Tectonic Engineering

Besides its core civil, structural and geotechnical engineering for transportation, public works, water re­sources, telecommunications, institutional, education and healthcare, Tectonic Engineering also is adding to its focus projects in the energy sector for wind power, smart grids and natural gas.

For wind farms, the company is using its expertise to work with clients in obtaining the environmental impact statements, site planning, zoning and permitting approvals that are required. With its geotechnical engineering and tower design and analysis capabilities, Tectonic can perform all the necessary superstructure and foundation analysis required at wind farm sites to support the towers.

The company can do the same for the electr­ical line towers needed to transmit the electricity generated to a central distribution point and for the proposed smart grid distribution systems, whose goal is to utilize available electrical energy more efficiently and economically.

“For electrical transmission lines, our focus is on the geotechnical investigations and det­er­mination of the foundation requirements to support the transmission structures as well as the civil/site design aspects that deal with gaining access to the areas where they would be constructing the transmission towers – access roads, grading, drainage, environmental permitting, those sorts of considerations,” President Donald Benvie says.

Another aspect of energy where Tectonic is expanding its focus involves the extraction of natural gas from the Marcellus shale, a geological formation that extends under several states, including New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.

“Pennsylvania is really moving forward at full speed with a number of sites already under various stages of exploration and development,” Benvie notes. “New York is still in the process of strengthening environmental regulations to minimize the risk and potential hazards that are associated with the various exploration and development methods required to gain access to the natural gas deposits in the Marcellus shale beds.”

Providing Oversight

Another aspect of Tectonic’s work is engineering inspection and quality oversight of contractors’ work, often called construction engineering and inspection (CEI). “We’re performing special inspections and third-party testing to verify that the contractors’ work conforms to the design plans and specifications,” Benvie ex­plains. Some major projects Tectonic is providing CEI services for include development of the World Trade Center, the East Side access tunnel for the Metropolitan Trans­por­tation Auth­ority (MTA) and runway work at JFK Airport.

For the MTA, Tectonic has been performing CEI services on the $7.3 billion East Side access tunnel project in Manhattan, which was started in 2008 and is estimated for completion around 2016. One of the biggest public works projects in New York, it involves boring and blasting to excavate four tunnels, each of which is an estimated 3,000 feet, for the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) from 63rd Street to a new station approximately 120 feet below Grand Central Station. The LIRR currently uses Penn Station on Manhattan’s west side.

Tectonic also is performing CEI services at JFK Airport, where the 14,575-foot Bay Run­way – one of the longest commercial runways in the world – is being resurfaced and reconstructed for approximately $376 million. “Our responsibility is to oversee the asphalt paving and the earthwork related to the reconstruction of the shoulders adjacent to the runways,” Benvie explains. The runway was shut down in early March 2010 and is due to reopen at the end of June 2010. “The construction is on a very tight schedule,” he points out.

At the World Trade Center, Tectonic is supporting the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey with the performance of special in­s­pections and third-party testing for One World Trade Center, the tallest building being cons­tructed as part of the redeveloped site. Tectonic also is supporting the Port Authority with surveying services to check the contactors’ layout and as-built construction of new structures throughout the World Trade Center site.

Engineering Work

Tectonic has performed the engineering work – including the design of new roads and bridges – for the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s reconstruction and realignment of Route 72 in Bristol and Plainville, Conn. The company also is preparing design plans and specifications for a similar project along Route 80 in Branford, Conn.

In New York City, Tectonic is providing design services to the Department of Transportation involving the replacement or rehabilitation of various bridge components including piers, bridge decks, abutments and other structural elements for 11 bridges throughout the five boroughs of New York City.

The majority of the company’s work is for transportation and public works agencies. “The second largest sector of our work is for the design of cellular wireless telecommunication tower sites for various carriers,” Benvie notes.

Tectonic’s next largest category of projects is land development for educational and health care institutions and a small amount for commercial, retail and residential markets. But with the economic recession, a large number of commercial and residential development projects have been scaled back, put on hold or cancelled altogether.

Tectonic Engineering’s core service area is in the tri-state region of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and the Northeast. For wireless companies, it has more of a national footprint based on the carriers’ needs. The economy in the tri-state region seems to be picking up a little bit for some commercial and residential work, Benvie thinks.

“On the residential side, it’s still way down compared to where it was a few years ago,” Benvie maintains, “although compared to last year, we are seeing a little bit of a pickup. The public agency and transportation work has remained strong, but going into the future, there’s a good possibility that is going to slow down, because of the decrease in the budgets that the local and state governments have to work with due to reduced tax revenues that have resulted from the recession.”

Based on the level of work that the company has maintained with the transportation agencies, Benvie thinks that the federal stimulus monies did not really add jobs but rather have helped public agencies to maintain the programs they had.

As the company’s philosophy, Benvie emp­hasizes integrity, trust and responsiveness. “In serving our clients, we try to subscribe to being responsive, to deliver what we say we’re going to deliver, and to maintain our credibility with our clients by performing our work and maintaining our client relationships in a manner that emphasizes integrity and honesty,” he de­clares. “We don’t mislead them or promise them the ability to do something we don’t have the expertise or the manpower or cap­acity to perform.”  

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