This issue, Precast Solutions hears from Daniel J. Kurdziel, P.E., MBA, with VS Engineering.
What’s your background and area of expertise?
I am a professional engineer specializing in bridges. I graduated from Purdue University with a bachelor of science in civil engineering and later went on to get my MBA at Butler University. I’ve been passionate about bridges since a young age, when I would create and reconstruct LEGO bridges until I could stand on them.
I started in the industry as a design engineer working on major highway projects both domestic and abroad. As I developed into a project manager, I’ve focused on projects of all sizes for state and local clients primarily focused in the Midwest. I am currently at VS Engineering, Inc.
What types of projects do you typically oversee?
I focus on transportation bridge projects primarily. These projects vary in magnitude from small local waterway crossings to tens of miles of newly constructed interstate highways. The small local waterway crossings benefit from the use of precast culverts and 3-sided structures to reduce construction time. The larger interstate and highway projects benefit from precast MSE walls to reduce bridge lengths and land acquisition.
Indiana, being relatively flat, has many smaller waterway crossings, which make the quick construction of a project using precast components a perfect fit to reduce impact to Hoosiers. Additionally, these products can be constructed with a higher level of precision and accuracy than can be done in the field, mitigating any potential construction defects.
With Indiana being the “Crossroads of America,” interstate crossings and interchanges are almost as prevalent as stream crossings. With all these interstates, there are many large interchanges that can be made possible only with the use of MSE walls. MSE walls allow us to reduce the bridge length by up to 100 feet, which has saved our clients millions. And with all the formliner options today, you also can make what used to be a bland wall into something truly ornate.
What are some unique or noteworthy projects on which you specified precast concrete?
There is one significant project that jumps out at me. The Booneville Bypass project was a 6-mile-long project allowing coal trucks to bypass downtown. The project included a long corridor requiring a high flow ditch through the front yard of many property owners. We were able to use precast culverts to minimize disruption to the property owners. Each driveway reconstruction took less than a day, which helped keep the property owners happy.
Additionally, there was a bridge planned, spanning Carter-Trayler Ditch, which was designed to be approximately 200 feet long. During utility coordination, we found a major gas line that couldn’t be covered or have its access restricted, so we needed to lengthen the bridge. With the geometries of the gas line and ditch, the new bridge would have had to be almost 350 feet long. With the use of precast MSE walls, we were able to reduce the length down to 300 feet, which saved millions of dollars in construction and saved us from significant land acquisition from the adjacent landowner.
What benefits did precast concrete offer on those projects?
Precast offered mitigated disruption to property owners, reduced construction costs, reduced bridge length and reduced land acquisition costs.
How do you see the role of precast concrete as a building material changing in the future?
I think as precast structures continue to become more ornate and remain a cost-effective solution, local communities will be pushing for precast products as part of “place-making” projects. There are some newly constructed arch structures with a stone facade that are reminiscent of ancient roman architecture while benefiting from modern technology. These structures add a lot of character to an area, and I believe desire for these types of structures will become more prevalent in the near future.