Picking the Brain of: Chris Macey, P.Eng.

Chris Macey


In this installment of our ongoing “Picking the Brain of” Q&A feature, we reached out to Chris Macey, Americas Technical Practice Leader – Condition Assessment and Rehabilitation of Linear Infrastructure at AECOM. Macey is a 2019 NASTT Hall of Fame inductee.

Please give our readers a little bit of your background.

I graduated from University of Manitoba (in Winnipeg, Manitoba) in 1977. I spent my first 10 months out of school working with the City of Winnipeg and have spent the next 41 working as a consultant. Over the years, working in Winnipeg became working across Canada and then across North America and then across oceans in all directions. It’s been quite a trek.

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How did you get involved in the trenchless technology industry?

Trenchless has always been a “way of life” for me; growing up in Winnipeg where innovative horizontal earth boring (HEB) technologies were patented in the early 1970s and cured-in-place pipe (CIPP) was first installed in 1978. I started out applying trenchless techniques to drive large water and sewer rehabilitation programs in the early 1980s and by the late 1980s had transitioned to relining technologies (sliplining, CIPP and the gamut of close-fit liners). It’s all I have ever known.

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How would you describe the state of the trenchless market in Canada?

It is both a mature and innovative market. In the gravity work streams, it dominates rehabilitation in virtually every major City in the country, while most areas are at least experimenting with trenchless installation work streams in pressure pipe rehab. New installations are flourishing in both the HDD market and the widespread deployment of MTBM’s. People are sensitive to their construction footprint in urban centres and the economics of reducing construction footprints keeps getting better and better.

In your experience, how does the Canadian trenchless market compare to the international market?

Maybe I am biased because I am a Canadian, but the Canadian market that evolved out of the international market has become a real leader in widespread deployment of trenchless programs globally. We have an ever increasing focus on structured quality assurance techniques for all trenchless technologies and an excellent track record at transitioning good concepts into use in great sustainable programs.

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Where do you see trenchless technology heading in the short- and long-terms in Canada? Biggest growth areas?

Continuing to evolve and to mature. There is an ever increasing demand for quality trenchless skills in virtually all aspects of the business from concept to design, construction, overall programming and research.

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I probably have an increased focus in the rehabilitation market, but the gravity market is still growing and pressure pipe rehabilitation has immense potential for widespread growth, once the products and techniques get refined to a level that is reasonably commensurate with the gravity market.

How has pipe relining evolved over the time you have been involved in the industry?

I think the biggest evolution for me has been the increase in the CIPP and similar technologies technical envelope due to our increased understanding of composite materials. Bigger, longer shots in the world of gravity pipes and the continued development of standardized techniques to master pressure pipe relining. It will change the next generation of rehabilitation forever.

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What are some key issues that the trenchless industry, as a whole, faces?

I think the most critical issue by far for the industry is growing capacity to meet demand without compromising the quality of what can and needs to be done.

Capacity is already very poorly matched to demand and the demand is going to increase considerably. In a marketplace driven by higher skill sets to make it work well, and where not working well can look pretty ugly; this is a real challenge. Effective transference of the knowledge base we have and continued focus on education and the commitment to lifelong learning are critical to the industry successfully meeting the markets needs moving forward.

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You were recently inducted into NASTT’s Hall of Fame. What does that mean to you?

I am humbled to be recognized by my peers in an industry that is so much fun and so satisfying from the perspective of being able to do something that is of such immense value to the planet.

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What is it about trenchless technology that excites you?

What isn’t exciting about trenchless? From the diagnostics of being able to discern what to fix just before it breaks to mastering the technique of fixing it in such a manner that society barely knows the work was done; this is pretty neat and very satisfying stuff. Solving problems using science and innovative thought! Making a difference! Who’d of thought that someone could make a career out of this stuff? If I wasn’t fortunate enough to have a day job doing it, I think I’d just do it; period. That’s pretty exciting.

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