Discussion Thread

Cultural Expectations for Infrastructure

  • 1.  Cultural Expectations for Infrastructure

    Posted 04-05-2021 02:11 PM
    One thing about living in another country for graduate school that has been interesting is the differing expectations for infrastructure.

    For example, where I'm living in Mexico water is not sent through the water mains constantly. We get water sent to our house through the mains a few times a week. That water is stored in a cistern for our house, and a pump sends water from the cistern to a tank on the roof. Our water pressure in the house comes from gravity. Additionally, the water that is delivered is not safe for drinking. Everyone uses the large water jugs like you would see in an office water cooler.

    This is actually something that my language exchange partner from Mexico pointed out to me years ago during my undergrad, but I'd forgotten about it until living here. She was in her 40s and had a background in chemical engineering. When I asked her one day what things she found odd or were weird to adjust to in moving to the US to study, she brought up the water. She said something along the lines of, "I don't understand why you need all your water to be drinkable. You only drink a small percent of it. Do you really need drinkable water in your toilet?" She wasn't being rude about it; she was genuinely curious. That was something I'd never thought about until she mentioned it.

    Have you had any experience with regional or national expectations for infrastructure differing from what you're used to seeing?

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    Heidi C. Wallace, P.E., M.ASCE
    Tulsa, OK
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  • 2.  RE: Cultural Expectations for Infrastructure

    Posted 04-12-2021 07:35 PM
    Heidi,

    This is a great topic.

    While I was in New Zealand, I recall seeing earthquake protocols posted in a number of the hostels in which I stayed. It was something that made me stop and pause to think, since I grew up in New Jersey and fortunately have no experience with major earthquakes.

    Also on the earthquake topic, I recall hearing from some friends in California that taking the PE exam out there includes a seismic activity and design section, while most, if not all, other states do not have this on their respective exams.

    Finally, on a somewhat humorous note, I've learned that NJ has many more "jughandle" roads than other states do.
    https://www.tripsavvy.com/what-is-a-jughandle-2502768


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    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
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  • 3.  RE: Cultural Expectations for Infrastructure

    Posted 04-15-2021 04:29 PM
    Thanks for the link on the jughandles. That's really interesting, and I can definitely understand why they listed in the cons that they confuse people from other places. I can imagine I would be perplexed if I came upon one at highway speeds having never seen one. I find roundabouts to be similar in that they reduce accidents when people know how they work. They are a nightmare, though, when people are on a multi-lane roundabout for the first time and don't know what they're doing. (My dad had to drive us through a multi-lane roundabout on an island where they drive on the other side of the road from us. It was a family bonding experience for sure haha)

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    Heidi C. Wallace, P.E., M.ASCE
    Tulsa, OK
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  • 4.  RE: Cultural Expectations for Infrastructure

    Posted 04-13-2021 04:17 PM
    I agree this is a fun topic and insightful as well. I had the privilege of living in the Netherlands for four years.  A feature I found surprising was the amount of green space. This was despite the high population density of the country. I have no doubt this was a result of strict land control laws and ordinances.  The cities generally lacked the 'sprawl' that is common to US cities bounded by undeveloped land, like Houston, and made for a very enjoyable environment to live. I know there are many negatives to land control but it has virtues: a tradeoff I would gladly take seeing its benefits to quality of life.  On a more pedestrian front, I always marveled at the use of pavers in lieu of concrete and asphalt for sidewalks, bike paths and even roads. These obviously come at a higher labor cost but are attractive and provide for inherent flexibility if repairs need to be made to buried infrastructure or improvements.

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    Mitch Winkler P.E., M.ASCE
    Houston, TX
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  • 5.  RE: Cultural Expectations for Infrastructure

    Posted 04-14-2021 08:10 AM
    I have been learning Dutch on Duolingo for about 5 years and your description of their infrastructure has made me want to visit even more.

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    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
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  • 6.  RE: Cultural Expectations for Infrastructure

    Posted 04-15-2021 04:29 PM
    Out of curiosity, what made you choose Dutch? I'm not sure I've ever known anyone learning Dutch.

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    Heidi C. Wallace, P.E., M.ASCE
    Tulsa, OK
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  • 7.  RE: Cultural Expectations for Infrastructure

    Posted 04-16-2021 12:31 PM
    After grad school, just before starting my career, I spent a month in New Zealand. It just so happened that the majority of the fellow travelers that I became friends with were from the Netherlands. I figured that it was as good as any other reason to try to learn a new language. At this point it mostly serves as a brain exercise though.

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    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
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  • 8.  RE: Cultural Expectations for Infrastructure

    Posted 04-15-2021 04:29 PM
    In my Masters class on Urban Planning and Design, we watched/read several things about changes to the urban environment to encourage the use of bicycles in that area of the world. I noticed on the video footage that they seemed to have a higher percentage of green space as well.
    I certainly think there is a balance that could/should have been sought in some of our cities with prolific urban sprawl and high congestion levels.

    I did a presentation on Seoullo 7017 Skygarden as part of the course. It is similar to The High Line in NYC. I love seeing projects that retroactively reuse existing infrastructure as a way to incorporate green spaces in areas that land use codes did not protect the green spaces.

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    Heidi C. Wallace, P.E., M.ASCE
    Tulsa, OK
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  • 9.  RE: Cultural Expectations for Infrastructure

    Posted 13 days ago
    Back in the summers of 2006 and 2011, I visited my mother's extended family in Bolivia. Both times, I was living in a spacey area of two buildings and a garden between them. Neither had second floors, and the space was specifically built for extended families, with broken glass pieces baked inside of brick walls to keep intruders out.

    For 2011, I can remember also having jugs of water kept around, to accommodate for the uses of the water available.

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    Alexander Granato A.M.ASCE
    Student
    Bexley OH
    [email protected]
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