Even the Greek god Zeus might say it is an Olympian task digging complex footings in soil that's almost as hard as concrete.
That's exactly what Corey Reutlinger's construction company has been doing, as part of the site prep for two full-size Olympic ice hockey rinks in Vancouver, British Columbia. "We're digging in very hard glacial till," states Reutlinger, president of Norex Civil Contractors, Inc., Abbotsford, BC. A byproduct from when the glaciers moved over southwestern British Columbia, glacial till is the finely compressed accumulations of unsorted, unstratified mixtures of clay, silt, sand, gravel, and boulders - in other words, a site prep contractor's worst nightmare, as far as soil conditions.
In addition to tough geology, Vancouver is a part of the Pacific coastal earthquake fault line. "To meet rigorous building codes, the seismic building footings need to be deeper, broader and much larger. Plus, they must be tied together strategically for vertical and lateral stresses," Reutlinger says.
Technology = Advantage
"We're able to make straight, vertical cuts and achieve accurate alignment where the footings end both horizontally and vertically because we have a technological advantage," Reutlinger says. "We're the first contractor in British Colombia using 3D GPS machine control on excavators.
"I attended the Trimble Dimensions conference and met contractors from all over the world talking about how machine control technology is increasing productivity and time savings, thereby providing better results, and increased efficiencies." Reutlinger continues, "It sounds trite, but I came home excited about the possibilities and immediately bought Trimble® GCS900 systems. That was in February 2006."
Reutlinger states that they are still in a learning curve discovering how best to adapt the Trimble technology to their specific needs. "We have mix of small and large projects so we're learning where best to use machine control. In a nutshell, we can do a lot more in a shorter period of time with fewer errors and less supervision.
"Because we can complete large projects more quickly, the machine control systems have helped us bid on and complete more projects - we wouldn't be able to bid that volume of projects without it."
With respect to the ice rinks, which are located on the campus of the University of British Colmbia, Reutlinger states, "We've completed the site-prep and grading for two new Olympic ice rinks - one ice surface is already under roof and the other we are completing." About 40,000 cubic meters (43,700 cubic yards) of material will be moved.
The ice rinks are a part of the tremendous number of construction projects occurring in the region as the city of Vancouver prepares to host the XXI Olympic Winter Games from February 12 to 28, 2010.
Highway 99, aka the "Sea to Sky Highway," will be the scenic transportation corridor winding through the coast and mountains region of BC - including the coastal rain forest at Horseshoe Bay, through Squamish and Garibaldi Provincial Park - that will connect Olympic activities in Vancouver to the resort municipality of Whistler.
"The Trimble GCS900 Grade Control Systems on our two Cat 330C and 345C hydraulic excavators got us out of the gate on this project a lot faster than if we didn't have it." Reutlinger says. "We're able to be far more productive in a shorter period of time. Within the first few months we were about a month ahead - mainly because we had no downtime waiting for stakeout or surveying of any kind."
How it Works
Trimble GCS900 Grade Control System for excavators uses Trimble's patented dual GPS antenna configuration with solid-state angle sensors to measure the exact 3D position and orientation of the bucket for faster excavation without stakes. The on-board Trimble CB430 computer determines the position of each tip of the bucket and compares these positions to a design elevation. This combined with the in-cab mounted light bars show the operator what bucket movement is required to achieve grade.
The idea of GPS machine control on an excavator may seem complicated at first, but it's not. Because of the complexity of the ice rink footings, we've been able to complete the project in less than half the time than if we had to stake everything the conventional way," states Reutlinger. "This efficiency is helping us meet the tough deadlines on our part of the Olympic games preparations."