More than 2,100 attendees and some 200 exhibitors flocked to the Hyatt Regency Orlando Hotel in Florida, March 12–15, 2017, for the jointly sponsored Geotechnical Frontiers conference. A major event in the geosynthetics world, the once-every-six-years conference unites the Geosynthetics Conference of the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI) and its division, the Geosynthetics Materials Association (GMA), and the Geo-Congress of the Geo-Institute (G-I). The International Geosynthetics Society–North American (IGS–NA) Chapter also supported the conference.
“It’s great to see so many geotechnical experts and manufacturers attending the plenary lectures, participating in the technical sessions, and networking,” Geotechnical Frontiers secretary general Barbara J. Connett said during the show. “We are very pleased with the turnout for this remarkable event.”
The six plenary lectures and more than 80 technical sessions, as well as the short courses, attracted project engineers, professors, business owners, students, exhibitors, and at least two editors to innovative and useful sessions full of ideas that will carry the geosynthetics industry forward.
At the conference, George Koerner, director of the Geosynthetic Institute, received the first Robert M. Koerner Award and Lecture Series, which was created by the Geosynthetics Materials Association (GMA).
Other highlights included the opening plenary lecture by former Federal Emergency Management Agency director Craig Fugate, who noted, “One of [FEMA’s] biggest single bills in disaster events is damaged roadways,” news that is certainly relevant to the geosynthetics industry; a speech by Mercer Lecture honoree Professor Jorge Zornberg of the University of Texas at Austin about experimental, analytical, and field-monitoring studies to evaluate the use of geosynthetics in roadways; and the Karl Terzaghi Lecture by Professor R. Kerry Rowe of Queen’s University on protecting the environment with geosynthetics.
Future geosynthetics innovators took to the conference’s GeoChallenge student competitions with ingenuity by constructing walls, creating posters, making predictions, and crafting videos that showcased geosynthetics principles and methods.
A plethora of technical sessions covered every aspect of the geosynthetics world, including such growing opportunities as geoenvironmental engineering, geo-hazards, and offshore engineering. Sessions also provided fresh perspectives on steadfast geosynthetics applications for roadways, landfills, bridges, foundations, slopes and embankments, and mechanically stabilized earth retaining walls. With sessions on geoelectric integrity testing, long-term studies of geomembrane-lined ponds, construction quality assurance, and numerical modeling for soil liquefication, to highlight just a few topics, the conference was tailored to the needs of geosynthetics and geotechnical professionals.
Companies displaying the latest geotechnical products, applications, services, and offerings filled the exhibit show floor. Heavy traffic moved down the aisles, with exhibitors and attendees chatting about companies’ offerings in a business-friendly, congenial atmosphere.
Organizations, including GMA, G-I, and IGS–NA, used the show to convene their governing boards. Geosynthetics magazine held a meeting of its Editorial Advisory Committee, with the gathered board members thanking and saying goodbye to longtime Geosynthetics senior editor Ron Bygness, who is retiring in June.
And in a flash, it was over, and the gathered attendees departed full of ideas and with hundreds of papers to consult, if they wish, from the conference proceedings. G-I’s Geo-Congress next meets March 6–10, 2018, back in Orlando, Fla. IFAI’s Geosynthetics Conference convenes again Feb. 10–13, 2019, in Houston, Texas.