So little time….

Well, I’m struggling to get a blog post out a day at the moment, is it the beautiful weather we’ve been experiencing, or the out of control construction season and workload that seems to grow bigger by the day? Or is it that we’ve been enjoying the natural beauty of the Kootenays and lots of outdoor activities?

I’ll let you decide from the following images throughout the newsletter, more news after the jump…

Wild Colours

Summer is here and that’s a good thing!

Professional Endeavors

Having been quoted and featured in two local newspapers, I’m quite the celebrity in town, particularly seeing one of the papers misheard my name as “Mark” rather than “Mike”, something about the Australian accent I guess. But really, I’m feeling pretty comfortable in our new environment, building relationships with Councils, contractors, suppliers, authorities and other consultants. Working for one of the best Civil Engineering companies in the Kootenays, Robyn and I are placed well to meet lots of interesting people, and find ways to use our skills. We are getting known around the region too, with friends asking us to assist in small jobs, subdivision planning, structural modifications, site grading and planning out landscaping and driveways.  As one of my online inspirational mentors, Scott Ginsberg wrote just the other day, (speaking of Companies, but the same applies to people)….

HELLO, my name is BLOG!: Do people hear FROM you or ABOUT you?

However, when customers hear ABOUT you, it’s usually via:

  • Articles about you.
  • Articles quoting you.
  • Someone else’s blog.
  • Conversation about you.
  • Email recommendations.

Which usually means:

  1. Value has been given.
  2. Positive reputation = credibility.
  3. Instead of selling, you’re enabling people to buy.

AND THE BEST PART: you probably spent ZERO BUCKS (and MINIMAL MINUTES) to accomplish those three things.

The question then becomes, what’s your marketing plan? And again Scott has a good answer that is relevant to his industry, (writing books and speaking engagements). So that’s got me thinking tangentially as usual about how I can market my latest ideas, more on that later.


Subdivision Design and Consulting

The work keeps piling up, with another two subdivisions to be detailed designed and built this summer, just within my projects! At the moment I’m running two or three technicians on these jobs, a construction supervisor, as well as designing stormwater networks for all of the subdivisions being designed in the company. I even have Robyn working on a small municipal design job for me at night. A lot of my work is less traditional Civil Engineering design, instead more Project, Design and Construction Management, which I quite enjoy.

I have had two more inquiries recently about developing parcels of land in the region; thankfully the owners have an appropriate time frame in mind, one that allows us to get some prep work done before the snow flies, then working on layouts over the winter for submission to the authorities for comment.

Professional Engineer Status in Canada

It feels funny not being a qualified engineer, I better just get in and sort out all the paperwork. As a result, I’ve started making inquiries as to the requirements in my circumstances, to become a Professional Engineer in BC, Canada. As I have the required experience, it seems pretty straight forward, work history, references, professional practice exam, and one year under a Canadian Registered Professional Engineer. It looks like I’ll be doing the Professional Practice Exam in October.

Business Matters

Now the fun part… I’ve been talking with a design software company that is used in the survey, design and drafting of subdivision, roads, pipes, and municipal infrastructure works. There may be an opportunity to start a business as a local or even Canadian distributor for these products. I have to look at the viability of it all as a business prospect, but it is pretty exciting at this stage, and may form a part of my working week in the near future.

Bright Lilies III

Recent Sustainability News


I love coffee, and anyone who sees me before my morning brew knows that a sustainable solution to getting the java from the machine to my mouth is a good thing for everyone…

So, for the longest time, we’ve been waiting for someone to solve this egregious situation. Thankfully, the answer has come from International Paper and Green Mountain Coffee. Their 100% biodegradable hot beverage cup has just won the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s 2007 Sustainability Award. The “Ecotainer™ cup” has a liner made from corn instead of petrochemicals. In a blind trial test of more than 5 million cups, not one customer noticed anything “different” about the corn-based cups from the regular variety.

Attention Coffee Shops: The Biodegradable Hot Beverage Cup Is Here | – Start Today :: Save Tomorrow

Design Innovation

Innovation doesn’t have to be all sparkly and smooth, like the much bespoken iPhone, (note this is the only reference to that gadget that you’ll read on this blog, I’m sorry!). Check out this photo set of designs for the other 90%spacer

Kenya Ceramic Jiko

Design for the Other 90% – a photoset on Flickr

Home Efficiency

One of the coolest “inventions” I’ve seen in the past few years is the Enertia house. The Enertia house is a log home that is built to create its own environment inside the house.  This is done by building double walls of a certain type of wood that allows geothermal energy to circulate throughout the house while the wood regulates the temperature of the air by holding in heat and then releasing it at night.

A Home You Don’t Need to Heat or Cool |


Nothing wrong with our tap water…

It’s worth reiterating that Aquafina and Dasani are just tap water. There’s nothing wrong with that, since tap water is very good water — it’s just not worth paying 500 times as much for. I don’t have any argument against the convenience factor, either, since it makes perfect sense to take water with you when you’re on the go. You’ll just get something that’s got less bacteria and generally better quality if you fill your bottle from your tap.

Anil Dash: Bottled Water Is Still A Scam

and Fast Company’s take on it is really worth a read…

Bottled water has become the indispensable prop in our lives and our culture. It starts the day in lunch boxes; it goes to every meeting, lecture hall, and soccer match; it’s in our cubicles at work; in the cup holder of the treadmill at the gym; and it’s rattling around half-finished on the floor of every minivan in America.

Message in a Bottle – Bottled Water – Luxury Water – Mineral Water – Fast Company


Recent Urban Design News

Active Neighborhoods

This type of research is being supported all around the world…

Attractive neighbourhoods that are short distances from parks, open space or coastlines provide opportunities for physical activity, while neighbourhoods designed around cul-de-sacs present a barrier to exercise, the study shows…

“Urban designers need to take into account the benefits of walking and other forms of active transport to help improve physical activity levels,” Garrett concluded.

Scoop: Urban design impacts physical activity levels


LEED for Neighborhoods has been doing the rounds on the blogs and in the news…

…the USGBC has introduced a “LEED for Neighborhood Design” pilot program. The LEED-ND rating system was developed in concert with the Congress for the New Urbanism and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Aside from certain requirements – smart location, street and sidewalk connectivity, avoiding sensitive habitats – a LEED certified neighborhood will also have to attain a certain number of points by reducing automobile dependence, locating near existing housing and jobs, managing stormwater throughout the neighborhood, or offering diverse housing types.

The LEED-ND program is only in its pilot phase for now, while a few test cases go through the certification process to evaluate its impact and areas for improvement.

The Vigorous North: Certified Green Neighborhoods


California is pioneering what could be the next battleground against global warming: filing suit to hold cities and counties accountable for greenhouse gas emissions caused by poorly planned suburban sprawl.

The unprecedented action is being closely watched by states that have taken aggressive steps to combat climate change — including New York, Massachusetts and Washington.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown has sued San Bernardino County, the USA’s largest in land area and one of the fastest growing, for failing to account for greenhouse gases when updating its 25-year blueprint for growth.

Calif. sees sprawl as warming culprit –

Summer Sky

Sustainability Around the Home

We are in the middle of summer and today felt the brunt of a 38 degree day, (our inside thermostat reached 29.2 degrees). As part of our greening of our home, we wanted to improve the thermal efficiency, and aim for solutions that improve both the summer heat, and the winter cold.

Our first two projects are window coverings. We have a number of windows that have little or no covering, so Robyn is going to get creative and sew us some drapes or blinds of some description, (maybe I’ll live blog the process!). The next ones a re a bit trickier, we have two skylights that I want to insulate. There are lots of fancy covers and shades, for inside and out, but I’m settling for a type of interior shade.

Balcony skylight shades use the same insulating honeycomb fabric as our regular shades, but glide in side tracks to stay in place. A Polycarbonate Track System provides superior insulation and light blocking.

balcony skylight shades

We have a delivery point just over the border, where we can get things shipped to from within the states, so I’m getting two of these units ordered to my measurements, and we’ll run down and pick them up next week.

Recent Posts on UrbanWorkbench

…that you might enjoy…

Brilliant Dam Panorama

Parting Note

I’m a big advocate in simplicity of design, I like roundabouts, I like minimalist infrastructure, I like simple swale stormwater systems, and I love the idea of removing as many street signs as possible…

“The profileration of signs, barriers and crossings could be making our streets more dangerous,” Ms Gaventa said.

“We’re not suggesting that removing them all is the answer. But for too long we’ve been designing streets for traffic; they’ve become noisy, congested and cluttered, with people herded behind traffic barriers, ostensibly for their own benefit.

“Solving the problems of speeding and pedestrian safety doesn’t mean more and more signs telling you to slow down and more protective barriers, it requires clever design thinking.”

Councils urged to declutter England’s streets | Local Government |


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Published by Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada.