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Engineering News

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Tunnel construction requires specialist engineering skills

Tunnel construction requires specialist engineering skills

The Introduction to Tunnel Design and Construction course, provided by Engineering Education Australia (EEA), in partnership with the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), can impart students with the key skills needed to design and engineer one of the most critical forms of infrastructure for modern economies.

David Abbott, ASCE’s seminar instructor for the three-day course, said that tunnels fulfil a broad range of vital functions beyond just serving as subterranean conduits through earth and dirt.

In addition to expediting transit through built-up areas or difficult terrain, tunnels also play a key ancillary role as pathways or storage areas for many others forms of critical infrastructure.

“Tunnels, both large and small, have many uses in the infrastructure of a modern society,” said Abbott. “Tunnels are commonly used for water, storm water drainage, sewers, utilities, access and transportation, and special projects such as seawater intakes and outfalls – for desalination plants; dam penstocks and bypasses.

“The use of tunnels provides for the safe, secure and practical location and construction of such facilities. In some cases the use of a tunnel may provide the only practical means of construction, and in other cases it provides a convenient, non-intrusive or economic means of infrastructure construction.”

Given the heightened challenges and hazards involved in subterranean building projects, however, successful tunnel design and construction requires that engineers possess a more specialised skillset as well as experience.

“Tunnelling is a specialist activity and requires specialist experience and knowledge,” said Abbott. “Underground construction for infrastructure such as tunnels often presents a high level of difficulty and risk compared to on-surface construction. For this reason their design and construction requires specialist skills as well as experience in execution.

“Such experience is usually derived from previous project execution in a mentoring environment so that learned skills and techniques are successfully disseminated.”

The ASCE’s tunnelling course is designed specifically to expand the skill set and experience needed for the successful design and execution of tunnel construction projects.

“The acquisition of knowledge and experience can be augmented by additional and ongoing education, in the form of courses like the ones that EEA/ASCE provide, which are designed to be a part of this process,” said Abbott. “They reinforce and expand acquired skills, inculcate the use of good practices, as well as introduce new and updated technical skills and techniques.”

The three-day course provides a comprehensive overview of tunnel engineering, including the full process of their development as well as potential challenges and corresponding solutions.

“The course covers most aspects, types and sizes of tunnelling including their planning, geotechnical and other investigations; construction methods and equipment, shafts for tunnel construction and tunnel linings,” said Abbott.

“Potential tunnel problems and risk, including discussion of remediation measures and risk assessment and mitigation are also addressed. The course is presented in a logical sequential manner covering the tunnel process from planning through to completion and is augmented by relevant case studies and several videos, alongside course notes in both hard copy and electronic format.”

The course is primarily aimed at engineering professionals who have little prior experience with tunnel design or construction, as well as those hoping to acquire expertise in more specialised forms of tunnelling.

“The course is established at an introductory level for engineers, managers and perhaps administrators who have limited tunnelling experience,” said Abbot. “It’s also relevant for those who have some experience but wish to expand their knowledge, or who wish to know more about other forms of tunnelling, such as small diameter tunnelling, or very large diameter tunnelling using large tunnelling machines.”

While the American Society of Civil Engineers is responsible for providing the course, the contents have been tailored to the needs of engineers in Australia, and covers the standards and practices of the domestic industry.

“The courses will be relevant for Australia and will address both Australian and US standards,” said Abbot. “There are some differences in the standards – metrication being one, and the course will highlight key industry norms.”

Participants in the three-day course can expect to come away with a sound understanding of the full tunnel development process as well as the complete range of tunnelling methods currently available, providing them with a solid foundation for future tunnel design and construction work.

Registrations for ASCE’s Introduction to Tunnel Design and Construction course are now open. Click here to register today.