Article Contaminated Land Laboratories

Reinforced soil design code to be revised

- by

When BS 8006, the code of practice for Strengthened / Reinforced soils and other fills, was first published in 1995, it was acclaimed as an international benchmark in the field. Nearly ten years on, the Standard remains the most comprehensive National Standard on reinforced soil, and is adopted as practice in many other countries. In keeping with BSI policy, the Standard BS8006 is presently undergoing its 10 year review and it is expected that new developments in the field and the development of new European standards, will be included in the revised Standard thus ensuring it remains at the forefront of good practice.

In December 2003, British Standards Institution gave the go ahead to revise the document and BSI Technical Committee B 526/4 met to start the process in April 2004. Representatives are drawn from industry, trade associations and learned bodies (Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), International Geosynthetics Society, Association of Geotechnical and Geo-environmental Specialists (AGS), Institution of Highways and Transportation (IHT), Association for Consultancy & Engineering (ACE), Department for Transport, Highways Agency (DfT), British Apparel & Textile Confederation (BATC)) to provide a mix of experience from the original drafting committee combined with input from some new members, all chaired by Steve Corbett of Faber Maunsell.

Several task groups have now been formed to review all of the main sections of the documents including the design of reinforced slopes, walls, embankments and soil nailing. Comments, suggestions, and proposals for improvements are invited from users of the document and other interested parties, either via their trade association or directly to the BSI secretary Sina Talal. It is hoped to provide regular updates on progress within Ground Engineering, as work proceeds. In the meantime, BS8006 should continue to be used until the new revision of the document is available, anticipated for 2006.

Please forward any comments or suggestions to committee secretary Sina Talal at SINA.TALAL@BSI-GLOBAL.COM.

Article Business Practice Contaminated Land Executive Loss Prevention

Report of AGS Chairman’s visit to ASFE Conference

- by

At the invitation of the President of ASFE, I attended the ASFE Autumn Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. The conference was held over two days (Friday and Saturday) with Board committee meetings held on Thursday and Sunday. The whole event was very well organised, extremely sociable, informative and thought provoking. I gave a presentation to the Conference of the current initiatives and concerns of the AGS which was well received.

Perhaps most surprising to me was just how many of the issues of concern to ASFE were common to the AGS. In particular this was illustrated by concerns over the trend in the Client community to expect “perfection” from their geotechnical/ geo-environmental advisors. Such Clients then appear hold reasonable (?!) expectations of recovering any financial over-runs from their advisors even if such costs have not resulted from any negligence by that advisor. ASFE have just published a Handbook ‘Limitation of Liability’ which although specifically related to the US experience, also provides much useful information for the UK practitioner. A copy has been given to the AGS Loss Prevention Group who will be looking to see how best to utilise this tool in the UK market. [You can see the ASFE publication list and order copies on].

Interestingly, and contrary to what I had anticipated, the levels of liability agreed by parties in the US are far lower than those currently being accepted here in the UK. For example, many ASFE members are able to limit their liability to the level of fee or to levels as low as $50,000.

Training is also an issue which is concerning the industry on both sides of the Atlantic. The availability, consistency and quality of training for members and employees is recognised as being critical in ensuring the continuing professional development of the industry. To its credit ASFE has over 50 training presentations (‘brown bag talks’) on its web site for use by its members. I believe that the AGS now needs to give further consideration to its role in the provision of training to the industry.

Geo-environmental aspects are assuming an increasing importance for both ASFE and AGS members. In the US geo-environmental work is now more important than geotechnical for the majority of ASFE members. This is reflected in moves in the US to create an “Institute of Brownfield Professionals”. This proposal essentially mirrors the SiLC [Specialists in Land Contamination] registration scheme which has been set up in the UK with the active support / participation of the AGS. Also of current concern to ASFE have been recent developments at the Environmental Participation Agency and the specification of a Standard – which defines the amount of site investigation needed on Brownfield sites. The Standard refers to only a simple option [the ASTM – All Appropriate Inquiry (AAI)]. ASFE has concerns that this signals movement at the EPA from their previous position of preferring ‘performance based standards’ to one of the ‘prescriptive standards’. Again, this has parallels in the UK and it will be important for the AGS to monitor the implementation of the Model Procedures for the Management of Contaminated Land (CLR11) by the various regulators, to ensure that this document does provide a framework for assessment and not a straight jacket.

One element of the conference that did surprise me was the very open/honest atmosphere that ASFE has created over the years. This was exemplified by the presentation of several ‘Case Histories’. These presentations by ASFE members describe in unambiguous words of few syllables how and why things went wrong on their projects which led to liabilities and costs against them. The topics covered ranged from; foundation/pavement design, a de minimus site investigation and to a case of unfair dismissal [in this instance a claim for $25 million by the employee who had been employed for less than 1 year!]. In each case the lessons learned by the member company were clearly spelt out for the benefit of all. The question and answer sessions were particularly illuminating.

In the UK we are perhaps less prepared to wash our dirty linen in public. However, these sessions were so powerful and reinforced the written advice that both ASFE and AGS are giving to members that I believe we would do well to adopt this practice to our own Members Day. Watch this space!

This is now the third time that the AGS Chairman has attended the ASFE conference and the potential benefits are beginning to be realised. There is much more still to be gained by developing this liaison further over the coming years and I am pleased to be able to report that Dan Harpstead, the new ASFE President, was a guest speaker at this year’s AGS Members’ Day.

Hugh Mallett