Technology Has Changed How You Should Be Building Your Roads – Here’s Why

Dec 20, 2019

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” — Arthur C. Clarke

Roads are an indispensable part of modern infrastructure. They enable the transport of people and goods around the world and have been around for thousands of years. In fact, the earliest evidence of constructed roads dates all the way back to 4,000 B.C., in former Mesopotamia (now Iraq) where these ancient, stone-paved roads were built using mud bricks and bitumen.

It wasn’t until the late 19th century that the first modern road was built in Europe. In 1824, Paris’ famous Champs-Elysees of the 1600s were repaved with asphalt, paving the way for many conventional road-building techniques that are still popular today.

These conventional methods of building roads are products of thousands of years of engineering evolution, making them centuries-old and well-understood… but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re still the best methods, nor the most sustainable.

How to build better roads
Building for the 21st Century

As highly sought-out industry experts, we’re seeing more and more companies and government organizations proactively seeking new technologies to maximize efficiency in the road building process and improve the overall quality of these roads. This behavior is particularly prevalent when companies are looking to:

  • Enhance time efficiency when executing the design and construction phases
  • Maximize ROI
  • Minimize a project’s environmental impact
  • Reduce the frequency of required maintenance and repair

Conventional Roads: An Overview

Conventional roadways often require maintenance which can increase as the road is used and degrades over time. What influences these maintenance requirements? Road maintenance cycles can be impacted by a number of factors, including (but not limited to):

  • The design life of the road
  • The frequency and types of vehicles driving on the road
  • Weather
  • The type of road (private, public, resource sector, paved, unpaved, etc.)

Road maintenance costs can have a substantial impact on the total lifecycle cost of a road. Fortunately, advances in road construction technology — such as NPA geocells — are readily available and can significantly reduce these long-term maintenance costs.

The evolution of NPA geocells
The Evolution of NPA Geocells

Early “grid-confinement” systems were very different from geocell technologies as we now know them. Among the first materials used in testing were wax-coated paper, plastic drainpipe grids, aluminum, and pure polyethylene without UV stabilization.

It wasn’t until 1975 that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began researching and developing cellular confinement systems as a solution to allow heavy military equipment to cross soft ground during landing operations. These engineers quickly learned that sand-confinement systems performed better than conventional techniques using crushed stone, ultimately requiring less time and providing more stability in wet weather conditions.

Civilian commercialization of this product resulted in a Cellular Confinement System (CCS) made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE). During the 1980s, CCS was used as a means of load support, slope erosion control, and channel lining across the United States and Canada.

This led to the eventual creation and patent of novel polymeric alloy (NPA) geocells, commonly referred to as “Neoloy®”. Building on the widespread applications of geocell technology in civil engineering, Neoloy was developed as a high-strength alternative to high-density polyethylene (HDPE) geocells.

What is Tough Cell?
Introducing Tough Cell®

Introduced to the Canadian market in 2012, Tough Cell is a durable, sustainable, high-performance geocell made from Neoloy and structured into a 3D honeycomb formation that maintains its dimensional stability in a wide variety of temperatures (-60°C to +60°C), under dynamic and cyclic loadings, and is highly resistant to polymeric creep.

Since its inception, Tough Cell has been hard at work for companies in oil & gas, energy, forestry, mining, rail, transportation, and numerous other industries.

For example, MEG Energy, a major upstream oil and gas company, needed a reliable temporary heavy haul access through muskeg up to six meters deep. Remote locations are often situated in areas with restricted access and/or in environments with soils like muskeg or bogs that are incapable to support heavy equipment without the use of new soil stabilizing technologies. Together with geotechnical engineering firm Stratum Logics, Paradox Access Solutions designed and built a three-and-a-half-kilometer by eight-meter access road using Tough Cell CCS in a mere 40 days, widely exceeding MEG’s expectations.

Free Resource: MEG Energy Access Road Case Study

Maximizing Your Project’s ROI

It’s important to understand that not all roads are alike, and each one requires thorough consideration. Many factors must be considered in order to establish the optimal project design and construction methodology.

Imagine you’re at the dentist seeking options for braces. Depending on your specific needs and circumstances, there are a variety of different options the dentist might recommend. There are instances when conventional practices such as wired braces or retainers might be suitable, and there are also instances when the added benefits of using more modern technologies are worth investing in.

Similarly, when it comes to road design and construction, there are some projects where traditional methods may serve best, and others that employ more advanced technologies (such as geosynthetic textiles and NPA cellular confinement systems (CCS), also known as “NPA geocells”) can provide benefits that substantially enhance a project’s KPIs.

Tough Cell technology allows for design optimization according to performance requirements for each specific project. This means your road, pad, slope, or foundation will have an optimized, engineered solution that can reduce project costs by as much as 50%.

Build longer-lasting roads with Tough Cell geocell technology

Tough Cell designs have served Alberta’s energy industry well, and many other industries are now reaping the benefits of Tough Cell CCS applications, too, including public civil infrastructure, mining, forestry, airports, seaports, railroads, wind turbine bases, solar installations, and hydroelectric structures, among others.

Interested in learning more about Tough Cell and how it could contribute to your next access project? Click the button below to get in touch with one of our Tough Cell experts today.

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