Month: March 2020

Landslides: Prevention & Repair Through Slope Stabilization

Slope failure photo with blog title

In New England, March marks the last weeks of winter and the start of spring rains and snow melt.  Paying attention to erosion control during this time of year is always on the minds of municipal public works staff, state agencies, construction companies, and even homeowners, especially those fortunate enough (or perhaps not) to have water frontage. 

A 2018 study conducted by the USDA found that precipitation is increasing in the northeast more than any other region in the United States. The frequency of consecutive wet days is generally increasing in the northeast and precipitation extremes have also become more frequent. Given these trends, it is no surprise that peak flows in rivers and streams are also increasing and occurring earlier in the year which can result in a greater risk of flooding.

While it is difficult to prevent major erosion of stream and river banks due to extreme precipitation events, damage can be mitigated by inspections of at-risk areas combined with prioritization of these areas for repair. It is important to address slope failures quickly because bank degradation can cause significant damage including loss of property and infrastructure, sedimentation of the waterbody, water quality issues and damage to critical riparian buffer areas. As civil engineers, we can provide assistance with erosion control issues that range from preventative design practices, culvert replacements and stabilization of failed embankments.

Below is a list of some stabilization practices along with before and after photos of our recent embankment stabilization projects.

One such embankment failure occurred in Lancaster, New Hampshire, when high flow conditions in the Connecticut River resulted in severe washouts along an 800 foot long embankment causing loss of land and unstable soil conditions. Hoyle, Tanner designed and permitted solutions to repair and stabilize the slope using native riparian vegetation and rip rap armament. Live willow and dogwood stakes were planted in soil between the rip rap stones.

Terms to know:

  • Live willow & dogwood stakes: Living shrub cuttings that take root quickly in bank environments – provides natural habitat and additional erosion control
  • Rip rap: Large stones used for protection and dissipation of energy from high water flows
Washout along the Connecticut River in Lancaster
Lancaster Embankment after Stabilization

Hoyle, Tanner also designed and permitted repairs to a steep slope in Rochester, Vermont, when intense rainfall events undermined the toe of the bank, causing the slope and roadway above to fail and slide into Brandon Brook 90 feet below.  The repair solutions included installation of a blast rock toe detail and stone facing with grubbing material along the hillside to restore the slope. The roadway was reconstructed and a mid-slope underdrain was installed to intercept groundwater seepage. Debris from the slope failure was removed from Brandon Brook and the streambed was restored.

Terms to know:

  • Stone facing with grubbings: Combination of stone and native material to promote vegetation growth
  • Blast rock toe: Large rocks placed at the toe of the re-stabilized slope to combat undermining
Rochester Slope Failure at Brandon Brook
Brandon Brook Stabilized Slope Repair

Improving safety and combatting damage from growing peak flows and extreme storm events is an important part of our job. Hoyle, Tanner is excited to offer solutions to slope stability issues and challenging site conditions. For more information on how we can be of assistance, please contact me.

Employee Spotlight: Paul Dustin

Paul Dustin and Family in apple orchard

Paul Dustin, CADD Technician, and Summer House Dreamer
1.  What drew you to Hoyle, Tanner?
My career prior to working here was spent at engineering firms whose work was primarily state DOT based. As interesting as those projects can be, I was always drawn to the municipal projects because of the varying array of projects and the ability to work closely with clients to provide a more personal experience. I had always known that Hoyle, Tanner not only provided those things, but it was a great place to work. So, when a former coworker and Hoyle, Tanner employee called me about an opportunity to work here, I did not hesitate.
2. What’s something invaluable you’ve learned here?
That the value of teamwork and mutual respect will lead to a great work experience.
3. What’s your favorite time of year to work at Hoyle, Tanner?
Autumn. That’s when many of the projects are either winding down or wrapping up. It’s a rewarding feeling to look back at a years’ worth of submissions and see all the interesting structures I worked on, and how cool it will be to see them built the following summer.
4. What’s the coolest thing you are working on?
I am currently working on an emergency culvert replacement that has allowed the team to investigate and implement some cool out-of-the-box ideas.
5. What’s the best thing that’s happened to you so far this week?
My son Charlie spent the day with me at work. It was an awesome day.
6. How many different states have you lived in?
I have only lived here in New Hampshire.
7. If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life what would it be?
Ribeye steak grilled to perfection, a baked potato and my favorite pale ale.
8. What kind of pet do you have and how did you choose to name it?
We do not have a pet currently but are looking to get a dog very soon. We used to have a cat and his name was Hoffman.
9. What is a fun or interesting fact about your hometown?
I grew up in Hillsborough, NH which is the birthplace of the 14th president of the United States, Franklin Pierce. My personal favorite is there used to be a railroad covered bridge that was near my house. I have fond memories growing up of walking it with my dad.
10. What are three things still left on your bucket list?
1. Have a summer place on Newfound Lake
2. Travel to Ireland
3. Finally complete the 4,000 footers
11. Name three items you’d take with you to a desert island
Food, water, and my family
12. What characteristic do you admire most in others?
A good sense of humor with the ability to laugh at themselves
13. How old is the oldest item in your closet?
My favorite flannel shirt, which is nearing 20 years old
14. Words to live by? Favorite quote?
“If you tell people where to go, but not how to get there, you’ll be amazed at the results.” – George S. Patton
15. What did you want to be when you were growing up?
 Architect – I graduated college, life happened and I found my way to designing and detailing bridges, which I truly enjoy.
16. If you were to skydive from an airplane what would you think about on the way down?
I have skydived out of a plane, and on the way down I was thinking, “What in the world did I just do?” But it was a very cool experience.

Working on a Construction Site: A Woman’s Perspective

Construction photo with a yellow machine building a new bridge

This summer I had the pleasure of working very close to my hometown as a resident project representative (RPR) for two bridge construction projects in the Town of Gilmanton, New Hampshire. Funding from NHDOT’s Municipally-Managed State Bridge Aid Program allowed the Gilmanton to upgrade two pieces of its aging bridge infrastructure on Stage Road.

The Project

The previous bridge crossing at Nighthawk Hollow Brook was comprised of steel beams with a concrete deck. Originally built in 1930, and rehabilitated in 1960, the bridge was undersized to convey water flow, causing frequent roadway flooding by over a foot. A hydraulic analysis of the bridge revealed that to prevent future flooding, the roadway should be raised by several feet and the bridge span should increase. Less than a mile to the south is the bridge at Unnamed Brook crossing, which was also built in 1930. The supporting earth was washed away around the existing bridge because of puddling on the roadway and poor drainage. Hoyle, Tanner partnered with the Town to design both replacement structures, obtain necessary regulatory agencies’ permits, and administer the construction phase.

The design of a new 54-foot span bridge with over 3 feet of raise in the roadway profile over Nighthawk Hollow Brook was completed in late 2018. The design of the Unnamed Brook crossing was completed at the same time and included a 22-foot span bridge with drainage and roadway safety improvements. The Town’s goals for these projects were met with the design of two low-maintenance bridges with a long service life and improved water flow and drainage, while successfully addressing environmental permitting requirements. The projects were advertised together under one contract for bidding in winter 2018-19, and awarded to E.D. Swett, Inc. of Concord. Construction commenced in May 2019 with the installation of a temporary bridge at the Nighthawk Hollow Brook crossing, and a detour at the Unnamed Brook crossing in July 2019.

My Experience

As the RPR for this project, I was responsible for ensuring that the daily construction activities adhered to the contract plans and specifications. It involved effective organization, documentation, and measurement of the construction progress, but most importantly, it involved constant communication between the contractor, subcontractors, client, and engineer.

One of the first things I like to do as the RPR of a new project is establish a feeling of trust with the Contractor’s foreman, who controls the day-to-day operations of the project site. When working with someone new as a young, female engineer, I have been cautioned that people may doubt my abilities, as opposed to my male counterparts.

While I have been cautioned that people may not take me as seriously as my male counterparts, I did not feel that having to build trust or learning to communicate in a direct manner had much to do with me being a female. I know from experience that men and women communicate differently. Our choice in words, our verbal and nonverbal actions, and our responses to each other are different. Because I’m comfortable with verbal communication, I learned to alter my statements, questions, responses, and conversations in a way that was as clear as possible to each person I came in contact with.

Instead, I think it came down to being younger and not as experienced; that even a younger male engineer would have to prove his knowledge and win the trust of the construction site workers. Thankfully, with a high confidence level, and using effective communication, I was able to gain the trust of the foreman by proving my knowledge in a variety of situations. Having this trust with the foreman allowed us to rely on each other for the remainder of the project and easily work through any discrepancies.

Overall, my experience has been positive as a woman on a construction site. I feel confident in my abilities to make sure the work gets done on time, correctly, and under budget. I feel comfortable in this type of workplace communicating with people very different than myself. The men I have worked with are kind, understanding, hardworking, and like to joke around when there’s time for it.

Through the efforts of all parties involved, the two bridges were reopened to traffic in November 2019. Both projects were substantially completed and under budget with minor cleanup work and final paving scheduled for late spring 2020.

A Tribute to Our Roots

Hoyle, Tanner founders gathering around a document signing

As we begin our 47th year in business, we pay tribute to our founders who exemplified courage, resilience, commitment and innovation while building the solid foundation from which the company operates today.

Doug Hoyle was a lot of different things — a graduate of Brown University, a Korean War veteran, a licensed pilot, an avid skier, motor sport enthusiast and co-founder of a company that still bears his name. Although his list of personal accomplishments is long, throughout his career, his key interest remained the same: to be recognized as Chief Engineer. In 1973, Doug Hoyle along with John Tanner and Bill Thomas founded the engineering firm Hoyle, Tanner & Associates, Inc. and opened an office in the Ammon Terminal building at Manchester Airport. This marked the beginning of what now has become a very successful 46-year history in the civil engineering business.

Together, the original team of three built Hoyle, Tanner from the ground up; their individual beliefs, experiences, talents and business strategies complemented each other nicely.

Doug would take the lead for the company in the field of environmental engineering. Doug understood that by utilizing the availability of funding from the federally-sponsored Clean Water Act of the1960s, water quality could be significantly improved, and this was to be especially relevant to the many municipalities in New Hampshire’s Lakes Region. This work would become an important source of repeat business for the company, as well as establishing a reputation for high quality engineering in environmental services.

John Tanner also recognized the importance of a reliable source of funding for projects. His interest was in public transportation; he utilized the federally-funded Airport Development Aid Program which assisted airports by providing funds to finance capital improvements and maintenance projects. John led the way in this effort and was instrumental in building a national reputation for Hoyle, Tanner within the aviation industry. Unlike the other two founders, Bill Thomas was not an engineer but an experienced and insightful businessman who played a crucial role in business development, serving as the face of the company, and playing an instrumental role in important business decisions that affected Hoyle, Tanner’s future. Their personalities interwove together perfectly.

Doug Hoyle, a man of unwavering honesty and integrity, was a competent and traditional professional who made rational and calculated decisions. His pride was not in the name on the door but instead in his duty as Chief Engineer.

John Tanner was a gifted manager and a natural leader. John was always forward-thinking with big ideas and an ability to listen to a room full of people and distill a complex discussion to its core elements.

Bill Thomas was very personable; a natural conversationalist at ease in any social or business situation. Bill possessed the sound judgement and insights that would help to establish the firm’s culture and guide the company through future technological changes.

Together, the founders created a company culture of customer-driven quality and professionalism that is still very much in evidence at Hoyle, Tanner today. For 46 years, the company has been resilient and adaptive, embracing challenges and taking measured risks that are in the best interest of both our clients and our employees. Engineering is a continuously evolving industry. Hoyle, Tanner’s ability to adapt, anticipate these changes and persevere is something that has been with us since we first started in 1973 and that will continue to see us through our 100th year in business.

Founders black and white photo with names

This piece was written by Grace Mulleavey and Frank Wells.