Volume 13 | Issue 3 | Year 2010

A division of Layne Christensen Company, Boston-based Layne GeoConstruction offers the kind of state-of-the-art solutions necessary to resolve the most complex geotechnical challenges.
Indeed, the company’s enviable reputation rests up its application of advanced technologies and innovative design capabilities that, in turn, foster high-quality performance and optimal production efficiency at the most attractive costs.

Company specialties include jet grouting, vibro compaction, stone columns, micropiles, low-mobility and high-mobility grouting, as well as QC control via real-time monitoring and rock/soil anchors.

These technological capabilities enable the enterprise to offer its customers specialized applications. These applications include soil stabilization by computerized grouting, soil bio-remediation by specialized jet grouting, radioactive waste encapsulation by proprietary jet grout, foundation underpinning of critical structures using jet grout columns, settlement isolation wall by jet grout thin-wall panel elements, vibro-stone panel elements by double vibro system, groundwater control by jet grouting, underpinning support for large diameter utilities crossing, and embankment foundation support by dry vibro concrete columns.

The parent company, staffed by more than 1,000 employees and headquartered in Mission Woods, Kan., provides sophisticated services and related products for the water, mineral, construction and energy markets. The GeoConstruction Division – a relatively recent development in the corporate scheme – targets the heavy civil construction market, where clients focus primarily on ground modification and specialized structural support. The division’s impressive resume includes involvement in numerous civil, industrial and commercial construction projects. Specifically, these include major structures, dams, tunnels, shafts, utilities and other civil facilities.

The division’s birth arose from the parent company’s aggressively asserted commitment to the geotechnical construction market. In turn, this commitment led to significant acquisitions including Fonditek International and Hydro Group Inc. Both organizations boasted extensive experience in specialty foundation construction. Subsequently, Layne Christensen Company also purchased Tecniwell S.r.l., a Podenzano, Italy-based manufacturer that positioned itself at the vanguard of high pressure specialty grout pumps and accessories deployed in geotechnical construction.

“Along the way Layne Christensen also purchased Boyle Brothers, a drilling company that accomplished dam foundation grouting in the western United States,” adds Jeff Bean, vice president of operations for Layne GeoConstruction.

By 2000, acquisitions and advantages became consolidated into Layne GeoConstruction, headed by Division President Pier Luigi Iovino, Ph.D.

“The common thread that attached the parent company and its divisions was drilling holes into the ground,” describes Bean. “But the acquisitions added another element: foundation support.”

Subsequently, Layne GeoConstruction pioneered technologies that equipped its industry with new standards.

The best way to understand the division and its impact is to review the major components of its comprehensive service menu. Consider jet grouting, for instance. This specialized process produces in-situ mixing of soil and cement grout. After drilling to required depth, jet grout drill rods are rotated and raised to the ground surface at controlled rates, while injecting cement grout at a high pressure, forming a soil-cement column. According to the company, when placed in engineered configurations, these columns can be constructed to provide effective treatment of large soil masses. The advantages, numerous and substantial, include higher compressive soil strengths compared to other soil improvement methods; more uniform soil treatment; capability to improve isolated soil areas; and definitive quantity and scheduling.

“Much of the work that Layne GeoConstruction performs today are rooted in Europe and in, particular, Italy,” informs Bean, “as are most of the foundation work, technology and equipment. Mr. Iovino helped pioneer the techniques.”

One of the techniques includes minipiles, also called micropiles. Drilled micropiles – a viable, practical solution to high-capacity structural load transfer to more stable, competent subsurface strata – typically consist of a core steel element surrounded by a neat cement grout mixture. Micropiles are installed with water flush rotary drilling or rotary percussion drilling techniques. Measuring between six and 12 inches in diameter, micropiles consistently achieve capacities of 20 to 100 tons, with special installations of up to 200 tons. They offer the same high-bearing capacity as driven steel piles, with the added advantage and capability of installation within areas that present with difficult access and low headroom. Further, micropile drilling methods generate minimal disturbance or vibration to adjacent structures, making micropiles an excellent underpinning alternative.

Other services include vibratory ground improvement, also known as vibro compaction. This deep compaction technique, the company explains, densifies sandy soils in place via electrical vibrating probe. Here’s how it works: Under the influence of vibration, loose sand particles are rearranged into a more compact state to achieve a higher relative density. The improved subsoils enhance load-bearing capacity and reduce impacts associated with ground settlement. In areas with seismic activity, vibro compaction decreases the potential for liquefaction.

When you combine the aforementioned services with further capabilities such as post-tensioned rock and soil anchors, high mobility and limited mobility grouting, and real-time monitoring, it’s no wonder that Layne GeoConstruction managed to involve itself in large and complex projects, despite its physical size.

“We actively pursue and then participate in that type of work in the United States, Canada and South America, and such projects have been one of our mainstays, even though we are not the largest player in the foundation market,” describes Bean. “Our affiliation with Layne Christensen Company, which boasts revenues that approach a billion dollars, allows us to bond capacities and bid on very large projects, even though the division’s annual revenues don’t approach those of some of our competitors. So, we may not be the biggest, but we’ve proved that we can reasonably bid on, and bond to, the largest projects.”

And it can successfully pull it all of, he might add. Consider one recent venture: the Inner Harbor Navigational Canal (IHNC) Lake Borgne Surge Barrier project in New Orleans, which arose in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. This was one of the largest design-build civil works projects ever awarded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It’s ultimate impact will be profound (especially considering what happened in New Orleans): The 1.5-mile long-surge barrier project enables the Army Corps to achieve a 100-year level of risk reduction in the Gulf region’s most vulnerable areas. But to make all of this possible, the Army Corps needed to access the talents of contractors and sub-contractors. In its sub-contractor role, Layne GeoConstruction played an integral part.

The complex project compelled Layne GeoConstruction to bring just about all of its attributes into play – that is, by using its advanced bi-jet grouting equipment and techniques, Layne GeoConstruction installed 2,540 three-foot diameter jet grout columns to depths of up to 105 feet for in-situ treatment of stiff clays and sand fill found throughout the project alignment using single fluid jet grouting technology. More than 550,000 cubic feet of soils were treated, reaching strengths averaging greater than 500 psi that provided support for 18-inch closure piles. These piles were installed in each of the jet grouted plumes. Bottom line: The closure pile subsystem provides a means of sealing the interstitial space between cylinder piles throughout the water column and, together with the jet-grouted soilcrete, provides a means of mitigating potential seepage and scour below the mud line.

Bean is justifiably proud – not only for the accomplishment but for what project participation means for the division’s larger picture: “Early in our history, it wasn’t uncommon that we’d engage in and complete projects that, in terms of dollars, fell within a $25,000-$100,000 budget,” he says. “These were projects we could easily control with in-house resources. But we continued to develop personnel and increase our equipment capacity and availability. Now, we can take on these larger projects.”

Further, project involvement had an immediate impact on the company itself: “The New Orleans project led to another large project in northern California, for the Bay Area Rapid Transit Fremont Extension,” reveals Bean. “Essentially, we’re using the same equipment and technology that made our contribution to the IHNC so important and so successful.”

This helps explain why the division – which has established locations in Massachusetts and Richmond, Va., as well as Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Seattle, New Orleans and Podenzano, Italy – has become a bit selective in the projects it takes on. “We’re a quality oriented enterprise that can provide a range of ground improvement services in a timely manner.”

In other words, Layne GeoConstruction is extremely ambitious. And, unfortunately, that means the company can’t be everything to everybody, nor does it want to be. As Bean relates, “Because of our direction, our growth curve has been moderate, but we’re able to better control the risk associated with the type of work we perform. The industry, and the customers, that we address pose extremely difficult challenges. But that’s where we want to be.”

An evolving organization, Layne GeoConstruction is manifesting its vision and realizing its ambitions. The company possesses the talent and technology to raise itself from the subterranean depths to the blue sky.

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