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Geosynthetics: The present and perspectives from Mexico

News | June 1, 2010 | By:

The Mexican economy has been battered by both the worldwide financial crisis and the effects of a steep downturn in the U.S., Mexico’s largest trading partner. And if that was not enough, Mexico’s economy absorbed another blow last year with its virtual shutdown during the swine flu pandemic.

A gathering of the geosynthetic leadership in Mexico City in March set out to identify how the organization can best help grow the market for geosynthetics in Mexico. Granted, GMA Mexico cannot address all of the problems with the Mexican economy, but it can take steps to insure that geosynthetic materials are not left unnoticed as the Mexican economy recovers.

GMA Mexico identified two critical issues needed to ensure growth

  • The development of clear geosynthetic specifications acceptable for government agencies.
  • Expansion of geosynthetic materials education.

Mexico is now experiencing what many U.S. construction markets have already experienced: Government specifiers are cautious about using geosynthetics in various applications because the industry lacks acceptable specifications (“specs,” in Mexico, are called “norms” or standards). And furthermore, specifiers lack familiarity with geosynthetic materials because engineering education regarding geosynthetics is sparse.

GMA Mexico, under the leadership of Oscar Couttolenc, has developed a working group to address the issue of absence of well-known and well-regarded specifications. The current specification templates that this working group is using are the AASHTO M288 specs that were developed by GMA and AASHTO for use in state transportation applications in the U.S. An objective now for the Mexican working group is to develop consensus specs and then go about marketing the specs to the federal transportation agency, the Instituto Mexicano del Transporte (IMT).

A second working group is addressing the lack of geosynthetic education at the university level and within the existing engineering community. National Autonomous University of Mexico is one of the largest higher education institutes in the world with more than 300,000 students (with 18,000 students enrolled in the engineering department). These students are targeted for hands-on geosynthetic education. The GMA Mexico working group is writing a workbook that will eventually become a text for civil engineering students and help expose them to geosynthetic materials and applications

GMA Mexico has brought geosynthetic education directly to the engineers and specifiers through a series of one- and two-day seminars throughout Mexico. Recently, GMA Mexico, in conjunction with the IGS Mexico chapter and the Sociedad Mexicana De Ingeniería Geotécnica held the conference Geosynthetics: Present and Perspectives in Mexico. The three-day event was held March 10-12 in Mexico City. The conference featured two short courses, a day and a half exhibit hall, and 10 technical sessions. A keynote address was delivered by Dr. Jorge Zornberg.

For more information

Manufacturers, distributors, fabricators, installers, or consultants interested in participating with GMA Mexico can reach Oscar Couttolenc at

Andrew Aho is the Managing Director of Geosynthetic Materials Association (GMA).

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