Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, 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 had to repair a vulnerable water pumping station. He turned to a new paradigm-changing approach that is effective, economical. It is also much faster than any existing technology. The results surprised him.
Form-A-Tube is a patented new invention by Centennial Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Arizona, Mo Ehsani, PhD, PE, SE. 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,” says Harvey Sharp. Sharp’s company, BCG Services, handles the water pumping station in Houma, LA. “It’s second to none.”
Compare and contrast
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.
Dr. Ehsani 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 Prof. Mo Ehsani. “Each Form-A-Tube piece has unique ribbing that you place inside the form and left in place, creating an attractive and almost impermeable outer shell. Or put the on the outside so once the concrete filling hardens, you remove the pieces – and can reuse them.”
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.
Form-A-Tube is the latest innovative solution developed by Dr. Mo Ehsani, a prolific inventor with more than twenty patented systems related to infrastructure innovation and construction. Dr. Ehsani received B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Michigan before joining the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Arizona in 1982. He pioneered the field of repair and retrofit of civil structures with Fiber Reinforced Polymer (FRP) materials. Additonally, he has published these studies in numerous professional journals such as ACI, ASCE, Earthquake Spectra, etc.