The tallest building in Europe, for the moment: The Shard

By The Helpful Engineer / On / In Technical & Discussion

The Shard
The Shard, see image source ref. below

London’s tallest building, The Shard, officially opened today to great fanfare. It is currently the tallest building in Europe at 310m high (1016 feet). It will retain the tallest in Europe title until the end of the year when The Mercury Tower in Moscow will be completed. This will be 327m high.

By comparison, the The Eiffel Tower, which is not classified as a building, is actually taller than the Shard at 320m and its observation deck is also 31m (100 feet) higher than the Shard’s one, at 276m.

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Slate. A fragile wall cladding

By The Helpful Engineer / On / In Technical & Discussion

Using slates as cladding for walls must have seemed like a great solution……at first. Slates are an inexpensive material, self cleaning, easy to source and the skills to install them are readily available i.e. roofers. But unfortunately they fail the robustness test. See the photographs below of a building in Dublin where they have been used to clad a wall.

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Bleeding a Firebird Popular 90 oil boiler

By The Helpful Engineer / On / In Technical & Discussion

I received a query from a reader today asking how to bleed air from a Firebird popular oil boiler. This stems from a previous article on servicing oil boilers, see here. I thought I might as well share the answer with you as it quite difficult to locate the correct nut to loosen if you are unfamiliar with the boiler.  It certainly took me a while to find the right location when I accidently ran out of oil a few years ago. See photograph below for a guide.

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Stress and worry: How engineers’ tools might help.

By The Helpful Engineer / On / In Technical & Discussion

In common with most professions working as an engineer can be stressful, especially in these economically challenging times. Stress and worry are mainly caused by a fear of what could happen, rather than what will happen. This brings out the ‘fight or flight’ response, but this response is more suited to primitive times than for dealing with modern worries. During our working lives engineers are adapt at identifying hazards and risks and then trying to eliminate them.  Why can’t we use the same tools for dealing with stress and worry in our personal life?

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Irish construction and road deaths at new lows

By The Helpful Engineer / On / In Technical & Discussion

Amid all the economic doom and gloom last year. 2011 still gave us some reasons to celebrate. This is that Irish road accident and construction deaths plunged to new lows.

Irish road deaths during 2011 were the lowest since records began in 1961. Even still, 212 people still died on our roads. The worst year for road deaths was 1972 when 640 people died even though traffic volumes were much lower.  While improvements to our road infrastructure and cars have helped to prevent some deaths the biggest difference has probably been driver behaviour. The introduction of penalty points for driving offences and new strict drinking and driving laws has recently helped in this regard.

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Your Car: Ensure your scuttle drains are clear

By The Helpful Engineer / On / In Technical & Discussion

Roughly a year ago I discovered a large amount of water was lying in the foot wells of my car. I had no idea what was causing this.  There were no obvious problems like a leaking radiator. After a long time I finally discovered it was a blocked scuttle, or windscreen, drain. If the scuttle drains block the water can backup and enter the cars interior through the air intakes. It took me along time to get the car dry again as the sound proofing material used under the carpet can absorb a lot of water and is hard to dry.  Therefore it is essential to keep these drains running freely because they are rarely checked or cleaned as part of a car service. What follows is some information and tips on car scuttle drains, with photographs also:

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Turn off your fog lights when there is no fog!

By The Helpful Engineer / On / In Technical & Discussion

Car with fog lights on in wet weatherNow that the evenings are dark in this part of the world, it is very noticeable that many cars have their fog lights on at all times. I have even seen people driving at night with their fog lights on, but their main lights off. On a few occasions I have had the courage to ask people why they had their fog lights on. Some said they didn’t realize they were on, but others said that they weren’t fog lights, that they were turned on to make the car look good! But whatever the reason people leave them on; it is selfish and ignorant behaviour. So the following are some reasons you should leave them off, unless of course there is poor visibility:

1. You are dazzling other road users. Leaving your fog lights on increases the glare for other drivers and reduces their visibility. Fog lights are purposely located close to the ground and therefore their light is reflected off the surface of the road increasing light glare and dazzling other drivers. This is especially true when the road is wet and the surface is like a mirror. Older drivers are easier to dazzle and frankly it’s not a good idea to dazzle people who are driving towards you at speed.

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