2012 Engineering Excellence Award Winners – National Golds


2012 Platinum Award Winner

Tetra Tech INCA took top honors for its design of a giant flood surge barrier wall at the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) of Washington’s 44th Annual Engineering Excellence Awards ceremony on Friday, January 20, 2012. The ceremony honored 50 projects representing a wide range of engineering achievements and demonstrating the highest degree of skill and ingenuity. ACEC Washington’s top seven awards (one platinum and six gold) will go on to compete in the ACEC national competition in Washington, D.C. in April 2012.

The Platinum Award was presented to Tetra Tech INCA for design of the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal/Lake Borgne Surge Barrier – a 10,000-foot-long, 26-foot-high concrete barrier wall extending from the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet to the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. The $1.1 billion barrier wall is the central feature of the US Army Corps of Engineers’ efforts, since Hurricane Katrina, to mitigate the risks of massive flooding in vulnerable areas of southeastern Louisiana. It is the largest civil works design-build project ever in the history of the USACE and the largest surge barrier of its kind in the world. The barrier wall has essentially moved the first line of defense against storm surges 12 miles away from the heart of New Orleans.

Anchor QEA: Engineering Excellence Gold Award – Special Projects

Percival Landing Major Rehabilitation Project

Client: Olympia Parks, Arts & Recreation Department/City of Olympia

Percival Landing Park is a popular waterfront park in the heart of downtown Olympia, Washington. The park is named after an old commercial steamship wharf originally built by Sam Percival in 1860, and rebuilt as a park between 1978 and 1988. Unfortunately, the park was designed for a 25-year life, and by 2007 most of the facilities were in need of major rehabilitation, including some of the over-water walkways that had been closed due to structural safety concerns.

Olympia’s Parks, Arts & Recreation Department hired Anchor QEA LLC to lead the 30 percent level design and permitting of the entire facility, plus the City of Olympia mandated that the renovation (1) provide facilities with a 50-year design life and low maintenance needs, (2) make the new park and its structures energy-efficient, and (3) accommodate the potential for a rise in the sea level.

The complex project required waterside demolition, new waterfront construction, new utility installations, replacing the existing public restroom and bathhouse, design for a new parking lot and street revisions. Complicating the new construction was the amount of buried material in the shoreline excavation area, including the discovery of large deposits of petroleum-contaminated soil and even a buried pipeline still full of fuel from a previous tank farm. This added the extra step of remediation of the site before construction could begin.

Despite these challenges, plus shorter work windows caused by tides and permit restrictions, the project was completed on time and on budget. “This project sets the standard for future projects in Olympia and future projects in the region,” Olympia Mayor Doug Mah said. “It’s that good.”


Magnusson Klemencic Associates: Engineering Excellence Gold Award- Structural Systems

Aqua at Lakeshore East

Client: Loewenberg/Magellan Development Group

Imagine an 87-story, 868-foot-tall building designed to look like the wind is blowing waves across its surface – each floor sporting graceful, thin curved balconies that look like fins between the floors. An architectural achievement, perhaps, but definitely an engineering challenge. “Aqua” at Lakeshore East is the latest addition to Magellan Development Group’s 28-acre live/work community in downtown Chicago, and although the building is aesthetically fascinating, it required phenomenal structural engineering creativity and talent to bring it to life.

Magnusson Klemencic Associates (MKA)was chosen to turn architect Jeanne Gang’s vision of “a vertically deployed landscape” into reality. Ultimately, the challenge required several major engineering innovations, starting with a custom floor plate design to create the unusual wave-like facade. Most high-rise structures are comprised of one typical floor plate that is duplicated over the height of the structure, but Aqua has 78 individually curving floor plates with graceful cantilevered balconies that purposefully extend up to 12 feet, both for looks and to capture the best views. Dozens of sophisticated computer models were created to analyze the strength and deflection of these unique floor slabs and their eight miles of continuously varying edges. In a wind analysis, Aqua’s balcony design actually seemed to “confuse” the wind, reducing forces rather than creating additional pressures or suction.

MKA also needed to develop a new structural system to enable the construction of such a unique building. The new system combined a concrete core, stepped concrete shear walls, outrigger walls at Levels 55-58 and 81-82, belt walls at Level 57, and building columns, all on top of 31 drilled rock caissons. The core and shear walls incorporate four different concrete strengths to optimize performance and consolidate strength while the strategically located outriggers and belt walls broaden the stance of the building and engage the building’s exterior columns to resist sway.

The 2.3-million-square-foot building houses 264 condominiums, 481 apartments, 325 hotel rooms, two large ballrooms, offices, retail, five levels of parking, health and fitness facilities and an 80,000-square-foot garden roof that cleans storm water on site, creates a habitat for native flora and fauna, reduces heat loss, and improves air quality by removing airborne particles. Aqua is an extremely successful example of sustainable urban high-rise living.

Parsons: Engineering Excellence Gold Award- Transportation

SR 532 Corridor Improvements

Client: Washington State Department of Transportation

State Route 532 is the only connection from Camano Island to the mainland, carrying 30,000 vehicles a day, and it is the primary route to I-5 for residents of Stanwood and surrounding communities. But population has grown dramatically in the area and this access route had become overwhelmed and unsafe. So the Washington State Department of Transportation hired Parsons as the designer and lead partner in a multi-faceted and complex project to fix the problem.

The new project’s cornerstone is a new three-span, 400-foot-long bridge spanning the mouth of the Stillaguamish River that meets modern earthquake standards, requires less maintenance and provides wide shoulders to accommodate disabled vehicles and emergency responders. The 190-foot main span clears the river’s natural banks, greatly reducing environmental impacts, and the new bridge is designed to withstand a 1,000-year seismic event despite deep on-site alluvial fills that have a high potential for liquefaction during a significant earthquake.

Environmental concerns were of critical importance from the beginning since the project area contained 64 different wetlands and 16 different jurisdictional ditches. To protect wildlife, Parsons purposely designed the bridge’s wide center span so that piers could be driven primarily into dry soil rather than into the active channel of the Stillaguamish River. And because fewer piles were required in the design, there was less injury to fish by eliminating the need for an impact pile hammer in water deeper than two feet.

Public understanding and support was also critical for this project since the improvements crossed a wide swath of businesses and homes, and created major traffic management problems during the construction process. Parsons combined one-on-one outreach to community members with a broad-based media outreach addressing key stakeholder concerns, and met personally with every business owner and homeowner directly impacted by construction.

The project was completed seven months ahead of the anticipated schedule, with every one of the project goals met. The new bridge opened to traffic on August 17, 2010.


CH2M Hill: Engineering Excellence Gold Award- Waste & Storm Water

Brightwater Treatment Plant

Client: King County Wastewater Treatment Division

With population growth and the requirement to add capacity to its regional wastewater system by 2011, King County embarked on the journey to develop the Brightwater Treatment Plant, a state-of-the-art, advanced wastewater treatment and reclamation facility in Woodinville, Washington. CH2M Hill’s involvement with Brightwater began with siting studies and environmental impact statement assistance during the initial stages of project planning in 2002, and ultimately became the prime consultant during design.

The heart of the new plant is the split-flow liquids treatment process, incorporating chemically enhanced primary clarification (CEPC) ahead of the largest membrane bioreactor (MBR) in North America, at 39 million gallons/day (mgd) peak monthly capacity. The process protects the membranes from excessive flows, which reduces the annual mass discharge of biochemical oxygen demand and total suspended solids into Puget Sound by more than one million pounds when compared to traditional secondary treatment. The split-flow process also uses new energy-efficient direct-drive turbo blowers for the aeration basins which minimize the facility’s carbon footprint while reducing costs.

Odor control was a key concept incorporated into the earliest designs. Facilities at Brightwater are completely enclosed and coupled to multiple-stage odor treatment systems with 13 parallel treatment trains, each rated for 40,000 cubic feet per minute of foul air flow. The odor control system provides an unparalleled 99.97 percent removal efficiency of hydrogen sulfide, resulting in less than one part per billion at the property line. This is good news for the hikers and joggers who use the three miles of trails built on the site.

An interesting challenge arose well after the initial siting and design of the plant. New data suggested that an active earthquake fault crossed the north portion of the site, so CH2M Hill conducted extensive seismic trenching at the site. Subsequently, Brightwater is designed to resist larger ground motions than any other wastewater facility in the Puget Sound region.


Wood Harbinger: Engineering Excellence Gold Award- Industrial & Manufacturing Processes & Facilities

767 Production Line Relocation

Client: The Boeing Company

When Boeing began thinking of creating a new 767 production line, plans were to build a completely new building for it. Instead, space in an existing facility was repurposed, saving considerable design and construction costs and keeping tons of construction materials out of the building stream. Wood Harbinger was the prime consultant for design and construction of the new production line location and for ensuring a seamless transition from old to new – Boeing demanded that the current production of the 767 could not be halted, even for one day. It seems simple, but the reality was anything but.

The new location had never been used for aircraft production before and needed architectural renovations for a new hangar door on the north side of the facility along with significant infrastructure additions. Wood Harbinger’s team designed an in-slab vault and trench system, new industrial ventilation systems, a vast network of test equipment and new electrical, pneumatic and hydraulic utilities. WH also created infrastructure for a new jacking system that streamlines aircraft production.

One of the major technical challenges WH faced was the installation of a hydraulic power unit and 400 Hz generator in the midst of an extremely vibration-sensitive specialty machine shop where mere footsteps could create enough vibration to interrupt operations. WH designed a complex vibration and sound isolation system that allowed operations to continue and the equipment to function. Another challenge involved re-routing of mechanical ductwork. At Boeing, assembly space is precious, especially up high where the space is populated by more than 40 miles of crane rail. So designers had to created tall, skinny ducts tucked up into the structure to keep them away from the constantly moving cranes.

WH instituted a time-saving system for performing tests on the aircraft once it was assembled. In the past, the exhaustive battery of tests was performed using portable equipment that had to be moved constantly from area of the assembly floor to another. WH created a system of “pop-up” hatches in permanent locations where the testing equipment and cabling remains protected until it is needed, allowing a smaller space for the assembly process.

WH satisfied Boeing’s goal of seamlessly shifting the production of 767 aircraft from one location to another without any delay or schedule extensions. Boeing was able to start making airplanes on the new production line the same day the old production line was taken out of service.


URS Corporation: Engineering Excellence Gold Award- Water Resources

URS Corporation – The Elwha River Restoration Project

Client: National Park Service

The Elwha River Ecosystem and Fisheries Restoration Act of 1992 required “full restoration of the Elwha River ecosystem and native anadromous fisheries” along the Elwha River in Clallum County, Wash. In order to do this, the National Park Service needed to remove two hydropower dams (Elwha and Glines Canyon) built in the early 1900s, and in the process, protect down-river businesses, property and people from the more than 18 million cubic yards of sediment trapped behind the dams. URS Corporation was brought in to design and construct the Elwha Surface Water Intake and the Elwha Water Treatment Plant.

A key stockholder in the project was the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe. The Elwha River ecosystem holds extraordinary spiritual and cultural significance for the tribe, and their reservation is currently located near the mouth of the river. Tribe members historically fished in the river and relied on the salmon to support their families, so restoration of the river represents a significant step toward restoring the tribe’s historical livelihood and traditions.

Among the project’s complex web of environmental considerations, very stringent water quality and slurry waste handling requirements had to be addressed at the treatment plant. URS developed an elaborate chemical treatability study and toxicity testing, proving that water and residual sediment treated with coagulants and pH-adjusting chemicals are not harmful to freshwater or marine organisms. They also applied a brand new ballasted sedimentation process for treating raw water that intensive testing had shown would meet all drinking water quality standards.

URS designed an advanced “engineered riffle” that provides safe fish passage and numerous resting places for migrating fish. Also, a 180-cubic-feet-per-second intake facility was constructed on a steep slope beside the flood-prone Elwha River so URS conducted geotechnical investigations, including borings from a barge in the river and designing rock wall anchor stabilization. The company designed a diversion channel by the water intake facility that could reroute the entire flow of the Elwha River during construction periods. The large peak water flows and sediment loads required URS engineers to push the limits of technology, but ultimately, the problems were solved with treatment processes arranged in parallel that could be brought on and off line individually, plus the installation of both high- and low-flow pumps.

The dam removal project is the largest of its kind in the United States, and the second largest National Park Service restoration project in U.S. history, behind the Everglades National Park in Florida. URS’s water treatment facilities and the surface water intake structure will ensure a clean water supply for humans and a healthy environment for endangered fish and other wildlife over the five-year dam removal process.