Taming the Urban Underground

by James P. Gould, (M.ASCE), Partner; Mueser Rutledge Consulting Engineers, New York, NY,
George Tamaro, (M.ASCE), Partner; Mueser Rutledge Consulting Engineers, New York, NY,
J. P. Powers, (M.ASCE), Consultant; Mueser Rutledge Consulting Engineers, New York, NY,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1993, Vol. 63, Issue 2, Pg. 60-62

Document Type: Feature article


When designing and installing excavation support systems at a city construction site, be prepared to deal with the urban jungle. Tunnels and utility cables and pipes clog the underground, while too-close adjacent structures, overhead bridges, and elevated rail hover above. These roadblocks, when combined with environmental and liability considerations, challenge the designer and contractor as never before. In selecting an earth retention system, a contractor must consider the location and nature of all utilities and the structures adjacent to or within the excavation site. Many public and private utilities lie at a shallow depth and in reasonably predictable locations. Major collector sanitary and storm sewers, depending on the geology, topography and flow conditions, can be much deeper. The contractor must provide an earth support system that will either allow the utilities to continue to function on-site or relocate them. Often where there is room between the existing structures and the future excavation, the contractor may choose to relocate all of the parallel utilities into corridors outside the excavation. Relocated utilities are less susceptible to damage from construction operations and movements. A variety of problems complicate the ordinary physical hazards of excavation, the designer and the contractor are now held to a standard of care that is particularly exacting in the urban setting.

Subject Headings: Excavation | Contractors and subcontractors | Underground structures | Urban areas | Bridge design | Construction sites | Cable stayed bridges | Cables

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