Trenchless International sat down with Dr Samuel Ariaratnam, the latest industry expert to be awarded the prestigious ISTT Gold Medal.
At ISTT’s International No-Dig Florence in 2019, Dr Samuel Ariaratnam was awarded the ISTT Gold Medal, the society’s highest honour, presented to individuals who have made an outstanding and exceptional individual contribution to trenchless technology.
Previously awarded only six times in the society’s 34-year history, as the seventh recipient Dr Ariaratnam joins industry legends including Dr Dec Downey, Dr Ray Sterling and Dr Satoru Tohyama, many of whom he knows personally.
“It is very special to me having personal relationships with several past award recipients,” he says.
“This is truly an honour and an award that I will always cherish. I am a champion of the trenchless industry and will always continue to serve as an ambassador.”
The medal serves as another major achievement in a career that has spanned more than two decades with experience all around the world.
“I first got involved in horizontal directional drilling (HDD) and trenchless technologies back in 1996 when I was on faculty in the Civil Engineering Department at the University of Alberta in Canada,” says Dr Ariaratnam.
“The HDD industry is quite developed in Alberta due to a long history in oil and natural gas pipelines. Being in the midst of so many excellent HDD contractors and other industry stakeholders provided me with a wealth of knowledge and opportunities to pursue my research and educational interest in the industry.
“Fortunately, the City of Edmonton has always championed trenchless methods, which made being in Alberta a perfect fit for my research and educational aspirations.”
Dr Ariaratnam certainly made good on those aspirations, along with having received his PhD in Civil Engineering from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and his current status as a registered Professor at Arizona State University, he has also published more than 200 technical papers in trenchless technology and sustainable urban infrastructure systems and holds five patents.
Among these many works, Dr Ariaratnam said the Horizontal Directional Drilling Good Practices Guidelines book he co-authored with Dr David Bennett is one of his proudest accomplishments.
“The book has had a significant impact in the trenchless technology industry by promoting good practices when engaging in HDD,” he says.
“Several states have adopted our book in their legislation as the industry standard of care, and Dr Bennett and I have delivered training courses to hundreds of people in North America.”
Dr Ariaratnam served a six-year term on the North American Society for Trenchless Technology Board of Directors ending in 2006, was elected to the ISTT Executive Subcommittee in 2005 and served as the ISTT Chair from 2010 to 2013.
He considers his time spent in the top ISTT role as some of the most memorable of his career.
“As Chair of ISTT, I had the privilege of travelling to many countries in all corners of the globe to witness first-hand the interest and adoption of trenchless methods,” he says.
“The trenchless community has always been welcoming. I have made many lifelong friendships over the years.”
Dr Ariaratnam is also a Senior Sustainability Scientist at the Global Institute of Sustainability, was a Past Chair of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Pipelines Division, is a member of both the Canadian Academy of Engineering and the US National Academy of Construction and was recognised as the 2012 North American Trenchless Technology Person of the Year.
Despite the already long list of qualifications, accolades and accomplishments, Dr Ariaratnam intends to continue on as a fixture in the trenchless industry for some time, both in North America and around the world.
“I plan to continue engaging in research and education to help promote all aspects of trenchless technology,” he says.
“As an industry, we have made great progress; however, there is a lot of work still to be done to make trenchless mainstream in underground utility and pipeline construction. Trenchless technologies may not be suitable for all situations; however, I’d like to see a day when they are at least regularly considered as a possible option.
“I expect to see advances in equipment making it safer to perform excavation activities such as trenchless technologies. I also see a future when some trenchless equipment could be self-operating like we are seeing in the automobile industry.
“The future looks bright for trenchless technology!”
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