Yearly Archives: 2023

The Dangers of Breaking Specs and Bid Shopping

Written by Sam Justice, P.E. Building roads, housing, and other critical infrastructure is a great responsibility taken on by engineers, architects and project owners. Ensuring that these structures are safe and reliable for years and decades is of the utmost importance at all stages of design and construction. The Challenge of Maintaining Quality in Construction The design team creates building plans and the associated specification that capture the essence of their vision as they work to write the guiding documents for their project. They make decisions about product types, grades, and take great pains to build into their documents citations of certifications and standards to assure only quality materials are allowed on the site. However, product competition and budget demands are a concern seen in many projects that can challenge the specifications intended to produce the best possible structure. Substandard “or equal” substitutions can be encountered in the critical moments between design, bid awards, and construction. It is up to the specifying engineers and architects to hold their spec in all phases of the process to ensure the right materials and installation procedures are used. The Bidding Process and Material Selection Contractors often produce bids with the materials indicated by the… Read more »

Geosynthetics and PFAS: Understanding the Role of Polymer Processing Aids in Geosynthetics

Written By: Michael Dickey, P.E., Director of Presto Geosystems Like many other industries, geosynthetics manufacturers are navigating the rapidly evolving landscape of new per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) regulations. However, in the case of geosynthetic products, an interesting and seemingly paradoxical question emerges: Is it possible that the same products that have been designed to solve complex environmental problems, and even contain pollutants, could also be a possible contributing source of PFAS? In this article, we explore this question and discuss the historic role of polymer processing aids (PPAs) in the production of geosynthetics. What Does Intentionally vs Unintentionally Added PFAS Mean? Since the discovery of PFAS in the 1930s, these compounds have been widely used in manufacturing operations worldwide—both intentionally and unintentionally. In a recent article published by the American Bar Association, the concept of intentional versus unintentional use of PFAS is discussed, and in the case of the latter, the use of fluorinated PPAS used in thermoplastics processing is highlighted as a well-known unintentional PFAS source. How this concept relates to traditional geosynthetics manufacturing is discussed further below. Eliminating Polymer Processing Aids (PPAs) from Geosynthetics Production of geosynthetic products such as geogrids, geomembranes, and geocells commonly involves sheet… Read more »

Meet the Presto Geosystems Team: Get to Know Lauren

Meet Lauren Armstrong, the newest member at Presto Geosystems, who joined the team in August 2023. Hailing from a small town near Chicago, Lauren has had quite the career journey. She began her career in IT in downtown Chicago, later transitioning to the Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic (FRP) industry, with her persistent passion for business development guiding her every step. Now at Presto Geosystems, she’s learning all about geosynthetics and facing new challenges head-on. Join Lauren as she shares insights from her past experiences, aspirations for the future, and the path that led her to Presto Geosystems. How long have you been with Presto Geosystems? I am pretty new to the crew—I started at Presto Geosystems in August 2023. Can you tell us a bit about your background? I have lived in a small town that is about 50 miles southwest of Chicago for my entire life. While it may not be the most exciting place in the world, I can’t imagine living anywhere else.  I attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and graduated with a degree in Marketing. My first job out of college was in downtown Chicago at an IT company working as an Account Manager.  The idea… Read more »

Advancing Rail Resilience: How Geosynthetics Help Achieve CRISI Objectives for Robust and Stable Infrastructure

The U.S. Department of Transportation, under the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) program, has allocated over $1.4 billion to upgrade and safeguard rail infrastructure across 35 states and the District of Columbia. This initiative, enriched by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), focuses on ensuring more resilient, efficient, and safe rail infrastructure, mitigating the impacts of severe weather and climate change. It seeks to enhance community safety and expedite the transportation of goods and people through improved and robust rail services. The demand for these grants is significantly high, highlighting the pressing need for enhancements in rail infrastructure across the nation. CRISI Key Takeaways: Grant Allocation: Over $1.4 billion has been allocated for 70 rail projects to enhance and protect rail infrastructure. CRISI Program & IIJA: The program, supercharged by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, focuses on improving rail infrastructure standards and resilience. High Demand: The overwhelming requests for grants underscore the pressing need for improvements and innovations in rail infrastructure. Community Impact: The projects funded are crucial for ensuring community safety and promoting efficient transportation of goods and people. The GEOWEB® Soil Stabilization System (Geocells): A Proven Solution for Rail Infrastructure Mainline Ballast Reinforcement The… Read more »

Addressing Microplastics: How GEOWEB® Geocells Contribute to Eco-friendly Soil Stabilization Practices

Written by: José Pablo George, M.S., CPESC-IT, International Business Manager Microplastics, tiny plastic particles smaller than five millimeters, present a potential hazard to both wildlife and marine organisms. As revealed by a global microplastics database provided by the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) and published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), plastic is the dominant type of marine debris in the ocean and the Great Lakes. These microplastics, usually originating from single-use, disposable plastics on land, are transported via rivers and wind into global circulation systems where they accumulate. International Measures and Guidelines: A Proactive Response to Plastic Pollution The United Nations Environment Programme´s Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee and Environment Assembly have adopted an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution to address plastic pollution throughout its life cycle. Given the array of different types of plastics, the Sea Studios Foundation, in conjunction with Earth911.org, the Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy, the WHO International Programme on Chemical Safety, and the US EPA, has published a Smart Plastics Guide. This guide outlines seven commonly used plastic types and their potential health hazards. There are some plastics (often used for disposable packaging) that are not easily recycled and may contain… Read more »

White House Provides Clarification on Build America, Buy America (BABA)

The White House recently released guidance on the Build America, Buy America (BABA) initiative, an important component within the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) from 2021. BABA stipulates that certain products must be manufactured in the U.S. to qualify for federal funding in infrastructure projects and emphasizes the use of domestically produced construction materials. BABA Highlights: Scope: The BABA guidelines apply to federally funded infrastructure projects, including those under the IIJA. Material Categories: BABA focuses on three primary categories: iron and steel products, manufactured products, and construction materials. Notably, the list has been expanded to include engineered wood but excludes coatings, paint, and bricks based on feedback. Made in America Criteria: To wear the “Made in America” badge, a product must be produced in the U.S., with at least 55% of the cost of its components sourced domestically. Included Materials: The guidance specifically lists plastic and polymer-based products, non-ferrous materials, glass, fiber-optic cable, engineered wood, drywall and lumber. Implications for Infrastructure Development For manufacturers involved in infrastructure projects, these guidelines carry weight. The inclusion of polymer-based products, in particular, sheds light on the growing importance of innovative geosynthetic solutions in federal projects. With BABA’s focus on polymer-based… Read more »

Ballast Stabilization Using Geocells

The Often Overlooked Importance of Junction Efficiency as a Key Design Consideration A significant number of research studies have been carried out to investigate the benefits of using geocells in railway track bed applications. Combined with an ever-expanding list of successful projects from around the world, the benefits of using geocells in rail ballast stabilization is well-documented. Rail operators understand that durable track geometry starts with a solid foundation, and geocells have emerged as a powerful value engineering tool for reinforcing ballast and sub-ballast layers while optimizing layer thicknesses. Many practitioners may not be aware of the critical role that geocell junctions (both mechanical and internal) play in ensuring that the installed system performs in a uniform and consistent manner. In track bed stabilization applications, non-uniform junction performance can lead to differential settlement and localized subsidence—which in turn can lead to serviceability issues, damage to the overlying structure/pavement, and a reduction in overall design life. In essence, poor junction performance can nullify all the intended benefits of a geocell system. This article will succinctly discuss the different types of junctions present in geocell systems, failure mechanisms and test methods, and the concept of junction efficiency as a performance parameter. Types… Read more »

Introducing Presto Geo P3: Expanding the Universe of Value Engineering Solutions Available to the AEC Industry

Project planning and design is a complex task, often demanding a strategic blend of professional judgement, cost considerations, risk, and sustainability. In response to these challenges, Presto Geosystems developed the Presto Geo P3 Project Planning Portal, a free, web-based suite of geotechnical calculation tools. Designed with engineers, contractors, landscape architects, and project owners in mind, Presto Geo P3 streamlines your project planning process, allowing you to quickly perform calculations to evaluate a wide range of possible technical solutions for your project. Presto Geo P<sup>3</sup> Unique Features & Benefits With its pioneering support for geocells—a first in the industry—and integration of calculations for aggregate and vegetated porous pavements and site access, the Presto Geo P3 portal sets a new standard in value engineering evaluations. Key offerings of the Presto Geo P<sup>3</sup> include: Geotechnical Calculations: Soil Stabilization: Unpaved, Flexible Pavements, and Rigid Pavements Porous Pavements: Vegetated and Aggregate Surfaces (Rigid and Flexible) Site Access: Access Roads Personalized Dashboard: Users can efficiently organize their projects and associated calculations for easy access and review. Customizable Output: Detailed calculation output with customizable fields for your project/firm/client name, a summary of input parameters and calculation results, and a cross-sectional graphics illustrating user-selected layer thicknesses and material…

Conserving Natural Resources Using Geosynthetics

Written By: Cory Schneider, Environmental Scientist, Presto Geosystems Natural resources are finite, or at a minimum, can easily be consumed faster than they can be replaced. As such, the conservation of natural resources is a pragmatic endeavor. Geosynthetics—widely available materials used in construction, civil engineering, and environmental protection—can be useful in promoting the conservation of these resources. When used as intended, geosynthetics can enhance soil properties and reduce the demands placed on natural resources. Types of Geosynthetics Geosynthetics are typically made from synthetic polymers, such as polyethylene, polypropylene, and/or polyester, and are designed to be durable and resistant to weathering and other environmental factors. General groupings of geosynthetics include: geotextiles, geogrids, geomembranes, geocells, erosion control blankets (ECBs), and turf reinforcement mats (TRMs). Geotextiles (permeable) and geomembranes (impermeable) provide separation, while geogrids and geocells provide varying degrees of stabilization and confinement. ECBs and TRMs, made with a combination of natural and synthetic fibers, resist surficial erosion by preventing seed washout prior to germination. Application areas where these geosynthetic materials are used typically include: load support, slope, shoreline, and channel protection, and earth retention. Using Geosynthetics in Load Support Applications to Conserve Natural Resources In load support applications, geogrids, geotextiles, and geocells… Read more »