TTC Quietly Celebrates 20th Anniversary

In November, the Trenchless Technology Center (TTC) at Louisiana Tech University will mark the 20th anniversary of its official establishment. Center staff members will celebrate the date quietly, going about their business — no special events are planned.

Over the past two decades, the TTC has become a leading research facility for the development of technologies influencing almost every aspect of the various trenchless construction methods and is recognized as a focus point where representatives of the trenchless industry can access unbiased technical information and receive answers to questions regarding trenchless technologies.

Reflecting on the growth and accomplishments of the center, Administrative Director Dr. Robert McKim identifies several key factors that have contributed to the TTC’s position in the trenchless industry.

“The core of the TTC is research,” said McKim. “We soon will enter our 21st year of operation with Research Director Dr. Erez Allouche leading a dedicated research staff and post-doctoral and graduate students conducting $1.5 million a year in research, ranging from installation of new piping to the inspection, assessment and rehabilitation of existing piping systems.”

Key research programs recently initiated involve the utilization of ultra-wide band signals to see through pipe walls, developing and testing high-temperature cured-in-place-pipe (CIPP) resins, developing decision support systems for estimating construction costs and selecting appropriate technologies, the use of polymer sprays for pressure and non-pressure pipe rehabilitation, developing geopolymer concretes and understanding machine-soil interactions during pipebursting.

TTC programs are not limited to research.

Muni forums
McKim emphasized that the TTC Municipal Forum series has helped representatives of utility providers become aware of the great potential of trenchless technology and helped educate a generation of engineers about trenchless construction methods.

“Every year,” said McKim, “the TTC organizes and sponsors a one-day seminar in up to 15 North American cities where industry leaders present the latest technology directly to municipalities. Forums are organized in cooperation with a local municipal host who helps identify regional ‘hot’ topics and local needs. The TTC, along with the host city, invite the appropriate industry leaders to give presentations on these topics in the morning session. In the afternoon session, an open discussion addresses specific local issues and generates a networking opportunity for municipal engineers. The 2010-11 forum series was attended by over 1,000 municipal workers from more than 50 cities.”

McKim said a key to the center’s growth and continuing success has been its Industry Advisory Board (IAB).

“The TTC has strong ties to industry through its Industry Advisory Board which consists of a mixture of utilities, contractors, suppliers, media and consultants,” McKim explained. “The industrial members of the IAB provide the TTC with a core operating budget that allows it to maintain administrative offices and support staff. In return for this support, the IAB has direct input into the focus of the research undertaken at the TTC and access to the latest technology developments worldwide.”

The TTC evolved from the Trenchless Excavation Center at Louisiana Tech established in 1989 by Dr. Tom Iseley with a primary focus on microtunneling and horizontal directional drilling. Expanding its reach to other trenchless technologies, the structure and name was changed to the Trenchless Technology Center in 1991.

Dr. Ray Sterling became director of the center in 1995, retiring in 2009 with Dr. McKim becoming administrative director and Dr. Allouche research director.

“The structure of the TTC is such that we can react quickly to changes in the technology and market and adjust our research and outreach programs accordingly,” concluded McKim. “Recently, the industry has seen a market shift toward large diameter and pressure pipe assessment and rehabilitation technologies. Many of our IAB members are starting to utilize pressure pipe inspection and rehabilitation technologies, and the TTC is supporting their efforts with research and development into these new technologies. Identifying new market directions and technologies to meet the changing market needs provide a clear advantage.”

Trenchless Technology Center, (800) 626-8659,

State-of-the-Art Research Facility

A milestone for the Trenchless Technology Center came in 2008 with the dedication of the National Trenchless Technology Research Facility on the university’s South Campus.

This 5,000-square-foot facility was funded largely by Industry Advisory Board members and is the largest dedicated trenchless technology research facility in North America.

The laboratory is fully equipped to perform most research functions and includes a strong floor, two soil boxes, a full materials testing system and an outdoor in-situ pipe testing field. The laboratory has allowed the TTC to nearly double its research capacity. Previously TTC’s laboratories were spread throughout the campus, but with the new facility the TTC can focus its efforts more efficiently. Even with the new facility the TTC maintains several special laboratories for CIPP and geopolymer research on the main campus.

HED: Trenchless Library

The TTC maintains the world’s most extensive library of trenchless technology literature ranging from research reports from around the world to conference proceedings. The TTC recently obtained the majority of the International Society for Trenchless Technology’s library and is in the process of cataloging and incorporating it into the TTC database.

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