Chris Macey

Trenchless Pioneers: Chris Macey

Trenchless Pioneers is a special monthly series sharing with readers the trailblazers who grew and expanded the trenchless industry.

When it comes to pioneers in the trenchless industry, it’s important to recognize the many engineers who championed the use of these new trenchless technologies to their clients during infancy of this industry. The latter being a group who generally abhors change.

One of the pioneering engineers in trenchless without a doubt is Chris Macey who – since 1977 – has had his hands on some form of trenchless technology every day. Macey graduated from the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg in 1977 and started working with the City of Winnipeg.

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“Trenchless has always been a ‘way of life’ for me; growing up in Winnipeg where very innovative horizontal earth boring (HEB) technologies were patented in the early 1970s and cured-in-place pipe (CIPP) was first installed in 1978,” Macey says.

After 10 months with the City, Macey moved into the consulting world with AECOM and the rest is history. He’s spent 45 years there growing from solely working in Winnipeg to working across Canada, then across North America and then across the globe. Today, he is AECOM’s Global and Americas Technical Practice Leader for Condition Assessment and Rehabilitation.

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“I have worked in all 10 provinces (and territories), all 50 states and on every continent with the exception of Antarctica,” Macey says. “It’s been quite a trek.” Along the way he’s become a mentor to many and a friend to many more.

“I started working in the Winnipeg market in the late 1970s. By the early 1980s, I was doing water main and sewer renewals by trenchless means to minimize cost and the impact of construction on the public,” Macey says. “I started out applying trenchless techniques (HEB and pipe bursting) 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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With much of his career focused on the rehabilitation side of the industry, it should come as no surprise that Macey points to CIPP as the industry’s greatest game changer.

“From its invention as the consummate close-fit technology to optimize the use of the host pipe and buy a new life, to its increasing technical envelope due to of the development of better composite materials, CIPP continues to be a game changer,” he says. “With bigger, longer shots in the world of gravity pipes and the continued development of standardized techniques to master pressure pipe relining; it will continue to change the next generation of rehabilitation.”

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It’s often difficult to properly articulate one’s pioneering contributions to an industry. Macey, a consummate learner, says that one of the things that he has always done is disseminate the knowledge he has gained.

“From a practical perspective this means, be committed to learn something on every job you do because if you don’t learn anything, there is nothing to pass on. It’s amazing how much that focus increases your knowledge base over time. Just a little extra effort, a little at a time, really adds up over a career,” he says. “Embrace change as evolution not as your enemy and then disseminate that knowledge. It forces you to know your stuff, and it is what makes engineering sustainable. The concept of trade secrets is vastly overrated. It is the essence of how I learned my craft and passing that on in a manner means a great deal to me.”

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One of the ways in which Macey does this is his active and unwavering support of the associations aligned with the trenchless industry including ASCE-UESI, AWWA, NASSCO, NASTT and WEF. And chances are if he’s not on a project site or travelling the globe for pleasure, Macey is at a conference hosted by one of the associations or working with them to update existing standards, develop new standards or improve educational offerings.

So how does Macey view his legacy and how does he see that legacy helping pave the way for continued growth of the trenchless industry?

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“I would hope, aside from solving some decent technical challenges, it somewhat relates to my candor and the way we should interact with our colleagues, mentors and mentees,” he says. “Embrace all in this business as your colleague and treat them with respect. And most importantly, have fun. Work and life ought to be fun. Help others to have fun too and help them through hard times. I know this may be a strange thing to leave as a legacy, but working in a collaborate, constructive manner, will do more to advance the trenchless industry over time than any single invention or idea.”

Mike Kezdi is the managing editor of Trenchless Technology.

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