Beating The Freeze

Just before Christmas 2008, Hanson Pipe & Precast was contacted by contractor/engineer Nick Homerding of Anchorage, Alaska-based Enterprise Engineering,

Steven Prokopy

Just before Christmas 2008, Hanson Pipe & Precast was contacted by contractor/engineer Nick Homerding of Anchorage, Alaska-based Enterprise Engineering, Inc. for preliminary discussions on an unusual project that would take precast products from three different Hanson locations along the eastern seaboard, dispatching them to northwest Greenland, well into the Arctic Circle. Because it was so close to the holidays, Nick had trouble getting a response from other companies he wanted to talk to about this work, explains Don Wagner, Hanson Pipe & Precast vice president, sales, for Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia. We were fortunate to have someone manning the phones when he called.

The resulting operation entailed a short time frame to design, produce and ship components in order to meet the country’s strict weather and delivery window. The destination for said products was Thule Air Force Base, the U.S. Air Force’s northernmost base, located less than 1,000 miles from the North Pole. The base was preparing to upgrade its fueling depot, which required a precast Fuelidor. Precast was chosen for the project over cast-in-place, due to its quality from production in a controlled environment, plus strength and performance properties in the climate conditions.

After Hanson developed a complete plan for providing the precast products, Homerding submitted it and received approval from the base and the federal government, specifying Hanson’s Richmond facility as Îbase campÌ for the project. The company had 32 days to produce and ship two oversized Fuelidor vaults (two junction boxes sized 9 ft. _ 5 ft. and 10.5 ft. _ 5 ft.); a Fuelidor trench system with several components; 150 federal-transporation-rated median barriers for piping protection; and 62 concrete pipe supports (5 ft. _ 2 ft. trench boxes with embedded hardware to strap down the pipe).

The project’s close proximity to the Polar Ice Cap, in which shipping lanes are completely frozen, required Hanson to meet strict shipping and installation schedules during the short Arctic summer thaw. These types of projects are examples of Hanson’s ability and experience in handling difficult logistics and work with great speed under unusual circumstances, says Bob Christensen, senior vice president of Hanson Building Products East.

This is not the first time we’ve shipped product offshore Û we’ve also had similar projects involving pavers, roof tiles and pipe, he adds. And, we’re proud to say Hanson supplies many military projects in the United States, from gun pits to building work. But, it’s certainly not the norm to ship overseas, and the time element made a quick reaction time critical. There’s only about a month when ships can get in there.

From May 13 to June 3, Hanson Pipe & Precast had to overcome logistics challenges, such as designing precast items to fit through smaller doorways, designing new pipe supports, and streamlining all travel and shipping plans with the customer. To complete the job, the company utilized three plants, in addition to its Richmond facility Û Roanoke, Va., where most of the engineering took place; Dunn, N.C., supplying most of the median barriers; and, Pottstown, Pa., where the vaults and pipe supports were fabricated.

Don Wagner explains that none of the precast components required any special mix designs. The median barriers were 5,000-psi, SCC with 5 to 6 percent air entrainment, while the other products had the same strength, but were not SCC. We used standard wet cast specs for everything, he reports. We did have to epoxy line the vaults on the inside to protect from possible fuel exposure, but the soil conditions on site weren’t really a factor. The vaults did go under a road, but it’s mostly permafrost at that level.

One of the project’s biggest challenges involved transportation, with all products being sent first to Virginia’s Norfolk Naval Air Station, where they were loaded onto a barge and shipped to Greenland in a single delivery. Nearly all of the pieces were required to be shipped in 25 closed containers, 18 of which were used for the barriers alone. Because of the containers’ low profile, a standard fork lift could not be used for loading. We had to rig up a steel-wheeled dolly with a jack to get the products into the containers, says Wagner. We did convince the contractor that the oversized vaults were too big for closed containers, so those were strapped onto an open steel rack.

Once the containers were loaded, trucks arrived at all three Hanson Pipe & Precast production plants to pick up the preloaded containers and haul them to Norfolk in time for the July delivery date to Thule.

Bob Christensen says that although the time crunch offered the Hanson team some unusual elements to this project, shipping from multiple sites for one job is normal procedure for us. We have a network of production sites from New England to Florida. We facilitated with the client and got the job done right.