Water-Related Projects Dominate WA Engineering Awards

Staff | September 28, 2010

The American Council of Engineering Companies of Washington honored 20 projects representing a wide range of engineering achievements and demonstrating skill and ingenuity at its 39th annual awards ceremony in January.

More than half of the winning projects involved the control, cleaning or transport of water, including mitigation of flood plains, wildlife habitat restoration, innovative new sewer facilities, and green roofs. The six national-level awards (one platinum and five golds) went on to compete in the ACEC national competition in Washington, D.C., in March.

National Finalists

The top honor, the Platinum Award, was presented to Magnusson Klemencic Associates for the structural, seismic and shoring engineering on WaMu Center, which also houses expansion space for the Seattle Art Museum in downtown Seattle. The 42-story office tower initially houses four stories of SAM galleries and features eight "convertible" floors that will undergo a metamorphosis to dramatically transform from bank offices into soaring two-story gallery space over the next 20 years.

However, the space needed for the galleries forced the tower to be squeezed into a very narrow footprint — so narrow that it demanded the creation of a new type of structural system. It also was located in a very active seismic zone, underlain with tunnels and areaways, and restricted by city height and density codes.

A pioneering approach developed by MKA, known as "performance-based seismic design," eliminated the need for a bulky perimeter moment frame and produced a building that is safer, stronger, more flexible, and less expensive. The resulting structural system — the first of its kind in the world — incorporates a ductile concrete shear wall core with concrete-filled steel pipe columns connected by "buckling restrained braces" in a light, compact outrigger frame.

Extensive and complex sequential analyses, plus two separate sets of design documents, were completed for the anticipated conversion from office to museum (that would include actually cutting away portions of existing floors and re-routing structural loads mid-stream). The plan would also accommodate the removal and addition of entire elevator banks, multiple escalators and the complete HVAC system.

ACEC also chose five projects on the national track for Gold Awards and three projects earned Silver Awards.

The Gold Award for Structural Systems went to Seattle Structural PS Inc. for the Pier 59 Foundation Replacement; owner, Seattle Aquarium. The 100-year-old creosote-treated timber piles supporting the pier were being eaten away by a native Northwest shipworm, and without immediate intervention the pier might be lost to a severe windstorm or earthquake.

Seattle Structural was called in to replace the aging timber piles and to strengthen the entire pier to allow future expansion by the aquarium. Seattle Structural removed 1,000 old creosote piles and installed 140 new driven concrete-filled piles and 100 new replacement piles under the occupied building. To create greater lateral resistance to wind, waves and seismic forces, 12,000 square feet of exterior timber aprons were replaced with a 100-percent ductile concrete moment frame supported by deep concrete-filled steel pipe piles around the original structure. Replacement piles supported by existing timber pile stubs were jacked into place below the occupied building to provide a 50-year foundation. The breakthrough concept was to install inverted cans at the bases of the replacement piles to seal the existing pile stubs against future attack from shipworms, ultimately saving the project $500,000 by eliminating the potentially polluting excavation of the silt layer below Pier 59.

The Gold Award for Studies, Research and Consulting went to Parsons Brinckerhoff for Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Alternative Visualizations; owner, Washington State Department of Transportation.

The viaduct and the adjacent 72-year-old seawall need to be replaced as soon as possible, but how, and at what cost? Two major proposals included rebuilding the elevated highway, or tearing down both the viaduct and the seawall, then building a tunnel to carry the 110,000 vehicles a day the viaduct now carries. The question posed for Parsons Brinckerhoff was how to make these two options come to life for the public officials who must make decisions, and for the people of Seattle who will use it and pay for it. PB tasked its Design Visualization team with creating a detailed, photorealistic 3-D computer model of downtown Seattle and the waterfront which they then developed into two four-and-a-half-minute videos allowing viewers to actually "drive through" an animated landscape of each of the proposed solutions.

The Gold Award for Studies, Research and Consulting went to Magnusson Klemencic Associates for the Seattle Green Roof Evaluation Project.

Tired of fielding the question, "How much storm water detention can I get out of a green roof?" from clients without actual data to answer it, Magnusson Klemencic Associates took the initiative to develop a new modeling tool to fill the information void. The Seattle Green Roof Evaluation Project accounts for 10 different environmental processes and physical characteristics. The study proved that green roofs are effective at attenuating runoff, offsetting the need for conventional detention and dramatically reducing cumulative runoff over the course of the rainy season. Ultimately, the study will provide city regulators with data to justify and permit green roofs as a storm water management tool, and enable policymakers to consider appropriate incentives.

The Gold Award for Building/Technology Systems went to Wood/Harbinger Inc. for Seattle City Hall; owner, city of Seattle.

Wood/Harbinger provided the mechanical engineering expertise in the design and construction of Seattle's new City Hall. The city had wanted its new civic headquarters to be a model of energy efficiency, flexible in its changing uses and technologies, and designed and built to last a century. The building and technology systems created by WH are helping to achieve these goals.

The Gold Award for Transportation went to Shannon & Wilson Inc. for the Aircraft Carrier Dry Dock Stabilization; owner, Naval Facilities Northwest, U.S. Navy.

The dry dock at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility is the only West Coast dry dock that can service large Nimitz-class aircraft carriers. The floor of this huge facility had cracked and settled to a point where the structural integrity of the dry dock was in question, plus the Navy needed a fully operational facility in time for the scheduled maintenance of the USS Abraham Lincoln by September 2006.

After Shannon & Wilson evaluated the cause of settlement of the dry dock through targeted field explorations and testing, the design team exceeded the Navy's expectations by identifying an innovative, permanent repair solution to quickly re-establish support beneath the aging dry dock base slab and significantly extend the life of the dry dock. The solution involved a unique application of compaction grouting to improve loose soil beneath the dry dock without damaging the floor slab in an environment with limited access.

Silver Awards were as follows:

  • Building/Technology Systems — Sparling Inc. for the William H. Foege Building, owner University of Washington;
  • Water and Wastewater — Brown and Caldwell. For the Hawks Prairie Reclaimed Water Satellite Facilities, owners the cities of Lacey, Olympia and Tumwater, plus Thurston County;
  • Water and Wastewater — Kennedy/Jenks Consultants for Managing Deicing Stormwater at Seattle/Tacoma International Airport, owner The Port of Seattle.

Best in State Awards

ACEC presented five gold awards in its in-state competition.

The Gold Award for Meeting/Exceeding the Owner/Client Needs went to HWA Geosciences Inc. for the Lakewood Interceptor; owner city of Marysville, client Gray & Osborne.

The Gold Award for Future Value to the Engineering Profession and Perception of the Public went to Roth Hill Engineering Partners LLC for Lift Station 10B Regional Sewage Lift Station; owner Soos Creek Water and Sewer District.

The Gold Award for Complexity went to Otak Inc. for Swamp Creek Flood Reduction Improvements; owner city of Kenmore.

The Gold Award for Original or Innovative Applications of New or Existing Techniques went to GeoEngineers Inc. for the Olive 8 Geotechnical Engineering Design; owner Olive 8, client R.C. Hedreen and Co.

And the Gold Award for Social/Economic and Sustainable Design Considerations went to Golder Associates Inc. for the I-90 Rock Slope Remediation; owner Washington State Department of Transportation.

Bronze and Silver Awards were also presented in the "Best in State" division.

Firms winning Silver awards were EA Engineering, Science & Technology Inc., FSi consulting engineers, GeoEngineers Inc. (2), Golder Associates Inc., HWA GeoSciences Inc., and RH2 Engineering Inc.

Bronze awards went to Ridolfi Inc., W & H Pacific (3) and Wood/Harbinger Inc.

The American Council of Engineering Companies of Washington is a professional trade association representing consulting engineering, land surveying, and affiliated scientific and planning firms statewide.