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Design-Build in Saskatoon

McOrmond Drive Sanitary and Storm Sewer Trunks Project Needed to Accommodate Future Growth

In order to accommodate the rapidly expanding city of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the McOrmond Drive Sanitary and Storm Sewer Trunks project was proposed as a design-build project to allow for continued servicing of future developments in the city’s East Sector, located in the southeast quadrant of the city.

Initial ground support was provided by a steel rib and wood lagging system, with the carrier (Hobas) pipe being installed and grouted into place following the completion of tunneling operations.

Initial ground support was provided by a steel rib and wood lagging system, with the carrier (Hobas) pipe being installed and grouted into place following the completion of tunneling operations.

Thanks to a booming economy, the city is anticipating the arrival of an estimated 80,000 residents to the sector in the coming years. In a proactive approach, the installation of 1,500-m (4,920-ft) long parallel sanitary and storm trunk sewers with diameters of 1,200 mm (48 in.) and 2,400 mm (96 in.), respectively, were required. Following a prequalification and request for proposal, the project owner, the City of Saskatoon, along with its design-build engineer, CH2M HILL, selected the team of Michels Canada Co., Stantec Consulting Ltd., Koziak Engineering Ltd. and Thurber Engineering Ltd. to complete the work valued at $33.5 million.
One main advantage of a design-build project delivery approach is the involvement of the constructor from the beginning of design. Doing so allows the project to be geared toward the actual construction approach from the start, reducing the need for lengthy re-design and encouraging a lowest cost construction strategy. Another significant benefit is the capability for construction to be under way before a full design is completed. Design risks are also transferred from the owner to the design-build consortium.

During the design period of the project, three significant constraints identified by the Michels team included: the fact that locations provided for the existing sanitary and storm trunk stubs were only approximate, the existing sanitary and storm stubs only had an estimated 1 m of clearance between them at the tie-in point, and that the downstream section of the trunks followed a curved alignment. As a result of these complications, the Michels team had to make several decisions and take many factors into account at the time of bid prior to being awarded the project.

Due to the depth of the proposed trunk sewers at 14 m (46 ft) and their alignment paralleling a busy existing arterial roadway through a residential subdivision, a trenchless installation was necessary. Based on the geotechnical baseline report (GBR) provided during the prequalification process, the minimally available installation grade, and the size of the trunks, Michels opted to use a two-pass conventional tunneling approach with a tunnel boring machine (TBM). Due to a number of reasons, including cost and connections to existing systems, the choice was made to construct two tunnels with 2 m clear separation distance between the outside of each tunnel. After a thorough review of the pros and cons, it was decided that the new tunnels would share launch and retrieval shafts with an intermediate shaft constructed on each tunnel near the midpoint of the alignment to provide the City with future access to the new utilities.

Michels opted to use a two-pass conventional tunneling approach with a tunnel boring machine.

Michels opted to use a two-pass conventional tunneling approach with a tunnel boring machine.

After award of the project, and in conjunction of the development of the risk register and after lengthy internal discussions with project management and experienced TBM operators, Michels decided to use larger TBMs than those that were included in the original bid submission. Utilizing larger machines allowed for greater face access to deal with anticipated boulders and also provided a more spacious internal working area for the crew. The upsized TBMs reduced risks to the crew who were required to work inside the tunnel for extended periods of time, as well as to the machines themselves which would be able to process larger boulders,reducing mining time and maintenance/repair downtime.

A 2.6-m (104-in.) Lovat TBM was used to excavate the sanitary trunk sewer, which was the first tunnel to be constructed. Based on lessons learned from excavating the first tunnel, namely difficult unforeseen geological conditions, a 3.3-m (130-in.) Lovat TBM was used for excavating the storm trunk sewer. Initial ground support was provided by a steel rib and wood lagging system, with the carrier (Hobas) pipe being installed and grouted into place following the completion of tunneling operations. Construction of the project began in November 2012 and is expected to conclude by mid-March 2015. The first tunnel was completed in April 2014, and the second tunnel was completed in early December 2014.

There have been several challenges presented during the construction phase of the project stemming from environmental, geological and work force issues. Maintaining production through two unseasonably harsh Canadian prairie winters with the coldest day recorded in 2013 at a bone chilling -62° C (-79.6° F), including wind chill, forced the team to develop ways of mitigating the seasonal on-site conditions. Erecting a large tent to shelter the workspace and installing several wind breaks were effective strategies. The wet, sticky, hard clay contained a significant amount of boulders and cobbles, which greatly exceeded the number identified in the GBR. The ground conditions impacted production rates and generated excessive damage to the TBM cutterhead. In one instance, an estimated 3.6 m or larger (12 ft-plus) boulder was encountered, so Michels had to blast it and proceed to walk the TBM through the boulder to continue tunneling without ever fully ingesting it.

Extreme cold temperatures required innovative solutions from the contractor, including erecting a large tent to shelter the workspace.

Extreme cold temperatures required innovative solutions from the contractor, including erecting a large tent to shelter the workspace.

A high ground water table was another concern that required constant monitoring. Shaft sump pumps and dewatering wells were utilized at shaft locations and in the tunnel. Operating as a union contractor proved problematic, as retaining a skilled work force was another on-going difficulty faced throughout construction. Booming potash mining and oil production in the region attracted many prospective qualified workers out of town.

While there were many complications experienced by Michels throughout the job, numerous aspects contributed to the project’s success. Timely input from the construction team allowed for effective decision-making when issues such as an under-performing TBM or unexpected geological conditions arose. Public outreach was also a key component of the project’s success. Information sessions were held as well as two very successful site tours that allowed guests a firsthand look at the tunneling process.

Overall, the McOrmond Drive project has been a success from both the owner and contracting side. Knowledge gained from what was experienced in the sanitary tunnel was helpful during construction of the storm tunnel as the construction team was able to incorporate modifications and changes to the process and equipment. Working with an owner who understands the possible issues that may arise during trenchless construction and having a strong collaborative team has made for quick problem solving and precise decision-making throughout the design-build and construction process. With the McOrmond Drive Sanitary and Storm Sewer Trunks project complete, Saskatoon will be able to accommodate an influx of new residential development in the southeast section of Canada’s fastest-growing city.

Craig Vandaelle is the tunneling manager for Michels Canada Co. and the acting design-build project manager on the project.

Dan Willems is the special projects manager for the City of Saskatoon and overseeing the project for the City.

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