Retrospective of GRI-25’s retrospective conference
By Bob Koerner, George Koerner, and Grace Hsuan
On April 1–2, 2013, we held our GRI-25 conference in Long Beach, Calif., within the larger Geosynthetics 2013 conference, on the theme: “A 25-year retrospective on the geosynthetics industry and glimpses into the future.” By all accounts it was excellent! There were 22 papers presented in somewhat discrete sessions on materials, properties, systems, and infrastructure.
In the “Geosynthetic Materials and Properties” session, moderated by Grace Hsuan, there were papers on resins (by Grace Hsuan of Drexel University), antioxidants (by Joe Fay of BASF), geomembrane manufacturing (by consultant Fred Struve), the geomembrane industry (by Gary Kolbasuk of Raven), and the seaming of geomembranes (by Mark Sieracke of Weaver Boos Consultants). This set of five related topics gave the 350-person audience an A-to-Z tutorial of the history, operation, detail, and future aspects of the geomembrane industry.
Transitioning from this theme into properties, there were subsequent papers on all types of geosynthetic testing (by Sam Allen of TRI Environmental), specifications (by George Koerner of GSI), geotextile filters (by Bob Holtz of the University of Washington), geonets and drainage composites (by Boyd Ramsey of GSE), geosynthetic clay liners (by Dave Daniel of the University of Texas at Dallas), and geofoam (by Archie Filshill of InterGeo Services). This set of papers gave specifics of geosynthetic materials describing their origins, history, details, and some idiosyncrasies of their field behavior. The authors also shared their insights into potential future possibilities.
The conference theme then segued into “Geosynthetic Systems and Infrastructure” and it was moderated by George Koerner. Regarding systems, there were papers on waste containment liners and covers (by consultant Rick Thiel), geosynthetic reinforced soil walls and slopes (by consultant Barry Christopher), geotextiles in marine engineering (by Chris Lawson of TenCate Geosynthetics), heap leach mining (by Monte Christie of Geo-Logic Associates), geosynthetic designs in roadways (by Bob Koerner of GSI), and geosynthetics in erosion and sediment control (by Joel Sprague of TRI Environmental). This set of papers was focused on many different geosynthetic materials and were application driven. One of the many interesting points raised was by Monte Christie, stating that some 40% of currently produced geomembranes are being used in the heap leach mining area!
The last part of the conference focused on the infrastructure of the geosynthetics industry insofar as associations are concerned. Such organizations facilitate events, technical groups, educational outreach, test method development, generic specifications, and some even lobby with respect to geosynthetics to gain their best possible position among owners, designers, and users.
The International Geosynthetics Society (IGS) was described by its current president, Jorge Zornberg, of the University of Texas at Austin, the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI) was described by Andrew Aho, managing director of the Geosynthetic Materials Association, Geosynthetics magazine (which bimonthly describes the “pulse of the industry”) by editor Ron Bygness, the ASTM’s Committee on Geosynthetics was described by Dave Suits, executive director of the North American Geosynthetics Society (NAGS), and the Geosynthetic Institute (GSI) was described by Bob Koerner, director emeritus of GSI.
The authors of all 22 papers were encouraged to write as complete a history on their respective topic as possible. Therefore, the CD of the proceedings reflects a complete assessment of the issue under discussion.
Many of the papers are more than 30 pages. In this regard, we feel that the complete collection should be in the library of everyone involved in geosynthetics now and in the future. The CD is available at the IFAI bookstore along with papers of the broader conference, Geosynthetics 2013. The GSI team (George Koerner, Grace Hsuan, Marilyn Ashley, and Bob Koerner) thanks all of our paper authors for their outstanding work and collectively setting the historical baseline of our industry to benchmark the future.