Regional Conference Balances Policy With Technology

The Center for Innovative Grouting Materials and Technology (CIGMAT) and the University of Houston’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering held its 16th annual conference and exhibition in Houston, TX, at the University Hilton, University of Houston campus on March 4.

More than 300 participants and 14 speakers attended the one-day conference, which focused on “Construction, Maintenance, Geotechnical, and Flooding Issues in Houston & Other Major Cities.”

“CIGMAT always puts together an interesting and informative group of speakers,” said Tommy Mazingo, P.E., Mazingo Engineering Inc. “The attendees are a nice mix of owners, engineers, contractors, suppliers and academia. This format provides a unique networking opportunity that is hard to find in a local one-day conference. I believe this is the best one-day conference I have attended.”

Dr. Cumaraswamy Vipulanandan, chairman and professor, director of CIGMAT and Texas Hurricane Center for Innovative Technology (THC-IT) opened the conference with initial remarks about the need for such a conference, especially during these challenging times and advances in technologies. The general session focused on public works, highway transportation issues and the impact of light rail transport in the Houston area. Plans for maintaining and expanding city of Houston water and wastewater facilities and issues related to the user fee increase for the coming years also were discussed. Among the speakers in the morning session were Daniel Krueger, director, public works, city of Houston; Delvin Dennis, district engineer for Houston, TxDOT; and David Couch, senior vice president of Capital Program, METRO, Houston, TX.

One of four technical sessions included a panel discussion on the “Management of Major Water and Wastewater Systems.” Ravi Kaleyatodi, senior assistant director, city of Houston, discussed some of the challenges and plans in the water and wastewater systems. Hamlet Hovsepian, assistant director, city of Houston, and Rafael Ortega, vice president Lockwood, Andrew and Newnam, jointly presented some of the technical challenges with the Houston’s North East Transmission Pipeline. In addition, Frank Aguilar, manager, Avanti International, presented cases studies on chemical grout applications.

Balanced event
Ortega, a regular attendee and an invited speaker to this year’s CIGMAT, commented: “CIGMAT offers the perfect balance between policy discussion and review of current and relevant technical issues. In my opinion, the conference is one of the most valuable regional conferences to attend.”

Russell Ford, corporate business development, Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam concurred with the sentiment held by many of the attendees that CIGMAT offers all the best elements of a one-day conference. “This is the best one-day conference I have attended. The programs are excellent and the speakers have current information that helps us make informed business decisions.”

The second panel discussion discussed “Flooding, Maintenance and Geotechnical Issues” with a focus on maintaining the critical infrastructures with new plans and projects. Mike Talbott, director, Harris County Flood Control District, discussed some of the ongoing projects the county is pursuing to mitigate flood damage and its plans for future projects. Eric Dragan, deputy director, city of Houston, discussed the maintenances of the right-of-way infrastructures and some of the emergency response challenges. Kenneth Tand, Kenneth Tand and Associates, presented “Case Studies on Expansive Clays” and the influence of trees in maintaining the moisture balance in the ground.

The third session was on “Subsidence and Surface Water Issues” as related to Harris County and Galveston County. The featured speakers were Ron Neighbors, director of Harris-Galveston Subsidence District; Jun Chang, deputy director, city of Houston; and Don Ripley, AECOM, Houston. Many issues related to the transition from groundwater to surface water were discussed. David Peters, principal engineer, Environmental Engineering, New Orleans, LA, moderated the session.

Professor Fred Kulhawy, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, delivered the sixth Mike O’Neill Lecture on “Foundation Engineering for Transmission Line Structures.” During this fourth session, current approaches used in the design of foundations for transmission towers were highlighted along with some of the challenges. This was followed by a presentation by Dr. Vipulanandan on “Comparing Auger Cast-In-Place (ACIP) Pile Construction, Testing and Design Methods in Sand and Clay.”

A reception followed the technical sessions in the exhibit area where student posters on research activities at CIGMAT and in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering were displayed. A number of grouting, pipe manufacturers, material suppliers, and pipe condition monitoring and wastewater rehabilitation companies participated in the exhibition.

Conference proceedings are available on the CIGMAT web site at The 2012 CIGMAT Conference will be held March 2 at the University Hilton, University of Houston.

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