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VIDEO: Groundbreaking Answer to Decaying Infrastructure

Tue January 05, 2021 - National Edition

Terrebonne Parish, La., like many jurisdictions around the country, needs billions of dollars to repair decaying infrastructure. Of urgent concern are structurally endangered pilings — the columns that hold up highways, bridges, piers, pipes, even buildings.

One contractor in Houma, La., charged with repairing a vulnerable water pumping station turned to a new paradigm-changing approach that is effective, economical and faster than any existing technology — and was surprised at the results.

It's called Form-A-Tube, a new invention developed by Centennial Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Arizona, Mo Ehsani.

Form-A-Tube allows contractors to instantly construct forms for shoring up pilings with cement. The system builds forms of any size on site, making it easy to use even in remote locations.

"This stuff is so modular you can take it down into 6½-inch strips, and put it together on site," said Harvey Sharp, whose company BCG Services is handling the water pumping station in Houma, La. "It's second to none."

According to Sharp, using Form-A-Tube stands in sharp contrast to current methods for building forms for concrete, which he described as bulky, heavy and full of fiberglass. In addition, with the Form-A-Tube system, the pumping station continued operating throughout the repairs.

"It takes a quarter of the time that it would take to do a regular bridge repair," said Sharp, who added that his clients love it. "If you had to remove the pilings, it would take months. Not only did Form-A-Tube save time, but saved the client's money. It's a no-brainer, and I think that's the future."

Sharp plans on using this product on other projects in 2021.

Ehsani had set out to find a more efficient way to strengthen bridge pilings, but also wanted to develop an approach that was friendly to the environment. In contrast with standard cardboard and fiberglass forms that have to be shipped in on 18-wheeler trucks and can only be used once, Form-A-Tubes are reusable.

"One of the problems with cardboard tubes is that they are pre-made to specific sizes and heights, which is a challenge for contractors and difficult to transport," said Ehsani. "Each Form-A-Tube piece has unique ribbing that can be placed inside the form and left in place, creating an attractive and almost impermeable outer shell. Or the tube can be placed on the outside so once the concrete filling has hardened, the pieces can be removed — and reused."

In a region with unprecedented hurricane destruction and economic challenges and an era of decaying infrastructure across the nation, Form-A-Tube brings new hope for affordable and fast solutions, according to the company.

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