London’s Olympic Sized Legacy

In 2012, the eyes of the world were on London. You along with 215 million viewers watched the world’s top athletes compete in the Summer Olympic Games in hopes of bringing sports highest honor back to their home country. To host the summer games, the City of London transformed 560-acres of industrial east London into the innovative and sustainable Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.



But what happens to Olympic Parks after the medals are won, the athletes have returned home and the fanfare is over?  These big investments can financially burden a city and draw criticism from its residents. In the case of London, advanced planning is allowing this Olympic Park to transform into a state-of-the-art facility for sports, arts, culture, entertainment, education, and day-to-day life. The Park will continue on as a world class sporting facility, and it will also include new residential housing that will make up five new neighborhoods, recreation facilities, and cultural and event quadrants all surrounded by the natural beauty of waterways and parklands. Constructed with sustainability at its heart, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park goes beyond incorporating sustainability into its design and construction. The Park promotes a sustainable lifestyle with ample and easily accessible opportunities for walking and bicycling.

One year to the day of the 2012 summer Olympic opening ceremony, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park had another opening to celebrate – the opening of the north of the Park segment. This established the Park as a destination for residents and visitors alike and a staple in the city’s community landscape. The Park continues to inspire the Olympic spirit in the city long after the flame has moved on to Rio de Janeiro and future host cities.

Today, as we continue our series on the world’s BIG projects, we hear from Mark Camley, Executive Director of Park Operations and Venues at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the London Legacy Development Corporation. He tells us how planning, flexibility and public input have been key to the Park’s success and shares what residents and visitors have to look forward to as the Park continues to progress. We welcome his insights.

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How did the decision to use the Olympic Park as a public space come to fruition? Were there any other contending ideas for ways to reuse the Olympic park?
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is much more than just a public space. It offers the best in sporting and cultural amenities while at the same time will offer people places to live, work and learn. The obvious legacy of the London 2012 Games was to secure the future of the permanent venues at the Park. This has been achieved and of the five sporting venues at the Park, four of them are already being used by both local communities and elite athletes, with the fifth, the Stadium, set to open for five matches of the Rugby World Cup in 2015. The Park will also be the location of up to 6,800 new homes across five new neighbourhoods where new nurseries, community centres, schools and health facilities are also being constructed. As well as this a new cultural and education quarter is planned for the Park that will see partners such as the Victoria & Albert Museum and University College London attract new visitors to the area.

London' s Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park (Credit: London Legacy Development Corporation)

London’ s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
(Credit: London Legacy Development Corporation)

What is the vision and goal of the park?
The London Legacy Development Corporation is the body responsible for the management of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The Legacy Corporation was formed to use the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and the creation of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to develop a dynamic new heart for east London, creating opportunities for local people and driving innovation and growth.

The Tumbling Playground part of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park's north of the park segment. (Credit: Adventure Playground Engineers)

The Tumbling Bay Playground part of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park’s north of the park segment.
(Credit: Adventure Playground Engineers)

Did you go to the community to solicit ideas for how to use the space?
We are proud to consult local people on all aspects of the Park’s development. Consultations are held on major projects and local people are invited to contribute ideas for how the Park can shape the development of the local area. This has lead to local people coming up with the names of the Park’s five new neighbourhoods, a Legacy Youth Panel who discuss how the Park is working with the local community and we’ve worked hard with local disabled people to ensure the Park is accessible to everyone.

Were there any challenges that arose from public input? If so, how were they addressed?
The key to public engagement has been to be open and honest, and deliver on commitments. We set ourselves a challenging timescale to re-open the north of the Park just a year to the day following the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Games. Opening at 2pm on that day to visitors eager to enter the Park was a real thrill.

How was the final design chosen and what did this process look like?
The north of the Park was largely designed before London 2012. Design teams were engaged to create a new park hub, the Timber Lodge Café, and a spectacular nature based playground, the Tumbling Bay playground. Our processes required our priority themes, including local employment and engagement to be adhered to. The designs also needed to fit with the general feel of the landscape.

A conceptual simulation of a portion of New York City's Highline Park.  (Credit: Friends of the Highline)

A conceptual simulation of a portion of New York City’s Highline Park.
(Credit: Friends of the Highline)

Are there any other large public park projects that inspired the design or intention of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park?
The design of the southern part of the Park was led by James Corner Field Operations, who designed the Highline in New York. A number of the Park furniture features and the planting by Piet Oudolf mirrors the High Line. The Tumbling Bay playground in the north took some of its inspiration from the Princess Diana Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens.

How was the progress reported to the public?
We held regular resident meetings and forums, including for our Youth Panel and Built Environment Access Panel. This enabled us to test ideas and ensure that the community were at the heart of the new landscape. More formerly, we attended various planning committees to gain permission for the work.

Have there been any lessons learned from this transformation of East London?
The three key lessons are – plan, plan, plan (and then be ready to be flexible if there are obstacles). The only way that the opening to time and budgets was achieved was through careful planning of design and testing them out with public and stakeholders.

The Arcelormittal Orbit sculpture at the Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park. (Credit: Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park/London Legacy Development Corporation)

The Arcelormittal Orbit sculpture at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
(Credit: Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park/London Legacy Development Corporation)

What are unique and new components of the park?
As London’s newest visitor destination, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, is a place unlike any other. Visitors to the Park are able to enjoy beautiful parklands and waterways, world-famous sporting venues, arts and events and spectacular views from the ArcelorMittal Orbit. As a new heart for east London, the Park will also provide new homes, jobs and a cultural and education quarter. Visitors are able to enjoy world-class sporting venues that have been transformed to be used by both the local community and elite athletes, stroll in beautifully landscaped parklands, enjoy interactive water fountains and adventure playgrounds and explore free themed walking trails filled with fascinating facts about the Park.

Are there any local secrets to using the park?
The north of the Park is much quieter than the south and is home to the Timber Lodge Café a community hub nestled within the beautiful parklands. Timber-clad it both reflects and enhances the natural environment, with solar panels to produce its own green energy. There is a café which is perfect for relaxing in and flexible space for schools and community groups, and children can enjoy the Tumbling Bay Playground adjacent to the building, one of the UK’s most imaginative large-scale adventure play areas.

It is also worth noting that the Park is built around the waterways, so there are pathways and bridges at different levels, which offer different walks and different perspectives of the Park.

The ArcelorMittal Orbit, the UK’s tallest sculpture, is the highest point in the Park and provides panoramic views across the whole Park, including in to the Stadium. In contrast, the Great British Gardens are in a quiet corner and provide a small oasis of calm.

What are some sustainable features of the park?
The Park is designed with sustainability at its heart. This means that it has been built in a sustainable way and has been designed to help future visitors and residents live sustainably. It is designed to do this in a number of ways, from promoting a healthy and sustainable lifestyle which encourages walking and cycling through safe and pleasant routes across the Park, through to using green building techniques that reduce the impact of development.

A public cycling facility at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.  (Credit: David Levene via Guardian News and Media Limited)

Lee Valley Velopark at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
(Credit: David Levene via Guardian News and Media Limited)

Once inside, what are the transportation options within the park?
We’ve worked hard to ensure that Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park really is a park for all. The Park has been designed to be as accessible and inclusive as possible for a wide range of visitors, employees and future residents. The Park is easy to walk and cycle around and has good step-free access, hard-standing surfaces, regular seating and accessible Blue Badge car parking for each of the venues. A mobility service is available to support visitors with mobility impairment and recently the Park started running boat tours to give visitors a whole new perspective of the stunning scenery.

Since it’s opening, how popular has the park been compared to projected usage?
On Friday 22 August, the Park welcomed its 3 millionth visitor since reopening on 27 July 2013. The reaction, from both local people and those from further afield, has been hugely positive, whether its children playing in the fountains and wonderful playgrounds or swimming in the wake of champions in the London Aquatics Centre.

London Aquatics Centre at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. (Credit: Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park/London Legacy Development Corporation)

The London Aquatics Centre at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
(Credit: Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park/London Legacy Development Corporation)

How is the park maintained?
We have a Park Manager and Head of Estates and Facilities Management who look after the landscape and venues. They have produced a 10 year management plan and have already been successful in achieving a Green Flag award for the Park. As well as professional landscape staff, we have volunteers working on maintaining the gardens and parkland.

What can visitors look forward to in the future at the park?
There is so much happening and coming up at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, from local community projects to large scale events such as the Invictus Games which occurred last month (September 10-14). Transformation of the Stadium is on track to be ready for five matches of Rugby World Cup 2015 before work is completed for West Ham United to kick off in 2016. Building is underway on the Park’s first neighbourhood, Chobham Manor, with residents set to move in by late 2015 and we are also excited about the Park’s new cultural and education quarter, Olympicopolis, which will bring together a range of educational and artistic partners such as the V&A museum and UCL.

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London has set a great example for other host cities on how to re-use their Olympic size investments. Stay up to date with the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on Facebook,  Twitter and Google+.

Liz Faris, Account Manager
Collaborative Services, Inc.

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Big Projects Start with a Big Ideas

This month we are continuing our series on BIG projects. All Big projects start with big ideas. As we prepare to share some of the world’s most fascinating projects with you in the coming weeks we wanted to start the month by sharing one big idea.

Roads, highways, and interstates line, intertwine and connect all across our country. We use them to get from one point to another whether its by car, bus, bike, or on foot. Now imagine if our country’s roads were solar powered. Solar Roadways is the big idea of Julie and Scott Brusaw, a married electrical engineer and counselor.

The idea behind Solar Roadways is to replace asphalt laden streets with the material used with black boxes, the recording device used on airplanes, that would house solar cells to collect energy. The Brusaw’s knew that black boxes protect sensitive electronics, why not also protect solar road panels? These panels could also be designed to include LED lights to illuminate roadways at night or a heat element to defrost snow and ice on the streets.

Ideas are great because they are about possibilities. Turning an idea into a reality is when ideas are tested against constraints: time, materials, construction and cost to name a few. The Brusaw’s have received the chance to take their BIG idea one step further. In 2009, they received a contract from the Federal Highway Administration  to construct a prototype for the first solar road panel. In 2011, they received another contract to complete a second phase of the prototype which will result in a parking lot made of solar road panels that can be tested with different weather and sunlight conditions.

While we will have to wait and see whether the Brusaw’s will be successful at achieving their dream of “upgrading our infrastructure – roads and power grid – to the 21st century,” we have to give them credit for having a BIG idea and taking it from possibility to real-world testing.

You can learn more about the BIG idea behind Solar Roadways in the video below.

Stay with us next week as we bring you more BIG ideas that are becoming realities.

Liz Faris, Account Manager
Collaborative Services, Inc.

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The little street car that could….and did

The modern streetcar in Tucson, Arizona is not like any of the ones you have seen in old Hollywood movies. Remove any image of Marlon Brandon shouting “Stella” from your mind when thinking about this state-of-the-art streetcar.

While Tucson’s streetcar may not look like ones from A Streetcar Named Desire, there were a lot of big desires and hopes riding on it. Primarily the desire that it will help spur economic development and revitalize the city’s downtown.

Credit: City of Tucson Department of Transportation

Credit: City of Tucson Department of Transportation

Just a few years ago, Tucson watched Phoenix, it’s big neighbor to the north, successfully build out a new lightrail system. At this time, mass transit in the second largest city in the country’s fastest growing state (according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest estimates) was only a plan on paper, a vision of  the City of Tucson’s Department of Transportation and many residents.

The first real chance for the City of Tucson to install a mass transit system came when the project was added to the $2.1 billion, 20-year Regional Transportation Authority Plan approved by voters in 2006. Inclusion in the plan provided public support and the largest portion of funding, $87.7 million, for a modern streetcar. An additional $63 million in funds came from a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant provided to the City of Tucson by the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2010. This helped close the funding gap and increase momentum on the project.

The Cadence, new University of Arizona student housing in downtown Tucson.       (Credit: Ankrom Moisan)

The Cadence, new University of Arizona student housing in downtown Tucson. (Credit: Ankrom Moisan)

Throughout it’s construction phase, Tucson watched as the modern streetcar turned desires of revitalizing the city’s funky and vintage downtown area into a reality. Developers and business owners jumped at the chance to be part of transit-oriented development and set up shop along the route, and they are still jumping. Tucson’s downtown has gained hundreds of millions of dollars in public and private investment thanks to the installation of the streetcar. Bustling, hip new restaurants, bistros, and bars now line the route, and the University of Arizona worked with developers to build new student housing downtown making it easy for students to take the streetcar to and from campus.

This past July, Sun Link – the rebranded Tucson Streetcar,  began operations, an effort 30-years in the making. Today, Sun Link runs seven days a week along the 23-stop, four-mile route that connect’s the University of Arizona, downtown business districts, entertainment venues, and the convention center. Members of the community came out in mass to celebrate the grand opening of Sun Link. The little streetcar that could saw 17,000 riders its first day of operations during a free ride promotion. A little more than two months into its operations and there are murmurs of a new desire to expand the route. Sun Link is on the right track to become an icon in Tucson’s community landscape.

Today, we continue our series on BIG projects hearing from Shellie Ginn, a Transportation Administrator for the City of Tucson’s Department of Transportation and the project manager and champion who worked on the Sun Link for the past decade. We welcome her insights.

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Looking west down Congress Street in  Tucson, AZ in the 1890's. (Credit: Tucson Historical Society)

Looking west down Congress Street in Tucson, AZ in the 1890’s.
(Credit: Tucson Historical Society)

Sun Link is a first-of-its kind transportation option for Tucson. Where did the idea for this modern streetcar originate?
First, let me remind you that we once had historic trollies running through Tucson in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The concept of the modern streetcar was one of several options considered during an Alternatives Analysis started in 2004. The goal was to connect activity centers in the central/downtown Tucson area and provide a vehicle for economic development. Ultimately, the streetcar was selected as the mode of transportation to meet those goals.

Why was a fixed-guided electric rail system chosen over other alternative transportation systems such as a lightrail?
The streetcar was selected due to the greater economic development potential it offered to this area. Other cities such as Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington had seen a revitalization of their downtowns due to this type of transit system. We had similar activity centers and were certain we could see the same results.

The Sun Link route connects the University of Arizona, business districts, and the convention center. What other alternative routes were considered and why was its current route chosen?
The majority of the current route was in all of the alternatives considered. The areas where we had different alignments were around the University of Arizona (around vs. through?) and also how long the system would be. We looked at multiple alignments that included one on 6th Street versus 2nd Street and a longer alignment that traveled up Campbell Avenue to Grant Road. The current route was selected due to its use of roadways that were more pedestrian focused and also directly connected five districts (Mercado District, Downtown, 4th Avenue District, Main Gate District and the University of Arizona). Also, traversing through the University of Arizona campus had the greatest ridership potential.

Sun Link Route Map (Credit: City of Tucson Department of Transportation)

Sun Link Route Map
(Credit: City of Tucson Department of Transportation)

What type of community involvement was done? What aspects of the project did the community help define?
The community was involved from the beginning of the project. We developed a Citizens Liaison Group (CLG) which was made up of representatives from the neighborhoods along the alignment, business association groups in each of the districts being considered for the alignment and special interest groups such as the Tucson/Pima County Bicycle Advisory Committee and the Commission on Disability Issues. Education facilities were represented as well. This group helped review multiple technologies and alignments ultimately selecting the modern streetcar as the preferred technology and the current alignment as the preferred route.

Since Sun Link was new to the community, what type of public education efforts were undertaken?
Public Education and outreach were critical to this project and was included throughout the entire ten years this project has been in development, design, construction, testing and finally, operations. Reaching out to the public and including them in the decision making process led to a transit system that is exceeding its ridership goals and promoting economic development along the entire four-mile line. Our outreach included many presentations to stakeholders along the alignment and throughout the Tucson community, public open houses, and briefings to various leadership in the City, County, State and Federal government. Public outreach and education will be ongoing as a new group of students arrive on the University of Arizona campus each Fall Semester.

Sun Link has been credited with helping to revitalize Tucson’s downtown. How has it done this and what are some of the economic development benefits it has brought to the community?
The Tucson Streetcar has been instrumental in the location of several student housing developments along the four mile line. There are over 3,000 units along the line. There are over 50 new restaurants, bars and cafes that have opened up along the four mile line. Over $800 million of public and private investment has been made with an estimate of over 1,500 long term regional jobs created as a result of the streetcar.

An estimated 3,500 people rode Sun Link on its first paid day of operations. Has this ridership sustained? Who are the main people riding on the weekdays versus weekends?
The average weekday ridership is approximately 5,200 per day and the average weekend ridership is 2,700 (with Saturdays in the 5,000 range). There is a mix of ridership to include students, office workers, people riding in the evenings for dinner and entertainment and neighborhoods taking advantage of the streetcar to ride along the four miles.

"Wandering Stars” by artists Joe O’Connell and Blessing Hancock at the Granada Ave/Cushing Street stop. (Credit: City of Tucson Department of Transportation)

“Wandering Stars” by artists Joe O’Connell and Blessing Hancock at the Granada Ave/Cushing Street stop.
(Credit: City of Tucson Department of Transportation)

One unique aspect of the Sun Link route are the different art pieces incorporated at each of its 23 stops and its Operations and Maintenance facility. How were the artists and their pieces chosen?
The art was selected through the Tucson Pima Arts Council (TPAC). Eight stops were identified along the alignment (two per mile) and a simple stop concept and the maintenance facility were added as potential art locations as well. TPAC oversaw a public selection process and the artists were selected based on their artistic concepts through a committee.

What are the opportunities to expand the Sun Link route in the future? What would it take to do so?
Potential extensions are identified in the Pima Association of Governments High Capacity Transit Study from 2009. The next step is to start studying the potential routes and determine what funding will be used.

The Sun Link breaking the banner at it's grand opening celebration on July 25, 2014. (Credit: City of Tucson Department of Transportation)

The Sun Link breaking the banner at it’s grand opening celebration on July 25, 2014.
(Credit: City of Tucson Department of Transportation)

You served as the City of Tucson’s Project Manager for Sun Link for 10 years and guided it from conception to implementation. What was your favorite part of this project?
Over the last ten years, I was able to watch a concept become a reality and see the direct benefits of this type of system in the five districts along the streetcar alignment. My favorite part was the Grand Opening and seeing all of these people wait in long lines with smiles on their faces. It has been such a pleasure to work on a project of this stature.

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For more information on Sun Link visit, like it on Facebook, or follow it on Twitter.

Liz Faris, Account Manager
Collaborative Services, Inc.
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Harnessing the power of the sun

When you think of the Mojave Desert, two words likely come to mind – dry and hot as well as images of Joshua trees, sand dunes, and the barren aptly named Death Valley. As of last year, you can now add a sea of glimmering solar mirrors to that list. Make that a sea of more than 300,000 glimmering solar mirrors that make up the world’s largest solar thermal plant.  The Mojave Desert is now home to the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System which began commercial operation in 2013 and has been harnessing the energy of the desert sun to power homes in Southern California and reduce the state’s carbon footprint.  The clean electricity produced by the 392 megawatt solar thermal power project is also helping the state known for it’s highways and traffic congestion avoid millions of tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other air pollutants, an equivalent to taking  more than 70,000 cars of the road annually.

The three units of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System. (Credit BrightSource Energy)

The three units of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System.
(Credit BrightSource Energy)

In addition to being the largest solar thermal plant in the world, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System has also achieved another first. It received the 2014 Power Magazine’s Plant of the Year award, making it the first renewable energy plant to receive the honor.

The world’s largest solar thermal plant became a reality thanks to a collaborative public/private partnership between the United States Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management, NRG, BrightSource Energy, Bechtel, and Google. A true testament to how these two sectors can come together on common ground to support the greater good of advancing renewable energy in our country.

Today, we kick off our annual series on BIG projects hearing from Jeff Holland, Director of Communications for NRG, the project’s owner. He fills us in on the vision and goal for the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, how stakeholders and the world were kept informed of the project’s progress and the plant’s operations and economic benefit. We welcome his insights.

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The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System came to fruition through a collaboration of multiple corporate partners. Who were these players and what did they each bring to the table?
With NRG Energy’s leadership as the project owner, equity partners Google and BrightSource Energy and Bechtel’s engineering and construction expertise, the team set a new standard for solar thermal power. At the same time, we’re strengthening the nation’s economy and solar supply chain, as well as helping to shift our country closer to energy independence.

What was the overall vision and goal of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System?
The goal was for Ivanpah to become the world’s largest concentrated solar power (CSP) facility, an engineering marvel that increases America’s supply of renewable energy and one that produces clean, reliable solar electricity that will power more than 140,000 homes through California’s two largest utilities—Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE). Ivanpah is a magnificent example of a public/private partnership to bring more renewable energy to our country.

Credit: A Google Earth image of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System adjacent to the Ivanpah dry lake bed. (Credit: Mojave Desert Blog)

Credit: A Google Earth image of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System adjacent to the Ivanpah dry lake bed.
(Credit: Mojave Desert Blog)

What was the rationale behind locating the solar electric plant on the Ivanpah dry lakebed? Can you describe the environmental considerations behind this choice?
This is land leased to us by the Bureau of Land Management and the lease agreement dictates that we return the land to its previously undisturbed state once the power purchase agreements expire.

As part of our ongoing environmental mitigation efforts, we are working with the appropriate state, federal and local agencies to apply science in our mitigation efforts on a wide range of carefully constructed wildlife and biological protection plans.

While we take the work we are doing very seriously and are putting the measures in place and spending the money on monitoring efforts, it is important to note that, climate change is by far the largest threat to life on earth and we have spent billions of dollars on projects like Ivanpah in our quest to find ways to provide clean, sustainable and renewable energy.

Please describe the general design of the plant and how these design standards contributed to a more sustainable project?
Ivanpah uses software to control hundreds of thousands of tracking mirrors, known as heliostats, to directly concentrate sunlight onto a boiler filled with water that sits atop a tower. When the sunlight hits the boiler, the water inside is heated and creates high temperature steam. Once produced, the steam is used in a conventional turbine to produce electricity. Using this concentrated solar thermal technology.

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System begins operation. (Credit: BrightSource Energy)

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System begins operation.
(Credit: BrightSource Energy)

Was any outreach conducted to engage stakeholders in the Mojave Desert area?
Of course. NRG is 100% committed to working with the communities in which we operate, and to protecting the health and safety of people, wildlife, plant life, and ecosystems in the areas in which we work.

How did you communicate the project’s progress to the rest of the world. Which communication tools did you find most effective?
We conducted community outreach by attending and speaking at various community-focused events and public hearings as well as direct mail campaigns and developing a project website where people could learn about the progress and gather information on the project’s milestones and accomplishments. We worked with the state and federal groups in developing and reporting all plans to the California Energy Commission who also continue to publish all of our information onto their own website where people can opt-in for updates as well.

Were there any challenges or barriers to receiving public support for the project? If so, how did you overcome these challenges or barriers?
We have worked closely with state and federal agencies and all relevant stakeholders from the moment we began our development of Ivanpah to responsibly address the challenges unique to Ivanpah’s size, location and technology.

As part of our ongoing environmental mitigation efforts, we are working with the appropriate state, federal and local agencies to apply science in our mitigation efforts on a wide range of carefully constructed wildlife and biological protection plans.

I think the public overwhelmingly supports clean energy projects such as Ivanpah when you factor in that it prevents the emission of 400,000 tons of carbon into the atmosphere – tantamount to removing 72,000 cars from California’s roads annually.

Construction workers secure a heliostat onto a pylon. (Credit: BrightSource Energy)

Construction workers secure a heliostat onto a pylon.
(Credit: BrightSource Energy)

Construction of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System required thousands of workers. How many people are currently employed by the plant?
At peak construction we employed more than 2,600 people on-site. The project now has 65 employees responsible for the day-to-day operations of the facility. The project also employs 25 biologists for protection and support of wildlife in addition to performing other biological work for the project. At the height of our work, we employed as many as 160 biologists on-site for our Head Start program for desert tortoises. The project provided a local infusion of $300 million in state and local tax benefits at a time when the US economy was going through the “Great Recession” and was in much need of good paying jobs. Total construction wages paid eclipsed $250 million and total employee earnings over the course of the project are expected to be more than $650 million.

How does the plant’s energy production measure up against other similar solar projects?

Ivanpah is the world’s largest solar thermal plant and approximately 100 MWs more than our Agua Caliente photovoltaic (PV) solar plant which produces 290 MWs, which is currently the nation’s largest fully-operational PV plant.

Are there any lessons learned from this project?
As with any large infrastructure improvement project there will be lessons learned. With Ivanpah, we attempted something that had never been done on this scale – and with a brand new technology. We are constantly improving our processes and efficiencies on site and learning about ways we can optimize the levels of power we are producing. We are generating massive amounts of data that will help with future projects going forward and our environmental research work has been ground-breaking for the science community.

Credit: Hotelzon

Credit: Hotelzon

This project is a great example of how corporate partners are coming together to help California to meet its greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal. What are some best practices people can do in their own homes or at work that can help contribute to meeting our state’s goal of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020?
Ivanpah is a magnificent example of a public/private partnership to bring more renewable energy to our country. Ivanpah has drawn support from the Department of Energy (DOE) and NRG due to their tremendous benefits and the hard work of the original project developers. The DOE chose to award loan guarantees to these projects to provide debt support to the original project developers based on the economic, environmental and energy security benefits those projects will bring to Americans. Because projects like this are so important, NRG invested more than a billion of its own capital to provide equity support to the projects because they offer the potential for quality returns and the ability to move clean energy forward in a meaningful way.

We are doing our part, but there are things individual consumers can do to reduce their carbon footprint in their homes. Things like installing solar rooftop systems, purchasing a programmable thermostat like Nest, changing their lighting to compact fluorescence (CFLs), weather-stripping and insulation, turning off electronics and your cable modem when not in use and buying Energy-Star-rated appliances.

Fed Ex Field in Washington D.C. (Credit NRG Energy)

Fed Ex Field in Washington D.C. has an NRG solar installation that can produce up to 2 megawatts of power. Enough power to meet 20% of the stadium’s power needs on game days and all of its power needs on non-game days.
(Credit NRG Energy)

What’s next for NRG? What projects should we be looking forward to?
The energy industry is on the cusp of a revolution and NRG is driving toward a consumer-focused future. Through innovation, the freedom of choice and the self-empowerment, the consumer will realize the enormous benefit of something our generation never experienced – energy self-determination.

NRG is bullish on renewable energy, based on ongoing improvements in the technologies and the effective commercialization of new technologies (evidenced by projects like Ivanpah) that we see continuing over the next five years.

We think solar and wind will become the clear competitive alternatives to fossil generation in the foreseeable future. Photovoltaic solar costs continue to go down, driven by a decrease in panel prices and companies like NRG working to bring down the overall balance of system cost.

In addition to our large-scale wind and solar utility projects, NRG owns high-profile distributed solar installations at several NFL stadiums, including FedEx Field in Washington, DC; MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ; Patriot Place in Boston; Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia; and the new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., which is LEEDs certified and will be the first U.S. professional sports venue to achieve net zero energy performance.

Lastly, NRG owns 40 MW of combined distributed solar at various commercial locations in several states, including municipal buildings, hospitals, industrial buildings, schools, universities and retail chains and also partners with notable organizations, such as MGM (Mandalay Bay) and Starwood Resorts to offer solar energy solutions to private industry.

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Solar power is all around us. Whether you live in one of the homes receiving electricity produced by the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, a student at a University, a fan cheering on your favorite NFL team in their home stadium, or a guest staying and playing at a Las Vegas resort, the power of the sun may just be helping to power these aspects of your life.

Liz Faris, Account Manager
Collaborative Services, Inc.
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Report Cards Aren’t Just for Schools

Earlier this week, we celebrated Labor Day. That means many schools across the country started session, and with school comes report cards. Report cards identify where students excel or need to improve. But student’s aren’t the only ones that receive report cards. Every four years our country receives a report card on its infrastructure systems from the American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE).

Like the alphabet is to words, infrastructure is to the systems that create water, energy, and roadways. Infrastructure is the building block of everything. It is our roads and bridges. It delivers water and electricity to our homes. It’s what keeps commerce coming through our ports. And it is the schools where our future leaders are taking their own educational journeys.

Credit: Streetsblog USA

Credit: Streetsblog USA

The report card for America’s Infrastructure is significant because just like with students in school it shows our country where it needs to improve and offers key solutions for how to do so. An advisory council of ASCE members assigns grades using the following criteria: capacity, condition, funding, future need, operation and maintenance, public safety, resilience, and innovation.

In 2013 America’s infrastructure systems scored the following:

  • Dams – D
  • Drinking  Water – D
  • Hazardous Waste – D
  • Levees – D-
  • Solid Waste – B -
  • Wastewater – D
  • Aviation – D
  • Bridges – C+
  • Inland Waterways  – D-
  • Ports – C
  • Rail – C+
  • Roads – D
  • Transit – D
  • Public Parks and Recreation – C-
  • Schools – D
  • Energy – D+

This past year America’s infrastructure GPA was a D+, somewhat of an improvement from the country’s typical D average. The other promising aspect of the 2013 report card is that no categories declined.


Credit: Hearst Communications, Inc.

So how does America improve it’s infrastructure GPA? In many ways it’s similar to how students improve their GPA. Investing in the future through studying and dedication brings grades up. Investing in the country’s future through funding, policy, and public support helps projects move forward improving their grades with the ASCE. This was true with rail category in 2013. The country’s rail system gained more private investment for efficiency and connectivity and saw increased ridership (Amtrak reported it’s highest ridership of 31.2 million passengers in 2012). As a result, this category achieved the highest improved grade moving from a C- four years ago to a C+. While this change doesn’t seem like a lot, the improvement is significant and promising.

Credit: BrightSource Energy

Credit: BrightSource Energy

This month as we kick off our annual series on BIG projects, we will take a look at some of the projects helping to improve America’s infrastructure report card. We will learn about advancements in renewable energy, land use, transportation, and more. Some of these projects are the valedictorians of their fields and others are still improving with lots of potential for the future. Big or small there is no doubt these projects have made a BIG impact on improving the BIG systems that connect us and keep us moving.

We hope you’ll stay with us and share your BIG ideas along the way.

Liz Faris, Account Manager
Collaborative Services, Inc.

Flounders, and gangplanks, and smokestacks! Oh my!

In June and July, we showed our readers banished words, slang words, words of the year, and words that create sayings backed with extra meaning. We looked at commonly misused phrases and the history of even more common idioms. Looking back, we have filled our blog with a colorful cornucopia of word choices. We hope you have enjoyed this word-filled journey as much as we have enjoyed being your vocabulary tour guide.



And now, without further ado, we would like to extend a sincere thank you to the word aficionados who contributed over the past two months:

In August our blog will take a summer break, but first we are closing our series on words and word choice with a nod to beach lingo from the roaring 1920’s.



“To avoid being bellbuoys and water-lilies, we’re donning our films to join the beach combers and weak fish on the shore during the month of August.”

For a full translation, visit the ‘20s Beach Vernacular inventory by Ben Schott from the New York Times.

We look forward to bringing you new insights this fall, starting with our annual series on BIG projects in September!

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The Collaborative Services Blog Team

“I do not think it means what you think it means”

This week we bring you the second part of our look at the origins and meanings of popular sayings. As we continue our series on Words and Word Choice, we are focusing on this important information to help you communicate effectively. While sayings and idioms are fun ways to express yourself, they only work if you understand their meaning, and if the person you are using them with also understands it. For example, if you have ever seen the classic 1987 movie The Princess Bride you will likely remember that Wallace Shawn’s character, Vizzini, keeps using the word “inconceivable,” but it doesn’t seem like quite the right way to describe the unfolding events. Mandy Patinkin’s character, Inigo Montoya, says to Vizzini “You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.” We don’t want you to be Vizzini when it comes communicating.

To help you avoid “beating around the bush” when communicating with others, today we continue to share the theories behind the origins and meanings of sayings you have likely said or heard yourself. We used the Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, Oxford Idioms Dictionary for English Learners, and NTC’s Dictionary of Words and Phases as our sources for the meanings and origins of the sayings in this blog post.

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Credit: Northern Sun

Credit: Northern Sun

Killed with Kindness

If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all. Instead, try killing the person or thing irritating you with kindness. Not literally, but in a way that makes you look good while also achieving a good outcome. The first recorded use of this expression comes from William Shakespeare who used it in 1596 in The Taming of the ShrewHowever, the words and action of harming someone with excessive kindness may actually date back further to ancient Greece. The Athenian lawmaker and first legislator of Athens, Draco created the first constitution of Athens, a set of strict laws with harsh punishments enforced only by a court (one could receive the death penalty for stealing cabbage). Despite the harshness of the Draconian laws, Draco was popular among the people. Around 590 B.C. he was sitting in a theater at Aegina when he was literally killed by kindness. So many of the attending audience members hailed Draco, paying tribute by throwing articles of their clothing on him that he was actually smothered to death. We’re left wondering what the draconian punishment may have been for this act?

Credit: Design Your Trust user Raid 71

Credit: Design Your Trust user Raid 71

Paint the Town Red

There is more then one way to say tonight you are going out to have a great time. Probably the most colorful expression to use is saying you are going to “paint the town red.” Today, the best understood meaning of this saying is having fun visiting several bars and clubs in one night. But, this particular saying has many other theoretical origins from the hard partying ways of cowboys in the 1880’s American West to the flushing of drunk faces. The latter suggests a connection to the older expression “to paint” which meant “to drink.” Pair this expression with the way an inebriated person’s face turns red when they have had a few too many and you have another possible origin of this saying. Another possibility is that red is in reference to violence, and those who “painted” often did harm to themselves or others in their drunken stupor.

Credit: Halcyon Solutions Inc.

Credit: Halcyon Solutions Inc.

Get One’s Goat

You’ve probably had to deal with an annoying individual once if not several times in your life. Someone who drives you into a tizzy. This feeling isn’t common to just humans, its also felt by our equestrian friends. The saying “to get ones goat” is often believed to have to do with high-strung race horses. Goats were put in their stables to calm them, but the horses would become attached to their new roommate and grow upset if the goat was removed. The theory is that during horse races in the 19th century gamblers would use this practice to their advantage and steal the goat from the stable of the horse they wanted to lose so they could reap the profits of a win. Hence they would “get ones goat” to gain an advantage in the race. While gamblers may have been practicing “getting one’s goat” in the 19th century the phrase was first recorded by Jack London in his 1912 novel, Smoke Bellew, but it’s reference had nothing to do with racing. Other theories suggest that the phrase is linked to “scapegoat” of ancient Hebrew tradition; the word “goad” meaning to anger or irritate; or the 16th century French phrase “prendre la chèvre” which means “to take the goat.”

Credit: deviantart user tdj1337

Credit: deviantart user tdj1337

Steal My Thunder

Don’t you hate it when you come up with a brilliant idea only to have someone suggest it before you, and receive all the credit for it? You’ve probably uttered the words “they stole my thunder” under your breath when this happens. Don’t feel too bad, the same thing happened to playwright John Dennis. Dennis discovered a new way to simulate thunder on the stage by shaking a sheet of tin. He used this method during his 1709 play Appius and Virginia which only ran for a short time. After his play had closed, Dennis was sitting in the pit at a rival theater during their production of Macbeth when he heard his thunder being simulated. This caused Dennis to exclaim “See how the rascals use me! They will not let my play run, and yet they steal my thunder.” So remember poor John Dennis next time someone steals your good idea and gets the credit for it. At least you weren’t the person who literally had their thunder stolen.

We hope you enjoyed the origins and meanings of these sayings and that they help make communicating “a piece of cake” for you in the future. What are some common sayings that you have always wondered about the origins of?

Liz Faris, Account Manager
Collaborative Services, Inc.

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Is That What You Meant?

You do it. We do it. We all do it. What do we do? We use old sayings when we talk about new situations. Why do we do it is another question.

Maybe, we think we’ll be understood because we are using a saying that we think everyone knows. Maybe we believe the saying captures everything we need to express. Maybe an idiom adds color to what we are saying. Then again, maybe not everyone knows the saying or they have a different idea about what it means. Maybe that saying carries additional meaning that we didn’t intend. So as we continue our series on Words and Word Choice we are focusing on – sayings, phrases, and idioms – because we use them and the meanings they communicate are crucial to dialogue – public ones like our firm is professionally involved with – and personal ones that each of us has every day with our family, friends, and colleagues. We’ll check out what these sayings communicate not just with their words, but their extra meaning via their history and past interpretation that they carry with them. As you never know what your audience associates with these sayings, you may want to reconsider putting the situation into your own words.

In our quest to discover the history of these sayings, we headed offline to the library. We used The Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, Oxford Idioms Dictionary for English Learners, and NTC’s Dictionary of Words and Phases as our sources for the meanings and origins of the sayings in this blog post.

We want to make sure you aren’t “barking up the wrong tree” when you communicate, so read on for our first set of sayings and their origins and meanings.

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Bite the Bullet
Have you ever been in a tough situation and someone told you to just “bite the bullet?” Doesn’t sound very appetizing, and what does biting a bullet have to do with hunkering down and accepting a difficult task? There are two possible origins for this phrase and both were formed on the battlefield. The first possible origin dates back to the 1850’s and the cartridge used in a British Enfield Rifle. This cartridge had a paper tube that the riflemen had to bite off in order to expose and spark the gun powder. The rifleman had to remain clam while performing this task in the middle of a battlefield hence the expression to “bite the bullet.”

The second possible origin is in reference to surgeons operating prior to the use of anesthesia. They would ask their patients to bite a bullet in an attempt to alleviate their pain.

Credit: Brillo 2010

Credit: Brillo 2010

Raining Cats and Dogs
Our state and many others are currently in a terrible drought, so we certainly wouldn’t mind if it started raining, but perhaps not “cats and dogs.” This rain reference comes from 17th century England when apparently garbage and the carcass’ of cats and dogs were washed through city streets that during heavy downpours sadly became rivers of liter and our lost furry friends. The first printed use of the phrase is also from the 17th century. Playwright Richard Brome wrote in his play The City Witt (1652): “It shall rain dogs and polecats.” Another more mythical theory suggests that the saying was inspired by the fact that cats and dogs were associated with rain and wind in Northern mythology. Dogs were pictured as the attendants of the storm god Odin, and cats were believed to cause storms. Lastly, this saying could have also originated from mis-pronunciation. It’s been suggested that this phrase comes from a Greek expression that sounds similar and means “an unlikely occurrence.” Another theory suggests it comes from a mispronunciation the rare French word for waterfall, “catadoupe.”

Credit: FinanceTwitter

Credit: FinanceTwitter

Don’t Count Your Chickens Before They’re Hatched
Have you ever gotten your hopes up too soon? Maybe growing up, your parents told you “don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched” because they didn’t want your excitement to end in disappointment. This phrase originated in an Aesop fable about a woman entrepreneur who arrives at a market with eggs to sell. She announces that she will buy a goose with the profits she gets from the eggs, then to sell the goose and use the profits from that sale to purchase a horse, and so on. It sounds like a good logical plan until she accidentally kicks over her basket of eggs, breaking them in her excitement. No eggs, no goose, no horse, no good. Aesop used this expression again as the moral of  his story “The Milkmaid and her Pail.” It has a similar outcome to the story of the woman and her eggs. Just replace eggs with milk, you get the idea.

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Do you use any of these sayings? Are you surprised by any of their origins?

Stay tuned as we keep you on the “straight and narrow” when is comes to communicating, as we continue to share the interesting, twisted, and funny origins behind popular sayings. And, please share with us your favorite sayings and their origins.

The Collaborative Services Blog Team
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“Everyone wants to write a novel, but very few people want to write the next sentence.”

Time Magazine names its “Person of the Year,” but did you know if also names its best bloggers of the year? Today, we are pleased to introduce one of the bloggers that made their 2013 list. Acclaimed author and all around lover of language Mark Forsyth is also the man behind the blog The Inky Fool.

From exploring the origins of words and phrases to guiding good grammar to the basics of correctly constructing a sentence, The Inky Fool is an enjoyable online resource for anyone interested in the English language. Forsyth uses concise and witty posts to explore everything you’ve ever wondered about the written and spoken word because he is curious about it too. Time sited his post on the hidden meanings behind the Christmas carol “Twelve Days of Christmas,” as both “shocking and shockingly obvious.” And his article  for The Telegraph on the use of the word “so” (also posted on his blog) will leave you internally debating whether the conjunction really is useless afterall.

Credit: Mark Forsyth, The Inky Fool

Credit: Mark Forsyth, The Inky Fool

Additionally, Forsyth shares his knowledge and love of etymology with readers offline in his books and other publications including: “The Etymologicon,” “The Horologicon,” “The Elements of Eloquence,” and “The Unknown Unknown.”

Today, we hear from Forsyth on how the Inky Fool got its start. He’ll share his favorite memorable phrases and why bookstores are still important in the digital age. And he’ll give advice for aspiring writers. We welcome his insights.

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Credit: rgbstock

Credit: rgbstock

How did your blog The Inky Fool start? What caused you to have the idea to launch it?
It actually wasn’t my idea – an old friend of mine suggested starting a blog on language; and for the first few months we did it together. I simply found that I enjoyed it more, and had more time to spare. She left, but it’s still named after her. You see, she can’t go within 100 yards of a fountain pen without ending up covered in ink for some reason. So I used to call her the Inky Fool. The blog is still named after her, even though everyone thinks it’s me.

The Inky Fool is dedicated to Words, Phrases, Grammar, Rhetoric and Prose. Why this focus?
It’s all about how to construct a single sentence. The important thing about the blog is that it’s never about what is said, only about how it’s being said: the beautiful words that can be used, the strange ways of phrasing things, the comical origins of the words. The important thing, is that when, for example, I’m talking about a political slogan, I never ever say whether or not I agree with it. So many people who write about language feel that that gives them the right to opine about the world, which is terribly tedious.

Credit: Blogger

Credit: Blogger

We notice that “words” are combined with phrases, grammar, rhetoric and prose. We’re focusing on words in June and July. Would you like to write a few words about words, why they are first on your list, why they matter and what’s so interesting about them from your point of view?
My favourite thing about words is the strange and funny origins, the stories behind them and the connections between them. I love the fact that ‘testament’ is related to ‘testicle,’ or that California is named after the Caliphate, or that ‘brackets’ comes from the Old French for ‘codpiece.’

What do like most about blogging?
The ability to write exactly how you want to. Most forms of writing, whether it’s newspapers, novels, or poetry, have a set style, a way of writing that’s expected of you. Blogging is young enough that these conventions haven’t had time to form. It’s perfect artistic freedom, not because you’re breaking the rules, but because there aren’t any rules there at all. It’s the new frontier.

Credit: Screen Rant, LLC

Credit: Screen Rant, LLC

Your book the Elements of Eloquence goes beyond a love for words, it discusses what makes a phrases memorable. What are some of your favorite phrases and why do think they have stood the test of time?
My favourite figure of rhetoric is diacope. Bond, James Bond. Run, Forest, run. Fly, my pretties, fly. Captain, my captain. To be, or not to be. Game over, man, game over. It’s so simple and elegant, and pretty much guarantees you a memorable line. It’s not the phrase I love so much as the formula behind it (although I do of course love the phrases). It’s great to put together great lines from across history – demonstrating how the Bible, Dickens, Gershwin and Katy Perry are all using the same trick of progressio. Putting Paul McCartney next to St Paul and saying “Look, it’s the same thing.”

Your latest publication The Unknown Unknown: Bookshops and the Delight of Not Getting What You Wanted written for Independent Booksellers Week is in some ways is an ode to a place many believe is on its way out – the bookshop. You believe bookshops are alive and well. In the age of tablets and e-books, what are some of the ways that bookstores are surviving? What does “the bookshop” represent and what’s your best case scenario for them to succeed in an increasingly online world?
The important thing about a bookshop is that you can, by chance, come across a book that you never knew existed, on a subject you had never even thought of. You can’t get that on the internet, because on the internet you need to enter your search terms. A good bookshop can expand your mind. The dangerous thing about the internet is that it can fulfil all the desires that you already have, but it can’t give you new ones. If you were always able to get food just like Mama used to make it, you’d end up eating that rubbish for the rest of your life.

What book(s) have influenced you the most as a writer?
Three Men in a Boat.

You are active on social media, which often limits our words to 140 characters or less. How do you handle this challenge?
I rather like the challenge of expressing yourself as briefly as possib

What’s ahead for you and The Inky Fool this year? What should readers look forward to?
Right at the moment, nothing. I’ve just finished the publicity tour for “The Unknown Unknown,” and I’m going to take a break. In a few days time, I’m sure I’ll get bored and start something new. But for the moment, I’ve no idea what it will be.

What advice or resources do you have for aspiring writers and word lovers?
Make sure that you love language and love writing. Everybody wants to write a novel, but very few people want to write the next sentence. Life is all about process. Everyone would like to be Wimbledon Champion (or whatever), but almost all of us would die of boredom if we were asked to play tennis eight hours a day, seven days a week. If commas aren’t your idea of fun, you’re in trouble.

Credit: Candilynn Fite

Credit: Candilynn Fite

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To fall even more in love with language visit The Inky Fool and pick up a copy of one of Forsyth’s books here. Or, take a stroll through the aisles of your local bookstore.

As the Inky Fool has showed us words and phrases have many different origins and meanings. The words you use may mean more than you know. Next up we’ll explore the origins and meanings behind some of our favorite phrases and sayings. Stay tuned to make sure you are saying what you think you are saying.

Liz Faris, Account Manager
Collaborative Services, Inc.

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Much ado about “more than”

Every profession has its tool of the trade. Carpenters are equipped with a hammer and nails. Teachers use a chalk board or smart board when they work with their students. Journalists rely on the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook. A copy of the AP Stylebook aka the “journalist’s bible” has been at every journalist’s desk since the 1950s. Today, editions are also available online and as an app on your smartphone, making it a tool just as essential to reporting the news as a pen, notebook, computer, digital recorder, or camera. So when an update or exception is made to the AP Stylebook, it becomes breaking news itself.

Earlier this year a few words caused a big uproar in the world of journalists and professional writers everywhere. The AP Stylebook changed its stance on the long debated writer’s rule of when to use “more than” and when to use “over.” The AP now says that it is okay to use “over,” as well as “more than” when referring to quantity. The twittersphere exploded over this exception both in favor and against.


Credit: AP Stylebook

Credit: AP Stylebook

Credit: Twitter user @MikeShor

Credit: Twitter user @MikeShor

Credit: Twitter user @nickjungman

Credit: Twitter user @nickjungman

The type of reaction received after making “over” and “more than” interchangeable is nothing new to the AP Stylebook co-editors. They receive countless requests for updates and exceptions to be made each year. They spend significant time and careful consideration on every update and exception that is made to the AP Stylebook, but know they can’t please everyone. As our language evolves, the writing resources we use must evolve with it. While these updates and exceptions may not always be welcome news they help all of us accurately communicate and report the news in a culture that is continually changing.

So, how are these updates and exceptions determined? Who is tasked with making such influential decisions? This is the job of our interviewee – co-editor of the AP Stylebook David Minthorn and his fellow co-editors Sally Jacobsen and Paula Froke. This week as we continue our series on Words and Words Choice, David shares with us why it is important for the AP Stylebook to evaluate and update its guidelines, typical requests for updates and exceptions that he receives, and he’ll get to the bottom of the AP’s controversial ruling mentioned above on using “over” and “more than” when referring to a quantity. We welcome his insights.

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Credit: AP Stylebook

Credit: AP Stylebook

The AP Stylebook has come to be known as the “journalist’s bible.” What was the original purpose of the AP Stylebook?
The preface for the 1953 edition states that the book “is for the guidance and benefit of those engaged in preparing the AP report.”

   The explanation that follows remains relevant today.

   “Presentation of the printed word should be accurate, consistent, pleasing to the eye and should conform to grammatical rules.

   “The English language is fluid and changes incessantly. What last year may have been very formal, next year may be loosely informal. Word combinations, slogans and phrases are being added to and becoming part of the language. Alphabetical identifications are widely accepted.

   “Because of constantly changing usage, no compilation can be called permanent. Nor can any one volume be infallible and contain all the wisdom and information of the ages. When there is doubt, consult an authoritative source and stay with it. The effort in this book has been to provide applicable examples to as many problems as space permits.”

What do you think its biggest contribution has been?
The Stylebook has evolved from that compact first edition of 60 pages primarily for newspapers to the current handbook of 500 pages covering essential writing and editing guidance and news values for all platforms of news presentation. Over the years, the AP Stylebook’s annual editions have benefited greatly from suggestions by a wide range of readers and users. In updating the Stylebook, the editors keep in mind the overriding goals of AP reporting: to be accurate, balanced, prompt, clear and concise, no matter what the news or where it happens.

How often does the AP Stylebook get updated?
AP Stylebook Online, available by annual subscription, is updated throughout the year with new terms and revisions, including amended definitions as needed. These updates are incorporated into the printed edition published each year in late May or early June.

When the AP Stylebook makes an update or exception it is breaking news. Generally, what factors are considered in determining what to update?
The overriding factors are relevance to the news and ensuring accuracy and clarity in AP news reports. Updates generally fall into three categories: New terms added  for coverage of breaking news or major issues; revised entries or guidelines to update existing terminology; and new topical sections bringing together various entries previously listed individually in the A to Z alphabetical section. Religion Guidelines added this year includes about a dozen new terms, for a total of more than 200 entries in the section.

Revised entries often generate high interest. An example this year was AP Stylebook team’s ruling that over may be used in numerical references along with more than. Previously, over was limited to spatial relationships, as in “the plane flew over the city.”  For expressing greater numerical values, more than was the approved term: e.g., Salaries went up more than $20 a week. The change permits over in such contexts: Salaries went up over $20 a week.

So over did not replace more than in referring to greater numerical value in AP Style. Rather, the terms are given equal footing in numerical references. We’re simply following dictionary definitions of the words, dropping a grammatically baseless prohibition that entered the U.S. journalistic canon in the 19th century.

Credit: New Jersey On-Line LLC

Credit: New Jersey On-Line LLC

What type of reaction does the AP Stylebook receive from journalists and other professional writers when it makes an update?
Generally two or three updates of the dozens made each year garner a lot of comment — praise and criticism. A few examples. In the 2010 Stylebook, website became one word, lowercase, reflecting popular usage. However, other terms using Web, shorthand for World Wide Web, remain unchanged with two words: e.g., Web page, Web feed. In 2011, email became one word for simplicity, an exception to other electronic terms spelled with hyphens: e-book and e-commerce. In 2012, the Stylebook amended a longtime entry to accept hopefully as a sentence adverb in line with dictionaries: Hopefully, we’ll be home before dark. In 2013, the Stylebook entry on illegal immigrant was replaced by illegal immigration: illegal refers only to an action, not a person. Also, the 2013 entry on mental illness, with guidelines on usage in stories on violent crime, was another significant update.

Two changes this year got a lot of attention. I’ve mentioned over and more than. A second change generating a lot of attention was the decision to spell out state names with cities within news stories, rather than abbreviating the state. For example, we’ll now write Madison, Wisconsin, instead of Madison, Wis. This change will ensure that location spellings conform to a common standard. Many AP stories are transmitted overseas, where U.S. state abbreviations aren’t well-known. Spelling the states clarifies these names. AP stories written overseas and sent simultaneously to U.S. domestic services  have been spelling out state names for some time.

Why is it important that the AP Stylebook evaluate and update its guidelines on a regular basis?
With the flow of daily news, new coinages, expressions and spellings involving newsmakers come into play virtually every week and sometimes more often. Some new terms have a short life and lose relevance rather quickly; others have staying power and retain lasting significance. AP Stylebook’s editors work year-round to stay abreast of evolving language and usage. Our task is to decide which terms with definitions merit inclusion in the Stylebook to help AP report the news with accuracy, speed, credibility and readability.

Credit: Oxford Dictionaries

Credit: Oxford Dictionaries

Other publications dedicated to words also make annual updates such as Merriam-Webster and Oxford Dictionaries with their “word of the year.” Does the AP Stylebook pay attention to the updates made by other publications? How much do the “words of the year” and additions in other publications influence the AP Stylebook’s updates?
The AP Stylebook’s primary reference is Webster’s New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition The publishers are planning a Fifth Edition later this year. We’ll pay very close attention to updates in that dictionary. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language is our backup dictionary, along with Concise Oxford English Dictionary. We did note that “selfie” was prominently featured in the Oxford dictionary group’s 2013 words of the year. Coincidentally, the term for a self-portrait taken by a smartphone and posted on the Web was added to the online AP Stylebook and will appear in the 2014 printed edition not enclosed in quotes. While the term has been around in social media since 2004, selfie became very prominent in the news over the last 12 months as famous personalities got involved.

What are some of the more popular requests for updates and exceptions that the AP Stylebook receives?
The spelling changes to website — one word– and email — no hyphen — were a reflection of popular sentiment and common usage. Over several years, we received many requests from the public and from within the AP staff to amend those spellings. Finally the time was right, so we changed the Stylebook’s spellings to reflect reality. Those who objected probably stuck with the old spelling. It’s their right. AP Style isn’t imposed on anyone outside the AP.

As the 4th Estate moves more to online and digital mediums, are you seeing this shift reflected in the updates the AP Stylebook makes?
I mentioned the prompt updates of the AP Stylebook Online once the editors agree on a change that affects  AP’s coverage of breaking news and major issues. We encourage our staff to consult the online book, which is the most up-to-date version at any time. The printed book is a compendium of all the updates in the previous 12 months, so it’s highly useful in its own right and highly portable. Also, Stylebook Mobile is a universal iOS app for iPhones and iPads. The need for these electronic editions grows with our increasingly digitalized communications. The content of the Stylebook reflects online and digital mediums, from the expanded guidance of the social media chapter to the call each year for suggestions via

Credit: GIGAOM

Credit: GIGAOM

With the rise of online journalism and citizen reporters, do you see the AP Stylebook guidelines being lost with these non-traditional outlets?
Not at all. The Stylebook editors tweet and post daily AP Style tips. We hold monthly AP Style chats on Twitter featuring AP specialist reporters — politics, science, sports, book publishing, fashion, food, etc. All these topics have specialized vocabularies for reporters and editors in all platforms, including online and citizen reporters. Also, there’s Ask the Editor, the online Stylebook’s help site. I answer some 3,000 queries a year from Stylebook users seeking advice on writing and editing that often goes beyond specific Stylebook entries. If anything, the interest in AP Style is expanding every year.

Last year was the AP Stylebook’s 60th anniversary. This major milestone was celebrated with a print edition, which includes more than 90 new or updated entries and broadens the guidelines on social media. Where do you see the AP Stylebook headed in the next 60 years?
We’ll take it one year at a time. The public’s need for breaking news, in-depth reporting and nonpartisan analysis has never been greater. The AP Stylebook’s lexicon of terminology provides a framework for reporting the news accurately, consistently and objectively. Usage constantly evolves, new words come into the language. Language rulings from a credible and authoritative source will always be needed. The methods and devices used to convey AP Stylebook updates are certain to evolve in ways we can’t yet envision. But the basic mission outlined in 1953 remains unchanged.

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We use our copy of the AP Stylebook religiously and encourage new writers to do the same. Pick up a copy of the latest edition in print, online, or on your phone and see where it can take your writing. Or, share with us some other must have writing resources that you can’t do without.

Liz Faris, Account Manager
Collaborative Services, Inc.

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