Improved Construction Methods
- Written by: Molly Shaw
- Produced by: Victor Martins
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
It’s no secret in the construction industry; the nation is sitting on hundreds of years of antiquated infrastructure. Everything from wastewater to stormwater pipes, treatment plants and manholes need attention and replacement. In fact, the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates the capital investment needed over the next 20 years in wastewater and stormwater systems is approaching $298 billion.
Throughout the southeast – Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas – Improved Construction Methods (ICM) has been front and center in the rehabilitation effort. “We do some specialized stuff,” says Bruce McFadden, president of ICM.
A construction industry veteran and civil engineer by trade, McFadden founded ICM in 1970 to support the operational needs of contractors, engineers, surveyors and laborers, as well as the wastewater and storm structural needs of municipalities and private contractors. In 1970, ICM provided manhole forms made of ABS plastic for the construction of monolithic structures and today, the company is still leading the charge in underground construction.
ICM rehabilitates manholes from the inside out and also contracts wet wells and catch basins using monolithic forms. Based in Jacksonville, Arkansas, the company also offers rehab services throughout the mid-south for sewer and water treatment plant structures and concrete and earthen dams, stopping leaks and coating walls with cementatious or epoxy coatings.
“We can add years of life to old underground structures,” shares McFadden.
Getting creative above and below ground
The company became a well-known name in manhole construction in the early 1970s, providing ICM manhole forms made of ABS plastic for the monolithic construction of concrete manhole eliminating infiltration, which was a major problem with the old methods of brick and precast concrete.
“We were one of the first companies to sell pipe lasers for sewer work and eventually trench safety products,” tells McFadden. More recently, ICM has entered the surveying market, delivering high-tech equipment, such as GPS systems.
Delving into more high-tech solutions helped ICM pull out of a slow construction market shares McFadden. “We were up around 100 employees and ICM dropped down to 50,” he says. “I’d seen cycles before, but the market always came back; this time it didn’t come right back.”
Every passing year, McFadden clung to his quality team, trying to avoid making layoffs. “The recession almost broke us,” he tells. “We made up for it though by getting into more technology – GSP surveying and tracking, the rehabilitation of manholes from the inside out and specialized grouting. We’re Improved Construction Methods and that’s exactly how we survived; we got a little creative and went after some new ideas.”
With new services in place, McFadden says the company’s market is steadily coming back. “The phone is finally ringing on our regular business again,” he shares. “Also, being hands-on people helps. We’re the guys out on the jobsite, working with city maintenance crews and we deliver direct to contractors.”
Not only is ICM a skilled rehab contractor, the company also sells manufactured products. “We have a small manufacturing plant where we make manhole forms, but that’s all we do in-house,” notes McFadden. ICM has become the number one distributor for a number of leading trench product brands and has been recognized by the AGL, Cherne, GME, Lansas, Hurco and Sokkia, among others as one of the top distributors in the field.
ICM offers underground products for trench safety, pipe lasers, pipe plugs, manhole rehabilitation, sewer maintenance, vacuum excavation, compaction equipment, attachments and specialty equipment. The business’ above ground product line includes: rotating lasers, GPS machine control systems, surveying instruments, saws, blades, light construction equipment, hand tools and concrete forms for a number of applications.
“Our latest improved construction method is GPS Machine Control Systems manufactured by Leica, which has added lots of new and exciting high technology GPS business,” details McFadden.
Restore and renew
After many years in the industry McFadden has seen the deterioration of infrastructure throughout ICM’s territory. “Wastewater plants are deteriorating, even right here at home in Jacksonville,” he says. “We recently rehabbed a plant in the city by getting rid of crumbling concrete applying new cementitious materials and applying epoxy coatings. The epoxy will allow the plant to last another 50 years or more, making the structure resistant to hydrogen sulfide gas.”
A recent accomplishment of ICM is the soil stabilization project on the Mississippi coast of a three-story structure. The structure had been built over an old existing plant that had a lot of fill in areas and channels running through. “The problem that existed was that when the water way was up, it would wash out the soil through these areas,” details McFadden. “The channels were found approximately twenty feet below the surface. Using probes and chemical grouting, we were able to stabilize the soil and stop the ground water movement.”
ICM has done many special projects, including leak stoppage of a 100-year-old dam in Arkansas; sealing leaks in a sheet pile dolphin on the Ohio River; stop of water infiltration in 45-foot deep precast manholes near Tunica; and stabilize and seal 300 feet of 72-inch concrete pipe 20 feet deep over a new four lane highway for TDOT.
Meanwhile, below ground, ICM continues to tackle manhole rehabs, an expertise that the company has become highly regarded for. “These structures are vital to maintaining the flow of waste and more than a million of them were put into the ground prior to 1960,” tells McFadden. “There’s a wild rush across the country to get these manholes repaired. Rehabbing brings the structures back to like new condition without the hassle and cost of replacing.”
With such high demand for infrastructure rehabilitation, ICM has a strong foundation to stand on and many opportunities. Upon his retirement, McFadden says he wants to give back and share success with his valued team. “My goal is for ICM to be 100 percent employee-owned upon my retirement,” he reveals.
Rising to meet the challenge of replacing, restoring and rehabbing antiquated infrastructure, above and below ground is all in a day’s work for Improved Construction Methods.
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