Friday, May 11, 2018

RETTEW purchases geophysics company Enviroscn

RETTEW has purchased Enviroscan based in Lancaster, PA. The transaction joins the specialized geophysics services of Enviroscan with RETTEW’s engineering, surveying, and environmental consulting business. Geophysics is the science of detecting and mapping underground or underwater hidden objects and features. Enviroscan specializes in non-destructive, non-intrusive investigations to make digging, drilling, or earthmoving faster, safer, easier, and less expensive. The geophysics services will integrate directly into RETTEW’s existing earth sciences services, which include geotechnical, environmental, water resources, and subsurface utility engineering investigations.

Formed in 1992, Enviroscan is a certified women-owned business enterprise. All employees, including principals and corporate owners, will work from RETTEW’s offices in Manor Township, Lancaster County, PA. Enviroscan will operate as the geophysics service area under the RETTEW brand name.

“This purchase aligns perfectly with RETTEW’s strategic plan and complements our niche technical expertise,” says Mark Lauriello, president and CEO of RETTEW. “The high quality of work and people at Enviroscan are also a good fit with RETTEW’s culture – we’re known for working hard and playing hard, and caring about our communities.”

RETTEW began providing civil engineering and surveying services in 1969. Today the firm has more than 350 employees and 11 offices in Allentown, Conshohocken, Lancaster, Mechanicsburg, Pittsburgh, State College and Williamsport, PA; St. Clairsville and Uniontown, Ohio; Bridgeport, WV; and Denver, CO. For more information, visit

Sunday, May 6, 2018

New ASTM International geosynthetics standard supports erosion control

A new ASTM (American Society of Testing and Materials) International standard supports geosynthetic cementitious composite mats (GCCM), a new family of materials that can help control erosion, protect slopes and berms, and line ditches and culverts. The new standard (D8173) identifies proper layout, installation, and hydration procedures for GCCM. It also describes equipment for designers, inspectors, and installers and provides a checklist for contractors to use before installations.

“This standard provides details on fastening, overlapping, attachments, anchoring and other topics critical to good GCCM installation,” says ASTM International member John Paulson of Dison Contracting and Supply, LLC. “The new standard will help minimize or eliminate common mistakes that may be made by a first-time installer.” Paulson notes that because GCCM is unique to geosynthetics and erosion control applications, the committee hopes to develop more standards related to testing, installation, and classification.

Anyone is welcome to help create these standards. Become a member at To purchase standards, contact ASTM International customer relations at 877-909-ASTM or

ASTM International develops standards to positively impact public health and safety, consumer confidence, and overall quality of life. They integrate consensus standards developed with its international membership of volunteer technical experts and innovate services to improve lives and help the world work better.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Recreation and water quality expert Brian McRae joins Cardno's Reno office

Cardno, Inc. has announced that Brian McRae, PE, QSD/QSP has joined the firm as a senior consultant in the company’s Reno, Nevada office. He has 22 years of experience as a civil engineer, specializing in recreation, water quality, and infrastructure projects throughout California and Nevada.

McRae’s previous work includes support for the design and planning of over a dozen miles of bike trails in northern Nevada and California. His project expertise includes construction management, stormwater quality, erosion control, geotechnical engineering, and water rights.  Brian is an active member of the International Erosion Control Association, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the American Public Works Association. 

“Brian will be a strong asset for our clients on many kinds of recreational and water quality projects around Lake Tahoe, Reno, and elsewhere,” says Cardno Senior Consultant Mark Gookin. “He’s a true expert in navigating complex, multifaceted environmental projects.”

With some 6000 staff members in over 130 offices around the world, Cardno is a professional infrastructure and environmental services company with specialist expertise in the development and improvement of physical and social infrastructure for communities around the world. Cardno’s team includes professionals who plan, design, manage, and deliver sustainable projects and community programs. For more information, visit

Sunday, March 18, 2018

VCU School of Engineering receives GO Virginia funding

GO Virginia has announced that the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) School of Engineering has been awarded a grant intended to spur economic development across the region. The $500,000 grant will support commercialization efforts to implement FDA-approved, sustainable pharmaceutical manufacturing in Virginia using innovative, low-cost technologies while also increasing the highly skilled workforce needed to support the pharmaceutical industry. This initiative will further demonstrate that new, advanced manufacturing technologies can help create an industry cluster or network of interrelated businesses to invent, build, and grow highly efficient pharmaceutical manufacturing with the potential for wide-ranging benefits across the state.

In its initial phase, VCU’s Department of Chemical and Life Science Engineering will engage with Bright Path Pharmaceuticals, a pharmaceutical manufacturer, to commercialize new pharmaceutical manufacturing technologies. VCU and Bright Path intend to create jobs and grow economic activity in the region.

The GO Virginia award is further evidence of the continued progress of the Medicines for All Institute within the School of Engineering. The institute, which recently received additional funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is allowing B. Frank Gupton, Ph.D., the Floyd D. Gottwald Jr. Chair and chair of the Department of Chemical and Life Science Engineering, to manufacture pharmaceuticals in ways that significantly lower costs and increase access to these lifesaving medications for people around the world.

“This funding from Go Virginia, coupled with additional support from the city of Richmond and other regional governmental entities, demonstrates broad-based support for initiatives that will create new, high-paying jobs and eventually reduce the cost of many pharmaceuticals,” says Barbara D. Boyan, Ph.D., the Alice T. and William H. Goodwin Chair and dean of the VCU School of Engineering. “It underscores that we are going in the right direction by creating collaborative relationships with companies like Bright Path that have the capability to deploy new technologies and bring beneficial changes to the world,” she adds.

As the first commercial partner, Bright Path Pharmaceuticals will combine VCU School of Engineering research with its own technologies to build low-cost, highly efficient pharmaceutical manufacturing systems expected to receive FDA approval and create new production capabilities for global markets. Bright Path is expected to bring significant operations to the Richmond area, says Tony Quinones, a founder of Bright Path Pharmaceuticals. “As a newcomer to the Richmond area, we are pleased to be part of the GO Virginia initiative and look forward to rapidly scaling up our operations. We are excited about the opportunities provided by the relationship with VCU Engineering,” Quinones said.

The partnership aims to create a Virginia-based industry network driven by rapid process innovation, development of new equipment, and a workforce to bring these advanced systems to a commercial level. It ultimately seeks to create partnerships across the state, with expansion to other for-profit and not-for-profit entities around the world.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

McMillen Jacobs Associates announces six new principals

McMillen Jacobs Associates announces six principal promotions in the firm’s Underground Division.

John Murray, P.E. is the firm’s New York City and Roseland, New Jersey office manager. Murray has 20 years of experience as a design engineer and project manager on several major tunnel design projects. He has served as a design lead and project manager on a number of design-build and design-bid-build tunnel projects, and his experience includes planning, preliminary design, final design, procurement support, and design support during construction. His experience includes large-diameter water, wastewater, mass transit, and highway tunnels. Murray is currently the design manager for the Catskill Aqueduct Repair and Rehabilitation Project in Upstate New York and is leading the firm’s efforts as part of the program management team on the Ottawa Rail Transit project for the City of Ottawa. He earned his MS in Geotechnical Engineering and BS in Civil Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He is a registered Professional Engineer in New York and Georgia.

Kristian Nelson CPEng, PEng, IntPE, is the firm’s Auckland, New Zealand office manager and has worked for 19 years as a civil engineer in Canada and New Zealand specializing in complex marine, temporary works, and ground improvement methods. He has extensive experience planning and delivering projects that maintain client access to facilities and working around operational activities. Nelson is currently the design manager on the Army Bay WWTP Upgrade and Outfall Replacement in Auckland. He earned his BASc in Civil Engineering from University of British Columbia. He is a Chartered Professional Engineer in New Zealand, a Professional Engineer in BC, Canada, and an International Professional Engineer.

Troy Page, PE, is an underground cost estimator with 34 years of experience. He started as a tunnel laborer in Chicago while in school and worked his way up the ranks. He spent 24 years with heavy construction contractors, primarily working on tunnels, shafts, and underground caverns. He has experience in most tunneling methods as well as grouting, estimating, and claims. He develops detailed engineering estimates, performs design feasibility and constructability reviews, and reviews contractor submittals. Page has provided cost estimating services on some of the firm’s most significant tunneling projects, including the Akron Ohio Canal Interceptor Tunnel, Ottawa Light Rail Transit, Central Subway PM/CM, and Ship Canal Water Quality Project. He earned his BS in Civil Engineering from the University of North Dakota and is a Professional Engineer in New York.

Samuel Swartz, PE, is the firm’s newly opened Chicago office manager. He has 19 years of engineering experience with the firm, working on major tunnel design projects. He has served as project manager and design lead on a number of large tunneling projects, including planning, preliminary design, final design, and design support during construction. Swartz is currently leading the final design for Metro Vancouver’s Second Narrows Water Supply Tunnel in Vancouver, BC, Canada. He earned his MS in Civil Engineering at the University of California at Berkeley and his BS in Civil Engineering from the University of Michigan. He is a Registered Professional Engineer in California, Washington, and Illinois.

Mark Trim, CPEng, PE, has 19 years of experience working as a design engineer and manager specializing in permanent and temporary underground structures with an emphasis on tunnel design, deep excavation support systems, soil–structure interaction, and ground improvement technology. A few of the more notable projects he has worked on in North America and Australia are the WestConnex M4 East Project (Sydney, AU), Ottawa Light Rail Transit Project (Ottawa, CAN), Airport Link Project (Brisbane, AU), and Northern Sewerage Project (Melbourne, AU). He is a Chartered Professional Engineer in Australia and a Registered Civil Engineer in New York, Texas, and Washington. He earned his MS in Mining and Earth Systems Engineering and a BS in Civil Engineering from Colorado School of Mines. Mark works in the Sydney, Australia office, which he opened in 2014.

Sarah Wilson, PE, CCM has applied her combined experience in design and construction management to solving problems on underground projects, primarily in water supply and rail transit, for more than 18 years.  Sarah recently served as resident engineer for the SFMTA Central Subway’s $234M Tunnels and $294M Union Square Market Street Station contracts. She currently oversees the firm’s construction management practice as well as serving on the board of directors. She is a past president of the American Rock Mechanics Association and is currently working on an update to the UCA of SME’s publication Recommended Contract Practices for Underground Construction. She earned her MS in Geotechnical Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley, where she is a regularly invited lecturer, and her BS in Civil Engineering from Drexel University, where she was named one of the “Top 40 under 40” in 2015. Sarah is a Registered Professional Civil Engineer in California and a CMAA Certified Construction Manager.

With offices all over the United States and in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, McMillen Jacobs Associates is an employee-owned environmental, engineering, and construction company providing an array of technical services to the heavy civil, underground, and water resources markets.

Friday, February 9, 2018

AEC Management Solutions publishes "Ten Reasons Many A/E Firms Are Underachieving"

AEC Management Solutions, a firm based in Matawan, NJ that helps engineering firms and architects maximize profits, has published its list of reasons firms underachieve:

10. Lack of Accountability
Lack of accountability can and does occur at levels of an underachieving company.  Whether it is partner to partner, partner to project manager or project manager to staff -- seldom are people held accountable for missing deadlines, sloppy work or over budget projects.

9. Accepting Mediocrity

If mediocrity is your goal you will probably succeed.  This goes hand in hand with number 10.  Expectations of employee performance are often set far too low -- and employees do their best to barely achieve it.

8. Lack of Employee Recognition and Employee Rewards
When hard working overachieving employees are not recognized by their supervisors for their hard work it can be demoralizing.  Instead of their performance raising the performance expectations for all employees, it has the opposite effect.  The overachievers become demoralized and they sink to the level of the underachievers.  Public recognition of their hard work and meaningful financial incentives will go a long way in keeping their performance at a high level and inspiring many of the others to do the same.

7. Majoring in Minor Things
Far too many employees fall into the trap of spending too much time in a reactive state of busy work.  They read and respond to unimportant e-mails, returning non-urgent phone calls, attending far too many unproductive meetings, spending time with uninvited drop-in visitors and so on.  This leaves little time to work on the most important items such as producing the work product or closing the deal on a new project

6. Making the Loss-Leader a Way of Life
All too often in my career I have seen severely under-priced projects justified as a loss-leader.  The theory behind the loss-leader is that once the client sees how wonderful we are at producing high quality work and servicing their needs, they will then become a long term client at full pricing.  There are so many things wrong with this theory that one hardly knows where to start (I will go in to more detail in a future article).  The reality is that once you set the price expectation they will expect it all the time.  Another problem is that you won the project on price.  Won't they also be willing to leave you in the future if one of your competitors offers them a lower price?

5. A Lack of Planning
The strategic plan for many firms can be described as follows:
a. Bring in as much work as we can
b. Do our best to create a great design and satisfy the client
c. Hope that we make some money

This strategy may keep a company afloat during prosperous times, but when the tide goes out you are left there without a plan for weathering the tough times.  With the help of an outside facilitator, the most successful firms take time every year to develop or update a strategic plan that:
a. Assesses their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
b. Outlines what the company will look like in 3 to 5 years, including markets served, services offered, revenues and profits
c. Prepares an action plan where key members of the firm commit to follow-up on the plan

4. Not Communicating with the Staff
All too often I work with firms where the partners are not communicating with the staff on the plan for transforming the firm into something more than exists today.  Given this vacuum of communication, the staff is left to assume there is no plan at all.  The most successful firms articulate their plans to the staff, so every employee can be a pro-active participant in helping to achieve the company's goals.

3. Locked into Long-Term Commitments
When times are good, many firms open branch offices, expanded their existing offices, lease new equipment and so on. When time get tough and employees have been laid off and other overhead has been cut to a workable minimum, theyare left with too much office space and equipment.  Unfortunately there is no easy solution to this once the long term commitment has been made. When signing long term leases, most firms would be better off hedging their bets on expansion. A strategy that I have employed in the past is to negotiate an early exit from office leases without penalty in exchange for paying a higher monthly rent.

2. They are not Recognized as an Expert in a Project Type
Despite all of their fine work theri firm is not recognized as the expert.  This allows firms that have created a better reputation to reach down and win projects that should be theirs.  It is unlikely the better reputation firm will best serve the client's needs.  However they have created the perception in the clients mind that they will do a better job.

The fact that your competition is recognized as the expert did not happen by accident.  Most clients cannot tell the difference between good design and great design.  Your competition created the perception of expertise through a well thought out plan that includes a compelling marketing message, interesting website, professional marketing materials and a well executed campaign. There is no reason they cannot do the same.  But they should remember that this is no time to be humble.

1. Not Reinvesting in the Company
When times were good, many firms did not have a plan to reinvest the profits into the company.  Most, if not all, of the profits were taken out of the company for the benefit of the owners, or to avoid double taxation.  This is fime when the economy is humming along but when things turn south, the company is left starved for cash and unable to invest in the needed technology, training and marketing. When are good, be sure to allocate 1/3 of your profits for reinvestment in the company.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Tom Stoneburner named TKDA president/CEO

TKDA has announced that Tom Stoneburner, PE, LEED AP, will become the new president and CEO of TKDA. Stoneburner has been with the employee-owned engineering, architecture, and planning firm for more than 30 years. A graduate of the University of Minnesota, Stoneburner, a civil engineer, has served as vice president of TKDA’s largest division, Facilities Engineering, since 2006.

Stoneburner succeeds Bill Deitner, PE, who is retiring after a nearly 40-year career with the company. Under Deitner’s lead, the 107-year-old firm has expanded beyond its Saint Paul, MN headquarters to add offices in Duluth, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Bernardino, and Vero Beach, Florida. The firm also has a Chicago office.

The firm serves public and private clients in the aviation, municipal, rail, surface transportation, corporate, government, education, and iron mining markets. TKDA’s clients include several top-tier national companies, including 3M, BNSF, Honeywell, Nestle, and the Kraft Heinz Company. The firm also serves many public sector entities, including the Metropolitan Airports Commission, Saint Paul Public Schools, MnDOT, the Minnesota State college system, and many cities and municipalities throughout Minnesota.

“I look forward to building on Bill’s steady leadership as we embark on the next chapter for TKDA”, Stoneburner says. “Our base in Saint Paul is strong and our regional offices are poised for solid growth. I am excited to work with our employee owners and our clients as we enhance our capabilities in the Northland and across the country.” Stoneburner and Deitner will work closely together over the coming month on the transition that will occur in March.

TKDA is an employee-owned provider of engineering, architecture, and planning services to a broad range of public and private markets. For more information, visit