As I write this, the environmental emergency in the Gulf of Mexico created by BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil well leak has entered its sixth week. Oil continues to flow and spread infiltrating marshes, beaches, fishing areas, and wildlife nesting grounds. Coastal areas of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida have been contaminated or are threatened.
Containment efforts are overwhelmed or ineffective. The local economies and the families that depend on fishing and tourism for survival are struggling.
Politicians, environmentalists, and talking heads are heating up the airwaves with debate, accusations, and finger pointing. Lawyers are looking for someone to sue.
BP has struggled to find a way to stop the leak and clean up the mess. They have plenty of advice. Suggestions ranged from using human hair and hay. YouTube videos demonstrated solutions.
It seems like everyone had a suggestion, including actor Kevin Costner and his brother.
All the while, BP’s struggles to stop the leak have played out online in public view, 24/7. Streaming video of the unrelenting surge of oil from the well had a hypnotic effect.
A few hundred years ago, pillories were set up in public places to punish petty criminals. The offender’s head or limbs were secured in holes in hinged wooden boards. Thrown objects and insults were part of the punishment.
But, BP’s attempts were visible to the world. Their technical efforts have been heavily criticized.
However, this is not just a BP problem. It is an energy industry problem. If the energy industry wants to continue deep ocean exploration, they may want examine more “what if” questions and develop emergency and contingency plans before they decide to drill.
With the immediacy of the Internet and 24-hour news channels, technology failures are going to have a high profile with extended media and public visibility. Just ask Toyota.
On a happier note, in this issue, we salute two facilities for their innovation in laboratory design.
The Chicago Botanic Garden promotes the enjoyment, understanding, and conservation of plants in the natural world. Its Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Plant Conservation Science Center—R&D Magazine’s 2010 Laboratory of the Year—illustrates this mission, providing a sustainable laboratory that puts science on display and makes it accessible to researchers and the public alike.
Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston went vertical to expand the 12-story Feigin Center. The resulting 20-story structure was designed to facilitate the sharing of knowledge between basic research and clinical care, improve disease research and treatment, and to attract leading physicians and scientists. For its innovative approach to renovating and expanding a limited space—while the facility remained operational—the facility is the recipient of an R&D Magazine 2010 Lab of the Year Honorable Mention.
Take a look at these innovative facilities, as well as some surprising opinions from lab designers and users on trends in lab design in our special Laboratory of the Year coverage.
Published in R & D magazine: Vol. 52, No. 3, June, 2010, p. 6.