The latest news and events from the desk ofND's editor.

Looking at the Future of the Construction Industry

The construction owner community is responding to changing economic conditions by looking to service providers for more comprehensive support across the entire building lifecycle. That’s the main conclusion to be gleaned from the “Tenth Annual Survey of Owners,” conducted by FMI Corp. and the Construction Management Association of America.

Among the key findings is an increasing reliance on outsourcing across all project phases but particularly in later stages: “Program activation/commissioning, and operations and maintenance, demonstrate a 60 percent and 30 percent acceleration in outsource use respectively,” the survey report states. FMI views the increasing use of tools such as lean practices, building information modeling, and integrated project delivery as ways to facilitate the outsourcing of construction activity.

According to Mark Bridgers, principal with FMI Corp. and author of the report, “Owners are outsourcing more work, and more kinds of work, and they expect this trend to continue. In particular, owners are seeking outside support for program activation and ongoing operations and maintenance activities, but the increase in outsourcing will embrace all phases, beginning in pre-design.”

Between 2009 and 2014, owners expect to attach significantly more importance to the following areas:
  • Selecting the most effective project delivery system.

  • Maintenance management support in both process and technologies.

  • Proactive strategies to avoid claims and disputes.

  • Development and use of a construction management plan.

  • Effective documentation and processes designed to support facility commissioning or turnover.
Owners also were asked to identify the values or areas in which they feel the most need for improvement among specific groups of service providers. They identified team coordination above all, ranking this value first for every group or firm type, with the lone exception of labor/unions, for which knowledge transfer and safe workplace were the most frequently mentioned.

“A variety of services or functions viewed as relatively unimportant today will gain significantly in perceived importance by 2014,” the report says. “These emerging key areas reinforce the survey’s overall finding that owners are seeking a more holistic approach to their construction.” Among the largest “gainers” are factors related to ongoing maintenance and applications of new technologies to provide effective maintenance management.

Geothermal Drilling Research Effort

Oak Ridge National Laboratory has received $1.65 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Geothermal Technologies Program to develop ultra-hard, wear-resistant nano-composite stainless steel coatings and bulk components to target increasing the lifetime of drill tooling in harsh geothermal environments and decrease overall costs.

Materials designed with the rigors of geothermal drilling in mind (the goal of this project) can improve drilling rates, decrease downtime, decrease costs and allow for more latitude in site selection. Previous studies have shown that if the penetration rate and lifetime of the bits in drill heads were doubled, the overall well costs would decrease by 15 percent.

When compared to most oil and gas drilling, geothermal well drilling frequently encounters harder and denser rock formations (with granite and fractured quartz crystals) with higher temperatures. The increased wear, in combination with the corrosive effects of drilling fluids, sulfur, chlorine and other aggressive constituents found in the rock, lead to reduced lifetimes of drill heads and bits. Low cost, wear/corrosion-resistant tool materials are needed to resist the combined failure modes of wear, impact and corrosion found in geothermal drilling operations. Conventional drill heads (roller or drag) use either WC (tungsten carbide) or PDC (polycrystalline diamond compact) for the drill bits. WC bits suffer from low penetration rates and short bit life; PDC bits are expensive, and are subject to impact damage and thermal degradation.

The probability of a drill head failure increases as the well depth increases, and reducing this probability will significantly decrease the frequency of these costly replacements. The objective of this project is to reduce the corrosion and wear of the steel tool heads, and thereby protect the integrity of the attachment of the bits to the head. These methods can be applied to any drilling operation.

Geothermal Loop Installer Course

The American Ground Water Trust is presenting a 2-day geothermal vertical loop installer course detailing how to install these systems using the most appropriate and efficient industry-accepted methods. Tuition is $300;  it covers study materials, lunch and ClimateMaster’s “Drillers Installation Kit.”

Dates and locations:
  • Feb. 9-10 in Tampa, Fla.

  • Feb. 16-17 in Asheville, N.C.

  • Feb. 23-24 in Columbia, S.C.

  • Mar. 23-24 in Chicago

  • April 6-7 in Louisville, Ky.

  • April 13-14 in Minneapolis
Get full details and register at

Schramm to Host Geothermal Training Course and Rig School

Drilling rig manufacturer Schramm Inc. will sponsor and host the IGSPHA Drillers Training Course PLUS Feb. 22-24 at the Schramm factory, located in West Chester, Pa. The course will be followed by an optional in-depth Schramm School on Operation, Maintenance and Safety of Geothermal Rigs Feb. 25-26. 

Course instructor Todd Giddings, an IGSPHA-accredited trainer, will explain geothermal drilling opportunities for your company, and help you better understand how to enter or grow in the geothermal industry, get geothermal jobs, and make money drilling geothermal boreholes. By taking this enhanced 3-day course and passing the open-book exam, attendees will become IGSPHA-accredited vertical loop installers.

Seating is limited. To register for one or both sessions, call Giddings at 814-238-5927 or Schramm at 610-696-2500, or visit or for further details.

We've Got Mail: Semitropic Responds

Semitropic Water Storage District wishes to respond to your November 17, 2009, article entitled “Court Halts Unlicensed Drilling by Public Entity” (posted online at

The article concerned the case ofCalifornia Groundwater Association v. Semitropic Water Storage District,in which the appellate court found that Semitropic, as a public agency, was not exempt from Section 13750.5 of the California Water Code. That section requires any person who drills a well to have what is known as a C-57 license.

Semitropic is entrusted by the state of California with the development of underground water resources. We take this responsibility extremely seriously. We undertake numerous precautions when drilling our wells, and drilling is always closely supervised by a highly qualified team of civil engineers, hydro geologists and consulting engineers.

Semitropic also retained a C-57 licensed contractor prior to the association filing its lawsuit, which the court confirmed satisfied the requirements of Section 13750.5.

In addition, the association filed an injunction against Semitropic seeking to have all well drilling suspended. The trial court denied that injunction, and the association did not challenge the court’s decision. Semitropic has never been ordered to halt drilling wells.

We wanted to call this to your readers’ attention in case they were left with the notion that Semitropic was, or is, putting California’s valuable water resources in jeopardy. As our record will attest, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Thanks for the opportunity to respond.

William Boschman
Semitropic Water Storage District
Wasco, Calif.