Thursday, January 9, 2014

2014: Safety IS a Priority


contributed by Monica Washington, Safety Coordinator, Farnsworth Group
Safety at Farnsworth Group is something that is taking top priority and is beginning to impact the culture…and our bottom line. One way our company is making this happen is through a strategy of implementing Four Keys of Safety: Awareness, Training, Accountability and Recognition.

AWARENESS of safety is something that our company has always maintained, but with renewed focus we are elevating the importance of keeping employees safe. We are learning from our past, the good things we are doing and identifying opportunities to improve. We are enhancing the good to make it great and implementing improvements to strengthen any programs. As part of the key to awareness, each manager meets monthly with their group to focus on safety and how it relates to their team and their job duties. The managers are getting more involved with safety and they are engaging their teams with safety in a positive approach.

TRAINING, the second key to our strategy focuses on understanding the risks and providing training to minimize those hazards to keep our employees safe. Safety training at Farnsworth Group takes many forms from classroom training to online to on the job training. Over 65% of our staff has taken the OSHA 10-Hour Construction Industry Training. Other trainings include special industry training as well as general safety training. Our training style and methods are evolving allowing us to incorporate training into our every day job responsibilities.

Awareness and training support the third key of safety which is ACCOUNTABILITY. Employees are held accountable to work safe each day, complete training in a timely manner and wear personal protective equipment.  Looking out for coworkers as well as their own wellbeing is critical to building a culture of safety. The requirement to report incidents and address near misses helps us to be proactive in our approach to safety.

Finally, RECOGNITION encompasses all the other keys of safety by celebrating accomplishments and rewarding staff for safe behavior. We are in our infancy developing strong recognitions around safety but plan to flush out and continue to make this a strong focus in 2014.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Art Matters. Architecture Matters.

Bringing Two Creative Endeavors Together at Peoria’s New North Branch Library
by Edward J. Barry Jr., Principal, Farnsworth Group

“Art matters. It is not simply a leisure activity for the privileged or a hobby for the eccentric. It is a practical good for the world. The work of the artist is an expression of hope - it is homage to the value of human life, and it is vital to society. Art is a sacred expression of human creativity that shares the same ontological ground as all human work. Art, along with all work is the ordering of creation toward the intention of the creator.” - Michael Gungor


These words, by singer-songwriter and author Michael Gungor, summarize beautifully the intrinsic value of art in our world. A value that can oftentimes be sidestepped or forgotten in favor of more pressing or pragmatic societal priorities. Curiously, the word “art” in Mr. Gungor’s sentiments could be readily replaced by the word “architecture” to create an equally powerful message. Architecture, like art, is an essential element of a dynamic and progressive civilization, providing an equally powerful expression of the human creative impulse. It then brings to the table the added dimension of functionality, offering purposeful shelter for all manner of human activity.

When these two prized endeavors – art and architecture – work in unison under the same roof, the result can be particularly rewarding for both of them. The opportunity for such creative collaboration presented itself at the recently completed North Branch Library located in Peoria, IL. Designed to gently find its place amidst the surrounding native prairie grasses, this all-new facility is intended to embody the highest and best principles of environmental and cultural sustainability.

Monday, September 16, 2013

if ENERGY took the spotlight...


Photo courtesy of Arkansas Electric Energy Law
Did you know that at Farnsworth Group we have an entire team dedicated to energy?  We have Energy Engineers, Certified Energy Managers, Certified Energy Auditors and even a spare International Groundsource Heat Pump Association member or two.  [In fact we’re looking to hire a new team member. Our commissioning agents perform energy audits, and retro-commissioning is often about ensuring that energy usage is in-line with expectations.
Not to get all statistical, but there are some interesting statistics about energy:
  • 40% of total U.S. energy consumption in 2012 was consumed in residential and commercial buildings, or about 40 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu).1
  • In 2010, the United States’ primary energy consumption was nearly 98 quadrillion Btu, nearly 19% of world total primary energy consumption.2 
  • The amount of energy Americans use doubles every 20 years.3
Maybe these statistics indicate that energy usage requires some careful consideration.

Recently we combined with a team from Atkins to complete Sustainable Infrastructure Assessments on nine installations for the U.S. Air Force.  Our team is tasked with conducting assessments of the current buildings and energy usage and produce lists of project-ready recommendations for smarter energy consumption.  The project is taking the expertise of a large internal team to conduct the site visits, calculations, evaluations and report writing necessary to ensure that the Air Force can make some informed decisions about changes.
We have also recently worked with Los Alamos County to conduct energy audits of 16 buildings within the county’s portfolio.  Our team identified more than $99,148 in annual savings through identified Energy Conservation Measures (ECMs).

Farnsworth Group has also served on several General Services Administration projects to help identify energy savings.  Sometimes we even team with local energy providers to help “energy hogs” identify smarter ways to use energy.  This can mean infrastructure upgrades (systems or HVAC units), but often it’s the application of smart technology and heating and cooling a facility only when it’s needed.
What Can You Do
There isn’t anything easier than turning off the light when you’re not using it; but the projects above point to simple lessons in your personal energy usage.  One of the things you can do is set back your thermostat when you’re not at home.  Additionally, your energy provider may have some tips on conserving energy at home and at work.  Consider searching your provider’s website right now.  Rebate programs are abundant – maybe you want to put some money back in your pocket and make a difference – one Btu at a time.

Here are a few more random facts about energy!
Cited Sources
1          U.S Energy Information Administration, What is Energy:  Energy Basics, http://www.eia.gov/kids/energy.cfm?page=about_home-basics, September 2013.
2          U.S Energy Information Administration, What is Energy:  Energy Basics, http://www.eia.gov/kids/energy.cfm?page=about_home-basics, September 2013.
3          Royston, Angela. 2009. Sustainable Energy. Mankato, MN: Arcturus Publishing Limited via http://facts.randomhistory.com/energy-facts.html.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

From Revit to Project Reviews, Summer Intern Ready for the Real World

Farnsworth Group always looks forward to the opportunity to hire interns for the summer.  It’s an occasion to give these students a chance to apply in the real world what they’ve been learning in the classroom.  Plus, there’s always the chance we might learn a little something new, too!

We asked a few of our summer interns to blog about their experience with us during their summer. 
Tiffany Wernsman attended Southern Illinois University where she obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Architectural Studies and just completed her Masters of Architecture from SIU.
It was an absolute pleasure being a part of the Farnsworth Group team! 

At first, I had no idea what I was really getting myself into, but everyone involved in the company played a role in making my transition from student to intern much more comfortable than I could have ever imagined.  Each and every day provided me with an opportunity to learn a new lesson from professionals amongst various disciplines in a unique atmosphere.


The first day of employment I went through basic orientation and later was taken out to lunch with the entire architecture department.  It was in that moment that I learned of the strong relationships and collaborative methods that have been developed amongst my peers at Farnsworth Group.
As the weeks went by, I had the opportunity to get real hands-on experience and took part in a multitude of different projects.  I was given the chance to attend work load projection meetings, monthly center staff meetings, safety training programs, monthly Revit webinars, architecture group meetings, visited project sites, attended lunch and learn sessions, attended a group golf outing, and developed documentation for numerous projects.

These events gave me a real sense of belonging, making me feel like I was part of not only the architectural group, but the entire Farnsworth Group team.  From meeting people who had just begun their careers, to consulting with corporate individuals, project managers, and principals, everyone that I encountered was a pleasure to work with and made me feel at ease.
The very first project that I had in depth involvement in was the Heritage Enterprises Evergreen Senior Living renovation competition.  I had the opportunity to set up existing, demolition, and proposed plans, as well as construct a Revit model, 3D views, and renderings all while collaborating with our Interior Design department.
I really value the learning opportunity that Farnsworth Group has provided me throughout the duration of my summer internship.  Although I am progressing towards the finish line for my time here at Farnsworth, my mentors here have given me the courage and professional advice necessary to succeed in my future endeavors and for that I am extremely grateful to have had this opportunity.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

What it's like to intern at Farnsworth Group...

Farnsworth Group always looks forward to the opportunity to hire interns for the summer.  It’s an occasion to give these students a chance to apply in the real world what they’ve been learning in the classroom.  Plus, there’s always the chance we might learn a little something new, too!

We asked a few of our summer interns to blog about their experience with us during their summer. 
Josh Brown is a Civil Engineering major entering his senior year at Bradley University.
When I accepted my job as a municipal intern with Farnsworth Group, I was excited to see how what I was learning in the classroom could be applied to the experience I would have at Farnsworth Group.
My first week swept by getting acquainted with the office, along with training in preparation of going out in the field. Once my first week was complete, I was suddenly getting involved in more projects than I can even begin to count.
In my first summer, I experienced everything from design work to construction inspection.  Not only was I able to apply what I had been learning in the classroom, but I learned more than I could ever imagine. I worked under two Professional Engineers who were always able to give me direction and guide me along the way.
Some of my first projects included drafting currently built projects. I spent my time using field notes to make as-built drawings of the projects we had just completed. These projects included water main, storm sewer, sanitary sewer and water pump stations.  By the end of my summer, I was able to see much of our hard work come full circle through design, bidding, and construction.
What really made my experience at Farnsworth Group great was having the chance to experience every aspect of a project - from seeing the design of the project on paper to witnessing the project actually being constructed. The tools I have now from my experience here will help me excel in this industry as I move forward.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Why Would I Want to Call a Landscape Architect?


Landscape Architects create and shape the outdoor world around all of us. Farnsworth Group boasts that our Landscape Architects create memorable spaces, but how does this process work, and when do you contact a Landscape Architect for your project?

Let’s begin by pretending you are the Director of a Parks and Recreation Department.  You have a large piece of undeveloped land that was previously on the outskirts of town and will soon be surrounded by new residential neighborhoods. You will need to know how to best develop this space for the members of your community, but even more so how to pay for such developments. Call a Landscape Architect to develop a Master Plan- a pretty picture to show the community how the overall space may be developed, and more importantly how it could be developed into future phases. The Landscape Architect will put together a budget that accompanies the Master Plan that you can use to seek grant funding to make this park a realization.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

What is Fire Protection?

What does a Fire Protection Engineer do?
A Fire Protection Engineer specializes in fire protection systems and design. They fill in the "gaps," such as a mechanical engineer designing sprinkler systems or electrical engineers designing fire alarm systems. They specialize in building and fire code compliance and assist architects and engineers with code compliance. They are becoming an integral, and often required, member of design teams, particularly in some occupancies such as high-rise office and residential, hospitals, schools, military installations, industrial and warehouse spaces.

Tunnel Smoke Test
Why is fire protection important?
Fires are a major cause of death each year. According to a study in 2010, one person dies every 169 minutes due to fire-related events. This is equivalent to a loaded Boeing 737 aircraft crashing every 17 days, killing everyone on board.

Code compliance is an important aspect of the design process, and the design must be in compliance with all relevant codes to avoid delays. Any errors or failure to comply with these codes can hold up the Certificate of Occupancy and can end up being very costly.

What does fire protection involve?
Active systems:
The most commonly identified with fire protection. Active systems require a certain amount of motion and response in order to work.

Fire sprinklers:
Suppress fire growth to allow occupants to get out and help limit property damage.

Fire alarm systems: 
Smoke detectors - These alert the occupants in the early stages of fire development.
Notifications - Include horns, strobes or speakers. These devices alert occupants of fire, weather and security threats and may include voice instructions.

Smoke control:
Smoke is actually more deadly than the fire itself. This is an important consideration in tall buildings, since smoke spreads upward, and occupant evacuation is slower and more difficult. This is very important in non-evacuation facilities like hospitals.

Passive systems:
These attempt to contain fires or slow the spread through use of fire-resistant walls, floors and doors. They allow buildings to remain structurally intact until they are evacuated.

Fire walls:
Fireproof barriers are used to prevent the spread of fire between or through buildings and structures. They are used to protect exits, such as stairwells. In hospitals, they are used to protect those who are bedridden and unable to leave.

Exits:
Occupants need to get out of the building safely ASAP. Exits include doors, ramps, corridors and stairwells. Exits must be separated in case there is an obstruction and wide enough to allow sufficient occupant capacity.

Firefighting features:
These features include site access, fire lanes, water supplies, fire hydrants, standpipes, elevator fire controls and fire command center for high-rise buildings.

Specialized applications:
These applications include hazardous material storage (flammable liquids, toxins and explosives), rack storage (warehouses), water sensitive occupancies (computer data centers) and industrial process (spray painting or use of flammable liquids).

For more information about fire protection, contact Farnsworth Group Fire Protection Engineer Burt Singleton, PE, at bsingleton@f-w.com.