Some questions to Mr. Jayakrishnan Puthiya Veettil, Regional Technical Manager of Maccaferri Middle East
Last month Maccaferri Middle East won the 1st annual GeoME Awards 2015 for the category “Best Geosynthetics Project” with the project “The 32m high ParaMesh Retaining wall in Al Jais Mountain Road Project, Ras Al Khaimah, UAE”.
The award, also featured in a previous news on November 17th, celebrates outstanding achievements in the international geosynthetics community.
Mr. Jayakrishnan Puthiya Veettil, Regional Technical Manager of Maccaferri Middle East, gave us an overview of the Geosynthetics market and industry. Graduated in Civil Engineering in 2000 and post graduated in Geotechnical Engineering in 2003, is experienced in designing of few of the world’s tallest reinforced retaining structures and published some papers in Geotechnical Engineering.
Can you give us an overview of the Geosynthetics market, specifically within the Middle East?
There has been an increased recognition and adoption of geosynthetics in the civil engineering applications in Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region during the recent past. The Middle East (ME) market accounts a major share in the geosynthetics business worldwide. Today, the civil engineers in ME are well aware of the use of geosynthetics as alternate to conventional products/solutions in their day-to-day engineering practice. The major applications are in the road infrastructure projects wherein various types of geosynthetics are used in MSE Walls, pavements, ground stabilization etc. There is also increased demand for other applications like drainage, landfill and coastal protection systems. For the first time in ME market, geosynthetics are being adopted in the railway applications with the ongoing/announced projects in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries. Energy sector is another old but very established market segment of geosynthetics in the ME.
What is GeoME for the Geosynthetics Industry? What does it represent?
GeoME, GEOSYNTHETICS Middle East, is the largest event of its kind in the Middle East. Organized by SKZ German Plastics Center in partnership with BMC Gulf LLC and under the Patronage of the Abu Dhabi City Municipality, where international industry experts exchange knowledge and build business partnerships on geosynthetics applications in Infrastructure, Transportation, Oil & Gas, Water, Waste and Energy. The introduction of the best awards categories starting from 2015 is a step to motivate and recognize the outstanding achievements of geosynthetics applications from various projects of the MENA region.
Why did you decide to compete to the GeoME 2015?
Being the largest and most important Geosynthetic event in the region and considering that Maccaferri is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, engineering supplier of these products and solutions we knew we had to be present and participate in this event, especially knowing that we have supplied various interesting projects in the region, in fact we had to make an internal competition within some of our projects to decide which project to present this year.
Can you briefly summarize what was the project about?
Al – Jais Mountain is located in northern emirate of Ras – AL Khaimah, which is at 25km from the main town and known as the roughly highest peak in UAE. To cover the road length of 36km, which is rising up to a height of 1700m (5577 feet), many sections run alternatively due to mountainous morphology. Retaining wall construction was done adopting the ParaMesh soil reinforcement system technology by combining Terramesh System (as facia & secondary reinforcement) and high strength geogrids as primary soil reinforcement. Maccaferri was given the responsibility of design assistance, structural calculation, construction drawings & project supervision assistance for this high reinforced soil wall by the main contractor General Mechanic Company.
The construction of the 32m high ParaMesh retaining wall started in Nov 2012 and completed in August 2013. The whole project is expected to complete by end of 2016. The construction of the remaining 8 number ParaMesh retaining structures within the same project are in progress now.
Which was the main challenge that OM faced in this situation?
Historically, this project marks the first application of the ParaMesh system in the ME region. The project was originally designed with very high soil filled embankments which were changed to nearly vertical retaining structures. The whole process of approval and construction of the ParaMesh system has been really challenging due to the stringent quality standards and internal processes of the consultant M/s. Halcrow. The client made a thorough comparison of the techno commercial benefits of various systems available in the market, following which, ParaMesh was chosen as the retaining wall system for this project. It took nearly one year of long process to start the construction from the date of conceptual proposal by Maccaferri.
Which is the main added value of the OM solution (ParaMesh plus Terramesh)?
The overall result is a stable & aesthetically appealing retaining wall which may be the highest steepest reinforced soil wall of the MENA region.
To list, the main benefits, advantages and value additions were:
- Trapezoidal Section design allowed to reduce rock blasting & earth works. The system typically allows use of larger sized backfill (up to 15cm) material by mixing with blasted rocks
- The flexibility of the Terramesh facia makes it the most seismic resilient and the also allows to absorb differential settlements without undergoing damage of the facia.
- The self draining nature of facia & backfill used helps the structure to avoid the development of excess pore water pressure during flash flood situations (which is very common at this project site).
- The facia is made of flexible gabion material that can be deformed to any non standard size at site depending on the rock excavation foundation profile which could be different from the design considerations.
- The construction of ParaMesh system is very simple and straight forward that allowed the use of un-skilled labors.
In your opinion why did GeoMe awarded OM project?
We believe that, the credit of the award simply goes to the technical advantages & commercial benefits Maccaferri’s innovative ParaMesh system. The proposal of use of ParaMesh retaining wall for this project against traditional embankment construction or other types of retaining walls offered many advantages like environmental friendliness, aesthetics, reduced carbon foot print emission etc. Thanks to the Maccaferri innovation of ParaMesh system that allows the use of rock blasted material up to 15cm size to be used as backfill material due to increased vertical spacing between the ParaLink layers and its high quality polyethylene coating. If any other reinforced soil wall system available in the market was to be used, there would have been additional cost due to importing of very specialized structural fill in addition to the environmental issues of dumping the excess blasted rock material.
Traditionally, a 32m high steep reinforced soil wall requires a soil reinforcement length of 22m. However, considering the competent rock foundation and in situ soil, Maccaferri designed a trapezoidal section type reinforced wall, thereby reducing the cost of rock blasting and earthworks without compromising the structural integrity of the design.
It is also important to mention the seismic resilience of the ParaMesh system in case of a catastrophic seismic event that is possible being the project location close to Iran, the epicenter of many recent earth quakes of the region.
Due to the self draining capacity of the compacted backfill material and the permeability of the rock filled gabion facia, the completed wall performed satisfactory during the flash floods in the region in last quarter of 2013 wherein there has been severe damages to other structures in the project like, pavement, concrete culverts foundations, wadi slope linings etc. Based on the available information, the 32m high ParaMesh Wall in this project may be the highest steepest reinforced soil wall with 75deg inclination, of the MENA region.
We humbly believe that, the above mentioned aspects helped to this project for the nomination and the final award.
The present project allowed the construction of a 36 km length road, rising up to 1700m, in a mountainous terrain in Jais Mountain, located norther emirate of Ras: how could this successful experience be applied to other scenarios? Where else the technology and benefits of this OM application can provide a significant advantage?
The success story of this project underlines the fact that ParaMesh system is the best retaining wall solution for mountainous regions characterized with rock strata, high seismicity and significant rainfall or flash floods. We have seen in past that, under similar situations, the clients always preferred this solution over other types of retaining wall types available in the market. The best other example are the series of ParaMesh retaining walls of the Albania Motorway Project. In case of the RAK Mountain Road Project itself, the same ParaMesh system wall are under construction now for eight more locations which will be completed within the end of 2016. The consultant of this project has also specified/recommended the ParaMesh system for around ten locations for other projects in UAE with similar conditions. However, the techno-commercial advantages of the ParaMesh retaining wall systems doesn’t limit its suitability to mountain road conditions alone. It can be successfully used for other sectors like mining, landscaping, industrial structures etc. The contract of the new ParaMesh projects in Oman & Saudi Arabia this year shows that system is gaining popularity and confidence of clients.
Which is the positive impact of this project on the environment?
In a unique mountainous region with a road project with the major objective of tourism development, it is of paramount importance that the structures are environmental friendly and blends with the environment with less impact. The present stage pictures of the 32m high ParaMesh retaining wall constructed in 2013 underlines strongly this advantage of the system which was envisaged at the design stage. The facia of the retaining wall has completely blended with the surrounding mountain conditions by making it difficult to identify the presence of a retaining wall from a distance. Thanks to the stone facia of the ParaMesh retaining wall system that allows to use the local stones from the rock blasting.
Also, the design approach of Maccaferri with short length of soil reinforcement at bottom that gradually increase at top side resulted in significant reduction of rock blasting & earth works thereby reducing the environmental impacts.
Last but not the least, it is important to highlight that the Carbon Foot Print Emission for gabion facia structures are relatively less, especially in comparison with traditional retaining wall systems or any other MSE wall systems with concrete facing.