Speaking of Design - an Engineering and Architecture Podcast

Speaking of Design

Speaking of Design - an HDR Podcast

About Our Podcast 

There’s a story behind every structure in our world. Meet the engineers and architects who are changing communities through imagination and innovation. Speaking of Design makes you part of the experience as they transform the world, one project at a time.


3 HDR employees on boat dock next to HDR boat

Working in the Right Environment

When your project calls for environmental solutions, this team has you covered. Based out of Nanuet, New York, this group of biologists, environmental scientists and technicians operates out of a modern, state-of-the-art facility with everything you need to design and execute your customized environmental study. That includes a fleet of survey vessels, a fabrication shop to design original equipment for the job, and a taxonomy and water quality lab to analyze samples collected in the field. Behind all that equipment and technology is a team passionate about the environment.

View of an airport from an airplane window

One Flight Away

After witnessing the impact of a pandemic on the air travel industry, three architects began to reimagine how airports might look through the lens of passenger health and wellness. They submitted their concept to Healthcare Design Magazine's Breaking Through competition, which prompted further conversations with experts across the design industry. The collaboration led to broader ideas of how we might rethink an air traveler’s journeys, the role technology can play in improving air travel efficiency and how different an airport design could look with a blank canvas.

Rendering of Clarkston Community Health clinic

Georgia Tech’s Flourishing Communities Collaborative

What if you could intertwine education and professional practice to do good? That’s the concept behind the Georgia Tech School of Architecture’s Flourishing Communities Collaborative, a unique academic lab that partners faculty, students and professionals to take on real pro-bono design projects. On this episode of Speaking of Design, we’ll hear about the benefits of that immersive educational experience and the experience of designing a new healthcare clinic for Clarkston Community Heath, a free healthcare clinic for uninsured and underserved residents of Clarkston County.

Inspector at Eagle's Nest Dam

On the Front Lines of Dam Safety

Each of the 90,000 dams in the U.S. plays a critical role in the community it serves — from preventing floods, to generating hydroelectric power, to providing a water supply. Meet the professional rope access technicians whose jobs involve preserving the structural integrity of each dam — by providing a rarely seen perspective of some of the largest infrastructure in the world. Collectively, our team of more than 40 SPRAT-certified technicians has logged approximately 50,000 hours suspended from ropes, getting an up-close view of dams, bridges, tunnels and other hydraulic infrastructure.

Atrium and man with audio equipment in snow

Soundtrack for the Natural and Built World

Whether it’s limiting interstate noise, preserving the serenity of nature or enhancing an orchestral performance, our acousticians are listening. On this episode of Speaking of Design, hear how their work involves everything from protecting patient privacy in hospitals to maintaining the ambiance of backyard barbecues to visiting polar bear habitat. Their mission is to enhance the sounds you want and help mitigate the ones you don’t.

Chance Lauderdale and hand pouring water

Protecting Public Health Through Our Pipes

The U.S. EPA's first major revisions to the original 1991 Lead and Copper Rule present broad implications for homeowners, schools and local water utilities. Intended to improve children’s health by further reducing lead exposure from corroding pipes, the revised regulation places greater responsibilities on municipalities to act — but also applies to pipes within homes and schools. HDR Drinking Water Director Chance Lauderdale discusses the challenges presented by the LCR revisions and how a more holistic approach can help utilities prepare for the future. 

Steve Scaglione, Paul Tso and Carol Nurse

Translating Critical Communications in NYC

When construction comes to your street for a water main replacement, the technical side is only half the challenge. On this episode of Speaking of Design, we’ll meet the people responsible for communicating with residents during construction in New York City. Their work took on added significance during COVID-19, as they initiated a multilanguage public outreach plan for a predominantly Chinese-speaking community.

Drone flight of Council Bluffs Interstate System

Drones Raising Data and Design to Greater Heights (Part 2)

In the second part of a two-part episode, we continue our look at how drones are being used in the architecture, engineering and construction industry. From surveying the wreckage of a train derailment to monitoring whale migration to creating a digital twin of a 160-foot-high dam, drones are bringing new perspectives to projects of all kinds. Explore how cutting-edge data collection methods are leading to an evolution of new services within the design and construction lifecycle.

Mike Cameron piloting a drone

Drones Providing a New View of the A/E/C Industry (Part 1)

Drones are leading to exciting advances in the architecture, engineering and construction industry. In the first part of a two-part episode, we’ll learn about what it takes to become a drone pilot, some of the unique challenges they face in the sky and how they always make safety a priority while flying.

Volunteers meet in West Bengal, India

Design 4 Others — Improving Healthcare in Rural India

While the work of architects makes a difference in the world, rarely do designers get to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people whose livelihood depends on the very buildings they design. With that in mind, a group of architects from HDR formed Design 4 Others as a way to volunteer their design expertise to make a positive impact on under-served communities. In this episode, we’ll learn more about how they’re partnering with Construction for Change and iKure on a pro bono project to improve healthcare for rural community members in West Bengal, India.

Water engineers visit MAP Brewing in Bozeman

Brewing Solutions for Cleaner Water

In Bozeman, Montana, life centers around outdoor recreation. An afternoon of world-class fly fishing on the state’s pristine waters often follows with a refreshing visit to one of the area’s many micro-breweries. The convergence of those two pastimes took an innovative twist when a group of engineers asked: What if the carbon-rich byproduct of brewing beer could be used as a cost-effective way for the city to reduce nitrogen in its wastewater? Yes, these are the things engineers discuss over a beer. That idea led to a pilot study with the potential to benefit communities throughout the world.

Justin Robbins

Shaping Cities Through Transportation

Justin Robbins is a transportation planner who specializes in automated and connected vehicle technology. But at heart, he considers himself a student of cities. In this episode of Speaking of Design, he discusses the way transportation has historically shaped the design of cities as we know them. He also shares his passion for autonomous vehicles, how they’re changing the way we design of urban spaces, and some of the challenges they present to urban planners.

Ben Pierce

The Future of Mobility: Harnessing Transportation Technology

As a recognized expert on transportation technology, Ben Pierce’s everyday job involves helping communities implement technologies that seemed like science fiction not long ago. In this episode, Ben touches on some of the latest advances he’s seeing improve mobility, safety and efficiency of our transportation experience. We’ll hear more about everything from smart cities and streetlights to warning systems for over-height trucks to the latest improvements to the airport customer experience.

Denver Mobility Choice Blueprint

Denver's New Mobility Choice Blueprint

Growing population and rapidly changing transportation technologies are affecting our everyday lives. In this episode, we’ll learn how public transportation agencies are partnering with private sector technology companies to tackle that change head-on in Denver, Colorado. That community’s “mobility blueprint” may suggest a new approach for other metropolitan cities wrestling with the same issues in their communities.

Behavioral Health Room Mock-Up

Prototyping a Therapeutic Environment for Behavioral Health Treatment

What makes the ideal inpatient room for individuals being treated for behavioral and mental illnesses? Partnering with the Veterans Affairs New Jersey Healthcare System, a team of architects, researchers, and healthcare experts worked collaboratively to prototype a room designed specifically for behavioral and mental health treatment. Their design research will help architects and healthcare providers leverage evidence-based design to create therapeutic environments for both patients and their families.

Anthony Kane

The Value of Designing Sustainable Infrastructure

Once considered an environmentally conscious add-on to infrastructure design, sustainability has grown to be recognized for its inherent value in the design process. A big champion for this shift in mindset, the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure provides an industry blueprint to define and measure sustainability through its Envision® rating system. On this podcast, ISI’s Anthony Kane and Melissa Peneycad discuss how sustainability benefits the bottom line, the growing importance of resiliency to combat extreme weather, and some of the most innovative infrastructure designs they’ve seen through the Envision verification program.

LA Metro Division 14 Operations & Maintenance Facility

A Custom Fit for LA’s Expo Line

The Expo Line connects downtown Los Angeles to the beaches of Santa Monica. But the much-anticipated light rail expansion brought a need for a facility to clean, maintain and repair the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s 45 light-rail vehicles. However, residents of Santa Monica weren’t too sure about building a rail maintenance facility right in the heart of the Pico neighborhood — inspiring designers to create much more than a cookie-cutter solution. 

Basin Creek Water Treatment Plant

A New Source of Pride for the Richest Hill on Earth

Once known as the "richest hill on Earth" for its wealth of mineral deposits, Butte became the first major city in Montana thanks to the boom of copper mining. But early 20th century mining practices led to serious environmental consequences, including contaminated groundwater unfit to drink. The city’s new Basin Creek Water Treatment Plant has become a source of civic pride, showing off some of the flashiest technology in the drinking water industry. But on top of many engineering firsts, the facility’s story is rooted in Butte's rich history.

Bridges to Prosperity - HDR and PCL Construction in Bajo Cobre, Panama

Building a Little Bridge with Big Hearts

Civil engineers and construction managers often find themselves building massive bridges and interchanges capable of moving millions of vehicles efficiently through growing metropolises. But a small American team took a break from that world, volunteering two weeks of their time to venture into the rainforest of Panama and build a much simpler structure — a footbridge across a river. Despite unique challenges from travel, weather and living conditions, these volunteers partnered on a Bridges to Prosperity project to connect a community to its schools, a hospital and markets across the river. And in the process, this group of engineers and constructors saw firsthand the difference their profession makes in people’s lives.

Kansas City Streetcar

Kansas City, Here We Come! Hop Aboard the KC Streetcar

The people of Kansas City love the new KC Streetcar, and you’ll find the vehicles packed on a beautiful summer day. But the idea of building a modern streetcar faced questions and doubts from business owners and residents in a city without rail transit since the 1950s. To get the concept on the rails, the project team played had to educate, listen and collaborate to design a streetcar the community would support. The result? Today, many of those initial skeptics are singing its praises — in some cases literally.

Atlanta's HIstoric Fourth Ward Park

How a Storm Sewer Project Became an Urban Oasis

Just north of the birthplace of Martin Luther King, Jr., Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward neighborhood had fallen into a state of disrepair. Described by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as “a barren expanse of cracked concrete, weeds and towering trees surviving against a background of neglect,” the area was filled with abandoned buildings and prone to sewer overflows. But rather than going forward with a typical storm sewer expansion, residents of the area saw an opportunity to solve the overflow problem with a solution that transformed the entire neighborhood.

Atlanta's Hickory Ridge Landfill Solar Energy Cover

Meet a Landfill That's Greener than Grass

When you think of landfills, you may not think of design. But like almost every type of engineering or architectural design, landfills have changed dramatically over the last 30 years. In the pilot episode of Speaking of Design, you’ll meet one engineer who’s taken landfill design to a new level, creating a source of renewable solar energy. 

Meet the Team

Danny Sullivan and John Tourek

Danny Sullivan

Danny’s dad had a 40-year career as a newspaper editor, and his mom is a former college journalism instructor. So it’s no surprise that he strives to bring an independent journalistic voice to the stories he tells. As an avid listener of podcasts like Radio Lab, Freakonomics and Planet Money, Danny likes to find a way to relate technical subjects to a broad audience. He also likes to use pop culture analogies in his storytelling, some of which work better than others.

John Tourek

John comes from a background of visual storytelling, and conveniently has a voice made for radio. As a child, he used to experiment with some BASIC computer programming on his TI 99/4A computer, making his own games and designing cover art to go with them. He brings that same creativity to the podcast as the sound engineer, adding all the music, sound effects and transitions to bring our stories to life. However, he laments one thing about podcast production he can’t enjoy his favorite podcasts while he’s busy editing his own.