Last month I was privileged to attend the GeoFrontiers conference in Orlando USA. There were many interesting and cutting-edge developments presented which we were able to bring back home. This allows Cirtex and the Geosynthetic community in New Zealand to keep up with the latest international advancements.

Geosynthetic conference

The results are in – good, but room for improvement

Dr George Koerner, Director of the International Geosynthetics Society, delivered a great key-note address where he presented a report card grading the various groups of stakeholders in the Geosynthetic community. I have included a snapshot of the report card and then given a summary below of the key points we learned as we listened to this valuable presentation.               

                             

Topic

Grade

Comments

Manufacturing

A

Problems are immediately corrected

Design

A to D

Specialty firms from excellent to entering consultants which are poor

Index Test Methods

B

Must have harmonization between ASTM and ISO/EN Methods

Performance Test Methods

D

Lack of engineering input

Generic Specifications

C

Needed for consultants…..but they do stifle innovation

Installation

B to D

Specialty Firms are good; newbie’s need help

Earthwork Contractors

C to F

Equipment is too large, insight is lacking

Inspectors

A to C

Specialty firms are good, others are dicey

Monitoring

D to F

There are few operation and monitoring budgets

Regulatory Reviews

A to D

Varies enormously

Reproduced from a presentation by Dr George Koerner; Director of the IGS

One overriding key takeaway from this was that the industry is doing very well in developing and manufacturing geosynthetics, but we are still seeing a great variance in performance in the design and installation areas. This is concerning as it has the potential to bring the industry into disrepute if we don’t work together to ensure these innovative products are designed and installed as intended.

Geosynthetic conference 2017

How this affects us in New Zealand

Let’s break down a few of the above points in a bit more detail and discuss how they apply to us in New Zealand.

Manufacturers. Dr Koerner gave manufacturers a grade A, and noted that there is a good level of understanding and product development happening. In fact, most of the development of new products and solutions is driven by the manufacturers. Also noted was the fact that any product flaws tend to be corrected swiftly.

Designing with geosynthetics showed a vast range with specialty firms doing well, but of concern is a lot of less experienced firms who can see the immense value of geosynthetics but do not yet have the requisite skills and knowledge. “Cut and paste” designs were mentioned with the comment that they are truly scary, that is a design being used because it worked last time when in fact the site conditions may be widely different.

Index tests and performance tests

The former is making good progress, with a note that we need a good correlation between standards regimes internationally which is generally happening. However, performance testing is another story, with a lack of engineering input and a tendency for commercial bias to creep in if done by a manufacturer.

Generic specifications have their place, and scored a C. They are valuable to ensure certain minimum standards are adhered to but do tend to stifle innovation.

The installation phase, including earthworks contractors, inspectors and monitoring brought once again widely varying results, with a common theme being that specialist firms who are focused on this industry sector doing an excellent job, with the industries reputation being challenged by others who are attempting to do the work without the required training. Installation contractors are tending to use machinery which is too large for the task at hand, and we need to work together to make sure they understand what the product is intended to achieve. One specific area of concern is post construction monitoring, with every few operational and monitoring budgets are in place.

Geosynthetics conference Florida

The road ahead

We were encouraged by the potential of the industry and the level of innovation, however Dr Koerner gave a very stern warning that a “race to the bottom” with specification, price and shortcuts with installation is not good enough. At Cirtex we are committed to working with the industry well beyond the sales phase to train and assist all stakeholders and together increase the know-how in the industry

This report card gives us some good feedback which we can use to learn and help each other develop the industry further. Training for specifiers and installers continues to be a very valuable tool for ensuring best practice is followed in the field.

Overall, the industry is in excellent health and there is continued industry growth as new innovations and methods are accepted.

At Cirtex, we aim to reach the very highest in industry standards, both in safety and customer satisfaction. If you have any questions about us, our history, safety records or anything else that we do, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Our friendly and experienced staff will be happy to help in any way they can.