Editor’s pickBlack & Veatch Centre of Excellence in Houston drives tunnelling and flood control options


A stretch of the OARS tunnel, the combined sewer overflow project designed to improve wet weather overflows in Columbus, Ohio. Black & Veatch served the construction management role on the project

Leader in design and construction management of large-diameter, deep-tunnelling projects, Black & Veatch, recently announced that is has created a Centre of Excellence in its Houston, Texas, United States (U.S.), office to deliver sustainable, cost-effective tunnelled solutions. With an extensive background in large-scale tunnelling projects across the United States and the globe, Black & Veatch is uniquely positioned with an eye on economic, environmental, and community benefits.

The Centre of Excellence designation of Black & Veatch’s Houston office comes as major metropolitan areas, many in low-lying coastal regions or otherwise exposed to damaging rain events, have begun to see diminishing returns on investments in traditional conveyance and storage systems. Deep, large-diameter tunnels can deliver value for wastewater and stormwater utilities by providing additional storage and conveyance capacity to significantly reduce or eliminate flooding and raw sewage overflow discharges.

Large urban flood-protection and sewerage conveyance projects are not new for Black & Veatch, an engineering and construction leader with offices all over Texas, such as Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio, Austin, and College Station. Moreover, Black & Veatch is Dallas City’s construction manager for the Texas’ largest stormwater tunnel, which received construction contract approval on the 14th of February. The project includes a tunnel which is five miles (8 kilometres) long and more than 30 feet (9 meters) in diameter that will collect and convey floodwater, significantly reduce flooding south of the tunnel, and protect East Dallas businesses and residents from flood damage.

As part of Black & Veatch’s investment in the Houston market, Brian Gettinger relocated to Houston in late 2017. A project manager and Tunnel Practice Leader within Black & Veatch’s Water business, Gettinger’s experience includes leadership in planning, design, and construction management on large tunnel, dam, and heavy civil engineering projects in Chicago, Illinois; Columbus, Ohio; Kansas City, Missouri; California, and Texas.

His tunnelling experience includes the design and construction administration of the Chicago-area Thornton and McCook Reservoirs, as well as their connecting tunnels, part of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago’s massive Tunnel and Reservoir Plan (TARP) to reduce chronic flooding problems and safeguard water quality. The award-winning projects have had a major impact in the Chicago area, providing an estimated US$114 million reduction per year in flood damages.

Gettinger joins Sergio Flores, Jarl Molander, and more than 80 other professionals in Black & Veatch’s growing Houston office. Flores is a seasoned tunnelling expert with experience in large tunnel projects in Seattle, Texas, as well as internationally. As a senior client director, Molander, has more than four decades of experience with large complex infrastructure facilities, and has served in leadership positions on many major public infrastructure projects in Houston and other major metropolitan areas across the U.S.

“Large urban areas are increasingly turning to large-diameter tunnels to minimise the impacts of extreme weather as well as minimise public and environmental impacts from traditional stormwater conveyance and storage projects. Tunnels remove floodwaters from problem areas and improve mobility by keeping streets free of water, generally without requiring significant property acquisition,” Molander said. “From concept development through construction management, our office can help communities achieve these benefits while managing risk to deliver projects cost effectively.”