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B.C. projects tops at engineering awards gala

Don Wall
B.C. projects tops at engineering awards gala
Crews watch the tunnel boring machine cutterhead being lowered into the south shaft during construction of the Port Mann Water Supply Tunnel in Surrey, B.C. The project, completed early this year, earned prime consultant Ausenco Engineering Canada a Special Award at the 2017 Canadian Consulting Engineering Awards gala in Ottawa recently. -

Two British Columbia projects, one a Vancouver water tunnel designed to withstand a one-in-10,000-year earthquake and the other one of the most hydraulically complex hydroelectric plants in the world, were among five builds recognized with Special Awards at the Canadian Consulting Engineering Awards gala in Ottawa Oct. 24.

The awards presented to Ausenco Engineering Canada for the Port Mann Water Supply Channel project in Vancouver and to Knight Piesold for its consultation on the Box Canyon Hydroelectric Project in Howe Sound, B.C. along with three others in the Special Awards category closed a night which saw 20 Awards of Excellence handed out by the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies – Canada (ACEC), on the final day of the three-day ACEC national conference.

Metro Vancouver’s $240-million Port Mann tunnel project under the Fraser River between Coquitlam and Surrey features two 60-metre-deep shafts connected by a one-kilometre steel watermain and new valve chambers constructed at the top of each shaft to link with existing watermains. The new watermain, completed early this year, doubles the capacity of the one it replaced.

The tunnel was dug 30 metres below the bed of the river to ensure earthquake resilience.

John Sherstobitoff, principal, seismic and structures at Ausenco, was on hand in Ottawa to pick up his firm’s award. He said the skills of all joint venture partners and design subcontractors were called upon in collaboration to deal with such challenges as extremely difficult soil conditions and the need to work with ultra-strong steel and concrete to address the seismic mandate.

"It was a really complicated project, with ourselves, Golder, McMillen Jacobs and the client, Metro Vancouver, all involved as a team effort to pull this off," said Sherstobitoff.

"We were designing it for a very rare earthquake, and the soil on each side of the river is predicted to move about six metres inward. We had to design the shaft of the pipe to survive this and continue to deliver water in that very rare event.

"With the shaft and the pipe, we were pushing it to extremes. There was very intense analysis to make that work to prove to ourselves and the client it would survive that level of earthquake and continue to deliver water."

The vertical pipes were unrestrained except at connection points to survive significant shifts in the ground, and testing was very intense, said Sherstobitoff. The soil conditions varied and in locations with particularly soft ground, liquid nitrogen had to be injected to freeze the soil to permit proper boring.

The project team was McNally-Aecon in joint venture with Metro Vancouver and Hatch undertook construction management. The build took six years with the installation of the 2.1-metre-diameter watermain pipe completed in July 2016 and the valve chambers wrapped in January.

The 16-megawatt run-of-river Box Canyon project featured unique waterway geography in the MacNab Creek watershed that required multiple intake structures. The intakes all feed into a single high-pressure penstalk conveying water to a powerhouse equipped with a six-jet vertical axis Pelton turbine generating unit. Project owner Elemental Energy worked in close collaboration with Knight Piesold, the Squamish First Nation and Clean Energy BC, explained Sam Mottram, managing principal, power, for Knight Piesold, to achieve ambitious environmental goals despite technical challenges.

The build wrapped last summer.

"It’s got nine intakes so it’s got different heads and different flows. All of those have to sustain the river systems downstream, in terms of fish flows as well, each has to have its own environmental release, so that made it very challenging," said Mottram after accepting Knight Piesold’s award. "But that’s what engineers love is challenging projects."

The consultant was able to figure out a way to take the project from its original conception as a seven-megawatt plant to its final 16-megawatt capacity by finding ways to harness multiple tributaries, the awards jury noted.

"This helps us get off the fossil fuel train," said Mottram.

The Port Mann project was recognized with a Shreyer Award and the Box Canyon build earned a Tree of Life Award. The other three Special Awards winners were Studio Bell, the National Music Centre’s shrine to Canadian music in Calgary, Engineering a Better Canada Award, consultants RJC Engineers and Stantec; the World Trade Center Transportation Hub in New York City, Ambassador Award, designed for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey by COWI North America; and the Atal Setu (Basohli Bridge) project in India, Ambassador Award, designed by McElhanney Consulting Services Ltd., Border Roads Organization of the Indian Ministry of Defence, owner.

In addition, there were four awards presented to individuals. The 2017 Beaubien Award for lifetime achievement was presented to Wayne Clifton, president of Clifton Associates. The Chair’s Award for exceptional contributions to the industry was given to Enrico Vink, managing director of the International Federation of Consulting Engineers, and to David A. Raymond, president and CEO of the American Council of Engineering Companies. The 2018 Allen D. Williams scholarship, recognizing a young professional’s commitment to consulting engineering, was awarded to Michael Walker, project manager at McElhanney Consulting Services Ltd.

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