International Geosynthetics Conference 2019

michael-sorensen
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The International Geosynthetics Conference for 2019 was held in Houston, Texas in February and included a number of very valuable highlights that we would like to share. As well as the popular technical sessions which included a vast amount of research and case studies on every field of geosynthetics, there were a number of specific round table discussions, expert panel discussions and forums designed to tackle specific industry concerns.

Also new to the 2019 conference were the inaugural GeoGames, where teams of installers competed to weld an environmental liner in various configurations quickly while maintaining a very high standard. Teams were judged on the quality of the work and the time taken with the winning team being awarded the GeoGames trophy.

There were many other highlights of the conference, following is a quick review on three that are very relevant to us in New Zealand.

Highlight 1, Koerner Lecture by Dr Barry Christopher

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The Robert M Koerner award for 2019 was presented to Dr Barry Christopher followed by his lecture titled “Lessons Learned: An adventure in 4 decades of Geosynthetics Engineering” This was a highly motivating and engaging speech from someone who has not only spent more than 4 decades researching and developing geosynthetics, but also worked at the coalface for a manufacturer, and been actively involved in product testing and development.

Dr Christopher detailed his work in the field and in the laboratory covering most parts of the world, and as a true industry pioneer gave us some valuable insights as to what pitfalls to avoid, and where the true value lies for the future.

Highlight 2, Disaster response with Geosynthetics

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Situated close to the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, Houston has become known as the hurricane capital of the world. With the memories of many hurricanes in recent years and the effects of hurricane Harvey still being felt throughout the community, there were some very lively discussions on how geosynthetics can help with disaster response. We were very privileged to be able to present some of the New Zealand experience and highlight the fantastic work of the NCTIR team in the recent Kaikoura experience.

A large part of the discussion centred around preparedness before the event, including land development rules to mitigate storm flows, maintenance of stormwater infrastructure and managing storage and reservoir levels when an event is forecast. This was a big discussion topic for the City of Houston who had a full reservoir when Harvey was forecast. The decision whether to drop the level or not was extremely difficult with potential damage to property in both scenarios, highlighting the need to have these difficult decisions well before an event so all parties can act swiftly in an emergency situation.

The use of geosynthetic products for stormwater management and storm damage repair has the potential to dramatically improve both the disaster response and the post disaster repairs.

Highlight 3, Choosing the best geogrid option, a TxDOT perspective

Another highlight of the time was a presentation titled “Base Stabilization using geosynthetics to confront TxDOT’s roadway challenges” by Professor Jorge Zornberg from the University of Texas, Austin, and Mike Arellano, P.E., Director of Operations, Austin District, Texas DOT. The state of Texas manages the largest road network in the United States with over 500,000 kilometres of public roads. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) had a large body of field data on the use of geogrids for road stabilisation over many years. However, to better use the available resources they were looking for a robust and effective way to select which geosynthetic product to use in a variety of situations.

Professor Zornburg and his team were tasked with coming up with a way of identifying the stabilisation benefit of various geogrids, taking into account various features such as strength, stiffness and geometry and combining them into a single yet relevant parameter to define the stiffness of the geogrid/soil composite. A huge advantage of this approach is the ability to consider for many properties and parameters and also the specific properties of the soil or aggregate being used, and the interaction between the two materials. Get in touch with Cirtex for more information on this development and how we can assist to offer the best product for your application.

Summary

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We left the conference this year excited about the potential to refine the use of geosynthetics in the building of sustainable infrastructure and move forward in the critical area of demonstrating lower cost and lower environmental impact over the life-cycle of a project, as well as better and more resilient ways of being prepared for the ever-increasing weather events. Geosynthetics are now a well-established engineering material with over 50 years of research and development and will play a crucial role in developing our built environment while protecting our natural resource and environment.

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About Michael Sorensen

Michael is a registered civil and geotech engineering technician with a passion for geosynthetics and the value they can add to engineering projects. Michael has been working with geosynthetics for 10 years and is dedicated to ongoing learning and sharing knowledge in this fast-moving industry.