Speaking of Design
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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'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.
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.
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.
Envision Experts Offer 11 Tips for Improving Your Verification Process
When the Institute of Sustainable Infrastructure formed in 2012, the infrastructure industry suddenly had a universal report card for sustainability known as Envision®. On this episode, you'll meet some of the industry's early adopters and experts on the infrastructure sustainability rating system. They’ll help you understand more about how the framework can help your clients, why a sustainability rating is about more than a pat on the back, and what the process entails so you can help your clients get their projects verified.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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’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 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.