Clearing the Air

November 1, 2009
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Tensions mounted as angry villagers on the island of Pohnpei united. “You cannot come on my land!” they shouted. The villagers didn’t understand that the all-volunteer team of surveyors and engineers from KnowledgeWell simply wanted to help.

A survey crew crosses Soundau River on the floating platform with the Magellan ProMark 500 on board.

Located in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Pohnpei is characterized by lush rainforests, winding rivers and spectacular waterfalls. However, as the population of the island increases, its picturesque landscape is increasingly at risk of being obscured by smog. The island’s only landfill has long been over capacity, and the only way officials knew to handle the increased waste was through incineration--a solution that creates a substantial amount of air pollution. Realizing that an alternative was needed to remove the landfill bottleneck and improve the quality of life for Pohnpei residents, Micronesian leaders approached KnowledgeWell and asked if the volunteer-based organization would be willing to help.

KnowledgeWell agreed. Working closely with local professionals, volunteers would apply their knowledge of new GPS technology, data collection best practices and 3D modeling to develop a sustainable solution in the form of a new landfill based on the Fukuoka method, a semiaerobic design that relies heavily on the self-purification of waste. However, the team didn’t anticipate the formidable resistance from the villagers. Fortunately, Augustine C. Kohler, chief of Historic Preservation, Tourism and Parks for Pohnpei State, was able to intervene. “The whole area is public land and has been designated by the Pohnpei State Legislature as a dumpsite,” he explains. “Since this area is within my village and I know most of the people living there, it was just a matter of convincing them of the urgent need for a dumpsite and how the establishment of such a project can, and will, also benefit them.”

KnowledgeWell teams have created multiple 3D sustainable design development models in the Pacific. This model of Pohnpei, rendered using AutoCAD Civil 3D, contains stakeholder data from the Division of Survey and Mapping, Pohnpei EPA, Historic Preservation, and others. Creating a complete “living” 3D model delivers needed benchmarking and analysis while allowing stakeholders to keep contributing to the model.

Leveraging Tools and Technologies

With the residents’ approval secured, the surveyors were able to begin their tasks. One of the key objectives was the transfer of knowledge and technology to the professionals in Pohnpei. KnowledgeWell volunteers provided hands-on field and classroom training to the workforce in the Pohnpei State Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Survey and Mapping, who would be responsible for accomplishing the work. “The local professionals already had the concepts mastered,” says Tom Condon, PLS, National Society of Professional Surveyors governor and KnowledgeWell’s chief surveying adviser. “KnowledgeWell simply upgraded their knowledge and skills.”

Human and financial resources were limited, so technology was crucial. To optimize performance and reduce errors, the team members wanted to make sure they understood how data moves to and from all of the stakeholders from the initial planning to the data capture, predesign analysis, design, construction and continued operation. “The goal was to create a system that allows data to flow between stakeholders while at the same time leveraging the organization’s existing tools and assets,” explains KnowledgeWell volunteer Kirk Rightmyer, PE. Rightmyer believed that AutoCAD Civil 3D from Autodesk would be the best tool to accomplish this task.

Gornelius oversees the setup of the ProMark 500 instrument.

The Division of Survey and Mapping already uses Autodesk solutions for production, and Rightmyer--a pioneer in integrated project delivery--has had a tremendous amount of success with the software. For example, on a $250 million project in the U.S., Rightmyer used the software to reduce design time by more than 50 percent. He has also been instrumental in helping other teams reduce the design times on their projects by using the advanced software. “AutoCAD Civil 3D is a surveying tool, GIS tool, visualization tool and a true parametric design tool all in one,” he says. “Instead of buying three or more software packages to accomplish this project, Civil 3D does it all. Additionally, if GPS machine guidance is used in construction, then the automated machine control data is already in the software and can be exported with a simple click.” The software also accepts other non-Autodesk data without translation and builds all data into a single 3D model. This capability enables projects that would ordinarily take weeks to be accomplished in just a few days.

To gather the data, surveyors decided to conduct topographical surveys of the new landfill site using the Magellan ProMark 500 GNSS receiver. “The system allows us to leverage our existing Magellan equipment with next-generation technology,” explains Pohnpei State Cartographer Benly Lucios. “Furthermore, it enables us to use the data collectors with total stations or as stand-alone DGPS units. As our survey crews are overwhelmed due to increased demand, this is the type of technology that we must have to complete the amount of work expected of our office.”

Rain, Rivers and Razor Grass

The FSM climate is characterized by periods of drought and excessive rainfall associated with El Niño. The weekend before the project began, Pohnpei was experiencing one of the worst droughts on record. Hotels on the island had begun to ration water. The forecast looked great for fieldwork throughout the week. Plans were made to hold classes in the office early each morning and then perform fieldwork for the rest of the day. However, the drought ended with a deluge 12 hours before training was scheduled to begin, and heavy showers continued for more than 24 hours. Classroom training sessions were condensed into one day. A break in the rain the following day allowed surveyors to do some fieldwork, but monsoonlike rains returned that evening. Survey crews had to remain flexible so that they could be in the field when the weather permitted.

To reach the proposed landfill site, the surveyors had to cross the Soundau River. With no bridge available, the crews piled their new GPS equipment and themselves onto a floating platform. Once on the other side of the river, the surveyors faced yet another challenge. A chest-high poisonous razor grass covered the proposed site. When its toothlike edge cuts human skin, the grass transfers a mild poison that, if left untreated, can lead to infection. Even though field crews wore boots, long pants and long-sleeved shirts for protection, they still received numerous cuts, which had to be treated after returning to the office each day.

Additionally, there were still some concerns about animosity from the local residents. Kohler traveled into the jungle each day with the survey crews to help ensure that they could complete their work. Thanks to his communication efforts beforehand, no confrontations occurred. Still, well-marked property corners would often disappear overnight. To solve the problem, the KnowledgeWell team suggested the field crews replace the property corners and keep them relatively unmarked. The crews then set heavily flagged decoy corners 3 meters from the true corners. The idea worked, and the true corners remained intact throughout the project.

From Brown to Green to Gold

At the end of every field day, each crew’s data were uploaded into the 3D model. “For years, we have told the field crews how critical their work is to all [stakeholders],” Lucios says. “Thanks to this KnowledgeWell project, they see their value as their work is added to the 3D model at the end of the day. Now they have experienced the reality that their work is the most critical of all stakeholders when it comes to establishing a precise foundation for a project.” Within six days, the KnowledgeWell volunteers and local professionals had removed the barriers to creating a sustainable new landfill.

By incorporating ESRI Shapefiles and other files into the Civil 3D program, the team created a dynamic 3D model similar to a building information model (BIM). The model included precision surveying data, engineering design, CAD/GIS data from the Pohnpei Environmental Protection Agency (Pohnpei EPA), transportation and infrastructure details and government parameters, and it allowed the project to be visualized, simulated and analyzed at various stages as needed to optimize the outcome.

Based on the inputs from the key stakeholders, Rightmyer was able to use the dynamic model to compute that the projected life of the proposed landfill would be four years longer than Pohnpei EPA’s 20-year goal. The KnowledgeWell sustainability team then used the 3D model to calculate the potential “green and gold” value of the landfill. “If the project is developed properly, Pohnpei can expect income from the sale of carbon credits,” explains Kristel Dorion, head of KnowledgeWell’s sustainable enterprise team and owner of EnergetixClimate, a consulting company that helps businesses understand the effect that climate change regulations and business trends will have on their bottom line. These opportunities would be difficult to realize without precise survey data and a solid 3D model.

Ultimately, the work of the volunteers and local surveyors will benefit the people of Pohnpei for years to come. Notes Department of Land and Natural Resources Director Yosuo Phillip, “Removing this critical obstacle to our well-being could not have been accomplished without help from KnowledgeWell.”

Sidebar: About KnowledgeWell

Founded in 2005 by a group of MBA graduates inspired to share their business capabilities with the world, KnowledgeWell delivers expertise to emerging and under-resourced areas. Often described as a “Doctors Without Borders” concept for business professionals, KnowledgeWell relies on corporate partners and expert volunteers to support its mission of transferring ideas and capabilities. Its goals are to enable nations to become more self-sufficient, increase their visibility in the global marketplace and create awareness of sustainable, environmentally friendly business practices. For more information, visit www.knowledgewell.org.

Sidebar 2: Join KnowledgeWell for Underwater MapFEST 2010

The MapFEST underwater coral mapping and 3D model creation expedition provides benchmarking of coral life for monitoring and awareness. Volunteers will be helping the local culture by providing a more-sustainable environment and economy while preserving an international asset for future generations to enjoy.

When: Tentatively scheduled for February/March 2010

Where: The island of Kosrae, FSM, at the Kosrae Village Ecolodge & Dive Resort.

Who Should Volunteer: Surveyors and mapping professionals with scuba certification. Licensed surveyors and mappers with no diving experience can arrive early for diving lessons and certification.

Team Leader: Tom Condon, PLS, NSPS governor

For more information, contact KnowledgeWell at expeditions@knowledgewell.

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