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AEWC Collaborates on Constructing Composite Sea Wall

16 January 2005

Maine Maritime Academy has teamed up with the Advanced Engineered Wood Composites (AEWC) Center at the University of Maine, Correct Building Products in Biddeford, Maine and the Cianbro Corporation in Pittsfield, Maine to build a wood composite sea wall at MMA’s campus in Castine.

The wall was completed November 22 and is the first such structure using Correct Building Products’ wood/plastic composite structural members.

The 153-foot long, six-foot high structure replaces a conventional wooden seawall that had deteriorated, allowing soil to erode from a paved boat storage area, according to Jim Soucie, executive director of planning, compliance and facilities operations at MMA.

""The existing seawall had been in place for more than twenty years and was in danger of falling into the ocean. We don't have any extra room on our waterfront so it was critical that we come up with a long term solution. We also wanted to use materials that would have a long life span and be environmentally safe,” says Soucie.

“We’re excited to expand our market presence into seawalls, piers and other marine structures,” says Martin Grohman, president of Correct Building Products. The new wall is made of the company’s 16-foot long 4x4 composite members that are normally used in CorrectDeck railings. The 4x4s are hollowed out for ease of handling.

Conventional pressure-treated pine posts (NatureWood) were used for the pilings. “About 95 percent of this wall is made of composites. They will not corrode or leach any chemicals into the water. It’s environmentally sound,” says Bob Lindyberg, manager of technical services at the AEWC.

In 2002, Soucie contacted Lindyberg about the possibility of using the seawall project as a demonstration of new wood composite construction materials. “Lindyberg was very enthusiastic about the project as well as the opportunity to demonstrate a new application for engineered materials when we first contacted him,” says Soucie. “One of the obvious advantages of working together was being able to use Bob's expertise and imagination in the use of engineered composite materials. He was instrumental in helping MMA obtain a grant to help with this project.""

Olivia Sanchez, a UMaine graduate and AEWC research engineer designed the wall and provided project coordination, managing a team of undergraduate engineering students and working with representatives of Cianbro, MMA and Correct Building Products.

For Cianbro, contributing to the project was a chance to give back to their alma mater (CEO Peter Vigue, Senior Vice President Mac Cianchette and many others at the company are MMA grads) and to advance Maine’s economic future. “We couldn’t be happier to be a part of this project,” says Cianchette. “Maine is home to new companies and a research community that is positioning us for jobs and competitive new products that have great market potential. Replacing aging coastal infrastructure is just one area where we can play a big role in the future.”

About half the approximate $92,000 cost was paid by a Wood and Technology grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Cianbro donated equipment, labor and on-site services, and Correct Building Products contributed materials at cost. UMaine also donated indirect costs associated with the USDA grant.

“We received the grant in 2003, and the team worked very well together,” says Lindyberg. “Everybody did a great job to get their work done on time. The wall was designed to be very safe and easy to build.”

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