Alexander Hoffman of Advanced Engineering Consultants spoke at the World Real Estate and Construction Forum “WRECONF” (a conference located at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, focused on innovation in real estate and construction) to deliver his Keynote Speech, highlighting ways world leading Real Estate Investors and Developers can build green futures in redevelopment and new construction through site planning, civil engineering, structural engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and plumbing design.
Recently, the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act was signed into effect (after Alex’s speech) with goals, “to create incentives for conservation and sustainable development while sustaining and conserving the green infrastructure that is the foundation of this state’s economy.” This is similar to what Alex spoke about during his keynote speech. Our society’s past demonstrates and reveals that the environment is very fragile. The Dust Bowl, for example, was a tragic environmental event that occurred due to the mistreatment of soils, plants, and land from harmful practices, such as over plowing and unsustainable machinery. This eventually led to an economic downturn, also known as the Great Depression. Site planning with aspects like these though Civil Engineering design is important to lead to a successful development and environment.
Greywater Bonus Density
Newly released Florida Law that increases the density of single family and multifamily developments by up to 35% more by using grey water systems. As urban sprawl continues many areas in rural areas have the lack of infrastructure needed. These systems are helpful to reduce the impact on the existing infrastructure. The state of Florida has incentivized grey water with bonus density because these systems help save and reuse water by separating black water from grey water which reuses water going down the drain cleanly for reuse in irrigation.
Although there are many obstacles within green environmental design, Alex explains that “you need somebody who is an expert in what they’re doing and understands the full process.” This way, the planning and design cohere to unique developments and communities. Within his speech, Alex demonstrated ways developers can make money off sustainable practices, that can, in turn, benefit the community through transportation, public space, and buildings. 100 single family homes generate 957 daily trips, contributing heavily to greenhouse gas emissions. Our roadways advance these emissions significantly. Reducing this footprint could positively impact the environment. As Alex says, “Some people are dreaming towards going to other planets, but we need to focus on the one planet we do have.”
Some ways we can form greener futures is by “living with the environment,” by implementing parks, recreation areas, plazas, and green space within areas near residential and commercial areas. For example, USF (University of South Florida) planted oak trees in the front of their campus. Oak trees are known to create cooler, cleaner air. However, they are also known to be the cause of foundational and infrastructural issues with their deep root system. Palm trees are a popular option for landscaping. Their small roots and curb appeal drive traffic to developments. However, palm trees do not absorb nearly as much greenhouse gases as oak trees. Alex says, “Having a great landscaping plan can actually help your development greatly, and help the environment if things are placed in the exact location.” He referred to USF’s campus and showed a picture of the oak trees. He explained that the grass near the oak trees was patchy, and did not grow evenly, something that should have been thought out beforehand. However, he did applaud their efforts in planting vines that prosper under oak trees.
We can also reduce our footprint by adopting sustainable practices while creating buildings. Alex pointed to Florida Polytechnic who utilized a V-shaped roof that moves with the sun. This adds shade to the building, ultimately assisting “HVAC heating and cooling load calculations and the energy compliance forms that need to take place to ensure that this building is low impact on the environment.” When drafting structures, there are creative ways engineers can take advantage of space through mechanical design. In mechanical design, engineers can figure out ways to reduce the number of electrical units within the building. This allows the extra space to be used for more rooms, utilities, or greener practices, such as rooftop gardens. More space means more money! Additionally, Advanced Engineering Consultants are using a green material in one of their developments. It is called ICF (insulated concrete formwork) and has insulation on the outside and inside, ultimately making homes more energy efficient by keeping cool air in and reducing electrical input. Plus, the process of constructing homes becomes easier and faster, since the concrete can just be poured and set, while adhering to the high wind loads of Florida.
Civil and Environmental Design
There is a lot of engineering that goes into civil and environmental design. It directly impacts the environment, based on what we construct and how we use the space. Stormwater, for example, directly impacts ecosystems, because of its discharge as rain and other precipitation falls. Engineers design ways to rid of the stormwater safely, while maintaining environmental upkeep. Since stormwater flows on impervious surfaces (roadways, sidewalks, etc.), picking up contaminants along the way, it is vital to reduce the flow path and implement more pervious surfaces to allow the water to absorb into the soil. This absorption occurs before the water can collect any pollutants. Alex also points out that developers can install storm vaults and chamber that “collect and retain the water underneath our buildings, boardwalks, or parking lots.” He does express that these chambers and vaults are an investment but can repay themselves when developers add commercials or residential areas that could not have been placed there before without the storm vaults.
Wetlands are declining rapidly within the state of Florida and the southeast portion of the United States. The creation of wetlands can positively impact ecosystems and the economy. Building wetlands creates incentives that put money in developers wallets, while still positively helping ecosystems.
Civil engineering due diligence is extremely important in any development during the acquisition of the property. In phase 1, engineers evaluate the site to determine if anything is contaminated. If anything is found, phase 2 will take into effect, where engineers gather materials from the site and conduct tests to analyze if there is a threat to the site. In phase 3, engineers come up with processes to repair the site. These phases reduced the liability as a developer. Taking the extra processes in the beginning saves people, plants, and animals from getting sick or injured. Civil due diligence also determines the zoning and flume (future land use). These two aspects ultimately set the framework for what’s capable of the planned development. Additionally, plants and animals are identified at the beginning of the process to pinpoint areas of preservation.
In conclusion, our environment is everywhere and significant part of our way of life. Preserving it through engineering design starting with civil engineering is vital to sustain our planet, while still economically benefiting our society. Alex’s speech highlights these facts, that are similar to the points described in the recently passed Wildlife Corridor Act.
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