CDM Smith: Seven Decades of Engineering Solutions

With its headquarters in the northeast United States, where aging infrastructure issues are prevalent, the company has been at the forefront of developing innovative tools and expertise for managing aging infrastructure.

With its headquarters in the northeast United States, where aging infrastructure issues are prevalent, the company has been at the forefront of developing innovative tools and expertise for managing aging infrastructure.


Since its founding in 1947, CDM Smith has been a leading consulting firm in the field of water and wastewater. Over the years, however, the firm has expanded its offerings to become a full-service consulting, engineering and construction firm. Today, the company boasts 5,000-plus employees in more than 125 offices worldwide with annual revenue of $1.2 billion.

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For more than 60 years, the company has provided innovative and sustainable solutions combined with responsive, professional service to its clients. Worldwide, CDM Smith delivers a full range of services and integrated approaches that satisfy client needs for progressive and adaptive master planning, asset management, condition assessment and rehabilitation, hydraulic evaluations, design, consulting, program management and construction management to deliver new conveyance systems or upgrade existing ones.

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In September 1944, after serving for 15 years as the professor in charge of Sanitary Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Dr. Thomas R. Camp elected to devote his energy to private engineering practice. Less than three years later, in January 1947, Camp joined forces with Herman G. Dresser and Jack E. McKee to form Camp Dresser & McKee (CDM). Fast forward to 2012, Wilbur Smith Associates merged with CDM to form CDM Smith Inc. The merger enhanced the company’s global capability in transportation engineering. The growth would have been unimaginable in the early days of the company in 1947 when it had a staff of seven at its Boston office.

One of the reasons for the success of the company has been its focus on providing customer service. The culture of customer service started early on when Dr. Camp declared, “It is the duty of the professional consulting engineer to give his client the best solution to the client’s problems at the least overall cost.” Company officials point to three keys in delivering customer service: listen, think and deliver.

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Another hallmark of the company has been its research and development (R&D) program that feeds its delivery of technical excellence, drives innovation, and helps develop the next generation of thought leaders, ensuring continued industry leadership in delivering cutting-edge solutions for its clients. The company has leveraged its R&D investments to nurture strategic partnerships with clients and research institutions, and to participate in tailored collaborations.

For example, the company is partnering with the Virginia Tech Sustainable Water Infrastructure Management (SWIM) Center on a Water Research Foundation project to develop a compendium of case studies on applying risk management principles and innovative condition assessment and rehabilitation technologies for effective management of infrastructure.

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“At CDM Smith, we nurture multi-generational learning, so technical excellence flows around, not just top down,” said Susan Crawford, P.E., CDM Smith director of technical advancement. “Through our Communities of Practice (i.e. global teams of professionals with an interest and focus around the various technical markets that we serve) our professionals have the opportunity to stay abreast of the latest development and learn from each other. Because these global communities, such as our Conveyance Community of Practice, include our senior experts, as well as entry-level engineers, they provide a perfect avenue for technology transfer, keeping up with latest trends, brainstorming, problem solving, mentoring and sharing lessons learned.”

Addressing the Challenges of Aging Infrastructure

Addressing the needs of the aging infrastructure has been a primary focus of CDM Smith for more than 30 years. With its headquarters in the northeast United States, where aging infrastructure issues are prevalent, the company has been at the forefront of developing innovative tools and expertise for managing aging infrastructure.

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“More and more products and technologies keep coming onto the market each year and it is critical that owners fully understand the advantages and limitations of each,” said Luis Leon, P.E., an associate at CDM Smith and chair of WEF’s Collection System Committee. “Understanding long-term performance is especially important and can be achieved through engineering evaluations and possibly conducting pilot trials.”

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In 1987, CDM Smith developed InfraWorks — a set of software tools for managing infrastructure systems — which gained wide acceptance in the marketplace. The company has consistently taken advantage of the most recent and effective software and technologies available, including modeling systems, GIS systems, condition assessment techniques and rehabilitation technologies. As an example, the company pioneered the rehabilitation of large diameter brick sewers through a major and long-term assignment for the City of Newark, N.J. The success of that project, which involved the cured-in-place pipe (CIPP) lining of a 108-in. egg-shaped sewer pipe, was recognized as the 2004  Trenchless Technology Project of the Year for Rehabilitation.

“The biggest problem cities face is the lack of resources and money available to address the vast network of aging infrastructure,” said John Schroeder, P.E., a vice president at CDM Smith. “Many utilities are adopting asset management plans and developing risk-based prioritization plans to inspect, assess and upgrade their infrastructure.”

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Most recently, the Passaic Valley Sewer Commission selected CDM Smith to assist it with the assessment and rehabilitation of approximately 40 miles of major interceptors and outfalls. The $8 million, seven-year project will utilize the latest laser, sonar and CCTV inspection technologies, which will be further augmented with advanced ROV inspection tools.

The company has also provided full-service assessment and rehabilitation services for water distribution and transmission systems. Its services have included development of cost-effective approaches to addressing aging infrastructure issues, preparation of short- and long-term capital improvement plans, and comprehensive engineering and consulting services for all aspects of water distribution and transmission mains and raw water conveyance systems evaluation and improvement.

CDM Smith has applied state-of-the art innovative inspection technologies, such as acoustic leak detection and monitoring, various wall assessment technologies including ultrasonic, remote field technology, flux leakage and broadband electromagnetics, and indirect assessment methods, such as potential surveys and soil corrosivity assessments. The company has also provided design and construction of recommended rehabilitation measures, utilizing trenchless technologies such as sliplining with steel liners, carbon fiber repairs, CIPP lining and joint seal systems.

For example, CDM Smith has provided engineering services to inspect and rehabilitate several miles of 78- and 102-in. aqueducts for Providence Water, R.I., over the past 20 years. Inspection technologies utilized have included electromagnetic and acoustic technologies.

“We are seeing advances in multi-sensor and other advanced inspection technologies combined with GIS and GPS capabilities, robust software tools, cloud storage and computing capabilities,” said Jonathan Kunay, P.E., a project manager and pipeline rehabilitation specialist in the Boston office of CDM Smith. “These advances elevate the level of sophistication in asset management protocols for risk-based prioritization and capital planning efforts.”

Part of the CDM Smith team at the 2016 NASTT No-Dig Show: (front row l-r) Ahmad Habibian, Karen Lowe, Katelyn Biedron, Jonathan Kunay (back row l-r) Luis Leon, Ian Mead, Marc Lehmann, John Schroeder, Brent Johnson.

Part of the CDM Smith team at the 2016 NASTT No-Dig Show: (front row l-r) Ahmad Habibian, Karen Lowe, Katelyn Biedron, Jonathan Kunay (back row l-r) Luis Leon, Ian Mead, Marc Lehmann, John Schroeder, Brent Johnson.

Delivering Smarter Infrastructure

The opportunities for growth in municipal infrastructure market are abundant. The market drivers include population growth, aging infrastructure, climate change and water scarcity, increasing regulatory requirements and improved awareness of value of water by consumers. The deteriorating state of the nation’s aging infrastructure, in particular, is providing opportunities for new and innovative solutions. The smarter infrastructure concept is moving fast from a mere visionary concept to reality, driven by advances in sensor technologies, communication platforms and data analytics.

CDM Smith defines delivering “smarter” infrastructure as integrating sensors, data analytics, predictive controls and real-time automation with traditional engineering, technology and business solutions. This includes asset management, infrastructure condition assessment and trenchless rehabilitation solutions, system optimization, and pro-active operation and maintenance practices. By increasing automation, leveraging system diagnostics, and utilizing real-time alerts coupled with a holistic infrastructure management plan, the issues surrounding the aging infrastructure can be addressed.

“Smart infrastructure is helping our clients enhance customer service, improve the quality of the services they provide, realize cost efficiencies and enhance revenue,” said Doug Cushing, CDM Smith director of digital capital and predictive analytics. “For example, a utility that implements smart metering can increase its revenue by minimizing operator error and eliminating apparent water losses, and enhance service to customers by putting water consumption information at their fingertips and providing them with timely leak alerts.”

Ahmad Habibian, Ph.D., P.E., CDM Smith global conveyance strategy leader, sees the trend toward smart infrastructure continuing to expand. “Today, we are on the cusp of a quantum leap in the deployment of smarter infrastructure technologies at water utilities. While it took almost three decades for GIS to take root, the smarter infrastructure technologies currently being developed and deployed will find their foothold in perhaps less than a decade. Soon, utility operators and managers will have smart apps on their mobile devices — powered by sophisticated data and predictive analytics — to help them monitor, optimize, manage and troubleshoot the assets and processes vital to the delivery of safe and adequate supply of potable water and efficient collection and treatment of wastewater.”

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Pipeline Engineering Services

Pipeline engineering services has been an integral part of CDM Smith’s offerings from its early years. In fact, it was Herman Dresser — one of the three founding partners — who developed the “Dresser formulas” for calculating the moments, thrust and shear forces in standard shape semi-elliptical sewer sections under various loading conditions. Over the past 65 years, CDM Smith has designed and constructed thousands of miles of pipelines utilizing both open-cut and various trenchless methods such as microtunneling, horizontal directional drilling, pipe jacking, and auger boring. For example, the company designed a 5,800-ft long HDD crossing of a 24-in. fusible PVC under the Raritan River in New Jersey for the Middlesex Water Co. The success of this project was recognized as the 2010 Trenchless Technology Project of the Year for New Installation. Additionally, CDM Smith has been consistently ranked among Trenchless Technology’s Top 50 Engineering Firms list. The revenue from trenchless projects has more than tripled from $20 million in 2005 to $70 million in 2015.

CDM Smith provides the full range of services covering route analysis, geotechnical evaluation, design, permitting, public outreach and awareness, alternative delivery and construction. The company also has a dedicated geotechnical and structural engineering group that provides expert knowledge from the geotechnical evaluation through design and construction


Program Management

Program management of large and complex projects has been an offering of the company for more than 40 years. The comprehensive and proven approach it has developed is tailored to meet the specific needs of any given program. For example, CDM Smith assisted Providence Water through a programmatic approach to proactively address the needs of its Prestressed Concrete Cylinder Pipe (PCCP) transmission mains.

The programmatic approach provides numerous opportunities to increase the cost efficiency of assessment and rehabilitation activities. The single most important advantage of a programmatic approach is the opportunity to increase the cost efficiency of inspection and assessment activities — allowing precious and limited resources to be stretched further. Under this approach, the utility gets the opportunity to develop a motivated and dedicated in-house workforce committed to achieving success. With effective leadership, such a workforce can embark on developing and implementing long range assessment plans, maintaining up-to-date standard operating procedures (SOPs), piloting new technologies, and establishing successful partnerships with inspection and engineering service providers.

Moving Forward

Looking ahead, CDM Smith professionals will continue delivering cost-effective and innovative solutions to address the needs of clients — no matter whether these needs are driven by population growth, aging infrastructure, new regulations, or climate change. While clients’ needs may change or evolve, excellent customer service, innovation and deployment of new technologies to address those needs remain a constant.

“Providing excellent customer service has always been a hallmark of CDM Smith,” Habibian said. “Following the business philosophy set by our founders nearly seven decades ago, our approach to any project focuses on three key aspects of customer service — listen, think and deliver. We listen to understand our clients’ needs and concerns, think through potential options to address those needs, and leverage our technical prowess to deliver the right solutions to meet those needs.”

Jim Rush is editor of Trenchless Technology.

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