Celebrating 30 years of efficient design in USA 29 Jun 2017

Dr Sauer & Partners News Release

This year marks 30 years of operating success in the USA and North America for tunnel design and construction management specialist Dr Sauer & Partners. 2017 is the 30th anniversary of the company completing its first involvement in the US tunnelling industry on the Wheaton Station and tunnels for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

Company founder Gerhard Sauer spearheaded this first contribution to the North American tunnelling market working on the Washington DC Metro contract with Ilbau, the Austrian contractor which has evolved over time to become what is now the international tunnelling contractor Strabag.

Ilbau won the Wheaton Station and tunnels contract, with Dr Sauer as its designer. The project was part of the extension of Glenmont Route north into Maryland and included Wheaton Station and twin running tunnels of about 2,500m together with ventilation shafts and a cross-adit. ILBAU America, advised by Dr Sauer, recommended changes to the existing conventional design and introduced NATM (the new Austrian tunnelling method) for design and construction of the station tunnels, running tunnels and ancillary structures. Significant cost savings were achieved through more efficient tunnel excavation sequencing, thinner primary and final linings and sheet membrane waterproofing as a result of the alternative NATM design.

Completed, completely dry, platform tunnel at Wheaton Station
Completed, completely dry, platform tunnel at Wheaton Station

This was the first ever NATM project in the USA, and also the first use of sheet membrane waterproofing to create fully tanked and dry underground public space. It was awarded the National Capital Area Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement accolade in 1987 by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Speaking of the ground-breaking project in its approach, Dr Sauer said: “NATM remains a cost-effective construction method today as it was then. It is an extremely flexible technique. In my view there are no limitations to it, and with today’s toolbox of ground-treatment methods the scale and complexity of what can be excavated has been proven across many of the most challenging tunnelling projects around the world.”

NATM, or SEM as it is referred to on the west coast of the USA, has become somewhat more common but is still considered by some as an ‘exotic’ and high risk operation. Jürgen Laubbichler, Managing Director and company Partner responsible for the company’s North American operation commented: “Dr Sauer and Partners is considered an expert in SEM tunnelling, a specialty discipline for design and construction supervision of underground structures. Due to the many challenges involved, large, multi-disciplinary design firms often outsource this part of a project to our experienced engineers.”

Excavation and support sequence at Chinatown Station, San Francisco Metro
Excavation and support sequence at Chinatown Station, San Francisco Metro
Excavation of the large urban cavern for Chinatown Station, San Francisco
Excavation of the large urban cavern for Chinatown Station, San Francisco

Today, Dr Sauer & Partners is considered one of the leading expert firms in the US and Canada for mined NATM/SEM tunnel solutions and continues to support the North American market with its activity on several large and current projects. This is demonstrated by its involvement in the largest public transportation projects currently underway in North American market including design and construction supervision roles on the Edmonton, Ottawa, Toronto and San Francisco metros.

Since its first US project, delivered by Dr Sauer Corporation USA, the company has worked on more than 250 projects across Europe, Asia and, North and South America and from its company offices in Austria, the UK and the USA. Over the past three decades, the Dr Sauer team has delivered cost-effective, innovative tunnelling solutions to some of the world’s most complex tunnelling projects for the metro, highway, water, rail and mining industries. With its strong market presence, Dr Sauer & Partners has been involved in leading international projects including Crossrail 1 & 2, High Speed 2 (HS2), and London Underground station upgrade projects in the UK, and the Red Line project in Tel Aviv, Israel. As well as pursuing opportunities in the regions in which the firm has offices, Dr Sauer & Partners is also available for engagement on tunnelling projects outside of the core markets.

To this day, Dr Sauer himself continues to share his expertise and experience with the tunnelling world through his involvement in the business. After establishing the three businesses in Salzburg (1980), London (1983) and Washington (1983), the firm was reorganised as Dr Sauer & Partners in 2011 with four senior partners joining Dr Sauer under a holding company in Austria and branch offices covering the core markets of the UK, USA and Canada. Gerald Skalla, Jürgen Laubbichler, Thomas Schwind and Christian Karner now form the executive leadership for the company alongside Dr Sauer. Today, under the new name Dr Sauer & Partners, the business maintains its niche in the market with its spsecialist contribution to numerous projects around the globe.

Partners (left to right) Jürgen Laubbichler, Christian Karner, Thomas Schwind, Gerald Skalla, Gerhard Sauer
Partners (left to right) Jürgen Laubbichler, Christian Karner, Thomas Schwind, Gerald Skalla, Gerhard Sauer

The company is driven by the process of solving the engineering puzzle working closely with both clients and contractors. It provides the full range of design and construction management services for NATM/SEM/SCL tunnels, shafts and caverns. These services include initial consultation and feasibility studies, final design, supervision and construction management, rehabilitation, waterproofing, geotechnical engineering, and mining support services.

Gerald Skalla, Managing Director and Partner of the company’s UK operations explained: “Dr Sauer & Partners is proud to put the value back in to the concept of value engineering. The company offers specialist engineering services for SCL (sprayed concrete lining) tunnelling and this is an important role. We feel that the national departments of transport and public municipalities recognise the value that the specialist designers can bring.”

For Dr Sauer & Partners, future plans include organic growth of the company by developing the solutions offered, and extending the range of tunnel related engineering services available to include monitoring, deformation prediction, damage assessment, temporary works diaphragm-walls, other forms of support of excavation, shafts and open-cut boxes.


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