated, on the site to determine the best ways to avoid, minimize or mitigate impacts (or alteration of the wetland that results in a loss of its functions) to that wetland. There are federal rules protecting wetlands and every state has their own set of wetland protection requirements as well. Local wetland protection rules and requirements can also occur. 

Below are some examples of wetlands we have delineated in our projects; these are forested wetlands, grassed or emergent wetlands, riparian wetlands that occur along the edges and floodplains of streams and rivers, and isolated wetlands that are a mixture of forested, grassed and scrub-shrub. Once the wetlands on a site have been delineated, we work with our clients to determine the best ways to develop the site that can meet their goals while also protecting these important resources.  

Photos 1 & 2: Different emergent wetlands
Photo 3: Riparian forested wetland
Photo 4: Riverine/stream floodplain wetland system

What Can I Do?

The WWD convention has identified three global actions as a focus in 2022 to protect wetlands: 1) value wetlands, 2) stop draining or cultivating wetlands, and 3) renew, reforest and restore altered wetlands. These may sound like actions that are on a larger scale than you can assist with; you can follow #ActForWetlands to find more concrete ways in which you can act locally to protect wetlands. Join a local river or beach clean-up, start one on your own, or just spend some time picking up roadside trash or debris in your neighborhood. Plant trees or vegetation in your yard, especially if you have any wetland or stream within it, or assist when there is a community organization that is doing a similar project. Talk to your friends and family about the importance of clean, healthy wetlands and their ecosystems to spread the word. If everyone makes one small change, they add up!

The Hoyle Tanner Environmental Permitting team can assist you in any stage of your project that may affect wetlands, including: wetland delineation and assessment; local, state and federal permitting of wetland impacts; avoidance and minimization of impacts via design alternatives; and development of mitigation opportunities such as wetland creation, restoration, enhancement or preservation. Reach out with any questions you may have regarding wetlands!