Wheels of change in South Africa

12/14/2010 - More than 9 million South African children walk to school every day. Three million walk for more than an hour, and in the rural countryside, some walk more than four hours. “It's madness,” says Louis de Waal (M.S.’72 CEE), who grew up in rural South Africa and spent his professional life designing and building thousands of kilometers of roads there, many of which opened up inaccessible places deep in the country's interior. Now retired, De Waal is on a mission to improve mobility for all South Africans, especially in rural areas. The goal, says the 73-year-old Cape Town resident, is to keep children in school and help adults reach work more easily, ultimately easing poverty and slowing the flood of people forced to move to urban areas for work.

Earthquake symposium on risk of collapsing buildings stirs some controversy

12/1/2010 Los Angeles Times - Structural engineers gather at UCLA Wednesday to talk about the threat from and economic impact of building collapse in an earthquake. Jack Moehle, a professor at UC Berkeley's Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center, comments on building codes, safety and lessons learned from this year's 8.8 earthquake in Chile.

Flight delays cost more than just time

11/4/2010 - Domestic flight delays put a $32.9 billion dent in the U.S. economy, and about half that cost is borne by airline passengers, according to a study led by UC Berkeley researchers and released last month. The comprehensive report analyzed flight delay data from 2007 to calculate the economic impact on both airlines and passengers, including the cost of lost demand and the collective impact of these costs on the U.S. economy. The report was commissioned by the Federal Aviation Administration to clarify key discrepancies in earlier studies.

Singapore launches new CREATE research center with UC Berkeley

10/20/2010 Nan Yang Technological University - The National Research Foundation announced today the addition of two new research centers to the CREATE (Campus for Research Excellence And Technological Enterprise) program. UC Berkeley's program will conduct research on "Building Efficiency and Sustainability in the Tropics." Professor S. Shankar Sastry, dean of engineering at UC Berkeley, said, "The M3 (Measuring, Modelling and Mitigation) agenda for energy consumption of new and existing buildings represents an exciting fusion of some of the most novel emerging technologies."

Overestimate fueled state's landmark diesel law

10/8/2010 San Francisco Chronicle - California grossly miscalculated pollution levels in a scientific analysis used to toughen the state's clean-air standards, and scientists have spent the past several months revising data and planning a significant weakening of the landmark regulation. The problem, and the revised counting method, came to light after Robert Harley, a UC Berkeley professor of environmental engineering, and a colleague at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory did their own evaluation, which was published in December in the journal Atmospheric Environment. Harley found that the board's estimates of nitrous oxide were too high by a factor of 4.5 and its estimate of particulate matter was off by a factor of 3.1, an extraordinarily high amount to be off scientifically. "The difference is large enough that it changes policy," Harley said.

Think globally, surf locally

10/5/2010 - Modern surfboards are made with polyurethane foam, fiberglass and epoxy resin, decidedly unromantic and toxic petrochemicals that can harm workers and the environment during manufacture, then languish in landfills at the end of their life. Many manufacturers are making surfboards greener by switching to natural materials. They're doing the right thing, right? Not necessarily, says 26-year-old Tobias Schultz (M.S.'10 ME), a lightly tanned, blond-ponytailed Santa Cruz native who just graduated with his mechanical engineering master's and a certificate in Engineering and Business for Sustainability. He is also the author of an extensive study on the carbon footprint of the surfing lifestyle.

Are batteries bad for the environment?

9/15/2010 Discovery News - The wireless world we live in runs on batteries. That fancy smart phone is nothing more than a few ounces of dead weight in your pocket without a charged battery. But are we paying a high environmental price for all of this battery-operated convenience? "We take into account environmental impact because there is, to a significant degree, a battery recycling industry out there, [and] there are now conferences that deal with nothing but environmental impact and recycling of used batteries," said Elton Cairns, a rechargeable battery and fuel cell expert at UC Berkeley.

Fremont, Livermore have Bay Area's highest risk gas pipelines

9/14/2010 San Jose Mercury News - PG&E's highest-risk gas pipelines in the Bay Area are in the East Bay, according to a regulatory filing last year. The risk was ranked by combining the likelihood they would fail and the consequences to life and property if they did fail. Typically, engineers consider the population density of communities, the age of the pipelines and other factors, such as nearby earthquake faults, when assessing pipeline risk, said Bob Bea, a professor of engineering at UC Berkeley who has worked extensively on natural gas and oil pipelines.

PG&E involved in many gas line breaks in state

9/11/2010 San Francisco Chronicle - Eleven of the incidents on PG&E pipelines in the last 10 years were caused by other people digging into buried lines they didn't know were there. "Someone's doing construction on a site, they may or may not have called PG&E, they're working with a backhoe, they snag the pipeline, and then all it takes is a little ignition source," said Kofi Inkabi, a postdoctoral researcher at UC Berkeley's Center for Catastrophic Risk Management.

World Bank appoints clean energy "czar"

9/9/2010 Reuters - The World Bank has appointed Daniel Kammen, an energy professor at the University of California, Berkeley, as chief technical specialist for renewable energy and energy efficiency. Kammen will lead its efforts to foster growth of alternative energy programs in developing countries. The position was created amid unprecedented demand from developing countries for support to address development and climate change as interlinked challenges, the bank said