Trenchless International speaks to a 2019 inductee into NASTT’s Hall of Fame and AECOM’s Chris Macey about his role, activities with industry associations, relining an ageing aqueduct in his Canadian hometown and his involvement with the world’s largest CIPP relining projects.
What is your educational background and what made you pursue a career in trenchless?
I am a civil engineer who graduated from University of Manitoba, in Winnipeg, Canada in 1977. After completing my studies, in March 1978, I started working at AECOM, the same place I really still work at!
In Winnipeg, where I also grew up, innovative horizontal earth boring technologies were patented in the early 1970s and cured-in-place pipe (CIPP) was piloted in 1978. So, I like to think trenchless technology is in my DNA.
I started out working in condition assessment and rehabilitation at an early age. Soils in my home town are very corrosive and expansive. It wasn’t a good place to be a pipe for many years
So, rehabilitation was what I was exposed to as a youngster and minimising construction too goes hand-in-hand with that.
What is your current role?
For more than 40 years I’ve worked AECOM, where I am currently the company’s Technical Practice Leader for Condition Assessment and Rehabilitation of Linear Infrastructure for the Americas. I am also a global technical practice network lead dedicated to the dissemination of best practices for existing technologies, as well as the development of new technology for AECOM and its clients globally.
I create and assist in the delivery of large programs and am fortunate enough to get to work on some really neat, complex project-specific problems. I try hard to disseminate knowledge, as an engineer should, to make sure what I do have in head, that is of any value, is passed on to facilitate an even better generation of engineers in the future.
What other roles have you occupied since you entered the industry?
Too many! In North America, I have done a lot of work with the North American Society for Trenchless Technology (NASTT) developing the first CIPP Best Practice Course and also co-authoring the accompanying handbook.
I also do a lot of work with the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and worked to produce the first MOP of Condition Assessment of Water Mains (M77). I also worked with Committee M28 of Water Main Rehabilitation (we are actively working on version four) focusing on program building and aspects of trenchless.
I have been involved in the development of numerous AWWA trenchless standards and endeavours. I am heavily involved in the American Society of Civil Engineers, previously occupying the role of Technical Chair and carrying out peer review for the soon to be released MOP on non-circular liner design.
I also am involved with National Association of Sewer Service Companies on the gravity assessment and trenchless rehab side, and just this year have been fortunate enough to get on International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Committees associated with advanced water main ling technology. I don’t say no very well!
What is the most memorable project you’ve been involved with and why?
Probably the assessment and rehabilitation of the Shoal Lake Aqueduct. It is a 160 km pipe that was built between 1913 and 1919, and designed by the same fellows who designed the Catskill Aqueduct into New York City. The aqueduct still supplied Winnipeg’s more than 800,000 with water from the lake.
I spent 10 years, assessing every inch and implementing rehab technologies to give it another 100 years or more of life. As it is a sole source watermain, planning and implementing rehab without anyone ever knowing what we were doing was an awesome experience.
Are there any projects that were notable for their innovation?
In the past few years, I’ve worked on some large pipe rehabilitation installs. In Halifax, Canada, I designed and helped a contractor install an approximately 604 m shot of CIPP to fix an old arch shaped sewer.
A 1,200 mm by 1,500 mm arch and the one shot required more than 117 t of resin. The project was one of the five largest CIPP shots by weight on the planet. The success was really the contractor’s skill, but it was an awesome ride to be on, as there are no directions to execute rehab assignments of this kind.
Can you expand on your role with NASTT?
I’ve been a member of NASTT since 1997. A big share of the 150 papers, presentation, courses, etc., that I have been involved with have been developed and delivered through NASTT and at the society’s annual No-Dig Shows.
Developing and delivering the CIPP course with colleagues and presenting it all over North America, and now really all over the planet, has been a lot of fun and very satisfying in terms of the feedback practitioners of all kind have provided.
Why is it important to be involved with industry organisations?
We work in an ever-developing, expanding and evolving business. Learning is a lifelong commitment, and the dissemination of knowledge is an obligation of being a good engineer. Organisations like NASTT provide a framework for us to meet, exchange ideas, and advance the best knowledge.
They make it fun to do as well! And work needs to be fun.
What value is the value of attending trenchless events?
Industry events provide trenchless professional with an opportunity to learn, meet fellow practitioners and gain an insight into the wide range of problems that are out there to be solved, and collaborating on innovative ways to fix them. Couldn’t have more value than that!
What advice do you have for young professionals entering the industry?
Get involved! Make an effort to learn your craft, practice it and give back; share your knowledge with others. There is an infinite number of ways you can contribute and focusing on making an effort in your chosen profession, and learning something every day you work, will make you a serious contributor to society over the long haul.
It’s not always easy, but it sure can be rewarding: to yourself and the people who depend on engineers to contribute positively to the world.
What changes have you seen over the years?
By far, my biggest passion has been in the relining sector. I think the biggest changes and evolution has been the progress of CIPP and similar technologies’ technical envelope due to our increased understanding of composite materials since I started. Not to mention bigger, longer shots in the world of gravity pipes and the continued development of standardised techniques to master pressure pipe relining, which will change the next generation of rehabilitation forever.
In the future, the industry will continue to evolve and to mature. There is an ever increasing demand for quality trenchless skills in virtually all aspects of the business, from concept to design, construction, overall programming and research.
I probably have an increased focus in the rehabilitation market, but the gravity market is still growing due to improvements and advances in composite materials, and pressure pipe rehabilitation has immense potential for widespread growth, once the products and techniques get refined to a level that is reasonably commensurate with the market. The pressure pipe market, through advances in North America, ISO and in Australia, will change the way we manage water infrastructure forever.
Finally, what excites you about trenchless technology?
From the diagnostics of being able to discern what to fix just before it breaks, to mastering the technique of fixing it in such a manner that society barely knows the work was done: this is pretty neat and very satisfying stuff.
Solving problems using science and innovative thought! Making a difference! Who’d have thought that someone could make a career out of this stuff?
If I wasn’t fortunate enough to have a day job doing it, I think I’d just do it. That’s pretty exciting.
This article was featured in Fall Edition of Trenchless International. To view the magazine on your PC, Mac, tablet, or mobile device, click here.
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