Contractor Profile: Global Underground Solutions

Global Underground SolutionsEvery workday morning, five Global Underground Solutions horizontal directional drilling (HDD) crews are busy installing underground utilities for a broad range of clients.

Based in Chesapeake, Va., Global Underground Solutions serves electrical and telecommunications service providers, water and sewer companies and general contractors in Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, and North Carolina.

While horizontal directional drilling comprises much of Global’s workload, the company’s services are not limited to HDD, with capabilities extending to excavation, shoring, trenching, duct bank installations, manhole and hand hole installations, rigging and utility locating services.

However, directional drilling is special to Global partners John Dennis and Rudy Fifield because of their involvement with the technology from the time it began to be used for utility applications.

“We keep our drills running every day and the five drills install incredible amounts of footage, thanks to our knowledgeable crews,” said Fifield. “Most of our guys have been with us five years or longer, and we are thankful to have them. Our customers expressed how obvious it is to see that our teams take pride in their work on every project. We remind them that their projects have formed our reputation as a preferred and recommended installer for the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), military facilities, municipalities and varied commercial organizations.

Currently Global operates five Ditch Witch HDD models: a new JT25 with 27,000 lbs of pullback; two JT2720 models (27,000 lbs pullback); one JT4020 (40,000 lbs pullback) and one JT1720 (17,000 lbs pullback), the oldest and smallest machine in service.

The JT4020 recently was used to make two bores on a water improvement project for a U.S. Coast Guard facility in York, Va.  An 800-ft long bore was made beneath a creek and a 650-ft installation was made through the Yorktown Historical Society site under the location where George Washington’s troops encamped during the Revolutionary War. The bore head was guided with Ditch Witch 750 tracking equipment and ground penetrating radar (GPR).

“Numerous historical artifacts remain buried in the ground,” said Fifield.

Fourteen-inch diameter HDPE pipe was installed to connect with the system undergoing upgrades. A 4-in. plate bit was used to drill the pilot holes, which were enlarged with a 24-in. backreamer. Pipe fusion was done in space cleared through the woods of the Washington camp site.

“Directional drilling allowed a clean installation without disturbance of wildlife,” said Fifield. “It not only is a historic site but also includes protected wetlands, which are a wildlife-protected area for eels. The area also has high peaks and low valleys.  Surface conditions were soil and water in the wetlands. Drilling was thorough clay. There was the challenge of a 90-ft elevation change from entry to exit points.”

A large project at the Navy’s Fentress Airfield for runway lighting upgrades and connecting communications involved installation of 150,000 ft of PVC duct banks, 100 manholes and numerous HDD installations under runways and taxiways. Twenty bores were made ranging from 150 to 400 ft. Multiple pulls were made of galvanized pipe ranging in diameter from 2 to 9 in. The clay was so soft that the reamer could be pulled with product without pre-reaming.

“Directional drilling enabled us to install the duct without the need to saw cut the runways and taxiways,” said Fifield.

Fifield said the presence of abandoned utilities and a short timeframe for completing work posed challenges.
“Locating slowed the work and to meet our deadline, we worked 15- and 18-hour days,” he said.

For the City of Chesapeake, Global was called in to a project to upgrade communications infrastructure along a 3.8-mile length of street so that street improvements could be made. Work was behind schedule, and Global was called in to speed construction. For the job, Global used all of its HDD equipment over a period of 42 days.

Installing the communications duct comprised 95 percent of the project — more than 30,000 ft, said Fifield. All communications duct installed was 4 in. in diameter. One sewer bore of 750 ft was made for an 8-in. sewer line.

“Directional drilling,” Fifield said, “allowed product to be placed under numerous obstacles, including roads and wetlands. We made more than 150 bores ranging from 50 to 600 ft. The average was 350 ft.”
Pavement often had to be cut to launch bores and at exit points. Pilot holes were drilled with 4-in. plate bit. Tracking was done with Ditch Witch 750 equipment.

Enlarging pilot holes prior to pullback was unnecessary — pipe was pulled in behind 8-in. backreamers.
Global Underground Solutions is a d/b/a operation of Secured Network Solutions that was established in 2008.

“John and I left our jobs and entered into a business arrangement with Secured Network Solutions. The company is a national data, voice, fiber and wireless telecommunications contractor,” said Fifield. “Craig Rentz is chief executive officer and Greg Yellis is vice president.”

The combined capabilities of the two organizations offer turnkey services from outside plant to in-building connections, Fifield added. Global has expanded its markets beyond telecommunications to provide services to other dry and wet utilities providers.

Fifield said that he is responsible for the company’s estimating and bidding and focuses on customer relations and management. Dennis supervises field operations, ensuring utilities are located and marked before construction begins, schedules crews and makes sure each project is completed on time and to the company’s high standards. Project manager Tonya Fifield is the glue that keeps everything together, said Fifield.

Depending on workloads, Global employs 25 to 30 people with five to eight crews in the field on a daily basis.
In addition to utility work, a Fire and Security Division has been added under the supervision of Jeff Hooker.

Jeri Lamerton is public relations manager at The Charles Machine Works Inc., based in Perry, Okla.
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