Mark Knight


Looking back, it is hard to believe that I have been at the University of Waterloo (UWaterloo) for 20 years and the executive director for the Centre for the Advancement of Trenchless Technologies (CATT) for 16.


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When I started at the University of Waterloo in 1997, CATT was three years old and then CATT executive director Dr. Rob McKim — whom I met several years before when he was a professor at the University of New Brunswick — invited me to get involved in a horizontal directional drilling (HDD) research program that he and Dr. Marianna Polak were starting. This research program investigated HDPE pipe pull forces, pipe strains and deflection during and after installation, pipe location in bore path, drill fluid bore pressures and the condition of drill fluid around installed pipe. Shortly thereafter, McKim went on a 12-month sabbatical then left Waterloo to join the Trenchless Technology Centre (TTC) in Ruston, Louisiana, USA. Polak and I continued the HDD research program and we were successful in obtaining additional research funding over the next several years to extend this research program.

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Marc Gelinas, principal project engineer at Hatch, was the graduate student working on the first UWaterloo HDD field studies. When he finished this study, he worked for CATT and through the contacts he established here, he started the first cured-in-place pipe (CIPP) liner testing. Soon, Gelinas left Waterloo in favor of sunny California to become involved in trenchless projects. He later returned to Canada with Hatch to help grow the trenchless industry.

Glenn Duyvestyn, vice president at Mott MacDonald, followed in Gelinas’ footsteps and continued the UWaterloo/CATT HDD research program. Before finishing his doctorate, he went to California to work with Dr. David Bennett on a microtunnelling project in San Francisco. Bennett was so impressed with Duyvestyn that he hired him immediately and he finished his doctorate part-time over the next several years. Also at CATT when I started at UWaterloo there was a doctorate student Sunil Sinha who is now professor and director SWIM Center at Virginia Tech.

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Since its formation, CATT has helped develop industry-leading trenchless design programs such as Vermeer Boreaid, which was developed by Drs. Karl Lawrence, Alireza Bayat and myself. Lawrence and Bayat were UWaterloo doctorate students when they started the development of Boreaid. We then when on to develop PPI-BOREAID, PPI-PACE, and more recently, HDPEAPP for the Plastic Pipe Institute. Bayat, after finishing his doctorate, joined the University of Alberta as a faculty member and started the Consortium for Engineering in Trenchless Technologies (CETT).

CATT also developed industry leading trenchless technology design courses such as Cured in Place Pipe (CIPP) Good Practices, HDD design and Construction, and Buried Infrastructure Asset Management. The CATT CIPP course has become the successful NASTT CIPP course and the foundation for the NASTT CIPP Good Practice manual.

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CATT, with Benjamin Media, has grown the one-day Ontario trenchless showcase from five to 10 table top displays, 20 technical presentations and 40 attendees into the Trenchless Technology Road Show, which now has 60-plus exhibitors, two full days with three tracks of presentations and more than 600 attendees. And. with the help of NASTT-BC, we’ve added a second Canadian Trenchless Technology Road Show in British Columbia.

More recently, in May 2017, CATT was awarded a two-year research grant valued at $1 million funded by Insituform Technologies, National Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), Ontario Centre of Excellence (OCE) and Alberta Innovates (AI).

The grant will bring together the UWaterloo and University of Alberta, as well as CATT and CETT for its first joint research project. At UWaterloo, the research team will develop a hydrostatic pressure test facility that can test pressure pipe liners under static and dynamic pressures. Bayat and his team in Alberta will complete field pilot tests to quantify third party evaluate CIPP in-situ mechanical properties and liner long-term performance.

You may be asking, what is the point of this reminiscing?

CATT, along with its members and its association with partnership organizations such as TTC, CETT, NASTT, AWWA and ASCE has helped advance the use of trenchless construction methods from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Vancouver, British Columbia.

Trenchless is no longer just for big cities, as now many small Canadian municipalities are developing trenchless programs. This would not be possible without the dedication of countless volunteers such as Ian Doherty, Chris Macey, Karman Sarrami, to name a few, the financial support of CATT’s membership, UWaterloo and the CATT Team — Alice Seviora, Dr. Rizwan Younis and Jonathon Pearce — countless co-op students and its board of directors.

Most importantly, credit goes to the team of brilliant young graduate students who find innovative solutions to challenging research problems with boundless energy and continue to contribute to the trenchless industry after they graduate.

These students are the next generation of engineers who will expand the trenchless industry just like Gelinas, Duyvestyn, Sinha and Bayat. Over the past 20 years, the growth in the Canadian trenchless industry and CATT has been phenomenal. We need to work together as an industry to create the next generation of engineers to carry the torch and continue this growth.

How can you help? CATT and other organizations need your support both by volunteering on committees and financially. With that help, we can continue to educate the professional community by developing and presenting state-of-the-art material and by sharing our knowledge of successful and unsuccessful projects.

Dr. Mark Knight, P.Eng, is the executive director of CATT and a member of the Trenchless Technology Canada Editorial Advisory Board.