ASTM Standards Reduce Expenses and Support Sustainability in Infrastructure Projects

The Benesch Approach and Satisfying Client Needs
Muthiah Kasi

Founded in 1946, Alfred Benesch & Co. has successfully completed thousands of design and engineering projects throughout the United States. Benesch is consistently ranked among the top 500 consulting engineering firms in the country by Engineering News Record and as one of the nation’s Top “Go-To” bridge design firms as published in Roads & Bridges magazine.

Benesch has long found success in distinguishing themselves from the competition. The company philosophy — rooted in client satisfaction — has led us to explore tools and resources that help satisfy client needs in unique ways.

An example of this is Benesch’s own quality assurance program, Total Quality Engineering®, a specialized methodology that applies to projects of all kinds and ensures that the needs of all project stakeholders are considered. The TQE program is based on various ASTM standards.

Part of the TQE process helps them aim for sustainability in their projects — balancing the social, environmental, and economic aspects. Benesch relies on the following ASTM standards:

  • Guide for general principles of sustainability relative to buildings (E2432);
  • Practice for measuring life-cycle costs of buildings and building systems (E917);
  • Practice for performing value engineering value analysis of projects, products, and processes (E1699);
  • Guide for developing a cost-effective risk mitigation plan for new and existing constructed facilities (E2506);
  • Practice for constructing FAST (function analysis systems technique) diagrams and performing function analysis during value analysis study (E2013);
  • Guide for developing a cost-effective risk mitigation plan for new and existing constructed facilities (E2514); and
  • Classification for allowance, contingency, and reserve sums in building construction estimating (E2168).

The following three case studies illustrate the effective application of ASTM standards in Benesch’s engineering design work to save clients money and ensure the sustainability of their projects.

Murray Baker Bridge

This project was born out of the need to improve an interchange at the north end of the Murray Baker Bridge in Peoria, Illinois. The interchange was built in the late 1950s and had numerous design deviations from current standards, including several substandard safety features. Several places within the interchange had accident rates that were more than ten times higher than statewide averages. The interchange needed improvement, but the proximity of the truss posed a significant site constraint.

Benesch’s role was to perform preliminary engineering to identify a solution that incorporated the existing bridge into a reconfigured interchange. Benesch conducted a value planning study based on ASTM standards E1699, E2506, and E2013 to weigh the options — one of which was a $50 million USD complete bridge replacement. A different, innovative idea that came from the study was to shorten the bridge truss — this one came at a price tag of $3 million USD.

This solution was complex, and the first known truss-shortening of its kind. Determining how much of the truss to remove, and how to do it, was crucial to maintaining the balance of the suspended spans — there was the possibility of a dangerous energy release if the truss was cut abruptly. Benesch and the contractor devised a load transfer device that relieved the force gradually, thereby making it possible to cut the truss safely.

Shortening the truss was the pivotal component of an economical bridge rehabilitation, as well as the key to designing an interchange that improved the connection between I-74 and Peoria and enhanced public safety. The plan allowed for a safer solution at a lower cost while preserving the existing structure. It was a prime example of a sustainable solution – balancing social, economic, and environmental features.

I-35 Reconstruction

The second case revolved around proposed reconstruction of I-35 in Wisconsin. The project included replacing an existing road section and adding several miles of a third lane to carry peak traffic. This expansion would also affect several bridges along the corridor.

Using ASTM standards, a Benesch value engineering team was assembled to study the asset management requirements of the U.S. Federal Highway Administration. The team proposed an alternative that reconsidered the traffic volume to design for. The original design used data from weekend/recreational traffic, while the Wisconsin Department of Transportation allows regular commuter peaks to be the guiding design volume on some recreational routes.

By shifting the perspective, Benesch recommended a design that accommodated more appropriate travel patterns and had less impact on the corridor. The DOT no longer had to add a lane, which would have required the replacement of more than 25 bridges. This, along with five other recommendations, were accepted by the DOT, contributing to a total net savings of $108 million USD. This study fulfilled all the requirements of a sustainable project. ASTM standards, including E1699, E917, E2432, and E2514, were the basis for the decision.

Mississippi River Bridge

The third example of how ASTM standards have influenced Benesch’s project work involves ASTM standard E2168. It was used as a guide to manage the $1.4 billion USD construction of the I-74 Mississippi River crossing that connects Iowa and Illinois.

In a project of this magnitude, there were significant cost considerations; it was challenging to estimate the value of items such as underwater construction, ship impact prevention and an inspection platform, hydraulic and scour impacts, seismic analysis, and other stakeholder requirements.

Through a detailed cost analysis and diligent cost management, Benesch was able to reduce the cost of the project by approximately $200 million USD.

Benesch and ASTM

Benesch’s TQE program, guided by ASTM standards, provides a unique way to provide additional value to clients — gathering, analyzing, and managing project data in a way that yields the most beneficial outcome. These three examples demonstrate the effective use of ASTM standards in developing economical solutions that best serve local communities.

Benesch has a long history with ASTM. In fact, several Benesch engineers have worked with ASTM’s building performance committee (E06) to help develop many standards. 

Two books that I have written addressing value engineering and cost management are based on the standards of Committee E06’s subcommittee on economic standards (E06.81) These standards have been the guiding tool for the company’s transportation planning practice for the past 15 years. Further, Benesch also employs a designated manager who updates needed ASTM standards on an annual basis.

Muthiah Kasi, P.E., SE, CVS, is the chairman emeritus at Alfred Benesch & Co. Kasi is the chairman of ASTM Subcommittee E06.81 and is the professor of practice at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is also editor-in-chief of Value World, a SAVE International publication.


Company Snapshot

Alfred Benesch & Co.
Consulting Engineers (national U.S. firm)
Number of staff: 600
Number of ASTM members: 8
Yearly revenue: $118 million USD

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