BOEING 737 MAX

May 11, 2019


The five points given below were taken from an excellent article written by Jacob Beningo and appeared in “Electronics & Test Aerospace”, May 2, 2019.  I have added my own comment relative to those five (5) points.  It appears, from what we know now, there were no mechanical failures causing both aircraft to crash.  The real failures were lack of training and possibly embedded electronic systems effecting on-board systems. 

Recently the news headlines have been dominated by two crashes involving Boeing’s new 737 MAX aircraft. Both of these tragedies occurred under similar circumstances and within six months of each other. The fallout from these disasters may only be starting as aircraft around the world have been grounded, production of the 737 MAX has been decreased and March sales of the aircraft dropped to zero. The damage to Boeing’s reputation as a safety leader has now also come into question as investigations have been opened into how the system at the center of the investigations, MCAS, was developed and certified.

The investigations into the sequence of events that led to the loss of these aircraft with resulting causes will take time to fully discover—maybe even years but certainly months. However, with the information that has currently been released, embedded systems companies and developers can look at the fiasco Boeing is currently going through and learn and be reminded of several general lessons that they can apply to their own industries and products.

Lesson #1 – Don’t compromise your product to save or make money short-term

There is normal pressure on businesses and developers today to increase revenue, reduce costs and ship products as fast as possible. The result is not always quality. It isn’t security. It isn’t user friendly. The objective is maximum short-term growth at any cost as long as the short-term growth is maximized.  The company needed to remain in good standing with Wall Street and their investors.  That seems to be the bottom line.  Boeing appeared to be under significant pressure from customers and shareholders to deliver an aircraft that could compete with the Airbus A319neo.  They may have started to cave to this normative pressure.

Lesson #2 – Identify and mitigate single points of failure

Boeing and the FAA are looking at embedded systems in trying to discover the root cause of both failures and how corrections may be made to eliminate future tragedies.  In any embedded system that is being developed, it’s important to understand the potential failure modes and what effect those failures will have on the system and how they can be mitigated. There are many ways that teams go about doing this, including performing a Design Failure & Effects Analysis (DFMEA) which analyzes design functions, failure modes and their effect on the customer or user. Once such an analysis is done, we can then determine how we can mitigate the effect of a failure.  This is common practice for systems and subsystems of any complexity.

Lesson #3 – Don’t assume your user can handle it

An interesting lesson many engineers can take from the fiasco is that we can’t assume or rely on our users to properly operate our devices, especially if those devices are meant to operate autonomously. Complex systems require more time to analyze and troubleshoot. It seems that Boeing assumed that if an issue arose, the user had enough training and experience, and knew the existing procedures well enough to compensate. Right or wrong, as designers, we may need to use “lowered expectations” and do everything we can to protect the user from himself.

Lesson #4 – Highly tested and certified systems have defects

Edsger Dijkstra wrote that “Program testing can be used to show the presence of bugs, but never to show their absence.” We can’t show that a system doesn’t have bugs which means we have to assume that even our highly-tested and certified systems have defects. This should change the way every developer thinks about how they write software. Instead of trying to expose defects on a case-by-case basis, we should be developing defect strategies that can detect the system is not behaving properly or that something does not seem normal with its inputs. By doing this, we can test as many defects out of our system as possible. But when a new one arises in the field, a generic defect mechanism will hopefully be able to detect that something is amiss and take a corrective action.  

Lesson #5 – Sensors and systems fail

The fact that sensors and systems fail should seem like an obvious statement, but quite a few developers write software as if their microcontroller will never lock-up, encounter a single event upset or have corrupted memory. Sensors will freeze, processors will lock-up, garbage-in will produce garbage-out. Developers need to assume that things will go wrong and write code to handle those cases, rather than if we will always have a system that works as well in the field as it does on out lab benches. If you design your system considering the fact that it will fail, you’ll end up with a robust system that has to do a lot of hard work before it finally finds a way to fail (if it ever does).

I had an opportunity to hear the chief engineering program manager discuss the “Dreamliner” and the complexities of that system.  They were LEGION. Extremely complex.  Very time-consuming to work out all of the “bugs” relative to all of the computer programming necessary for successful AND safe air travel.  Trying to make a system “simple” by making it complex is a daunting task and one that needs to be accomplished, but it is always a “push” to get this done in a timely fashion and satisfy management and Wall Street.

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Portions of this post are taken from “Design News Daily Magazine”, online version, FW 18, 2019.

I often hear there will come a time when education will be completely online, in other words, no classroom.  The teacher will lecture via the internet and all classes may come to us through video conferencing or SKYPE-like services.  I know I am ‘old-school” but I do not think that will nearly fill all requirements students have relative to obtaining enough information and structure needed to enter the workforce after graduation.  I KNOW, eliminating the classroom will not suffice as far as fulfilling an engineering degree that is usable. (Usable is the operative word here.)  There is too much give-and take in the classroom for that to occur.   Too many questions would go unanswered providing a dearth of preparation for the “outside and real” world.

The factor that just may prove me incorrect is the cost of an engineering education.  Getting an engineering degree is tough, and the soaring cost of colleges doesn’t make it any easier. For many years, college costs have been rising at twice the rate of inflation, and today’s most expensive engineering degrees reflect that, having recently cracked the seventy thousand dollars ($70,000)-a-year plateau.

To be sure, all of those seventy thousand plus schools offer financial aid, often in substantial amounts. In some cases, the final dollar figure may be comparable to that of a state school after all the aid is totaled up. That, of course, is if the applicant receives financial aid. I am using current figures from US News & World Reports Best Colleges, and have put together a list of the most expensive engineering schools in the US. All of the colleges on the list offer great educations. You really need to sit down for this one.  Here we go.

1. Harvey Mudd College, $75,003. The country’s most expensive engineering degree belongs to a school that may not have the Harvard- or MIT-name-brand, but nevertheless features a top-notch engineering program. In this year’s edition of US News & World Reports Best Colleges, Mudd tied for first as the best engineering program among schools where the top degree is a bachelors or masters. A tiny school with just 844 students, Mudd takes a different approach to education. A big part of the school’s method involves fellowships for students, enabling them to make a strong connection between engineering theory and the real world. The final cost — $75,003 – includes tuition, room and board. About 50% of “Mudders,” as its students are known, receive financial aid, with $43,208 being the average package. (Image source: Wikipedia/by Imagine)

2. Columbia University, $73,446. Columbia University’s engineering school is the country’s third oldest, and is ranked 18th among schools whose highest degree is a Ph.D. The New York City-based college is extremely selective, offering entry to only about 6% of applicants. The average accepted applicant has an ACT score ranging between 32-35, with 96% in the top 10% of their class. Financial aid is generous – averaging about $58,000 – but only about half of incoming students receive such aid. (Image source: Wikipedia/by Andrew Chen)

3. University of Southern California, $71,625. As private universities go, USC is a whopper, with about 18,000 undergraduates, of which about 10% are enrolled in engineering. US News & World Report ranks USC’s Viterbi Engineering School 24th among colleges whose highest degree is a Ph.D. Departments include mechanical, aerospace, astronautical, biomedical, industrial, chemical, electrical, and civil. About 38% of admitted students receive financial aid, with the average package being $51,509. (Image source: Wikipedia/by Bestweekevr)

4. University of Pennsylvania, $71,200. A private university in the Ivy League, the University of Pennsylvania is both a great and expensive source of education. Its engineering school is legendary for its development of the first general-purpose computer, ENIAC, in 1946. US News & World Report ranks it 24th among engineering schools whose highest degree is a Ph.D. About 46% of students receive financial aid, with the average package being $48,971. (Image source: Wikipedia/by Bryan Y.W. Shin)

5. Northwestern University, $71,193. Northwestern University in Evanston, IL features one of the premier engineering colleges in the US, with a ranking of 14th from US News & World Report. It is, however, extremely selective, with only about 9% of candidates accepted. The average incoming ACT is 32-35, and 91% of accepted applicants are in the top 10% of their high school class. About 45% of undergrads receive financial aid, with the average package coming to $49,030. (Image source: Wikipedia)

6. Tufts University, $70,942. Tufts University of Medford, MA, isn’t a household name, but it’s a stellar, highly selective school. In 2019, only 14% of applicants were admitted, and the average incoming student had an ACT score ranging from 31-34. About 9% of Tufts’ small undergrad population (enrollment, 5,483) is enrolled in the engineering curriculum. Its engineering school is ranked 59th among those whose highest degree is a Ph.D. Financial aid is awarded to 38% of applicants. (Image source: Wikipedia/by Halpaugh)

7. Dartmouth College, $70,791. New Hampshire-based Dartmouth College is a liberal arts school, and as such gives a bachelor of arts degree (B.A.) to all engineering science majors, then encourages them to stay on and earn a Bachelor of Engineering (B.E.) degree. Like all Ivy League schools, it’s extremely selective, with only about 10% of applicants gaining admission. Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering is ranked 48th among schools whose top degree is a Ph.D. About 50% of undergrads receive financial aid, with the average package coming to $50,625. (Image source: Wikipedia/by Kane5187)

8. Brown University, $70,326. Brown University in Providence, RI, is yet another of the highly-selective Ivies, with only about 8% of applicants being admitted. It’s engineering college, which makes up about 6% of Brown’s undergrad population, is ranked 38th among schools whose highest degree is a Ph.D. About 44% of new students receive financial aid, with the average package being $49,269. (Image source: Wikipedia/by Apavio

9. Smith College, $69,924. Smith College in Northampton, MA is typically thought of as a liberal arts school, and is in fact rated 11th among all the nation’s liberal arts colleges by US News & World Report. Still, the small all-women’s school completed a new science and engineering facility in 2009, with the idea that it would “blur the boundaries between traditional disciplines, creating an optimum environment for students and faculty to address key scientific and technological developments of our time.” Smith’s engineering program is ranked 15th among schools whose top degree is a bachelors or masters. (Image source: Wikipedia/by Samasinter)

10. Carnegie Mellon University, $69,883. Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh has long been regarded as one of the nation’s premier engineering schools. In 2019, US News & World Report ranked it sixth among schools whose highest degree is a Ph.D. The university is relatively small, with an undergrad population of just 6,664, but engineering makes up a whopping 24% of those students. Carnegie Mellon is world-renown for its work in robotics, with many of its grad students filling key spots in companies making autonomous cars. About 39% of undergrads receive financial aid, with the average package being $43,182. (Image source: Wikipedia/by Dllu).

CONCLUSION:  You will notice that MIT, Stanford, Georgia Tech, Duke, Rose-Hulman, University of Wisconsin, Perdue, etc. were not even mentioned.  These are remarkable schools when considering an engineering degree.  Really, most accredited engineering universities do an excellent job, certainly for undergraduate work leading to a BS in engineering.  Look at the faculty, the location, the cost and you will do just fine choosing a university that meets all of your engineering-student needs.


It always amazes me as to how fast the corporate world adopts technology while our politicians wait and watch.  Artificial Intelligence (AI) is no different.  Let’s reacquaint ourselves with a working definition of AI.

Techopedia defines AI as follows:

“Artificial intelligence is a branch of computer science that strives to create intelligent machines.”  AI has become an essential part of the technology industry. Research associated with artificial intelligence is highly technical and very specialized. The core problems of artificial intelligence include programming computers for certain traits such as:

  • Knowledge
  • Reasoning
  • Problem solving
  • Perception
  • Learning
  • Planning
  • Ability to manipulate and move objects

One other definition says:

Artificial intelligence (AI) is an area of computer science that emphasizes the creation of intelligent machines that work and react like humans.

Basically, the same definition—The Rise of the Machines.

AI is only one part of the technology trend that is overtaking manufacturing and other commercial fields but it is finding its way into most technology.

According to Modern Material Handling, April 2019: “CFOs (Corporate Financial Officers) are shifting their priorities from cutting costs to rapidly investing in technology and data.”  This is according to Grant Thornton’s 2019 CFO Survey, conducted in partnership with CFO Research.  This survey found that a significant percentage of senior financial executives are currently investing in advanced technologies such as:

  • Advanced Analytics—38%
  • Machine Learning-30%
  • Artificial Intelligence—41%
  • Drones and Robotic Systems—30%
  • Blockchain—40% (NOTE:  Blockchain. A blockchain is a digital record of transactions. The name comes from its structure, in which individual records, called blocks, are linked together in single list, called a chain. … They work together to ensure each transaction is valid before it is added to the blockchain.)
  • Robotic Process Automation—41%
  • Optical Character Recognition 45%

Many CFOs are well on the way to implementing these amazing technologies:

  • 40% report that their finance function has already implemented advanced technologies and automation technologies in risk management.  This is compared to 20% in 2018.
  • 30% use machine learning, compared to 8% in 2018
  • 25% use AI, compared to 7% in 2018

The National Association of Manufacturers has released results from the Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey for the first quarter of 2019.  This survey shows nine consecutive quarters of record optimism, with an average of 91.8% of manufacturers positive about their own company’s outlook over the time compared to 68.6% across 2015 and 2016.

One technology leading the field is robotic systems.  Robotic systems were shipped to North American companies in record numbers last year, with more non-automotive companies installing robots than ever before.  In 2018, 35,880 units were shipped.  This is a 7% increase over 2017.  Shipments to non-automotive companies grew 41% to 16,702 shipments for that year.  This growth came in several areas as follows:

  • Food and Consumer Goods—48%
  • Plastics and Rubber Products—37%
  • Life Sciences—31%
  • Electronics—22%

It is becoming quite apparent that companies, especially manufacturing companies, that do not embrace advanced technology will find themselves beaten by those who do.  They will be left behind simply because they will no longer be able to compete. 

Might be time to take a look and get on board.

GIBBS GARDENS

April 19, 2019


A week ago, my wife and I traveled to Gibbs Gardens in Ball Ground, Georgia. You will have to look this one up because it’s really in an out-of-the-way place and well from the “beaten path”.  That’s just the way Mr. James Gibbs planned it. 

Gibbs Gardens began in 1980 as a three hundred (300) acre private family estate.  The owner, Mr. Jim Gibbs always dreamed of creating a world-class public garden.  For more than thirty (30) years he designed and developed his property with two hundred and twenty (220) acres of landscaped gardens adjacent to spring-fed streams. 

There are sixteen (16) garden venues including four (4) feature gardens, as follows:

  • DAFFODILS:  Fifty (50) acres of daffodils with more than twenty (20) million flowers, blooming form March to mid-April.
  • MANOR HOUSE GARDENS:  Designed to offer color in spring, summer and the fall, with lush terraces, waterfalls, sweeping lawns and woodland.
  • MONET WATERLILY GARDENS:  Featuring one forty (140) varieties of waterlilies, both tropical and hardy, blooming from late spring through fall.  A replica of the bridge in Monet’s garden provides a focal point year around.
  • JAPANESE GARDENS:  More than forty (40) acres with spring-fed ponds, islands, bridges, boulders, rocks and forty (40) handcrafted Japanese lanterns.  A collection of more than one thousand (1,000) Japanese maples provide brilliant colors in autumn.

Personally, I was blown away by the meticulous attention to detail and how the gardens were laid out.  The gardens experience four (4) distinct seasons with flowers and trees blooming in each of the four time periods.  I understand that fall of the year is absolutely stunning and the color changes are breathtaking. 

 We are going to take a trip, via pictures, through the gardens right now.  The pictures shown cover only a small portion of what may be seen.  You enter the “front gate” by going over a flower-lined bridge.  The landscapers have chosen to line the bridge with flower boxes.   The blossoms in each box are seasonal and change due to the time of the year.

The walkway leading from the “front gate” is lined with flower beds.  The one you see below is mostly tulips.

As mentioned, flowers line all walkways throughout the gardens.

Azalea, rhododendron, roses, crape myrtle, daylily, wildflower, cherry blossoms, dogwood, hydrangeas, and other species of flowers populate the garden and were on prominent display during our visit.  You might notice that the azaleas were just about over their peak when we were there having bloomed about two weeks prior to our visit.  Beautiful anyway but definitely over their peak.

As I mentioned earlier, the attention to detail was striking.  The flower arrangement below is indicative of what you will see in the garden.  Think about this, the arrangement below had to be planted by “loving hands” to look this good.  Not only that, they have to be maintained throughout the season.  When the season changes, they are taken up and replaced with other types.

Tulips and cherry blossom trees were in bloom and were on display as shown by the two pictures below.

Japanese Red Maple trees were absolutely striking as you can see.

The next several digital pictures show some portion of the Japanese Gardens.  These gardens were striking and the pictures do NOT, admittedly, do them justice.

No Japanese garden would be right without a Bonsai Tree.

Mr. Gibbs lives on the property he developed over the thirty-year period.  His home is shown below.

The entire house is surrounded with gardens providing well-groomed blooming flowers, cherry trees and red maples.

To the left of the house sits a beautiful water fall with hanging baskets and benches arranged around the display.

From the front porch of the house, you can see the mountains of North Georgia.  These mountains are the southern end of the Cumberland Plateau and the very beginning of the Cumberland Trail.  As you know, the Cumberland Trail goes all the way into the New England area.

CONCLUSION:  I can definitely recommend to you this one-day visit.  Any season of the year will bring flowers of differing types and colors.  Again, I’m told that fall of the year is breathtaking.

THE FARMHOUSE INN

April 16, 2019


Have you ever just happened upon and experienced a serendipity moment?  A period in time or circumstance that made you say, “why have we not done this before?”  Where have we been.  Well, that happened to my wife and I this past weekend.  We visited Madison, Georgia and stayed at the Farmhouse Inn.  The pictures you will see were taken by me as we walked the grounds.  Let’s first see just where Madison, Georgia is.

MADISON, GEORGIA

Madison is located about an hour and one-half from Atlanta as you go east on Interstate 20.  According to the 2000 census, it is a town of approximately four thousand permanent residents and is the county seat for Morgan County.

The first town lots in Madison were sold in 1809 so this is an old town.  As the cotton economy of the county expanded, so did the population of Madison. Many of the wealthy plantation owners who lived in the county began building town houses.  Many of these Antebellum homes have survived and can be seen on the walking/driving tour of the historic district. In 1844 the first of three great fires struck the community. The county courthouse, begun in 1809 and finally completed 15 years later, burned to the ground. However, most of the county records were saved. In 1869 the entire business district burned after fire broke out in Albert Shaw’s furniture store on South Main Street. Twenty-six (26) businesses were destroyed. The heat was so intense that many of the salvaged goods placed in the middle of the street burned also. In this fire, the city hall and all the town records were destroyed. The community began rebuilding immediately; however, it took ten years before all the lots burned in the fire had buildings on them.  Madison’s Antebellum homes and Victorian homes, as well as its tastefully restored downtown, offer a wide range of shops, tastes, sights and services that delight visitors from this country and abroad, as they travel along Georgia’s Antebellum Trail, the Georgia Antiques Trail and the Historic Heartland travel region.

FARMHOUSE INN:

The description above gives you a very brief understanding of the town itself. Now let’s take a look at where my wife and I stayed.

As you approach the facility you can certainly see the one hundred (100) acres that constitute a working farm.  Cows, chickens, goats, turkeys, a peacock, and most of the animals you would expect on a farm.

This is the driveway as viewed from the guest house.

I know the picture below looks very rustic but the interior was clean, comfortable and “up-to-date”.  The owners of the facility completely renovated an actual farmhouse barn and constructed a dining area, kitchen, common space and rooms.  I have no idea as to how much money they spent on the reconstruction and refurbishment of the overall complex.  I would say close to one million dollars.

There were two rooms in the barn and twelve rooms in the “Common House” adjacent to the barn.  The two JPEGs below will show the main guest house and the walkway to the guest rooms.   These digitals will give you some idea as to the layout of the overall complex.

No farm would be complete without a garden, or gardens.

No garden is complete without a scarecrow.

On the grounds of the Farmhouse Inn is a Baptist Church established in the early 1800s.  It is still a “working” church with services every Sunday morning and Sunday evening.  The view below is looking at the church from the garden.

The interior is just as you might expect, Spartan, but with air conditioning.

The exterior of the church.

One HUGE surprise, was dinner that night at the 220 Restaurant in downtown Madison.  We were tired but hungry.  As you can see, the dining area is absolutely exquisite with every detail being considered.  The food was gourmet—absolutely gourmet.  This was really a surprise coming from such a small town.  I expected BBQ, fast food and meat-and-three diners.  Not Madison, Georgia.  Great dining and we did not break the bank.  They also had a marvelous wine selection.

CONCLUSIONS:

You never know what you might find when you take a long weekend but this time, my wife and I were certainly surprised.  We will definitely go back.  I would love to have your comments.

 

 

HERE WE GO AGAIN

April 6, 2019


If you read my posts you know that I rarely “do politics”.  Politicians are very interesting people only because I find all people interesting.  Everyone has a story to tell.  Everyone has at least one good book in them and that is their life story.   With that being the case, I’m going to break with tradition by taking a look at the “2020” presidential lineup.  I think it’s a given that Donald John Trump will run again but have you looked at the Democratic lineup lately?  I am assuming with the list below that former Vice President Joe Biden will run so he, even though unannounced to date, will eventually make that probability known.

  • Joe Biden—AGE 76
  • Bernie Sanders—AGE 77
  • Kamala Harris—AGE 54
  • Beto O’Rourke—AGE 46
  • Elizabeth Warren—AGE 69
  • Cory Booker—AGE 49
  • Amy Klobuchar—AGE 58
  • Pete Buttigieg—AGE 37
  • Julian Castro—AGE 44
  • Kirsten Gillibrand—AGE 52
  • Jay Inslee—AGE 68
  • John Hickenlooper—AGE 67
  • John Delaney—AGE 55
  • Tulsi Gabbard—AGE 37
  • Tim Ryan—AGE 45
  • Andrew Yang—AGE 44
  • Marianne Williamson—AGE 66
  • Wayne Messam—AGE 44

 CANDIDATES NOW EXPLORING THE POSSIBILITIES:

  • William F. Weld—AGE 73
  • Michael Bennett—AGE 33
  • Eric Swalwell—AGE 38
  • Steve Bullock—AGE 52
  • Bill DeBlasio—AGE 57
  • Terry McAuliffe—AGE 62
  • Howard Schultz—AGE 65

Eighteen (18) people have declared already and I’m sure there will be others as time goes by. If we slice and dice, we see the following:

  • Six (6) women or 33.33 %—Which is the greatest number to ever declare for a presidential election.
  • AGE GROUPS
    • 70-80: 2              11 %
    • 60-70: 4             22 %
    • 50-60: 4              22 %
    • 40-50:  6              33 %
    • Younger than 40: 2         11 %

I am somewhat amazed that these people, declared and undeclared, feel they can do what is required to be a successful president.  In other words, they think they have what it takes to be the Chief Executive of this country.  When I look at the list, I see people whose name I do NOT recognize at all and I wonder, just who would want the tremendous headaches the job will certainly bring?  And the scrutiny—who needs that?  The President of the United States is in the fishbowl from dawn to dusk.  Complete loss of privacy. Let’s looks at some of the perks the job provides:

  • The job pays $400,000.00 per year.
  • The president is also granted a $50,000 annual expense account, $100,000 nontaxable travel account, and $19,000 for entertainment.
  • Former presidents receive a pension equal to the pay that the head of an executive department (Executive Level I) would be paid; as of 2017, it is $207,800 per year. The pension begins immediately after a president’s departure from office.
  • The Presidents gets to fly on Air Force 1 and Marine 1. (That was 43’s best perk according to him.)
  • You get to ride in the “BEAST”.
  • Free room and board at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
  • Access to Camp David
  • The hired help is always around catering to your every need.
  • Incredible security
  • You have access to a personal trainer if so desired
  • Free and unfettered medical
  • The White House has a movie theater
  • You are a life-time member of the “President’s Club”
  • The President has access to a great guest house—The Blair House.
  • You get a state funeral. (OK this might not be considered a perk relative to our list.)

The real question:  Are all of these perks worth the trouble?  President George Bush (43) could not wait to move back to Texas.  Other than Air Force 1, he really hated the job.  President Bill Clinton loved the job and would still be president if our constitution would allow it.


We all wish for our children and grandchildren the very best education available to them whether it’s public or private.  Local school districts many times struggle with maintaining older schools and providing the upgrades necessary to make and keep schools safe and functional.  There have been tremendous changes to needs demanded by this digital age as well as security so necessary.  Let’s take a look at what The Consulting-Specifying Engineer Magazine tells us they have discovered relative to NEW school trends and designs that fulfill needs of modern-day students.

  • Technology is touching all aspects of modern school systems and is a key component of content display and communication within the classroom. Teachers and students are no longer static within the classroom.  They are very mobile and flexible which creates the necessity for robust, flexible, and in most cases wireless infrastructure that responds to and does not distract from learning.
  • Multiple-purpose use facilities with large central areas which can serve as cafeteria, theater and even gymnasium are key to this trend. Individual classrooms are quickly becoming a thing of the past. The mechanical, electrical and plumbing equipment must be flexible for the many-purposed uses as well as being able to quickly transition from one to the next.
  • SECURITY is an absolute must when considering a new school building. Site access must be limited with movement throughout the building being secure with in-service cameras and a card access.  This must be accomplished without the school looking like a prison.
  • Color tuning, a new word for me, is accomplished by painting and lighting and creates an atmosphere for maximum learning. These efforts facilitate a more natural atmosphere and are more in line with circadian rhythms.  Warmer color temperature paints can increase relaxation and reduce stressful learning.
  • IAQ-Indoor Air Quality. According to the EPA:
    • Fifty percent (50%) of the schools in the U.S. today have issues linked to deficient or failing IAQ.
    • Deficient IAQ increases asthma risk by fifty percent (50%)
    • Test scores can drop by twenty-one percent (21%) with insufficient IAQ.
    • Schools with deficient IAQ have lower average student attendance rates
    • Cleaner indoor air promotes better health for students and teachers.
    • Implementing IAQ management can boost test scores by over fifteen percent (15%)
    • Greater ventilation can reduce absenteeism by ten (10) absences per one thousand students.
  • School administrators and school boards demand facilities that are equipped with sufficient lighting and sufficient fire protection. Heating and air conditioning as well as the electrical systems necessary to drive these pieces of hardware must be energy efficient.  Emergency generators are becoming a basic requirement to facilitate card readers and emergency door access.
  • Voice evacuation fire alarm and performance sound and telecommunication systems must be provided and must be kept active by emergency generators if power failures occur.
  • More and more high schools offer advanced placement generating college credits required for admission to universities and colleges. State-of-the art equipment facilitates this possibility. We are talking about laboratories, compressed air systems, medical and dental equipment, IT facilities, natural gas distribution systems, environment systems supporting biodiesel, solar and wind turbines, and other specialized equipment.  Many schools offer education at night as well as in the daytime.
  • All codes, local, state, federal and international MUST be adhered to with no exceptions.
  • Construction costs account for twenty to forty percent (20-40%) of the total life-cycle costs so maintenance and replacement must be considered when designing facilities.
  • Control systems providing for energy savings during off-peak hours must be designed into school building facilities.
  • LED lighting is becoming a must with dimmable controls, occupancy/vacancy sensors and daylight harvesting is certainly desirable.
  • For schools in the mid-west and other areas of our country, tornado shelters must be considered and certainly could save lives when available.

These are just a few of the requirements architects and design engineers face when quoting a package to school boards and regional school systems.  Much more sophisticated that ever before with requirements never thought of before.  Times are changing—and for the better.

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