Municipal engineering leader Monica Heil named a Rising Star by the Zweig Group

The award recognizes exceptional leadership in the AEC industry

Local engineering firm WSB today announced that Monica Heil, vice president of municipal services, was named by the Zweig Group as a 2020 Rising Star. The Zweig Group, the Architecture Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry’s leading research, publishing and advisory services resource, recognizes Rising Stars annually as part of their awards program.  Rising Stars are professionals whose exceptional technical capability, leadership ability, effective teaching or research has benefited their employers, clients and community. 

“Monica is a bold leader who believes in delivering projects with technical excellence and collaboration and I am so proud that she’s been recognized by our industry,” said Bret Weiss, WSB’s president and CEO. “She plays an important role on our leadership team and is known for her ability to attack projects and challenges head on.  Her work on critical infrastructure projects throughout the Twin Cities is not only a benefit to WSB, but to the communities she works in.”

Heil is a civil engineer who has served Minnesota communities for over 15 years. She has a deep understanding of the long-term operations and maintenance needs associated with municipal engineering.  She believes in developing long-term solutions that have had a profound effect on the communities she serves.

“I am honored to have been recognized by the Zweig Group, our industry and by WSB as a Rising Star,” said Heil. “It’s humbling when you hear that your efforts are appreciated and respected. The work we do as civil engineers is rewarding, and I’m looking forward to continuing to lead our clients and teams through their most critical and challenging infrastructure projects. “

The Zweig Group’s Rising Stars are selected by a committee of judges who represent civil and structural engineering.  The Rising Star Awards were conferred at the Zweig Group’s virtual conference, ELEVATE AEC.

Using 4D/5D to Mitigate Risk and Identify Project Opportunity

By Kelsey Peterson, Graduate Engineer, WSB

4D/5D modeling is intended to improve the accuracy and efficiency of projects. It has applications throughout the project life-cycle, from preliminary design to project close-out with the contractor. Learn more about some of the ways incorporating into your project and improve your projects overall success.

4D models help mitigate project risk by visualizing project conflicts that are not easily identified in traditional Gantt style bar charts. A 3D model linked to a project schedule provides the project team the opportunity to identify and mitigate project staging, utility, and discipline conflicts by providing a visual of how construction will play out as a function of time. It also provides a visual of project opportunities, allowing the project team to reschedule activities that may be better sequenced to reduce construction delays and cost, as well as redesign the 3D model to include missing design elements that would otherwise delay construction. Project time and cost savings are the direct result of using the 4D model to identify and mitigate project risks early on in construction.

The 4D/5D models provide a level of transparency that encourages coordination between project team members, creating team accountability through clear vision of project construction. The 4D/5D model is used to bring project conflicts to the surface and create the opportunity for project team members (owner, contractor, engineer, and project stakeholders) to resolve challenges in a collaborative environment.

4D/5D modeling enhances project coordination by allowing new project team members and stakeholders be brought up to speed quickly on the design and staging of the project. This greatly enhances project communication relative to the use of a traditional Gantt style activity chart. It also provides the opportunity for developing staff to become familiar with a project that may, historically, have been easier for a more senior staff member to visualize. The 4D/5D model allows the project team to develop and review a safety plan visually and highlight construction activities where accidents and risks can be reduced prior to the activity occurring on the project.

By incorporating 4D/5D modeling, your projects will run more smoothly and efficiently. It allows you to mitigate risk though the application of a timeline to the overall plan creating greater vision and improve efficiency by encouraging team work and increasing overall project vision. Contact us for more information how modeling can be applied to your projects.

Kelsey, a graduate engineer with WSB, successfully balances the needs of different modal users, property owners, and environmental constraints. She is known for her attention to detail and innovative solutions to complex designs.

[email protected] | 612.709.4897

Q4 Update: Taking Care of Yourself

By Bart Fischer, Sr Public Administrator, WSB

Welcome to Q4! Over the past year, I’ve been writing quarterly updates that offer advice for public professionals – what to watch out for, plan for and anticipate. This update is slightly different. My past articles have largely focused on ways you can serve your community and your residents. However, the end of the year is always a great time to reflect on how you can better yourself, which in turn makes you better able to effectively serve your communities. It goes without saying that 2020 has been a year with unprecedented challenges and unknowns. As public administrators, we are often on the front lines of managing challenges as we do our best to provide some form of stability and certainty in our organizations, professional lives and personal lives. We are often looked to as the problem solvers and are the people others rely on for help, direction and support.

This responsibility provides professional meaning and value, we are always up for that challenge. However, it leads to a question: are we taking care of ourselves too? International City/County Managers Association (ICMA) Executive Director Marc Ott recently wrote in his blog about this very topic. While we are prone to putting our energy and passion into helping others, there is a real danger in not helping and taking care of ourselves. Sometimes it may seem counterintuitive; however, if we aren’t attending to our needs, health and emotional well-being, we often are less effective at helping others.

As we move into the 4th quarter of 2020, let’s look at five ways we can take care of ourselves.

Maintaining, Building and Expanding a Support System

Let’s face it, we need others to help us through the tough times. Now is not the time to isolate yourself from those that can, and are willing to, help you. I have seen it in myself as well as my family. It’s almost easier to “hole up” and self-isolate during these times of social distancing. This is actually the time we need to utilize, build, and expand our support system both professionally and personally.

Take the time to reach out to and attend professional networking opportunities, even if they are virtual. If you do not have a close network of peers that you can go to in times of crisis, consider starting such a group.

On a more personal level, take the time to be with family and friends. It may look different this year, but as the holiday season approaches, take the opportunity to safely gather with family and friends. Focus on those relationships that give you energy and that truly matter in your life.

Focus on What You Can Control

As we have been working together to meet the challenges and unknowns of 2020 at WSB, our COO Jon Chiglo has continued to remind us to, “Focus on what you can control.” There will be many things that will demand attention, worry and concern from us. Often, these are the things we cannot control. Seeking to focus on what you can control, much of which is our attitude and how we respond to situations, will lessen the stress of worrying.

A Healthy Lifestyle

Exercising and eating right are the areas I struggle with the most. I love food and I like the couch! We all have heard the studies that shows how eating right, exercising and getting the proper amount of sleep are excellent for physical and mental health. A couple of practices that I have put into place to help in my struggles are to track my food intake and maintain a calorie counter. I also track my exercise. This tracking allows me to set goals and compare how I am doing month to month. In addition, having an accountability coach is also very motivating. My wife and kids do a great job of keeping me honest in these areas. Finally, since I schedule everything else that I do, I also try to carve out time and schedule sleep into my calendar. I find that a calendar notification going off is more of a motivator than I realized.

Energy Boosting Activities

Just as it is important to be with people that give you energy, it is also important to do those things that give you energy. Carve out that time to do what you love. Again, put it in your calendar and keep that time sacred. For me, it is kayaking, playing board games, and Friday pizza and movie night with my family. Also, meeting friends or extended family on a patio or deck just to catch up and swap stories. Whatever it is for you, make sure you are intentional about creating opportunities to recharge your batteries with activities that boost your energy level.

Interpersonal/Spiritual Introspection

Taking uninterrupted times of solitude and spiritual reflection are also a vital way in which to take care of yourself. No matter how you practice interpersonal or spiritual reflection, you must take the time to do it. It is difficult with family and work schedules tugging at every spare minute; however, taking the time to quietly disconnect for even an hour per week, will pay dividends in your health and productivity.

Our families, friends, colleagues, and communities all rely on us for support and guidance. In order to do that and be our most effective selves, we need to be taking care of ourselves physically and mentally. Remember, you cannot effectively help others without first taking care of yourself.

Bart has been a City Administrator/Manager in the public sector for over 16 years. He is a strategic leader known for relationship development and connecting people around common themes and goals. Bart’s experience lies in leading and creating an organizational culture of collaboration where the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

[email protected] | 651.286.8484

Monitoring and managing chlorides to address environmental impacts

By Jake Newhall, Project Manager & Pete Willenbring, Vice President, WSB

Approaching winter conditions mean more salt in stormwater systems

Chlorides in our local bodies of water have become a rising concern in recent years.  As winter weather approaches and causes icy conditions, our parking lots, roadways and sidewalks are treated with salt to melt snow and ice.

Salt creates safer winter driving conditions, but the environmental impacts of salt use are raising concerns on the long-term effects on fisheries, plant life and surrounding wildlife. The salt used to treat our roadways and pedestrian areas contains chloride that dissolves when mixed with water.  This has resulted in increased chloride concentrations in many lakes, streams, and wetlands.  The elevated chloride levels are high enough in some cases to cause significant environmental impacts.

Removing chloride from water is possible, but the technology is incredibly expensive, and disposal of the chloride removed is a challenge. The primary way to remove chlorides requires high-tech reverse osmosis filters. This is not unlike the challenges presented in treating ocean water for potable source water.  

Monitoring the runoff and impacted surface water bodies in areas where heavy salt application is occurring is allowing us to gain a better understanding of the effects of chlorides on our environment and how communities can manage application rates to balance public and environmental safety.

In recent years, WSB has been working closely with state and local agencies to monitor and track the application, runoff concentrations, and ultimate impacts of chlorides in various locations. The goal is to develop a better methodology to manage the application, potential chloride disposal opportunities, and minimize environmental impacts. Through this research, we’ve been exploring ways to reroute chloride-saturated runoff away from local surface waters and BMPs and protect them from elevated concentrations.

As we continue to monitor and evolve our understand of chlorides, we are developing several initiatives with cities, watersheds, and the Metropolitan Council that will allow us to balance future management strategies, public safety, and environmental impacts of chlorides.

Jake has more than 15 years of engineering experience designing and managing many types of water resources projects, including modeling, planning, design, maintenance programs, and construction. Jake has worked with various municipalities, counties and state agencies to solve challenging water quality and water quantity problems.

[email protected] | 763.231.4861

Pete is a principal and co-founder of WSB. He is a professional engineer, with over 30 years of experience providing consulting services to over 100 city, county, state, and federal clients. Pete has expertise in most fields of civil engineering, but is widely recognized to have developed special expertise in the fields of water resource and environmental engineering, project management, design, and planning.

[email protected] | 612.360.7188

25 stories for 25 years | Bryon Amo

On October 5, 2020, WSB will celebrate our 25th year in business. Since 1995, we’ve added new service areas, expanded our reach and served our communities.  Throughout our tenure, our dedicated staff has been a constant.

In honor of our 25th year, we’ll be highlighting 25 stories of the people behind the projects.

Story 9 of 25

Bryon Amo, Sr Engineering Specialist | Joined WSB in 1996

What has been the most memorable moment in your career at WSB?
I often think back to our second summer as a company. There were not many of us and we had a lot of projects going on. I remember an average day consisted of covering construction projects in St. Cloud, Monticello, Laketown, Richfield, Inver Grove Heights and Rosemount. All this work throughout the state, with three Project Managers! We’ve grown so much since then – in staff, geography and technology.

What is one thing you want to tell the future leaders of WSB?
WSB is about innovation and technology – it always should be, but please do not forget that our foundation is built on the relationships that we develop and maintain. We are a people company and that is what makes WSB special.

What about your work gives you energy?
Every day, I am able to solve problems and approach new challenges. I enjoy keeping our projects running smoothly. Very seldom are any two days alike, and I thrive on that.

How has WSB supported your career goals?
I have been given many opportunities to work on projects and have been placed into roles that have really challenged me. I am very grateful for the trust that our leadership has in me to represent WSB on large, sometimes difficult and remote projects. 

Why do our clients continue to work with us?
I think our clients continue to work with us because we genuinely care and we have since the beginning. We care about our clients, our projects and the communities we live and work in.