Who Are Today’s Trenchless Engineers?


By Sharon M. Bueno — Dec 31, 2013

Engineers are a distinctive, creative and somewhat mysterious group — who are they really? The comic strip character Dilbert comes to mind when I try to describe the stereotypical engineer. Not really fair to the profession! But in the real-world, these individuals are critical to all construction projects — they are incredibly smart, problem-solving, solution-oriented people who seemingly can untangle any tangled knot they come across.

Engineers in the trenchless technology field are no different and, in fact, they personify the above personality traits, with their thirst for knowledge of this growing facet of engineering and with their passion for exploring how trenchless design can make projects better, more cost-effective and cost-efficient.

In this issue, we are featuring six trenchless design engineers, who offer their perspective on the trenchless design market and its explosive growth, as well as sharing their personal stories of how they came to be in the world of trenchless. Each offers such an inquisitive and interesting journey into their chosen careers.
Learn even more about this group using our TT App by downloading the December issue onto your iPad.

Sharon M. Bueno is managing editor of Trenchless Technology.

JenniferJennifer Glynn, P.E.

Senior Infrastructure Designer

RMC Water and Environment


What is your background?
I grew up in Plymouth, Mass., and earned my Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of New Hampshire in Durham, N.H. As part of my schooling, I did a semester abroad at the Technical University of Budapest in Budapest, Hungary. When I graduated from college, instead of looking for a job, I strapped on a backpack and traveled throughout Europe. When I got back from my adventure, I packed up my Toyota Tercel and drove to California to find a job. I ended up at Carollo Engineers, where I was told that I was going to be trained to be the “best pipeline designer in the industry.” And, I believed them. Since my start at Carollo Engineers, I have worked for two other consulting firms and now work as a Senior Infrastructure Designer at RMC Water and Environment in Walnut Creek, Calif. I have 18 years of experience with many miles of pipeline design on my resume and an expertise in pipeline rehabilitation.
 
How did you become interested and involved in trenchless technology?
I had my first real exposure to trenchless technology when I was doing research for an environmental engineering class in college. I remember thinking how cool the new technology was. I didn’t see or hear about trenchless technology again until I was working as a staff infrastructure design engineer in California. The firm I was working for sent me to a two-day Introduction to Trenchless Technology course in San Diego. I was hooked from that day forward. I started doing my own independent research on the topic and introducing the latest technologies into my design projects. Those projects were a success and my interests began to expand. I started getting involved with organizations that provided me exposure to others in the industry who were interested in trenchless technology. I am now on the Executive Board of Directors for NASTT. I am also a member of the AWWA Water Rehabilitation Standards Committee and an instructor of NASTT Trenchless Technology Courses for Pipe Bursting and Introduction to Rehabilitation throughout the country.

What are some of the cool projects that you have worked on?

I have been privileged to work on many cool projects throughout my career. Early on in my career, I designed a pipe bursting project for a small town on the San Francisco Peninsula. The project involved the replacement of an existing 15-in.VCP pipe with a 28-in. HDPE pipe. It was the largest upsize ever attempted in northern California at the time. And, it was a huge success. Another project of note involved the rehabilitation of a large diameter, high-temperature aeration pipe at a wastewater treatment plant in southern California. What was significant about this project was that I applied trenchless methods and materials that were developed for the high temperature industrial sector to the municipal pipeline industry. This required significant research on my part and was another first for our industry. Within the last several years, I have done quite a few projects involving large diameter pipeline rehabilitation and have been most recently focusing on pressure pipeline rehabilitation, which is the newest sector of trenchless technology.

What do you see in the long-term for trenchless engineering?

I think the next trenchless industry focus will be how to effectively assess and rehabilitate pressure pipelines, particularly water mains. In the past, a huge focus of the trenchless industry has been on gravity sewer rehabilitation and replacement. Great strides have been made in repairing our aging sewer infrastructure. However, our water infrastructure is also in poor condition and desperately in need of repair or replacement. The trenchless industry can provide a cost-effective and less disruptive solution to this problem.


SandraSandra Gelly, Eng., P.Eng.

Senior Project Engineer

Game Trenchless Consultants

What is your background?

I studied Civil Engineering at McGill University (Montreal, Canada) and graduated at the end of 2003. I’ve been working in trenchless technologies from the start, first at CERIU in Montreal, where I spent a year and a half working on projects such as sliplining and HDD sample tenders. In May 2005, I joined WSA Trenchless Consultants, also based out of Montreal, as a site supervisor, sewer analyst and project engineer. I was fortunate enough to be part of the Montreal water and sewer intervention plan project that took place between 2006 and 2009, in which I worked on data analysis for water and sewer condition assessment, sewer inspections and watermain cured-in-place pipe (CIPP). WSA joined GENIVAR in 2009 where I continued to promote trenchless technologies as project engineer in Quebec and across Canada. In October 2013, I joined GAME Trenchless Consultants and continue to work in trenchless condition assessment and rehabilitation, as well as watermain leak detection and inspection for pressurized watermains. 

How did you become interested and involved in trenchless technology?
I started working in trenchless technologies right out of school. A series of events led me to attend a class presentation by Joe Loiacono who then worked for CERIU (now for Sanexen). I applied for a job and started working there right away. I can attribute becoming “involved” in trenchless technologies to CERIU and its implication with project committees, Infraguide, the HDD Good Practice Guideline and conferences. The amount of networking and knowledge provided a very good start to my career. I was encouraged to continue networking and learning about trenchless technologies by Piero Salvo, who has always believed that there is no substitute for practical experience and keeping up to date in a domain that is always evolving and growing.

Describe how trenchless engineering has evolved and expanded over the years.
I think that trenchless engineering is an inevitable step in modern engineering because financial and material resources are limited, social disturbances cause increased bad publicity and advanced technologies are becoming more accessible. Aging infrastructure is a constant blight in urban areas, more so in the past years and especially here in Canada, where the frost line is deeper and there is only a few months a year when we can repair problem pipes. Advances in camera technologies are making it cheaper and faster to obtain quality information on the state of infrastructure that in many cases has never been inspected. Concerned with the repair needs of their assets, infrastructure owners are turning their attention to sustainability and the cost of maintaining a good level of service. Trenchless technologies offer them tools to achieve their goals. Trenchless heroes have been promoting technologies for many decades and you can see right away where they have had the most success.

What are some of the cool projects that you have worked on?
One of the coolest projects I’ve worked on is the Montreal Water and Sewer Intervention Plan. In my opinion, it was the beginning of a new era in the province of Quebec, because infrastructure owners put enormous energy to determine the state of their infrastructure and build a long-term plan to repair and maintain them. As a junior engineer at the time, I was able to learn from a team of experienced engineers, work with cutting-edge analysis software and participate in numerous discussion groups. I am proud to have been part of an engineering team that I believe has provided my home town with valuable management tools and rehabilitation know-how. Another cool project I was part of was the condition assessment of nearly 500 km of sewer pipe and 9,000 manholes at the City of Toronto between 2010 and 2012. It was at the time the biggest project of its kind on North America. Aside from reviewing sewer videos, I helped develop a condition assessment methodology that would be used by City engineers in planning repairs and managing inspection data. What I most enjoyed in this project was the complexity of analysis we were encouraged to provide as well as provide the City with deliverable formats that could be integrated into their systems.




Rafael

Rafael Ortega, P.E.

Vice President

Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam Inc.


What is your background?

I was born in Weslaco, Texas, and moved to Houston as a young child. I received my Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering in 1981 and my MBA in 1985, both from the University of Houston. I joined Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam Inc. (LAN) in 1981 and became a vice president in 2004. I direct one of LAN’s infrastructure groups that focus on large diameter pipelines, condition assessment and trenchless technology and am a leading expert in pipeline design and construction. I have been active in standards committees for the American Water Works Association (AWWA) along with his leadership role with the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Pipeline Division. I travel nationally to speak about pipeline design, performing condition assessment and rehabilitation of pipelines, trenchless construction including tunneling for pipelines and other pipeline-related projects.

How did you become interested and involved in trenchless technology?
In many ways, my career evolved with trenchless technology, which started to grow exponentially in the last couple decades. I never thought of myself as promoting trenchless technology — rather, I focused on finding the most cost-effective solutions for my clients. Benefits such as, minimizing surface disruptions resulted in the same conclusion: trenchless. As my clients’ project needs expanded and increasing concern for the effects of infrastructure in and around a project grew, so did my knowledge of alternative methods of installing utilities and pipelines. One of my first major infrastructure projects involved a 144-in. gravity sewer tunnel. This underground adventure placed the “hunger” in me to further consider trenchless alternatives as a means to minimizing the impact to the community while at the same time identifying cost-effective solutions.

What are some of the cool projects that you have worked on?
My project experience uses various trenchless technologies and is extensive, including numerous major pipelines (ranging from 20 in. to 96 in. in diameter) and numerous tunnels (ranging in size up to 154 in. in diameter). One of my most notable projects is the City of Houston’s $400 million Surface Water Transmission Program (SWTP). In this role, I have been personally responsible for the design oversight of more than 500 miles of pipelines including nearly 100 miles of tunnels. Another project of interest was a 42-in. surface water main designed and constructed to provide a more reliable water service and improved system pressures to the rapidly growing North Padre and Mustang Island communities of Corpus Christi, Texas. Approximately five miles of water main stretched from the main land, across the environmentally sensitive Laguna Madre and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, to North Padre Island. Various construction methods were proposed, including open-land trenching, marine trenching, and horizontal directional drilling (HDD). I oversaw design of the 4,050 lf of HDD section, and provided design input for the remaining marine trenching and open-trenched portions of the project. I reviewed and assessed various pipe materials and construction methods based on geotechnical conditions and requirements of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

What do you see in the long-term for trenchless engineering?
I envision the future of trenchless engineering to continue growing, especially in the area infrastructure rehabilitation. The water and sewer lines installed in the 1970s or earlier will have reached their life expectancy requiring creative application of engineering and technology, namely trenchless methods, as the cost to replace this infrastructure far exceeds available funds.

 

Cindy

Cindy Preuss, P.E.

Senior Project Manager

Hydroscience Engineers


What is your background?

I grew up in Central Oregon and spent most of my formative years in the great outdoors,  — essentially cultivating my love of anything water. From there I was lured out of my small town of 17,000 people to the “glamour” of Los Angeles, where I set about working in office administration and management, supplemented by freelance computer consulting, to save as much money as possible to fund travel abroad. I knew that once my thirst for travel was satiated, I would embark on my academic career, but felt no urgency or concern about how long that would take. That was a good thing, too, given I wasn’t done with my adventures and ready to start college until the age of 25. After satisfying my foundational curriculum at Santa Monica Community College, I transferred to UC Berkeley where I earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering, and graduated with High Honors in 1999.

How did you become interested and involved in trenchless technology?
My interest in pipeline design and construction, regardless of technology used, expanded quickly for me by attending monthly meetings put on by a non-profit organization called the “Northern California Pipe Users Group,” or “PUG.”  The meetings served to spotlight one technology or topic each month, and included roundtable discussions on PUG members’ myriad active pipeline projects that were either in design or construction at the time. My exposure then broadened immensely with attendance to my first No-Dig conference back in 2006, which effectively sparked an insatiable thirst for learning about trenchless pipeline rehabilitation and installation. Through my continued participation in PUG (for which I’m currently chairman), serving as a representative on the NASTT Board of Directors and serving on the program committee for the annual No-Dig conferences, I am fortunate to benefit from the innumerable networking and learning opportunities I believe I would not have, or have had, otherwise. A notable mention is extended to my employer, HydroScience Engineers, for its continued support of my involvement in this ever-evolving industry.

Describe how trenchless engineering has evolved and expanded over the years.
I feel the evolution and rapid expansion of the trenchless industry is attributable to consumer demand, with the largest consumers being those responsible for buried assets/infrastructure that serve the public (e.g. public agencies, municipalities, and power companies). The demand stems both from deterioration of existing pipelines as well as population growth. Much of our nation’s infrastructure is aged and deteriorating, with many fluid conveyance facilities reaching or having already reached the end of their useful life. Trenchless engineering allows for use of the existing “hole in the ground” to house a new or replacement pipeline to solve some of the aged infrastructure issues with no net increase of buried utilities and limited impacts to public convenience.

What are some of the cool projects that you have worked on?
I would say there’s one that stands out above all the rest for me, both because the design clocked in at more than 10 years, and because the project included several miles of sanitary sewer pipeline constructed using traditional open trench and three different trenchless technologies. In addition, the project was located in Santa Cruz County, which allowed for some fun field trips and unusually casual project stakeholder meetings. This isn’t to mention the challenging site constraints, from navigating cliffs to winding roads, railroad tracks and a tidal, environmentally sensitive river crossing. The trenchless technologies used for building the project included auger bore and jacking, horizontal directional drilling, and sliplining — with a total construction cost of more than $12 million.

What makes working in trenchless exciting for you?
I’d say the best part is educating my own staff and clients on the various trenchless technologies available and the benefits therein. Many of my clients have heard of trenchless technologies to one extent or another, but are reluctant to use them due to lack of in-house staff experience, exposure and/or understanding of each technology’s suitability for a various applications. As an industry, we now have a suite of technologies available to solve our pipeline infrastructure challenges, making for more diverse design projects, competitive and/or reduced construction costs and reduced public and environmental impacts. Further, by imparting lessons’ learned from my own projects, as well as connecting industry experts who manufacture or supply trenchless equipment/materials with colleagues, clients and staff, I feel fortunate that I’m able to participate in expanding awareness and education in the trenchless industry.


John

John P. Schroeder, P.E., BCEE

Associate/Conveyance Market Leader

CDM Smith


What is your background?

I received my degree from the University of Cincinnati College of Civil Engineering. I am a Civil/Environmental Engineer who has worked most my career in Engineering Consulting. I worked for Camp Dresser & McKee (CDM) as a coop and went to work with them right out of college. After working for 10 years, I made a career changing move and  spent about one and half years working for a sewer rehabilitation contractor where I learned a great deal about the sewer industry and met hundreds of great people who have made working in this industry a lot of fun, as well as rewarding. I then went back to my former employer (CDM) and asked them if I could come back and focus on the pipeline industry and trenchless technologies. After several months, they asked me to lead CDM in a newly developed position of Trenchless Technology Technical Discipline.


How did you become interested and involved in trenchless technology?
DUMB LUCK! I really started getting bored with treatment plants, airports and other types of civil consulting and was fascinated about how much underground infrastructure in this country and world that is failing and need planning, design and construction. When I realized that we had barely scratched the surface in fixing our failing pipelines, I just kept on wanting to get more involved in the industry with organizations like NASTT, NASSCO, and WEF. When I came back to CDM Smith, I was able help organize other CDM engineers and help grow CDM's market in trenchless technologies to more than $60 million per year and establish us as one of the top trenchless design firms in the country.

What are some of the cool projects that you have worked on?
As CDM Smith's national conveyance market leader and trenchless technology leader I have been involved in hundreds of interesting trenchless projects across the country including: sewer rehab, tunnels, HDD, pipe jacking, I/I studies, and asset management. For the City of Columbus, Ohio, I have had the pleasure of assisting them with its consent order in assessing, cleaning and planning improvements for millions of feet of pipe. They are now beginning to use our recommendations to reduce the I/I in its system, which I designed and helped design numerous new pipeline and rehabilitation projects in Ohio, Florida, New Jersey, California, North Carolina and Massachusetts. I have been involved in several design-build projects in California and Florida where pipes fail and they need a contractor to design and construct solutions IMMEDIATELY, which is very cool and rewarding to see clients, businesses and motorists extremely happy to see a project done so quickly.

What makes working in trenchless exciting for you?
I have been teaching NASSCO PACP across the country to engineers, owners and CCTV operators and it’s great to have lots of hands-on experience to share with others to help them assess and rehabilitate their pipelines. I have looked at thousands of sewer videos and I can quickly understand what the problems are and how to solve them. It’s exciting to help clients realize that we can develop a common sense approach to managing their assets at an affordable cost that will save them millions of dollars. Solving the most important problems first is what prioritization is all about. You can't afford to fix everything. That’s where I think engineers bring the best value is collecting data, determining what are the problems, figuring out possible cost effective solutions, and planning and designing the best solution


Mike

Mike G. Vitale, P.E.

Senior Vice President

Hatch Mott MacDonald


What is your background?

I graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign in 1984 with a MSCE in Geotechnical Engineering. I had the good fortune to learn under many industry leaders such as Drs. Cording, Mesri, Fernandez and Hendron, with an occasional lecture from Dr. Peck. With this educational background it wasn’t long before my career took me underground. Most of my 30 years in the industry have been in the tunneling and trenchless field. I have traveled and lived all over the United States, and even did a stint in Singapore — all in an effort to work with good people on interesting projects. I am one of the primary authors of the ASCE Microtunnel Standard Guidelines and have been on the committee with some hard working folks for more than 20 years. I am currently a senior vice president and one of Hatch Mott MacDonald’s U.S. Tunnel Practice Leaders.

Describe how trenchless engineering has evolved and expanded over the years.
First, there is the educational aspect. I remember when I first started out in the trenchless field, most clients and colleagues had little knowledge of trenchless technology. Now, through magazines such as Trenchless Technology and the efforts of the NASTT, trenchless has become more or less common knowledge and most North American engineers, owners and contractors have become comfortable with the technology. Second, there is good old capitalism. Manufacturers such as Herrenknecht have made advances in machine design and other innovations such as merging horizontal directional drilling and microtunneling into ‘Direct Pipe.’ Curved microtunnels, already common in the rest of the world, are now becoming commonplace in North America with the number of such drives increasing at a rapid pace as experience and comfort level increase. All of these systems, and others such as Pilot Tube, are the result of a lot of smart contractors, manufacturers and other entrepreneurs  building upon past successes and asking themselves “how can we do this quicker, easier and safer?” while of course making a fair profit. The profit motive and the need for alternate sources of energy, are a third driver. For example, the gas pipeline business is exploding. This is requiring new drilling technology, as well as larger, longer and more difficult HDD installations for cross-country conveyance pipeline. A final driver would be the aging North American infrastructure, and the need for repair or replacement of utilities in dense urban areas, often in very poor soils and tight working conditions.

What are some of the cool projects that you have worked on?
I think the ongoing NEORSD Euclid Creek Tunnel is one of the cooler projects I have worked on, but at 24 ft in diameter, it might not qualify as “trenchless” even though it was in fact trenchless. (Only a trenchless engineer might understand this distinction). We did a recent microtunnel in New York City that seemed almost impossible to build due to poor ground conditions, buried utilities, active highways and other surface restrictions. I can’t even imagine trying to do this using open-cut, and it was an extreme challenge working out a trenchless solution. I was also recently part of a peer review on a microtunnel under an active dam that posed some interesting technical challenges. I have worked on a few microtunnels that required daylighting into an open body of water, including a job where the MTBM exited out of a vertical rock face under a lake and roughly 70 ft above the lake bottom.

Click here to find out which are the 2013 Top 50 Trenchess Design Firms.
 

< All stories in this section