Water is a scarce resource for many worldwide. The United Nations has designated today, March 22nd, as World Water Day to raise awareness of the billions of people—about 3 in 10—living without safe water. As earth science professionals, this message strikes a chord with Aspect staff who spend many of our work hours towards helping clients find, produce, and manage water. Supporting NGO goals – like the UN’s “water for all by 2030” – is important to us. Whether it’s organizations like UN or Engineers Without Borders USA, please join us in learning more about these worthy causes.
In the earth science consulting world, our work is innately photogenic. Stream gauging at a quiet bend in the river. Installing new pin piles at a pier on a scenic city waterfront. Even the “grimy” photos, like well sampling at a contaminated site, provoke interest and fascination. Staff take pictures to document their technical work and those same photos are the lifeblood of firm branding and storytelling. However, Aspect’s marketing team, tasked with telling our firm’s story, can struggle with harvesting high-quality visuals. The photos are out there, yet they may be buried in forgotten file locations or staff’s work phones. Just asking “Have you got any good pictures?” yields scattershot results, which often then means reusing the same tired photos again and again.
So, a year ago, our marketing group decided that we needed a better way to consistently draw out quality photos. What better incentive than a friendly contest?
I love it, it gives me glimpse to what our field people are up to, since I am in the office 100% of the time and not a field person, I envy them the fun they have when in gorgeous location in beautiful weather and not so much when they are bundled in the snow and rain.
- Mirka Ramsey, Accounting Lead
The Idea: Prizes and Public Recognition
We started with a weekly raffle, awarding tickets to all contributors and bonus tickets for the week’s best photos – all leading up to a cash prize drawing and winners that we celebrated at quarterly firm-wide meetings. After the first call for entries, staff responded with 54 pictures. Where had these all been hiding?
If we had only received those first 50 photos, that would have been a modest success. However, we were surprised and amazed that the photos kept coming week after week. We knew we had something special when, at the first quarter’s staff meeting, the photo contest became a highlight. It turned the meeting into an informal art exhibit, where the employees and their beautiful, funny, and, often times, poetic snapshots of field and office life were the stars of the show. The idea continued to gather steam and, by the end of the year, we’d received over 1,100 photos.
It’s awesome! I love seeing the work that other folks are doing. I think it improves our company culture: gives us something to talk about with staff we might not interact with otherwise, and also gives me a better sense of pride in some of the work that I’m doing when I share my photos.
- Hannah McDonough, Staff Geologist
One thousand photos later, if there’s one general takeaway, it’s that being curious and asking staff what they are working on—and learning what they’re excited about—is always worthwhile. The photos gave our marketing team materials to help tell Aspect’s story, but also delivered an unexpected benefit: they shone a light on firm culture. Over the photo contest’s first year, we found that:
The field staff’s photos remind everyone of the aesthetics of working in environmental consulting – they are outdoors a lot in both beautiful settings and grimy conditions. It’s a way to appreciate the beauty and commiserate when things are grim.
It’s not just about the projects. We got many photos of what staff are doing outside of work –biking trails, climbing mountains, running races, vacationing in places sunnier than the Pacific Northwest.
Sharing our work brings staff of all levels together around firm culture and put names to faces before people may have met in person.
Aspect staff are now in the field, at industry functions, or just in the office, with an eye out for photo opportunities.
Submitting on a regular basis helps keep taking photos in the front of my mind so I have more photos of my projects which helps when putting together reports. I enjoy seeing others as it gives insight into what the rest of the company is up to. I often get a sense of a “can-do” attitude mixed with people enjoying what they are doing.
- Bryan Berkompas, Senior Hydrologist
A Hub for Storytelling
As the photo contest enters Year Two, the marketing team now has an established source of photos to illustrate our work in proposals and spotlight our culture for recruiting. Field staff have told us that taking photos helps them with their project work and report writing. And everyone enjoys seeing what our colleagues are up to and takes pride in our collective work.
Follow our photographers on Aspect’s Instagram page.
The Daily Journal of Commerce takes a look inside Mt. Baker Housing Association’s pioneering affordable housing work in South Seattle. Aspect, overseeing the environmental effort for the MBHA team, continues to drive the idea of brownfield sites as unique opportunities for affordable housing – including the 160+ unit Maddux project and the 350+ unit Grand Street Commons project.
Learn more: www.aspectconsulting.com/affordablehousing
Senior Hydrologist James Packman recently presented to “Planning as a Profession,” a senior-level urban planning class in the College of the Built Environment at the University of Washington. The nearly 30 students come from different majors and career trajectories—among them are future architects, landscape architects, city planners, urban designers, real estate professionals, construction managers, engineers, environmental scientists, and more.
James’ presentation, entitled “Environmental Skills, Water Resources, and Urban Planning,” gave a holistic view of environmental considerations in urban planning—from the skills and interests that lead a person to the profession and the different disciplines working in the industry to the laws and regulations that drive project design, permitting, and building and examples of water-focused planning. His overarching message focused on interdisciplinary skills, and he gave examples of Aspect projects where collaboration between disciplines was vital to address the environmental elements.
For example, the Waypoint Park project along Bellingham’s shoreline incorporated coastal geology, hydrogeology, stormwater management, civil and geotechnical engineering, landscape architecture, habitat restoration ecology, and more to reclaim a contaminated former industrial site to an urban waterfront park.
James also introduced the practical side of business consulting, or how people and firms pursue and win public work, and walked students through the Request for Qualifications / Request for Proposals process. His key message for being on winning teams is that it requires networking in and outside of one’s discipline and forging relationships with public agency staff to learn their needs.
He ended by going over a homework assignment about the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) checklist process and its key role in urban planning projects. The homework reinforced the variety of environmental disciplines—geology, hydrology, archeology, botany, wildlife biology, engineering, and more—along with professional skills—technical reading comprehension, writing, project management, public speaking, quantitative analysis, and more—that are needed to complete the checklist.
James will present to a new set of students when he returns to the class in Spring Quarter 2019.
Aspect is routinely involved in helping inform State policy makers on implications of existing and proposed legislation. Our staff track and comment on existing legislation, help our clients propose new legislation, and interact with State agencies as they propose and shape new water policy. Aspect’s Dan Haller was asked in the summer of 2018 to provide a presentation on mitigation projects and mitigation sequencing to the Washington State Joint Legislative “Water Mitigation Task Force”. This Task Force is charged with evaluating how the law could be changed to adopt mitigation standards for water projects where water-for-water cannot be supplied for a project in-time and in-place. Often the “in-time” component of mitigation is the most challenging element as supply and demand are hard to match perfectly.
Dan speaks about several mitigation projects Aspect staff have worked on in recent years, including:
Town of Twisp / Methow Valley Irrigation District, which paired an irrigation project rehabilitation with water banking to offset growth in the Town for the next 20 years.
Lake Roosevelt Drawdown, which re-operates Grand Coulee Dam by 1 foot making that supply available for agricultural reliability, instream flow, and municipal use.
Kittitas County Consumptive Use Pilot, which seeks to clarify the exact nature and magnitude of indoor domestic use.
Chelan County Alluvial Storage Pilot, which seeks to engineer natural storage log jams to retime water from spring to summer.
Check out the video of Dan’s presentation below.
Taking advantage of a day out of the office during our Seattle office move, the Aspect Community Team (ACT) partnered with Stewardship Partners and Carnation Farms to help with their ongoing riparian restoration efforts along the Snoqualmie River. It was a sunny, beautiful October day, and the fall colors were rich throughout the valley. Eleven employees make the trek to Carnation and spent a few hours planting shrubs and trees including western red cedar, snowberry, salmonberry, and cottonwoods. We had help from four stewardship partner field crew who also placed cottonwood stakes among the trees and shrubs.
Why Carnation Farms? A brief history:
In 1908, the first 360 acres of farmland were purchased, and Carnation Farms was created. Now the farm totals 818 acres and includes an 8-acre organic garden, educational programs, event space, hiking trails, and is bordered by a stretch of the Snoqualmie River. A byproduct of the agricultural growth in the region was the destruction of the natural riparian ecosystems along the river throughout the valley. Stewardship Partners has been working with Carnation Farms to restore the habitat along the Snoqualmie River as a component to their adopt-a-buffer program.
Why is riparian habitat restoration important?
Planting native trees and shrubs is the primary component of restoration and maintenance of healthy riparian ecosystems. As Stewardship Partners explains, the strips of native trees and shrubs provide cooling shade, control erosion and provide habitat for hundreds of fish and wildlife species. Trees and shrubs actively absorb air pollution throughout their lifetime, storing carbon and fighting climate change.
What is the impact of a half-day of service?
In about 3-4 hours of diligent work we planted 960 shrubs, trees, and stakes across approximately 0.5 acres of riparian habitat along the Snoqualmie River. This effort would have taken at least a week without the ACT volunteers. Stewardship Partners will do some maintenance the area and in about a year we should be able to see if our efforts truly take root.
Previous and ongoing ACTivities and service projects:
Aspect has partnered with Stewardship Partners previously for the design and installation of the Carnation Elementary School raingarden. The raingarden installation is part of a greater 12,000 Rain Gardens effort, and Aspect is also in coordination for another volunteer raingarden project! Stewardship Partners has been a great organization to work with and Aspect is a proud supporter-- pro-bono technical design, education and consulting services, volunteer labor, and funding.
Associate Data Scientist Parker Wittman and Senior Geospatial Data Scientist Blair Deaver will be on a panel — “The Art of the Helpful GIS Presentation” — this Thursday at NWGIS 2018 in Bremerton. The four-person panel presents on tips and techniques to deliver a GIS presentation at a conference or at the office. Parker will discuss ways to improve the delivery of a presentation and Blair will present on tips to master a successful technical demonstration.
ESRI President Jack Dangermond is giving the highly anticipated keynote speech at this year’s conference on the future of GIS.
As we near 20 years in business, Aspect has moved its Seattle office to a new address and bigger space in Seattle’s iconic Dexter Horton building. Our expanding client base and growing staff—now over 100 strong across seven offices in Washington and Oregon—is driving the move.
“The Pacific Northwest is thriving and so is the demand for our earth and water services,” says Tim Flynn, Aspect’s President. “This move represents the culmination of almost two decades of upward growth driven by clients in the Seattle market and throughout the Pacific Northwest.”
The Dexter Horton building—located in the heart of Seattle—has a combination of grand architectural aesthetic with innovative modern features. The 1926 building is a historical landmark as well as LEED Gold-certified. Aspect’s office on the 5th floor was designed intentionally to provide clients and staff with a variety of ways to collaborate, including open layout areas and comfortable meeting spaces.
Come visit us at 710 Second Ave, Suite 550, Seattle, WA 98104!
Aspect’s Curtis Nickerson and Bryan Berkompas recently participated in a Hackathon with The Nature Conservancy and Microsoft employees. The Hack for Good event focused on developing low-cost stormwater monitoring solutions that could identify pollutants and collect data in real time.
Over the past five years, we’ve seen the Bellingham Waterfront District transform from a contaminated industrial site to a striking new waterfront park. We’re proud to have had a hand in cleaning up the site and providing geotechnical and environmental consultation throughout the design, permitting, and construction of the project. This included providing geotechnical design recommendations for siting of the 400,000-pound industrial acid ball tank turned public art piece titled “Waypoint”.
Congratulations to the City of Bellingham on your beautiful park!
Read more about the history of the park, the status of the waterway, and what’s next for the adjacent properties in this great Bellingham Herald article.
Today, the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce (DJC) published a great overview of the new Washington State Healthy Housing Program and the inspiration for the program - Mt. Baker Housing's $55 million Maddux project. Check it out.
Does your firm want help turning brownfields into affordable units?
Ecology wants to offer grants to get brownfields cleaned up and reused, and is seeking applications from developers until Saturday.
By BENJAMIN MINNICK
Journal Construction Editor
There are thousands of blighted properties across the state that could be redeveloped to create more affordable housing, but contamination on these sites has mostly kept developers at bay.
Now the state and its consultants are testing a way to get more of these sites developed. The Healthy Housing Remediation Program provides grants to help affordable housing developers build on brownfields.
The departments of Ecology and Commerce created the program. To gauge interest, they are seeking applications from developers until Saturday. The list of firms that respond will be used to develop Ecology's 2019–21 cleanup budget plan and to demonstrate funding needs for the Legislature to consider during the 2019 session.
Dave Cook of Aspect Consulting, one of the consulting firms, said affordable housing developers face high property costs, water rights issues and Growth Management Act restraints. He said this program will help fund remedial investigation studies and site cleanup to make blighted properties more attractive to developers.
The program was inspired by Mt. Baker Housing's $55 million Maddux project, which is slated for a site on South McClellan Street, east of Martin Luther King Jr. Way South and near the Mount Baker light rail station.
Maddux will have two buildings with 144 apartments that are affordable to people earning up to 60 percent of the area median income. Nearly half of the units will be “family-size,” with two- and three-bedroom layouts.
Mt. Baker Housing will use $6.2 million in state funds to clean up contamination from a gas station and dry cleaner. The nonprofit signed an agreement last year with Ecology that lays out the cleanup plan, and Ecology provided $400,000 for initial studies.
“We've been in the Mount Baker neighborhood a long time and these five properties always intrigued us — but we knew conventional options to develop the site were limited,” said Conor Hansen, director of real estate at Mt. Baker Housing, in a news release. “Once we learned about the opportunity to work with the Department of Ecology and play a part in creating a new innovative model, we believed this site would be the perfect candidate to clean up, develop and activate a prominent intersection that will serve as a catalyst for the neighborhood and provide much-needed affordable housing near light rail.”
In early 2017, the city designated the five properties as a Redevelopment Opportunity Zone, which allows state funds to flow directly to Mt. Baker Housing for remediation.
The parcels total about a half-acre.
Mt. Baker Housing aims to select a general contractor shortly, and break ground in late 2019 and open in early 2021. Other team members are architect Mithun, development consultant Beacon Development Group and acquisition lender Impact Capital.
Cook said it will be two months before all the data is available about the site contamination, but it's “very contaminated.”
Aspect and law firm Perkins Coie led the environmental team for Mt. Baker Housing, and worked with Ecology on the pilot program.
Cook said Aspect and Perkins Coie can help interested developers with the pilot program's application process.
Rocks have histories and their histories tell us stories.
This was the underlying theme of Aspect’s recent seminar on central Washington geology, led by esteemed experts Dr. Kathy Troost, LG, of Troost Geosciences and the University of Washington and Dr. Eric Cheney, Geology Professor Emeritus at UW. While topography alone makes clear the relevance of geology to the eastern Washington landscape, less sure is how the regional setting impacts the realm of projects—those distinct points on and below the ground where Aspect’s earth science and engineering work enters in.
Over two days in June, staff from across Aspect’s offices came together to learn about big-picture geology and earth processes related to 66 million years of local history, and then travel to the outcrops to see the deposits firsthand. Woven throughout were the contributions of each person’s unique experiences with geology and relevant insights from nearby project sites. Together, the balance provided each of us the tools to make sense of an otherwise complex landscape; a way to break it down into manageable pieces, put it back together, and learn what it has to tell.
As the Washington Boulevard landslide continues to move, it threatens to cut numerous Kingston residents off from the town and emergency responders.
Since a significant slide in 2006, Aspect has provided geotechnical services at Washington Boulevard, including gathering data and monitoring and studying movement along the slope. Recently, Kitsap County Public Works decided to implement a slope dewatering system to remove groundwater from the landslide mass and increase the stability of the hillside and roadway.
Aspect’s Andy Holmson provides some insight to the solution in this Kitsap Daily News article.
Tim Flynn and Dan Haller will both be presenting Friday April 27th at the AWWA ‘Just Add Water’ 2018 Section Conference in Tacoma. Friday morning, Tim’s presentation will focus on the City of Othello’s unique approach to source development by securing new supplies using irrigation canals, reclaimed water and ASR.
Aspect’s Andrew Austreng will be moderating the afternoon Water Resources technical session during which Dan Haller will be presenting an overview of water rights and water banking in WA.
Science and engineering insights fueled, managed, and clearly communicated through technology.
This sums up Aspect's successful client-focused approach since our inception in 2001. This year, we’ve enhanced the technology piece of this formula by adding three new staff, with over 10 years working together, focused on software development, technology integration, and geospatial data science. Chris Bellusci, Associate Business Systems Architect, and Blair Deaver, Senior Geospatial Data Scientist join Aspect’s recently opened Bend, Oregon office; and Mike Mills, Senior Project Software Developer, joins Aspect’s growing Portland, Oregon office.
These three will enhance Aspect’s already robust Data + Mapping services—helping our clients and project teams with solutions like map-integrated stormwater monitoring dashboards; environmental data management system design and integration; technology needs assessment and road-mapping; web map and GIS application development; integrated systems for mobile field data collection; and the development of machine learning-based approaches to basin-scale hydrology issues.
Data + Mapping Practice Lead and Aspect’s Director of Professional Services Parker Wittman explains the benefits to clients, “Chris, Blair, and Mike boost our core skills and add industry-leading, sought-after services like web development and cloud-based data management expertise,” Wittman said. “Reflecting the world at large, our clients will continue to seek out solutions that are interactive and mobile-platform friendly, that translate large amounts of data into scientific and business insights. These clients require teams that are analytical high-performers, who speak in the languages of business, regulation, earth science, and technology.”
Chris Bellusci recognizes Aspect as an emerging leader in the data science and mapping world. “Joining Aspect was a clear choice for us. They’ve always partnered their earth engineering and science experts with creative technologists focused on client satisfaction. The three of us (Bellusci, Deaver, and Mills) see a lot of potential to help Aspect’s growing client base,” Bellusci said. “The cloud and web tools we leverage can shrink project times and costs—for example turning a typically three-week monitoring report process into three days. Mountains of data that were tracked by hand previously can now be managed in the cloud and presented to decision makers in minutes instead of weeks.”
Chris has been working in the world of IT/software development, support, and product management for more than 20 years, with an educational background in Electrical Engineering. For the past 12 of those years, Chris has been helping clients plan for and build technology-driven solutions related to earth science problems. He is a seasoned project and client manager with a penchant for new business development.
Blair Deaver’s educational background is in Environmental Studies and GIS. His geospatial expertise is both broad (everything from open source GIS, scripting, mobile development, dev ops, data management, enterprise IT) and deep—he is a recognized Esri GIS expert and is Amazon Web Services certified. Blair is known for an incredibly nimble style of problem-solving, a trait that meshes well with Aspect’s overall approach to client services.
Mike Mills’s core expertise/background is in web and database development—he’s done everything from statistical analysis (writing custom kriging algorithms for in-browser spatial analyses) to mobile application development. He’s a full-stack developer with a decade of experience delivering solutions for earth science and engineering projects. Mike’s educational background is in Mathematics and Computer Science.
Chris, Blair, and Mike all joined Aspect from GeoEngineers, where they had previously worked as a team for the better part of 10 years. Together—with Associate Water Resources Engineer, John Warinner—Chris and Blair make up Aspect’s new Bend, Oregon office. With Mike joining Aspect’s growing Portland office as well, Aspect is continuing its earnest expansion into the Oregon earth + water market. The experts who are part of Aspect emerging Oregon presence service all the firm’s core practice areas—and are collectively a reflection of Aspect’s multidisciplinary approach.
For an interdisciplinary WWU course led by Dr. Ruth Sofield and focused on the Science and Management of Contaminated Sites (SMoCS), Aspect’s Steve Germiat and Kirsi Longley gave budding environmental consultants a look at what life and work is really like for professional environmental consultants.
To complement the students’ landfill RI/FS case study, Kirsi presented Aspect’s recent RI/FS work at a landfill in western Washington. The presentation focused on the scope of the investigation, the findings, including how volatile contaminants can transfer between landfill gas and groundwater, and how the findings were developed into recommendations for remedial alternatives. In addition to the scientific and technological challenges of environmental remediation, Steve and Kirsi addressed the nuts and bolts of a consultant’s role in the MTCA cleanup process, and the skills and attributes that enable a consultant to excel. Looking back on the presentation, Dr. Sofield said “Students benefit so much from interactions with Steve and Kirsi. To actually learn from a practitioner and see that classroom material has real application changes how students think about and participate in their education. It changes a lot for the students, including their intended career path.”
In collaboration with Washington State Department of Ecology Toxics Cleanup Program, WWU’s Huxley College of the Environment (Huxley) offers undergraduate students a course series in the Science and Management of Contaminated sites (SMoCS). The SMoCS series includes three courses that build knowledge of the contaminated site cleanup process in Washington State with an emphasis on how scientific investigations are conducted, use of the technical documents associated with cleanups, the roles of different parties in cleanup decisions, and enhanced professional skills. For more information on the program visit http://faculty.wwu.edu/harperr3/SMoCS.shtml.
Yup, that’s map making. Aspect's mapping team was nodding along to this touching Seattle Times story about a 106-year-old map-making business. We’ve had a Kroll map hanging in the office ever since Aspect’s early days for motivation and inspiration. It serves as an important reminder that you never know the longevity and influence the maps you create just might have, even the little details have to be just right.
Two recent articles in The Seattle Times explore how the Pacific Northwest's infrastructure will be affected by the next major earthquake.
Back in 2015, our very own Dave McCormack chimed in with his thoughts in response to the now infamous New Yorker story, The Really Big One.
On February 20 at Pyramid Alehouse in Seattle, join Aspect's Principal Geologist Dave Cook and other panelists for an Engineers Without Borders-hosted panel discussion on the role of engineering in international development.
If you are interested in international development and want to use your engineering skills to make a positive impact, please consider joining us. Our panel will consist of speakers from the following non-profit organizations that are devoted to using the tools of engineering, planning, and design in order to build a better world.
- Engineers Without Borders USA (Represented by Dave Cook): In the world's toughest places, EWB-USA is partnering with communities at home and around the world to meet their basic human needs through sustainable engineering projects. A dynamic organization with over 16,000 members nationwide, Dave Cook has served as the President and on the Board of Directors for EWB-USA in year's past.
- Construction for Change (Represented by Kevin Hunter): Construction for Change (CFC) builds spaces where people struggling with oppression can become healthier, learn, and increase their economic mobility. They partner with organizations that provide life-changing resources but have outgrown their facilities or seek to expand the service they offer. Mr. Hunter has been Executive Director of CFC since November 2016, leading the organization to develop a sustainable and scalable model to expand the reach of the organization around the globe, and his previous experience includes leadership roles with Young Life, World Vision, and Habitat for Humanity.
- Kilowatts for Humanity (Represented by Kirk MacLearnsberry): Kilowatts for Humanity (KWH) was founded in 2014 as an organization centered around an electrical engineering project for a hybrid wind/solar/storage system in Muhuru Bay, Kenya. The organization has since expanded to several major international solar project initiatives, with the goal of providing access to sustainable electricity in energy impoverished areas. Kirk MacLearnsberry has been a member of the design team since 2015 and was involved as the engineering lead on last summer's implementation trip to construct a local solar/storage kiosk in Munyama, Zambia.
Meet new members, newtwork with fellow engineers and planners, and learn about EWB! More information about the February 20 event at Pyramid Ale at 6:30 pm.
On Martin Luther King Day this week, Aspect staff took some time to participate in a Day of Service event. We joined Nature Consortium and many dozens of other volunteers in a restoration effort at Pigeon Point Park in West Seattle. We were tasked with removing invasive blackberries! The weather was great, we didn’t get scratched too badly—we did get muddy, and we made a little dent in the blackberry problem.
Action shots from the day. Volunteers: 1 - Blackberry Brambles: 0!