Thursday, June 1, 2017

Green Infrastructure Impact on Combined Sewer Overflows 

Federal, state, and local governments are all focusing efforts on reducing the destructive impacts of storm water runoff.  The major impacts of runoff include pollutant delivery to surface waters, flooding, and erosion. In Illinois, we see evidence of storm water runoff after rainfall events in our yards, streets, fields, streams, and rivers. Green infrastructure is being proposed in many communities to provide relief not only to storm water runoff, but also to combined sewer overflow issues, which several of our local communities are working to resolve.

Central Illinois Conditions
Locally, in the communities of Peoria, Pekin, and Havana, which are served or partially served by combined sewers, the negative impacts of storm water runoff are even more significant. Combined sewers carry both storm water and sanitary sewage in the same pipe. With minimal rain events, the storm water is transported within the sewer pipe to the wastewater treatment plant for proper treatment and discharge to the Illinois River. But, during periods of heavy rainfall, the combined sewer system and treatment plants are not able to handle the storm water runoff, resulting in a combined sewer overflow (CSO) to the Illinois River. These discharges contain water with pollutant levels that violate the Clean Water Act.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

From Recreation and Commerce to Quality of Life – Water is Top of Mind

By: Gary Davis
Water is abundant in central Illinois, so we think about it frequently.  We appreciate the fact that it is plentiful, unless it is flooding our basements, overflowing the banks of the Illinois River or its tributaries, or surfacing through the ground due to a water main break. We enjoy boating in it, catching fish from it, swimming through it (even polar dives), ice skating on it, enjoying a cool glass of it, and are pleased it can be used to transport products efficiently to and from our area. Since water makes up nearly 70% of our body weight, 80% of our brain tissue, and 71% of our Earth’s surface (only 3.5% of that is freshwater), it is important that we keep water at the top of our mind.

The subject of water quality has gained significant attention recently – both nationally and locally – which reminds us not to take this natural resource for granted.

Water Quality Failure Example
The Flint, Michigan water quality issue involving elevated lead levels in their drinking water certainly raised our awareness of potential water quality issues that could impact our health. With improved treatment technologies and high-tech water sampling and analysis techniques, we would think these types of danger would be limited to our history books. Numerous regulations have been instituted to protect both our drinking and surface waters, but there are still opportunities where these safeguards can fail, as is the case with Flint’s water system.

Monday, May 11, 2015

What It Takes to Place in an International Design Competition - An Inside Look

Recently Farnsworth Group’s design team took First Special Mention (Fourth Place) for a design competition submittal for the Super SkyScrapers Competition - 07 (2015) - Cycling Heaven: Sky Velodrome in Toronto!  Over 150 entries were received.  While the announcement was made in April, the team submitted on February 27, 2015.

Collaboration. Democracy.  Holistic Design.
With collaboration at the forefront, all members of the architectural team were invited to submit preliminary concepts at the outset of the process.  Ten concepts were submitted and a blind voting process identified the overwhelming favorite scheme.  It was selected because it addressed site, scale, urban context and the creative spirit of the competition.  Once the strongest scheme was selected, Greg Straub led the team of Caius Jennison, Nicholas Bruner, Doug Draeger, Rob Kiester, Josh Rucinski, Brian Sulley, Shane Roberson and Kim Spencer.

The competition provided a means for Farnsworth Group’s staff to test interoffice capabilities and strengthen collaboration processes.  The team used new software, varied communication styles, and work-sharing concepts to achieve the final goal.  SKYSADDLE Velodrome was created.

Bringing it all Together
The model was developed in three separate offices, and continuity required constant communication and the blending of ideas that drove the final cohesive design compilation.  Each night, the three independent parts were uploaded to the main model for review and discussion the next day. 

Farnsworth Group’s team learned a considerable amount and triumphed in its first competition.  Next up:  to be determined, but it’s in the works! 

For additional information about the competition, please go to:  

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Asset Management for Educational Facilities

Have you ever found yourself wondering when you should replace the roof so that you get the most bang for your buck while making it last as long as possible? Or, have you ever considered when might be the optimal time to address that old, deteriorated masonry wall? Perhaps you have asked yourself: when is the best time to apply a coating to your wood floor in the gymnasium? Moreover, how does one prioritize, plan, coordinate, and budget any number of such projects?


Asset Management is an engineered approach that determines what facility assets you have, their condition, their performance, and if they are doing what you need them to do at the best cost. It is a strategic approach that creates solutions to address shrinking budgets and rising demands on the built environment. More formally defined, asset management is the systematic and coordinated activity and practice through which an organization optimally manages its physical assets and their associated performance, risks, and expenditures over their life cycle for the purpose of achieving its organizational strategic plan. Due to the fact that there are fewer dollars that organizations have available to renew assets, they must become better at maintaining the assets they have, mitigating risks, and extracting their highest value.
How it Works
An Asset Management project is a multi-step process. A group of engineers and/or architects performs a comprehensive organizational needs assessment. This helps the professional team evaluate where a particular organization falls on a maturity scale by looking at the policies, practices, and capabilities while identifying gaps and shortfalls in the overall Asset Management strategy. The figure below summarizes the maturity categories.

The next step is to conduct on-site condition evaluations while considering and maintaining goals set forth in master planning strategies. This helps each organization create an inventory of their assets. Each area evaluated is then rated and a roadmap is developed that charts specific actions. Roadmap recommendations may include: training for O & M workforce, facility commissioning and/or retro-commissioning to create maintenance strategies for new and existing facilities, building system monitoring for real-time performance feedback, and/or implementation of a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) and Sustainment Management System (SMS). [Note: A CMMS records, manages, and communicates the day-to-day operations, while a SMS is a decision support tool to forecast the aging of systems to determine best scenarios for investments to prolong remaining service life.] The full breadth of an Asset Management framework that can be provided is illustrated below. 

Guiding Concept
Asset Management is the powerful approach to evaluating component degradation while balancing financial inputs for asset maintenance or replacement. It ensures the longest service life and brings the best and highest value to the organization. Every element and aspect of the built environment experiences degradation over time, so it is vital for organizations to know when to apply maintenance to components or when to replace them in order to reduce the impact of degradation to the overall condition of the built environment and the organization itself. To illustrate this point, refer to the graph below. After a component is installed, its degradation is slow at first, but it then accelerates as time progresses. The organization can apply maintenance to the component to extend the lifespan. However, maintenance will only extend the life of the component for a finite amount of time before total rehabilitation or replacement is needed. Asset Management helps map out the best scenario(s) for the most beneficial time(s) to apply maintenance or rehab that align with the organization’s financial capacities and budget capabilities. 

For example, referring again to the figure above, when a roof is installed, it will show little aging for the first 10-15 years as illustrated by the blue line. After that point, the performance of the roof will begin to degrade more rapidly. If a coating or other maintenance strategy is applied to the roof at 15 years from the date of original installation (blue dot), it could extend the life of the roof for another 5-10 years before rehabilitation is needed as demonstrated by the blue-gray line. The green line demonstrates a complete replacement of the roof at year twenty. This model, of course, impacts plans and budgets, creating opportunities to contend with and balance against other degrading components through the built environment.

Next Steps
Would you like to know more information about Asset Management and how it can help you optimize financial inputs? Contact the Asset Management specialists at Farnsworth Group to help map out your Asset Management strategy. Call Scott Burge at 217.352.4169 or email him at



















Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Importance of Interior Design

 How much time does the average American spend indoors during a typical week?  Studies show on average, Americans spend approximately 90% of their time indoors.   With spending such a significant number of hours in doors there has been a number of counter studies.  These counter studies evaluate how the built environment affects an individual’s overall health and well-being in a variety of different sectors of interiors spaces.  With this information employers and building owners are becoming increasingly aware how this can affect the bottom line.  There has been a substantial amount of research related to proper design improving student performance, contribution to quicker recovery time in hospitals, higher sales in retail markets, and more productivity in the working environment.  The focus of proper design in these spaces and how it affects the general public is an important aspect to create healthy functional spaces for the present and future population.
Registered interior designers specialize in creating these indoor environments.  An interior designer may focus their ability in a specific field including residential, commercial, sustainable design, healthcare, retail, education, hospitality, federal, historical, or assisted living; just to name a few.  Designers work with local and federal jurisdiction to establish the level of code compliance, product and interior build-out features, furniture, and equipment needed in order to pass code established by these jurisdictions. Designers work closely with the client to establish a design aesthetic layout the function and programming requirements of the space.  Interior designers coordinate with the architects, engineers, product vendors, and contractors to keep projects on schedule and within budget.  The coordination and communication between client, designer, architect and contractor assists with a smooth and successful project build-out.
Aesthetics play a major role in a successful design; professionals must be knowledgeable in design theories in order to create an aesthetically pleasing space.  Harmony and balance of patterns and architectural elements only a practiced designer can accomplish in an environment which has not been built yet. Designers are able to anticipate how people will feel in and move through an indoor environment and therefore effectively function in the environment.  Many use a systematic and coordinated methodology that involves the integration of research, analysis and knowledge into the creative process.  In addition to the design theories interior designers use within the built environment, they also have a keen understanding of product manufacture process and chemical make-up of interior basis products and substrates.  Specific indoor environments require different levels of needs as it pertains to maintenance, acoustics, and longevity, anti-microbial, cost, fast-tracked, or chemical resistant’s.  All of these items are taken into consideration when making selections for an indoor environment and a registered interior designer is well versed in all of these aspects of design.
In truth, a building can be built without an interior designer but an environment cannot be created without one.  With so many studies showing the pros and positive outcomes of hiring a professional interior designer one could see were the payoff would be.  Historically speaking an interior designer role first emerged in France around the Renaissance in order to coordinate all of the interior finishes.  The idea still stays the same but with the specialty needs of many areas and the technology of product changes every day it is a designer's job to achieve the following goals: 
  • Work with jurisdiction and understand life and safety goals of the building as well as the classification of the product needed for the particular build out. 
  • Have a knowledge base of the building function and the level of maintenance, proper product placement and location.
  • Work with the client on the vision and function in which the space is to make. 
  • Find and selection product which will meet and exceed all items stated above. 
  • Lastly, have knowledge based in all related fields such as architecture, landscape, electrical, and mechanical so communication can happen smoothly to have a coordinated and well defined design.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Discovering the Origin of Bananas - Urban Agriculture Reconnects Our Community to the Food that Sustains Us

By: Edward J. Barry Jr. • Principal and Jeff Martin • Landscape Architectural Manager

In celebration of National Peace Corps Day several moons ago, I made a presentation to a delightfully rambunctious bunch of elementary school children in Kewanee, Illinois. Naturally, I waxed fondly and passionately on the importance of serving one’s fellow man, and on the value of experiencing the rich cultures outside the boundaries of our American shores. Toward the end of my presentation, I held up a banana (which had been a staple food in all its many forms in East Africa’s Uganda where I had served), and asked if anyone knew where this delightful and nutritious fruit came from. Without skipping a beat, a particularly earnest young man rose to his feet and firmly stated that “Bananas come from Wal-Mart!”

This experience has stayed with me through the intervening years. The earnest young man in that classroom was no doubt trying to be clever and just a bit snarky, too. But he was also revealing the fact that beyond the modern-day grocery store where most of us in the developed world purchase our daily sustenance, he had no idea about the origin of bananas, or their rich botanical history and complexity.

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.