Maximizing Building Information Modeling (BIM)

on Apr.13, 2012, under Integrated Architecture

The future of building design lies in utilizing new technology that is changing the way we approach building design. Building Information Modeling (BIM) software creates three-dimensional, intelligent models that can be used not only for design and construction, but will continue into the building operational life cycle.

The use of Building Information Modeling (BIM) is now prevalent in most architecture firms across the nation. As BIM software packages mature and encompass ever-increasing areas of design, professionals are reaping the benefits within their offices by increasing productivity and providing significant advantages to their clients and their client’s facilities managers.

While BIM offers speed, coordination and accuracy advantages, many factors come into play when firms plot their course of implementation and utilization of BIM. The desire to model, evaluate, and produce designs of increasingly higher quality requires thoughtful planning of the design firm’s goals for visualization, design analysis, cost estimating, and energy modeling.


Traditional methods for design and documentation have produced 2D drawings that required extensive coordination effort, left parts of the design unresolved, and resulted in omissions between the various design disciplines. Gone are the days of simple 2D CAD drafting. Today’s engineering, architecture, and interior design professionals and pre-professionals,  who utilize BIM must be able to think on a systems level. They must be able to adapt and deploy design solutions while being aware of additional building systems that will be affected by their portion of the design. A small change for one group of designers on a project can have vast implications for another group’s portion of the design. The result is a project-wide awareness that fosters design innovation for the client, while aiding designers in their personal understanding of complex building systems.

Crafton Tull fully integrates all disciplines using BIM

Increased near-instant team collaboration and communication are critical in today’s fast-paced work environments. Efficient communication through email, project forums, and instant messaging are all ways to capture dialog among team members for projects of all sizes.


Leveraging BIM efficiently requires thoughtful development and deployment of hardware and software resources within a firm. The network of computer systems must be accessible across offices and seamlessly integrate professionals on a level that is unprecedented in most design environments. Bandwidth, memory, and software licenses have all been issues in the past, but helpful IT managers who develop and deploy computer resources and IT budgets effectively ensure success in the BIM environment.

IT managers must ensure that the professionals collaborating on projects can connect and communicate effectively and thoroughly, regardless of physical location. Connecting structural engineers with design architects, MEP engineers, interior designers, and civil engineers is essential to the process. Specialized servers (virtual or physical) can aid the process and seamlessly join teams across boundaries.


As architects, engineers, and designers integrate BIM into their projects, contractors are discovering that they can use BIM to their advantage during the bidding and construction phases of those projects. During the bidding stage of a project, BIM models can provide insight to trades bidding portions of the project while coordinating their portion of the work with other stakeholders. Having major components of the project modeled in 3D completes the picture, allowing more accurate pricing from all trades.

Contractors are beginning to require sub-contractors to provide 3D shop drawings for major systems to ensure that all systems fit together as a whole. By integrating BIM model reviews into their construction meetings, contractors can find discrepancies between building systems that may otherwise go unnoticed until they result in a change order to the owner. Conflicts between structure, plumbing systems and mechanical systems can be resolved in progress meetings, and the associated shop drawings can be revised and submitted for BIM review. Additionally, many items can be shop fabricated with the knowledge that they will be ready for installation as soon as they are delivered to the site.

This process saves valuable time and money.

Construction documents produced using BIM enhances the construction process


Whether developing BIM protocols for a small local architectural firm or a large regional multi-disciplined design firm, one must consider the various types of project plans and the challenges each presents the team. Teams must be flexible in nature. Flexible communications with the freedom to explore, to evolve, to anticipate, and to provide solutions will be the key for success.

Article Written By:

Mark Owings, AIA, LEED AP

Director of Architecture, Rogers Office

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Benefits of Good Landscape Design

on Oct.27, 2011, under Integrated Architecture, Sustainability

On a grand scale, one could ask what New York City would be without Central Park.  Would it be a place where people would want, even strive, to live, work and recreate, or would it be just another urban environment susceptible to decay and decline? In addition to the aesthetic reasons for adding trees, shrubs and ground cover around a structure, there are beneficial purposes that go beyond merely adding architectural decoration. While landscaping works to enhance and complement a space, it can also provide real benefits that affect the profitability, health, productivity, and overall sense of well being.

The design of the landscape in conjunction with the overall site planning and architectural design can create a place where people want to spend time, socialize, or work.  Trees, shrubs, and ground cover in conjunction with outdoor plazas, can become spaces that can be used for organized events, casual meetings or simply taking a break.   Seating areas can also provide spaces, which can give the visitor or user a respite from the built environment which can encourage a sense of community.

Landscaping can also be used to reduce operational costs by reducing the heat island effect of a site. This is achieved by shading parking lots or other paved surfaces. Furthermore, strategically placed trees can provide shade for west-facing windows and wall surfaces, which will help reduce the amount of heat gains inside the building, this in turn, reduces the demand placed on mechanical and electrical systems.

Properly selected and placed plantings can also contribute to the overall environmental quality of a community by filtering runoff, stabilizing soils, and mitigating noise. Because of these findings, many jurisdictions have instituted legislation to require some form of pre-treatment of storm water run-off. Plantings also help reduce the amount of erosion and siltation of storm water systems and natural waterways. Noise pollution which can be, at the very least, irritating and at its worst disruptive, can many times be somewhat alleviated by plantings that deflect or absorb much of the offensive sound.

More and more cities and towns are realizing the benefits of landscaping on a community- wide basis. Not only are we starting to see more municipalities require tree preservation and mitigation, but, also minimum requirements for green space as part of new development. Community leaders are realizing in order to attract business and industry, cities must provide a certain amount of green opportunity to foster growth and compete with other cities for industry and development. Likewise businesses, educational institutions, and even neighborhoods must provide the same opportunities to remain viable in a competitive and mobile society.

There is no question that when landscaping is designed properly it enhances the appearance of the environment in which it is placed. However, it is important to share the focus of aesthetic benefits with the social and energy-saving benefits. The more people recognize that landscaping is not just a way to beautify an area. The more communities and residents alike will be willing to invest in landscaping for functional and aesthetic purposes.

by Frank Riggins, ASLA / Vice President

Crafton Tull

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Guideline Changes for Wetlands and Waterways

on Oct.18, 2011, under Infrastructure

Wetlands & Waterways: Changes in jurisdictional determination approach will expand protection

On July 31st, the U.S. EPA and Army Corps of Engineers closed the comment period on their proposed guidance for identifying Waters of the U.S. that would be protected under the Clean Water Act. Most are probably familiar with the current guidance that requires a “continuous surface connection” between a wetland, water body, or waterway and navigable waters in order for Clean Water Act protection to be extended and the water in question to be deemed jurisdictional. The most common consequence of a jurisdictional determination for public works projects is the requirement for a Section 404 permit from the Corps. The proposed guidance has stated that it will “provide clearer, more predictable guidelines for determining which water bodies are protected by the Clean Water Act.” They go on to state that “based on relevant science and recent field experience, that . . . . the extent of waters over which the agencies assert jurisdiction under the CWA will increase compared to the extent of waters over which jurisdiction has been asserted under existing guidance.” Because of this assertion, owners need to be aware that project costs and schedules are likely to increase.

Why the change?

The most recent Supreme Court decision regarding the issue of wetlands was Rapanos vs. United States 547 U.S. 715 (2006). In this case, the Court issued five different opinions with no single opinion representing a majority. Justice Scalia’s plurality opinion has served as the foundation for jurisdictional determinations. His opinion contained the view that only wetlands with a continuous surface connection to other jurisdictional waters were protected by the CWA. The agencies now plan to expand the decision making process to include views contained in Justice Kennedy’s concurring opinion. Justice Kennedy’s opinion asserts that a wetland with a “significant nexus” to traditional navigable waters should also be protected, as well.

Significant nexus

The guidance gives insight into when a significant nexus exists. It says “Waters have the requisite significant nexus if they, either alone or in combination with similarly situated waters in the region, significantly affect the chemical, physical, or biological integrity of traditional navigable waters or interstate waters.” These three criteria underlined for emphasis are further explained as:

1) Similarly situated waters will be defined as a tributary, adjacent wetland (i.e. has a continuous surface connection), or is in “close physical proximity” to a protected waterway.

2) In the region is defined as lying within a watershed that drains to a navigable waterway.

3) Significantly affect the chemical, physical, or biological integrity cannot be “speculative or insubstantial,” but no longer is the surface connection neccessary. Now a connection can be justified by sub-surface hydrologic connections and, in some cases ecological connections. The guidance encourages field staff to look for the following examples of how the effect can be substantiated.

  • · Physical/ Hydrology: Does the water provide transport of suspended materials, water retention, or a movement of aquatic organisms, or release of retained waters to other waters?
  • · Chemical: Does the water have capacity to carry pollutants or flood waters to downstream navigable waters? To what extent can the water reduce the amount of pollutants or flood waters? To what extent can the waters perform physical functions related to maintenance of downstream water quality such as sediment trapping?
  • · Biological: Does the water have capacity to transfer nutrients to downstream food webs? Does the water provide maintenance of habitat for resident aquatics species (e.g. amphibians, aquatic turtles, fish or waterfowl)?

The guidance is unclear as to what degree the above indicators must be proven. For example, will it require a specific study conducted within the watershed? Or will academic literature that describes the general benefits of similarly functioning waters within a different watershed be sufficient evidence on which to base a decision. Many of the chemical, physical, and biological benefits of nearly all waters are widely known and accepted. Will this general industry knowledge be sufficient evidence to extend protection? To us, these are the questions that remain to be answered. We’ll continue to seek out clear guidance from the agencies with jurisdiction over your projects, but in the meantime want to make you aware of these pending changes.

You can read the full text of the guidance at the following link, from which the information and quotes above were taken.

Prepared by: Steven Beam, P.E., LEED AP / Vice President for Infrastructure/ Rogers, AR

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Crafton Tull Receives Two Awards for Planning at Chaffee Crossing

on Sep.30, 2011, under News Releases

Crafton Tull is pleased to announce that our Planning Department led by Dave Roberts, ASLA and Julie Luther, AICP, ASLA is the recipient of two planning and design awards for their work at Chaffee Crossing in Fort Smith, Arkansas. On September 8th the Arkansas Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA) honored our team with the 2011 Achievement in Urban Development & Design. In addition, the Arkansas Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) also chose Crafton Tull’s Planning team for their work at Chaffee Crossing as the recipient of the 2011 Merit Award for Planning & Urban Design, awarded on September 23rd in Fayetteville.

As a whole the entire company is proud of each and every person who worked so hard to make this project a success for Crafton Tull, Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority and the area citizens whose lives will be impacted impacted by its completion. It is a great honor to be recognized by peers and colleagues; especially on a project of which we are so proud to have been a part of.

Crafton Tull wanted to share the highlights of the project and what our Planning Department was able to accomplish. Chaffee Crossing is the type of project where planners play a role that truly impacts the public’s quality of life while at the same time teaches lessons of sustainability and appreciation for the environment. The Plan and the Development Guidelines establish a criterion that places a focus on the pedestrian, community character and environmental respect. This is evident in the concept for the Land Use Plan which establishes walkable nodes, each with a different mix of use, each with a varied design character. The laces that tie these nodes together are the trail connections that intertwine through the 7,000-acre site, linking Chaffee Crossing to Fort Smith, Barling, and points beyond. This plan is about providing for a collection of sustainable developments that equal a greater sum, an option for residents to live, work, play and shop in a walkable community that encourages human interaction.

We would like to offer our sincere congratulations to Dave Roberts ALSA, Julie Luther ACIP, and Kyle Blakely, ASLA for their hard work and the recognition they received as a result. Crafton Tull is appreciative of the quality and consistency of the work of our talented, dedicated staff. It is rewarding when that When that work is recognized by our professional peers.

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Turning Obstacles into Amenities

on Apr.29, 2011, under Integrated Architecture, Sustainability

Managing Natural Resources

One of the most recognizable parks in America was built on land that was considered to be full of obstacles, to say the least. Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux submitted their entry in a competition for a Central Park in New York City in 1858. Poor living conditions in the City led to a public outcry for a “people’s park” for health and recreation. Commerce had encircled Manhattan’s coast lines leaving the unbuildable wilds in the center of the island. According to the Central Park Guidebook by Raymond Carroll, the future park site was considered, by one observer, “bleak, dreary and sickly.” Rock outcroppings and patches of stagnant swampland were the challenges that Olmsted and Vaux had to work with (not to mention primitive construction techniques and the outbreak of a Civil War before the project was completed). After numerous on-site planning sessions, the Landscape Architect and Architect, respectively, transformed an 843 acre obstacle into a world class amenity that ranks as one of New York’s most visited tourist attractions.

 Managing Financial Resources

In today’s economically-challenged climate, municipalities are cutting funding for parks and open space improvements leaving Park Departments and Public Works Agencies looking for ways to maintain what they have with little hope for new amenities. Plans for new playgrounds, pedestrian bridges, ball fields or recreation facilities are put on hold when funding source options aren’t forthcoming. However, in this balance between needs and budget, all hope is not lost. Consider the examples Olmsted, the Father of American Landscape Architecture, provided in so many of the parks he designed over his illustrious career – from New York’s Central Park to Boston’s Emerald Necklace to Mount Royal in Montreal. Amenities can be found in various forms and inspired by numerous obstacles. There may be issues or site elements that for one reason or another were left unrealized or avoided or possibly not even identified. A design from a creative Park Planner, coupled with an in-house labor force, may be what is needed to turn open space obstacles into park amenities. The cost of this transformation depends on the size of the element and the imagination of the planner. Below are a few ideas for consideration:

 Rails to Trails

Nothing divides the circulation of a community like a rail line. Railroads are a physical barrier that presents challenges for vehicular traffic flow and even more challenges to bicycle and pedestrian crossings. Some communities resort to pedestrian bridges when at-grade crossings are determined unacceptable by the rail line. Pedestrian bridges can be very expensive. However, when a railroad becomes inactive the option of converting the rail bed to a trail becomes an affordable option to link the community. Trails provide recreational benefits that unite families, connect neighborhoods and offer an alternate mode of transportation usable by all age groups. The Rails to Trails mantra is “We’re Building Healthier Places For Healthier People & Communities”. Learn more about this Conservancy at

 Constructed Wetlands

Wikipedia defines a constructed wetland or wetpark as an artificial wetlands, a marsh or swamp created: as new or restored habitat for native and migratory wildlife; for anthropogenic discharge such as wastewater, stormwater runoff, or sewage treatment; for land reclamation after mining, refineries, or other ecological disturbances; and as required mitigation for natural wetlands lost to a development. Natural wetlands act as a biofilter, removing sediments and pollutants such as heavy metals from the water, and constructed wetlands can be designed to emulate these features. The size and type of the constructed wetland depends on the nature of the stream (flow volume, channel width etc) and the pollutants that exist in the area. A wetpark uses the technology of a constructed wetland while adding natural and recreational benefits to a site. By utilizing trails, boardwalks and fishing piers, a wetpark becomes a community amenity. Access to the wetlands allows the visitor a chance to passively study the ecology or actively interact with nature. The US Environmental Protection Agency’s web site has numerous links for constructed wetland data:

Photo 1 caption: Constructed wetpark concept sketch for Sager Creek Restoration Study in Siloam Springs, Arkansas.

 Drainage Swale into Water Features

Stormwater runoff issues can present difficult challenges to a site, especially when development in the area directs the runoff to a swale or intermittent stream. The intensity of the flow can change the topography of the site over time and if not controlled, create erosion issues that can be detrimental to surrounding site elements. One way to address the stormwater issue is to change the swale into what it wants to be during rain events – a water feature. By adding engineered weirs to the swale, incorporating boulders to slow or divert the flow and increasing the basin where the runoff collects, a water obstacle becomes a site amenity that is functional as well as aesthetically pleasing. A Civil Engineer should be consulted to assist with watershed calculations and sizing of walls, while a Landscape Architect can add the design elements needed to make the feature attractive and more natural in appearance. In Arkansas, the amount of runoff in the winter is vastly different than the summer months. The feature should either utilize a submersible pump for recirculation of water from the basin to an upper pool for a year round water effect or should include a rock-lined stream with stones of varied sizes for a dry creek look in the summer months when the runoff is intermittent. Either solution will improve the ecology of the site. Aquascapes is one source for pumps and pond/stream materials:

Photo 2 caption: Drainage swale with rock weirs in West Little Rock, Arkansas.

Create Nature Preserves

It is important to identify and protect natural assets before open space is lost to development or site expansion. It is equally important to ‘think outside the box’ to solve problems with green solutions that return nature to a site. Consider the scenario presented in Anatomy of a Park by Molnar & Rutledge: A school fought with a boggy area created by drainage from surrounding sites. The ongoing efforts to establish turf in this wet location had frustrated administrators that were forced to set aside funds to drain the area. An alternative solution of turning this ‘unused area’ into a nature preserve with a variety of species of plants, birds and insects became an affordable resource to the school’s science program. They now have a sustainable outdoor science lab. A similar example of converting maintenance-intensive turf areas to native grass prairies would cost less while providing more. Savings in fuel costs and man hours from ceased mowing as well as dramatic reduction of water use would more than justify the amenity of a restored prairie. Of course, the creation of a diverse ecosystem for future generations would be another good reason. Additional information on this topic can be found at The Nature Conservancy’s Conservation by Design Gateway:

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Much like the early days of Central Park, the benefits of turning obstacles into amenities extend beyond the elements constructed in the park. Olmsted and Vaux shared a vision of the park as a scenic work of art where people of all social backgrounds would mingle and enjoy uncontaminated surroundings. Their design solutions were realized by creative problem solving that took years to build with manpower using pickaxes, hammers and shovels (and gunpowder). Today’s challenges of limited funds and reduced manpower may differ slightly, but creative planning and a dedicated labor force can yield similar results. Ian McHarg, in Design with Nature, states “We need nature as much in the city as in the countryside. In order to endure we must maintain a bounty of that great cornucopia which is our inheritance.” Progressive communities initiate park and open space planning when the economy is down so a plan is in place with details resolved for prosperous years to follow. Planning ahead is the key to good planning – the best way to turn obstacles into amenities.

Dave Roberts, Landscape Architect

Vice President and Director of Planning

Crafton Tull

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Parks that teach us GREEN

on Feb.09, 2011, under Sustainability

How can a park teach the public ways to reduce our impact on the environment? How can that lesson help a community of park users learn to be better stewards of the environment, in their towns, in their homes? In his book Go Green, Live Rich, David Bach makes the following statements that can be applied to parks as well as our homes: “Going green is the most important issue that will shape our future….and I believe that as more of us are educated to be environmentally sensitive and eco-conscious, more of us will choose to make a difference by living a greener life” Why not add green lessons to the long list of benefits our parks and open spaces provide to its users? The best way to educate is to lead by example. By utilizing sustainable design techniques that focus on native materials and work with the site’s natural systems, a new or renovated park can actually cost less to maintain while providing green lessons to the public. Park users may even take with them things they see at the park to help them reduce their utility costs at home.

Plant more trees:

There are lots a reasons to plant more trees. Providing shade is the most obvious, but no less important is that trees provide natural habitats for wildlife, trees help reduce soil erosion, and trees help clean the air by soaking up the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Open play areas in a park are important, but large stands of native or adaptive trees can be equally important. In the winter, evergreen trees can be used to provide wind breaks adjacent to open areas and flowering trees can add interest in the spring before other deciduous foliage has leafed out. The Arbor Day Foundation offers ten free shade trees when you purchase an annual membership for $15.00 If park users would join this worthy cause and donate 5 of their trees to their local park after planting 5 in their yard – imagine the impact this could have the community. Learn more about this program at

Use of native plants, native materials:

Incorporating a native plant palette provides opportunities to show the public examples of attractive plantings that require less water & maintenance and are perfectly suited to thrive in your park’s climate. Not all native plants are as showy as their non-native counterparts, and some may be a little harder to locate but the long term benefits of using natives will out weigh the detractors. Plant labels or identification signage is a great way to educate the public. It is always recommended that the plant’s genus and species is shown since common names may differ by region. The University of Arkansas’s Cooperative Extension Service web site has information about Arkansas native plants: The use of native materials like stone, wood harvested in the area, or other construction materials is a green practice that not only showcases the local resources, but also supports the local economy and is eco-friendly by reducing the need to transport materials across the country when a local alternative is within reach. What better way for a park to reflect a community than to embrace the unique aspects of that area?

Use native grasses and wildflower areas to reduce maintenance:

Using native plant materials and building materials (such as stone or wood) are eco-friendly additions to your park.

Not all open space areas need to be mowed and irrigated turf. Where a more natural, less manicured area is permitted, consider the use of native grass or even wildflowers. Most native grasses, like Buffalo Grass are drought tolerant (don’t need irrigation) and can be left to grow to a mature height of 12” similar to a short grass prairie. Wildflowers can be introduced to an area, once it is properly prepared, by broadcast seeding. Wildflower areas are virtually maintenance free and require little watering once established. The cost to establish and maintain a native grass or wildflower area is significantly less than the cost (and burden on the environment) of a mowed and irrigated turf area. Plant labels will help park visitors understand why an area looks more natural and how they can emulate this green practice at home. Information on native grass lawns can be found and on wildflowers at various commercial seed suppliers

Reduce water consumption with drip irrigation:

An irrigation system can utilize adjacent streams, lakes or ponds to supply (non potable) water for use in watering plants that are not drought tolerant. Drip irrigation (flexible irrigation lines buried just under the mulch) is more efficient in watering plants since the water gets to the roots immediately rather than water loss by wind or evaporation. Again, the use of signage to provide green lessons to the park user will help educate them on the benefits and cost savings associated with drip irrigation. VisitWikipedia/Drip_Irrigation for information on drip irrigation.

Reduce erosion with rain gardens (bio-swales):

Bio-swales accommodate water filtration and absorption.

Rain gardens or bio-swales are vegetated depressions designed to capture runoff from parking areas or roof drainage. This planted buffer acts as a series of filters to protect the groundwater supply as runoff returns and percolates back into the earth. Native plants and semi-aquatic plants in the bio-swale provide natural habitat areas for local wildlife and are a more eco-friendly alternative to large open detention storage areas. Storm water runoff is considered to be one of the main sources of water pollution nationwide. These designated drainage/filter areas can also help reduce erosion on the site and reduce flooding by alleviating storm water system needs. Rain gardens can reduce maintenance in the park since they don’t need to be mowed, fertilized, or even watered in most cases. For more information on bio-swales, visit

Add community gardens to encourage ‘home grown’ produce:

Americans take for granted how much energy is spent to bring fresh produce to their marketplace each day. Our food travels an average of 2,000 miles to reach our plate, which includes the use of fossil fuel, pesticides, and refrigerant in the process. What better way to teach the public earth’s lessons than to provide a community garden in your park? Children get to experience the seed – to – feed cycle of growing what they eat. Garden clubs can help administer the program in which everyone can benefit from the ‘fruits of their labors’ in this win-win program. Visit the ACGA (American Community Garden Association) web site at to start your own park garden project.

Community gardens provide educational opportunities as well as eco-friendly alternatives to local food production.

Connect parks with trails networks:

Trails connections between parks and from adjacent neighborhoods encourage recreation outings as park users ride to their local parks. Various studies have recently shown us the value of recreation to the health of our communities. In Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods – Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder we read that childhood obesity rates are higher than ever due to our society’s shift in focus on digital entertainment. Louv states that “never before in history have children been so plugged-in – so out of touch with the natural world.” Parks provide that healthy alternative and by using trails to link parks along a network and to surrounding neighborhoods, we provide a ‘green solution’ to getting to the park. Riding a bike or walking to a park is not only great exercise but it reduces the impact on the environment by using less fossil fuel to transport a family to the park. A good resource for trail information is

These are just a few ways a park can teach the public ways to reduce our impact on the environment. Will these green lessons be enough to make a difference? The answer is yes, one person at a time, one green step after another. The impact a park has on a community is valuable. The impact a green park that teaches park users to better their lives as well as the earth they live on is beyond value.

For more information on this article, please contact:

Dave Roberts, Landscape Architect
Vice President of Planning
Crafton Tull Sparks

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Energy Efficiency Doesn’t Mean a Sacrifice in Comfort Level

on Nov.08, 2010, under Integrated Architecture

When energy efficiency is mentioned, many people think that some level of comfort must be sacrificed in order to save energy. Shutting things off is definitely a way to save energy, but not necessarily the best way to save energy if it means a lower level of comfort in commercial buildings. In many existing facilities building envelope sealing/insulation, lighting upgrades, building equipment upgrades and control strategies allow an owner to save money while maintaining the same level of comfort inside the building, or in some instances, actually improve creature comfort. With energy costs continually escalating, many building owners are looking for cost effective ways to save energy without detriment to the comfort of their occupants.

New Technologies

New technology used in the design and manufacture of lighting fixtures and building equipment has created a significant increase in the efficiency of the equipment that is available today versus just a mere ten years ago. Ten years ago T-12 fluorescent light fixtures that used 144 watts each (including the ballast) were the norm. Today, a comparable level of lighting can be reached with a T-8 fluorescent light fixture that uses 48 watts each (including the ballast). Ten years ago a 10 SEER air conditioning unit was the standard available. Today, 13 SEER is the minimum standard and up to 16 SEER is the norm in a typical installation. The percentage of efficiency increase from a 10 SEER air conditioner to a 16 SEER air conditioner with the same cooling capacity is equal to (1 – 10/16) or 37.5% more efficient. The idea of saving 37.5% on summer cooling bills is enough to peak anyone’s interest. Ten years ago 80% efficient natural gas furnaces and boilers were the standard available. Today, 97% efficient natural gas furnaces and boilers are the norm in a typical installation. That is a 17% increase in efficiency in the equipment used for heating a building. Lighting upgrades typically have a simple payback period of less than three years. Building equipment upgrades typically have a simple payback period of less than ten years.

Seal The Building

Sealing/Insulation of the building envelope can be a significant way to make your building more energy efficient and actually improve the comfort level for the occupants. A building envelope that is not properly sealed can cost an owner a significant amount of money in heating/cooling bills and cause humidity problems inside the building. There are typically two scenarios for roof insulation. 1. The insulation is on top of the ceiling and separates the conditioned space from a vented attic and 2. The insulation is on top of the roof and the building has no vented attic. In either scenario the yearly cost from energy lost due to unsealed openings between the conditioned space and the unconditioned space can be as high as $72 per square feet of unsealed openings. Unsealed openings are more common than most building owners think. A little investigation can lead to great savings and a more comfortable environment for building occupants. The yearly cost difference between R-11 attic/roof insulation and R-30 attic/roof insulation can be as much as $0.50 per square foot of ceiling area. Today, the cost to have blown in insulation installed in your attic at a level of R-19 insulation (the difference between R-11 and R-30) is approximately $0.46 per square foot of ceiling area. The installation of attic insulation typically has a simple payback period of less than a year.

Centralize Controls

Control strategies for lighting and building equipment can have a substantial impact on energy consumption while keeping occupants with the correct level of light and temperature at the appropriate times. Time clocks or light sensors for exterior lights can have them programmed to come on just at the right time when the sun goes down and off at the right time when the sun comes up. Light sensors are the most effective because the lights will come on anytime the light level goes below a certain programmed point. That can have the advantages of exterior lights automatically coming on during inclement weather and once programmed never needing adjustment for seasonal time changes and shorter/longer days. Programmable thermostats are the quickest way to have your building heating/cooling equipment come on at the right time and avoid excessive costs of paying for equipment continues to run when the occupants are all gone. If more extensive control of pumps, boilers, air handlers and all around more complicated components, then a direct digit control (DDC) system with a graphic interface will likely give you the best flexibility and adjustment in controlling your heating/cooling equipment. A DDC system is more customizable to meet the specific needs of your particular application. There are varying levels and costs of DDC systems to meet your buildings requirements and your budget. Control systems typically increase the accuracy level of heating/cooling systems so occupants are more comfortable while the owner saves money. The installation of control systems for lighting and heating/cooling equipment typically has a simple payback period of less than three years.

Financial Incentives

Utility companies are increasingly offering monetary incentives to building owners to reduce energy usage because it helps them stave off strain on their infrastructure and delays costly upgrades to their generation facilities. Monetary Incentives currently provided by power companies to reduce energy usage and peak demand allow the economics of equipment replacement to be much more appealing to building owners by reducing the simple payback period of most investments. Tax credits and deductions are also increasingly becoming more available for commercial buildings on the federal and state levels. The current federal tax credit for installing a new geothermal system in a commercial building is 10% of the cost of installation if placed in service by December 31st 2016. A commercial building owner planning to make energy efficient upgrades needs to become familiar with the available incentives so the owner can make a more informed decision on timing of the upgrades and which upgrades meet the eligibility requirements for the incentives.

Energy efficiency in commercial buildings can be improved without the sacrifice of comfort for its occupants. If you’d like to find out more information about energy efficiency in commercial buildings, energy audits, tax credits, power company incentives or future energy saving technologies, feel free to call David King, P.E., LEED® AP, Vice President, at 918.588.4090 or email him

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Evolutions in the Regulation of Storm Water Quality Management

on Aug.08, 2010, under Infrastructure

Storm Water Management continues to evolve within the U.S and in Arkansas and Oklahoma in particular. Of the six minimum measures the EPA published as part of Phase II of the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Program, Measure #4, Construction site runoff control has had the most profound effect on the regulation and enforcement of the program by municipalities. With upcoming rule changes and clarifications, this measure will continue to be a hot topic being discussed, but potentially more important are upcoming rules pertaining to Measure #5, Post-construction runoff control. The EPA’s proposed rulemaking in both of these areas is scheduled to go into effect in 2012. Where most officials, developers, engineers, and the public are now educated about construction erosion and sedimentation control, fewer are knowledgeable about the approaches and benefits of post-construction controls. Municipalities should be aware that post-construction storm water quality management will . . . .

  • require a new design approach
  • require long-term maintenance & monitoring
  • require a change in perception of value of green infrastructure

On August 1, 2009, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) signed into effect a new MS4 Permit governing their MS4s. Section requires that at least 80% of the total suspended solids (TSS) be removed from post-developed flows. While this approach differs from the EPA’s apparent direction toward runoff volume reduction, it is the first measureable post-construction requirement in the State. The change will require regulated municipalities to modify their storm water management plan and ordinances that affect the design of new developments and redevelopments. The City of Rogers just recently completed such an update to their Storm Water Design Criteria Manual to incorporate design guidance for Best Management Practices (BMPs) that achieve these goals. ADEQ will be looking for every regulated MS4 in the state of Arkansas to incorporate these requirements into their Storm Water Management Plan by August 1, 2011. Oklahoma, on the other hand, has not included these post-construction requirements in their MS4 Permit. With the pending changes at the national level, similar changes can be expected in Oklahoma in the years ahead.

In order to comply, ADEQ will be looking for MS4s to adopt regulations that require post-construction BMPs shown to achieve these goals. Numerous BMPs have been shown to effectively remove TSS and adequately protect the quality of receiving waters, particularly when designed to account for site-specific conditions. Each BMP would make use of the following principles to achieve these goals.

  • Minimizing the amount of runoff from developed areas
  • Minimizing the amount of Directly Connected Impervious Area (DCIA)
  • Maximizing the contact of runoff with grass and vegetated soil
  • Maximizing holding and settling times in detention basins
  • Design BMPs for small, frequent storms

Most BMPs make use of the water quality capture volume (WQCV) as their design volume. This is the quantifiable runoff volume associated with the 80th to 90th percentile storm event that contains the vast majority of the pollutant load on an annual basis. These frequent storms are the driving force behind annual pollutant loads because, by definition, they encompass 80 to 90 percent of runoff generated on an annual basis.. Simple ways to roughly estimate the WQCV in northern Arkansas are to compute the volume of ½” of runoff from an entire site or 1” of runoff from the directly connected impervious areas. Some of the most common BMPs with a long history of data on effectiveness and ample design guidance available for review are the following:

  • Extended Dry Detention Basin
  • Extended Wet Detention Basin
  • Constructed Wetland Basin
  • Modular Block Porous Pavement
  • Porous Landscape Detention (Bioretention)
  • Vegetated Filter Strip/Grass Buffer
  • Grass Swale

The International Stormwater BMP Database ( is a comprehensive source of information on BMP performance. It was established as a cooperative of several national organizations, led by the Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF), and federal agencies and is maintained by our friends at Wright Water Engineers of Denver, CO and Geosyntec Consultants. Crafton Tull Sparks and Wright Water partnered to revise the City of Rogers Storm Water Design Criteria Manual to align with the goals of their MS4 Permit. If you’d like to find out more information about the NDPES program, upcoming changes, or the pressing deadline for compliance within Arkansas, feel free to call Steve Beam, P.E., LEED® AP at 479.878.2475 or email him at

Special thanks to Ian Paton, P.E., CFM, CPESC of Wright Water Engineers, Inc. for providing information pertinent to this article.

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GIS – more than mapping

on May.08, 2010, under Energy, Infrastructure

You probably have heard how GIS mapping is being used by cities and states to manage their existing streets and utilities. Municipalities are still leading the charge in setting up GIS systems to support the management of their infrastructure systems that are in place. But who else can benefit from the creative uses of GIS and how can it manage more than existing infrastructure systems? Can your GIS be a system that supports the entire life cycle of your projects – from planning to construction to operations?

By definition a Geographic Information System (GIS) is a combination of computer hardware, software, and geographic data used to capture, manage, analyze, and display all forms of geographically referenced information. Another way of looking at it, GIS is placing surveyed information such as utility distribution networks, pipe sizes, and flows, floodplain locations, or street widths and right-of-ways into a mapped format. A computer program then manages and navigates through these maps. Once it is created, the information and layering you can place into your GIS system is endless.

By taking a look at how other local governments, industries, universities, developers, along with architectural and engineering firms are finding creative ways of using their GIS systems, you can gain some insight in to new ways of fully utilizing the capabilities of your mapping system.

  • Connect Minnesota is using GIS mapping to show locations and inventory of broadband service areas.
  • Summit County, Colorado provides their community with a wildfire protection plan to identify high risk areas for homeowners.
  • Sulphur Springs Valley Electric Cooperative in Sierra Vista, Arizona designs and manages the distribution of electrical services through their GIS.
  • Providing protection for critical resources such as wildfire, wetlands, and water supplies through volcano hazard maps is one way Snohomish County, Washington is using GIS.
  • By collecting lake depth data, manipulating it into a digital elevation model for Crean Lake, and using sound echoes to catch fisheries data, Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Canada is able to asses their lake trout populations and habitat needs.
  • The Placer County Department of Public Works in Walnut Creek, California did an analysis to set up a control plan for an area prone to erosion problems. GIS played an essential role in data collection and hydraulic analysis while identifying sensitive plant and animal areas.
  • By using noise contour data, it was possible for Jacksonville, Florida create a GIS showing Airport Noise Impacts on future developments and schools.
  • The City of Berkeley, California used GIS mapping to assist in their downtown expansion and planning efforts. The maps they prepared depicted various land use intensities including building height and locations, and aided in explaining to the community the pros and cons of higher density in the downtown area.
  • Cobb County Department of Transportation in Marietta, Georgia developed a GIS for rating the pavement conditions of their highways. This allowed them to better develop management plans for paving and highway improvement projects.
  • To better encourage, promote, and plan for pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods and traffic, Metro of Portland, Oregon created an interactive GIS that showed urban growth and what areas have the highest potential of being pedestrian-oriented.
  • University campuses are using GIS mapping for analysis and planning of campus infrastructure and landscaping. A great example of this is the Karadeniz Technical University in Trabzon, Turkey. They are making their GIS information available in web-based applications to their Campus Information Systems.
  • With a vast archive of survey information that has accumulated over 40 years of operation, Crafton Tull set up an in-house GIS system to better manage and effectively utilize their existing survey data.

Source: GIS for Building and Managing Infrastucture; ISBN: 9781589482524; ESRI

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GIS – planning for development

on May.08, 2010, under Energy, Infrastructure

These are just a few of the creative ways GIS is being used, but how can this system manage the planning of future infrastructure and development projects. For Julie Luther, AICP, a planner at Crafton Tull, GIS has numerous applications to aid in analyzing data and decision making. “We utilize GIS at some level during every planning project we perform. Different projects require different data.” Julie told us. “For example, density scenarios and population projections are often utilized during municipal land use planning projects using parcel data and county tax information. We also utilize this information to identify ownership patterns, vacancy rates, and property values in redevelopment planning, as we recently did along the 12th Street corridor in Little Rock.”

12th Street Corridor
12th Street Corridor

Parks and Recreation System use

GIS is also a useful tool in parks and recreation planning. Julie also explains, “We often use GIS to inventory and assess natural, cultural, and historic resources.” These features are compared to settlement patterns over time to identify regionally significant sites. “At a local level, we use GIS to identify service gaps in parks and recreation systems based on population distribution and land use, in conjunction with the needs specified by the community.”

By identifying the service gaps, the planning solutions can best meet the needs of the community by providing amenities in areas that are underserved. GIS is a valuable tool that provides pertinent facts and spatial data to help planners see the ‘big picture.’ Once analyzed, the information helps direct planning decisions and gives defensible data to back up the proposed solutions.

Energy Development

Another group using GIS to manage projects from planning to construction and on into operations is the natural gas exploration companies. They have used it for identifying where to develop wells in shale plays throughout the US. With the world’s growing energy needs, the development of new wells is crucial to meeting the current and future clean energy demands of our infrastructures. The gas companies drilling in these fields use GIS software to regulate, control, and plan for existing and proposed roads, pipelines, boundaries, and wells. GIS Specialist and PLS Tom Webb coordinates the surveying and GIS data that Crafton Tull  collects and provides to the gas companies. “We share data and deliverables with our clients in a GIS environment that easily captures, collates, and archives large diverse set of geo-information.” says Tom. To deliver the GIS requirements of the gas company’s, Information Systems Specialists like Clint Hopper with Crafton Tull  has worked to keep his company’s GIS capabilities up-to-speed with new technologies in the field. Crafton Tull has set up a Real Time Network which has increased their in house production by 20% over conventional systems while delivering their clients improved accuracy, mobility, and cost savings. According to Clint, “Once we understood the system and how it would benefit our clients and our bottom lines; it was an easy decision. We had the right vision, people, and technology that were all committed to providing this industry with a higher quality of service. I believe we have done that.”

So you can see that GIS is more than mapping software, it is a technology designed to support projects throughout their lifecycle. It becomes your centralized data source from which to work and grow, and the data added to your mapping software can be shared and updated continuously across your organization. Since the software provides a high level visualization for your mapped data, it aids you in presentations to business partners, government officials, and local communities. The next time you are planning, collecting data, designing, constructing, or providing operations and maintenance on a project you may want to take a hard look at mapping your data with a GIS.

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