Yearly Archives: 2024

Energy Infrastructure and Climate Change: Protecting Erodible Slopes in Fire-Prone Areas

Energy infrastructure is critical to the functioning of modern societies, and its protection against natural disasters and environmental threats is a top priority. Climate change exacerbates these disaster risks, with extreme weather conditions and wildfires being of particular concern, considering potential damage to the energy infrastructure and disruption of energy supply. Wildfires cause rapid, severe destruction, and, aside from damage to infrastructure, can impact our climate, vegetation, and atmosphere. To measure the size and impact wildfires have, scientists use observations from several low Earth-orbit satellites, including the Copernicus Sentinel-3. These tracking satellites gather shortwave-infrared data combined with other techniques to differentiate between burned areas and other low reflectance covers such as clouds. The European Space Agency (ESA) compiles that long-term dataset to analyze global fire trends. According to the ESA, fire affects an estimated four million square kilometers (1.5 million square miles) of Earth´s land each year [1]. That is 400,000,000 hectares (990,000,000 acres) yearly—about half the size of the United States of America, an area larger than the country of India. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Rapid Response Assessment on Wildfires compiles findings from over 50 experts from research institutions, government agencies, and international organizations around the globe, and… Read more »

Transforming Transportation Infrastructure: Protecting Road and Bridge Embankments with Geocells

In a rapidly changing world, maintaining and improving our transportation infrastructure’s resilience and sustainability has become a critical concern for civil engineers. Climate change and increasing frequency of natural disasters present an ongoing challenge to the durability of our infrastructure. In the context of road and bridge embankments, protecting these structures can be of paramount significance to the safety and welfare of the public. These structures are often subjected to fluctuating environmental conditions, heavy traffic loads, and must be able to withstand major storm events to protect embankment materials from soil washouts and the long term damaging effects of erosion. So how can civil engineers meet these growing demands without compromising sustainability or longevity? Increasingly, engineers are turning to geosynthetic solutions, such as the GEOWEB® Soil Stabilization System—a low-maintenance and eco-friendly solution for long-term protection of road and bridge embankments. In many cases, the GEOWEB Geocells offer a flexible, durable, and environmentally responsible alternative to traditional construction materials that can accommodate a wide range of infill materials, including soil, aggregate, or concrete, to establish hard or soft armor, as necessary, for protection as well as aesthetics. As we explore the capabilities of the GEOWEB Geocells, we will find that this… Read more »

Dam Structure Safety Installation and Repair Using Advanced Geosynthetic Technology

Written By: Samantha Justice, P.E. Dams and Spillways Are a Critical Part of U.S. Infrastructure With estimates of 91,804 structures nationwide, dams and spillways are essential for controlling flooding, water distribution, and providing hydroelectric power. However, these structures cannot last forever. The average age of dams and spillways in the U.S. is now 61 years​ (USAFacts)​​, significantly over the typical 50-year lifespan of these structures. Aging infrastructure can lead to serious consequences if safety precautions are not taken or measures are not implemented to address identified problems promptly. Continual inspection and upkeep are crucial for any dam manager. The 2021 Infrastructure Report Card by the American Society of Civil Engineers rated the condition of U.S. dams with a “D” grade, highlighting the pressing need for repairs and maintenance​ (Home)​. State and federal regulations provide a framework for assessing and maintaining dam and spillway structures, requiring at least yearly audit inspections to identify areas needing repair or replacement. Performing these repairs can help extend the lifetime of dams, maintaining essential services without excessive costs or increased failure potential. Understanding Areas of Concern for Existing Structures The vast majority of America’s rivers and lakes have existing dams and spillways, and as such,… Read more »

Green Retaining Walls Protect an Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant from a 500-Year Flood Event

Flood Protection Plan To meet federal requirements for flood mapping of levee-protected areas, a levee reconstruction project for the Indianapolis Southport Advanced Wastewater Treatment (AWT) plant along Little Buck Creek was part of a more extensive Deep Rock Tunnel Connector project—one of the largest combined sewer overflow projects for the City of Indianapolis. The project included plans to protect the Southport ATW plant and wastewater-processing pond from a 500-year flood event from an adjacent creek and river. To accomplish this, a wall system designed on the creek side of the levee would have to maintain a narrow profile to increase the water capacity of the creek. A Natural Erosion Protection Solution Flood events and high water flow from the adjacent creek caused significant toe erosion of the levee embankment along the north side of the wastewater treatment plant. The AWT required a long-term soil stabilization solution to combat erosive forces from Little Buck Creek’s varying depths and flows. The creek flows as low as a 1-foot depth with velocities of 3 feet per second (fps) to as high as 8 fps with a depth of 12 to 15 feet during a flooding event. The project engineer preferred a wall system… Read more »

Creep is not a factor for geocell load support

Written by: Bryan Wedin, Chief Engineer An accurate understanding of creep resistance is essential to proper material selection when using polymers, and in the case of geocells, this science is being misapplied. The definition of creep deformation is “the tendency of a solid material to move slowly or deform permanently under the influence of mechanical stress.” This potential failure mode creates fear and uncertainty among designers wherever the possibility of creep factors exists. Yes, creep can occur in almost all materials including plastics, metals, and concrete. In cases such as bridge and building design, it is important to properly understand creep factors and account for creep in engineering calculations. However, in the case of designing with geocells for load support, creep factors have no relevance. What causes creep? In order for creep to occur, two factors must be present: 1) A constant load applied to the area and 2) A sustained deformation of the geocells. Creep only applies when there is a sustained load on a material for an extended period. In a case of repeated on- and off-loading, this type of deformation would be governed by fatigue, not by creep, because it is not a constant applied load. The… Read more »

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

Discover the Latest CRISI Rail Infrastructure Funding Opportunities: Apply Before the May 2024 Deadline   The U.S. Department of Transportation is bolstering rail infrastructure advancements through the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) program. With a recent allocation of $2.47 billion, the CRISI program is set to significantly impact rail safety, efficiency, sustainability, and reliability across the United States. This funding initiative is designed to support a variety of projects that are pivotal to enhancing the nation’s passenger and freight rail systems. It represents a call to action for rail industry professionals, including engineers, planners, and project managers, to leverage this opportunity to advance their rail infrastructure projects. The deadline for application submissions is 11:59 p.m. ET, May 28, 2024. Professionals in the rail sector are urged to prepare their proposals that align with CRISI’s mission to improve the rail infrastructure’s overall landscape. For a comprehensive overview of the application process and to assess project eligibility, stakeholders are encouraged to review the Fiscal Years 2023-2024 Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) available through the CRISI program. This funding presents a pivotal chance for those involved in rail infrastructure to gain the support and resources needed to propel their projects forward…. Read more »

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

The White House 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. As the faucet opens for IIJA projects, make sure your project has certainty and you are building with quality materials you can trust, 100% made in the USA. 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 65% of the cost of its components sourced domestically. This will further increase to 75% in the calendar year 2029. Included Materials: The guidance specifically lists plastic and polymer-based products, non-ferrous materials, glass, fiber-optic cable, engineered wood, drywall and lumber. Implications… Read more »

Geocell Technology Proves Effective in Solving Soil Stabilization Challenges for Solar Farms on Underutilized Lands

With the increasing demand for clean energy, there is a growing interest in repurposing underutilized lands for solar farm developments, particularly abandoned mines, capped landfills, brownfields, and other unused areas. These locations offer a unique opportunity to transform unused spaces into sources of renewable energy, and can be particularly enticing because they are often situated near established transmission infrastructure. This makes the interconnection process simpler and more cost-effective than connecting to remote greenfield sites. In addition to contributing to the shift toward sustainable energy sources, the development of solar farms on underutilized lands can create jobs, generate revenue, and bring new life to areas that have been neglected or forgotten. However, poor soil conditions can pose significant challenges for solar farm developers. To ensure the long-term success of solar projects, factors such as erosion control, stormwater management, and site access must be carefully considered during the design and construction phases, especially when repurposing underutilized lands for solar farm developments where the site conditions may be less than ideal. GEOWEB® Geocells: A Versatile Site Development Solution for Solar Projects Geosynthetics, specifically geocells, can be highly effective in mitigating the challenges posed by poor soil conditions during the development of solar farms…. Read more »

A Week of Celebration and Inspiration: Engineers Week 2024

“Welcome to the Future!”: Engineers Week 2024 From February 18 to 24, 2024, the engineering community will come together to celebrate Engineers Week. This year’s theme, “Welcome to the Future!”, is a nod to the incredible advancements that have been made and a look forward to the innovations yet to come. It’s a week to celebrate, reflect, and inspire the next generation of engineers. The Roots and Relevance of Engineers Week Initiated in 1951 by the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), Engineers Week has grown into a global celebration. It acknowledges the vital role engineers play in progressing our society. The week aligns with the birthday of one of history’s great engineers, George Washington, who was also a surveyor. This connection underscores the deep roots and enduring impact of engineering in our world. Why “Welcome to the Future!” Matters This year’s theme emphasizes the forward-looking essence of engineering. It’s not just about honoring past achievements; it’s about shaping the future. Engineers are instrumental in developing innovative solutions to some of the world’s most complex challenges, from climate change to advancing technology in renewable energy and communications. This week is an opportunity to showcase how engineering keeps us moving forward,… Read more »

Using Geosynthetics to Stabilize Soils in a Harsh Environment

By Dhani Narejo, PE, Bruno Hay, and Bryan Wedin, PE Mine Site Erosion Problems One of the largest nickel mining sites in the world is located on the South Pacific island of New Caledonia. Due to the size of the mining project and the terrain of the site, significant cut-and-fill work for civil engineering structures was unavoidable. Given the magnitude of the site, the challenge of safeguarding the structures against erosion is formidable. Inaction is not an option due to the sensitive nature of the structures, environmental concerns, and a keen desire by the owners to protect the environment. A typical example of the erosion at the site is the slope in Figure 1. Such slopes require continuous maintenance if the erosion problem is not addressed. In some cases, erosion can cause interruption in the mobility of materials and personnel at the site. Several erosion-control measures had been successfully used at the site, including riprap and concrete. An alternate erosion control system was desired by the owner that would meet the following objectives: Be cost-effective, Require little or no maintenance, Utilize local labor and materials, Have a design life exceeding 50 years. Soil, topography, weather Ultrabasic soils cover about one-third… Read more »