D’Appolonia undertakes research and development projects with the dual goals of advancing the state-of-practice and enhancing the knowledge and experience of our professional engineering and scientific staff. Over the years we have conducted research projects related to soil-structure interaction under earthquake conditions, coal exploration using geophysics, development of site requirements for underground disposal of nuclear wastes, and evaluation of alternative means for underground storage of fuels. We have prepared Load Resistance Factor Design (LRFD) specifications for geotechnical applications, and we have developed and presented LRFD training courses. We have also conducted technical evaluations of innovative earth retention technologies for the Highway Innovation Technology Evaluation Center (HITEC). The graphic below shows covers of technical evaluation reports and the new MSHA Engineering and Design Manual for Coal Refuse Disposal Facilities.

Covers of some technical review publications and the new MSHA Manual prepared by D'Appolonia

Our experience with respect to research, training and technical review includes:

Brief descriptions of our capabilities in the areas listed above are provided in the paragraphs below. More detailed discussions of individual topics can be accessed by clicking on the links provided.

Development of Manuals of Practice

D’Appolonia has been retained by federal and state highway agencies to update design manuals and design and construction specifications to include new technologies and methodologies. A typical project involved updating of highway bridge design manuals to incorporate LRFD methodology and criteria. The scope of work included development of LRFD-based criteria for the design of spread footings, driven pile and drilled shaft foundations, conventional retaining walls and abutments, mechanically stabilized earth and prefabricated modular wall systems, anchored walls, and corrugated metal and thermoplastic culverts. D’Appolonia is experienced in working with regulatory technical staff in the development of design manual content. In 2009 a technical team led by D'Appolonia completed an update of the Engineering and Design Manual, Coal Refuse Disposal Facilities for the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). This project entailed a complete update of the previous (1975) manual and the introduction of several new chapters to reflect the current state of the practice.

Preparation/Presentation of Technical Courses

D’Appolonia is experienced in the preparation and presentation of technical seminars and other types of instructional courses. We were retained to develop the curriculum, training materials, and presentation graphics for a two-day training course for highway engineers who design foundations, retaining walls, and culverts using the AASHTO Load Resistance Factor Design (LRFD) Bridge Design Specifications. The training course addressed: principles of limit states design and calibration; loads, load factors and load combinations; geotechnical site characterization; substructure type selection; and design of foundations, earth retaining structures, abutments, and culverts. Training materials developed for the course included a Participant's Workbook, Instructor Guide, example problems, case histories and visual aids. The planned presentation and training materials were evaluated based upon comments from a review panel and from participants who attended pilot courses. Changes were incorporated based upon review comments, and the course has subsequently been presented more than 50 times to 35 state transportation agencies.

Applied Research

D’Appolonia utilizes the capabilities of its technical staff and resources to perform applied research projects. Our clients for these endeavors have included Federal and state agencies looking to utilize newly developed technologies to replace existing methods, to specialty contractors seeking to develop design guidelines for newly developed construction technologies, and to manufacturers looking to introduce new or adapt existing system technologies. Typical projects have included technical studies related to reliability applications in geotechnical design, application of exploration geophysics to characterize subsurface materials and locate buried objects, non-destructive testing (NDT), geo-systems evaluations, and the evaluation of the engineering behavior of soil and rock. We are currently working on a project to demonstrate the effectiveness of geophysical methods for mapping abandoned coal mine workings in the vicinity of coal tailings impoundments. The results of this study will provide mine engineers an approach for location of abandoned mine workings and hopefully minimizing the potential for accidents associated with interception of these workings such as occurred at the Que Creek Mine in 2003.

Evaluation of Innovative Technologies

Introduction of new or innovative product technologies into highway design practice usually requires demonstration and approval by the individual state highway agencies, often requiring a lengthy period for broad acceptance. D’Appolonia was retained by HITEC to evaluate earth retaining systems (ERS) with the objective of (1) reducing the time and cost required for acceptance by performing technical evaluations at a national level to minimize redundant state agency efforts and (2) improving the evaluation process by having an experienced team of geotechnical and structural engineering professionals perform the review. Earth retaining systems that have been evaluated by D'Appolonia include mechanically-stabilized earth, anchored, in-situ reinforced, cantilevered and gravity systems. We have developed and utilized protocols for evaluating materials, design, construction, performance and quality control of these wall systems. We have worked with applicants relative to design criteria, and we have prepared technical evaluation reports for submittal to the HITEC Review Panel. The final reports have been distributed to state transportation agencies throughout the U.S. Many innovative ERS technologies have gained expedited acceptance through this program.