HDD Specs Being Considered for Ohio

HDDThe Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is considering a specification for horizontal directional drilling (HDD) that will provide a road map for contractors, engineers and utility owners to properly, safely and cost-effectively install underground utilities using HDD.

The specification was researched and written by Bowling Green State University (BGSU) at the behest and assistance of the Great Lakes Trenchless Association (formerly known as the Ohio HDD Association). The proposed specification report was submitted to ODOT for its formal review and action in November 2012 and approved in December. No word to date as to whether ODOT will adopt and implement the HDD standard.

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“Our objective was not to write a legal document but to write a specification that is good enough that the HDD marketplace will use it,” said Dr. Alan Atalah, PhD, P.E., Associate Dean for Graduate Affairs at Bowling Green State University and member of its construction management department. Atalah, as well as co-author Sandria Brown, are members of the Great Lakes Trenchless Association (GLTA).

Atalah explained that the GLTA has been discussing the need for such an HDD specification for several years, as there are multiple HDD specifications being employed in Ohio, varying greatly in content and requirements. “[Specifications] are all over the map with a lot of variations that create problems for the industry as a whole. The idea was that we can develop a singular specification that hopefully can be used voluntarily in the state of Ohio and the United States. We don’t have any legislative power. It is up to ODOT to decide that,” he said.

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The result of having a regular specification for HDD would allow contractors to submit more accurate bids with reduced markup to cover risk due to market competition. “The beneficiaries of the proposed HDD specifications are ODOT, utility owners, design engineers, contractors and suppliers of equipment, pipes and other materials needed for HDD projects,” Atalah said.

GLTA was the driving force behind this project and believes having an HDD standard for Ohio benefits all involved from the contractors to the engineers to ODOT to the utility owners. “Having a uniform requirement for HDD would hold a contractor working in any part of the state to the same standard and will ultimately increase safety, increase production and improve the industry,” said GLTA president Brian Willis, who is a project manager for Precision Directional Boring, Valley City, Ohio.

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Currently ODOT has no specification for HDD and the process itself falls under the auspices of bore-and-jack specifications, which have nothing to do with HDD, Willis said.

The Study
Industry participation in development and drafting of the specification was critical in order to develop a fair and objective HDD specification. The BGSU research team worked with the Ohio Horizontal Directional Drilling Specification Committee (OHDDSC) that represented the interests of different stakeholders and consisted of representatives of ODOT, utility owners, contractors, engineers, designers, suppliers, manufacturers and academia. The committee identified 10 different HDD specifications for the standard: five from Ohio and five from outside Ohio.

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“We didn’t want to re-invent the wheel,” Atalah said. “Specifications have been developed previously so we collected them, analyzed them and saw what was common in all of them.”

The research team identified and narrowed down the issues of agreement and disagreement, with the latter ones analyzed and evaluated for inclusion. The specifications from the Departments of Transportation in Florida and Illinois were also consulted in development of the HDD specification. Whenever there were areas of disagreement, the OHDDSC committee deferred to the HDD Good Practices Guidelines as a guide to compromise or final word.

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The HDD Good Practices Guidelines manual was first published in 2001 and has served as the industry specification for contractors, engineers and owners in completing efficient, effective and safe HDD installations and in training operators and supervisory personnel. Subsequent editions were published in 2004 and 2008.

“For the most part we did follow the HDD Good Practices Guidelines manual,” Atalah said, describing it as the committee’s “North Star.”

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Atalah noted the challenges in developing the HDD specification, specifically the wide range of applications in which HDD technology is used — applications that have different levels of risk and challenges. “Projects come in all shapes and sizes and at all different levels of risk. We could not create a one-size-fits-all type of specification,” Atalah said.

The HDD specification that was developed and proposed to ODOT was for pressurized applications with pipe diameters in the range of 4 to 24 in., which is widely considered to be the range of most HDD applications. HDD installations that are outside of this pipe diameter are beyond the scope of the proposed specification. Also, HDD installations for gravity applications are excluded.

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Issues not included in the proposed specification include pre-qualifications, pre-construction surveys, surface and subsurface monitoring of settlement points, as-built drawings, quality assurance testing and safety. These were excluded because they fall under the activities of open–cut work, of which HDD is a part, and conducted by the general contractor, not the HDD contractor.

The BGSU team and OHDDSC developed a draft specification for HDD that addressed the various issues that are unique to HDD construction projects, these areas include the site preparation, utility location, equipment, guidance systems, drilling fluids, drilling operations, environmental protection, damage restoration and testing installed pipe.

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Based on the consensus within the OHDDSC, the BGSU team wrote the first draft of the HDD specification. OHDDSC reviewed the document and negotiated within the committee the areas of disagreement and agreement, all of which were incorporated into the second draft and a final draft was unanimously agreed to and submitted to ODOT for its review.

“[ODOT] needs to review the document to ensure that it does not conflict with other ODOT departments and to make sure it is consistent with its current specifications,” Atalah said.

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The BGSU team included four steps that ODOT should consider before implementing the proposed HDD specification: review proposed specification internally to ensure it does not conflict with other ODOT specifications; work with GLTA to evaluate the proposed specification through use on an actual HDD project; allow the larger different interest groups across the state to review the proposed specification to ensure that it’s balanced to benefit the Ohio taxpayer; and update and adjust the document as needed.

Atalah said that he and Brown are pleased with the final document but admit that the process was daunting and challenging, giving the scope of the project and ensuring that all interests were fairly included and covered.

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“The final document is definitely something to build on,” Atalah said. “The GLTA was the driving force behind this study and its members spent a lot of time and effort in putting this together. We are grateful for the hard work the specification committee put into this.”

Willis is hopeful that this research project will lead to future partnerships with ODOT to explore other areas HDD such as contractor qualifications and certifications and accreditations. “None of that is being done in Ohio,” he said. “As an association, our pockets don’t allow us to take on those types of research projects by ourself but we hope that ODOT team with us in the future on these research projects.”

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Sharon M. Bueno is managing editor of Trenchless Technology.

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