JUNE 2004

The Washington Construction News

FREYSSINET: A Worldwide Player in Civil Engineering
JEFF ROBERTS The Washington Construction News Special Feature

Freyssinet’s commitment to innovation and ambitious technical developments is so revolutionary that its specialized skills have been used to advance nuclear power programs in France and the United Kingdom; relocate a 725-year old ancient Egyptian temple; facilitate oil drilling in the icy waters off the coast of Newfoundland and the North Sea; lift the roof off an Italian casino in Campione; create a state-of-the-art stadiums in Turkey and Wales. Moreover, its bridges span valleys and waterways in exotic locales that include South Africa, Australia, Venezuela, Romania, and Hong Kong. However, Freyssinet is more interested in the scope of a particular project than in its location. An organization teeming with experience and intelligence, Freyssinet was behind many innovations that have marked the world of civil engineering including: development of the prestressing technique, revolutionized the state of the art for stay cables, concrete regeneration, soil reinforcement and improvement, and in the fields of repair, maintenance, strengthening and monitoring of structures. Freyssinet LLC is a Chantilly, Va. - based civil engineering and specialty construction firm focused on the design, construction, and longterm durability of structures ranging from bridges and tunnels to soccer stadiums, oil platforms, and parking garages. Freyssinet, named for its founder and inventor of the prestressing technique Eugène Freyssinet, is a subsidiary of France-based Vinci Construction Group, which, consisting of approximately 2,500 companies in more than 100 countries, is the largest construction group in the world. Freyssinet itself is organized into a network of 70 bases of operation in more than 50 countries.

Three companies represent Freyssinet in the United States: The Reinforced Earth Company (RECO), a world leader in the mechanically stabilized earth market; Freyssinet LLC; and DGI Menard, a world specialist in soil improvement. The first industrial applications of prestressing did not occur until 1932 but the technique was invented in 1903. “Just after World War II, Freyssinet was more of a consulting firm focused

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on design techniques and hardware, but little by little, as contractors needed technical assistance, Freyssinet would be onsite to assist. Finally contractors preferred that Freyssinet perform the specialty prestressing work as a turn-key subcontractor” says Baruch Gedalia, structural repairs manager of Freyssinet LLC. “So, instead of instructing contractors how to apply prestressing techniques, Freyssinet began executing the work itself. And that’s how Freyssinet went from designer to a mix of designer and specialty contractor.” Freyssinet’s expertise in strengthening structures does not end with prestressing. The firm’s techniques also include the use of stay cables, which gracefully support the longer bridge spans; conventional post-tensioning of a variety of structures including bridges, industrial tanks, reservoirs, buildings and special structures; soil reinforcement and improvement, use of mechanically stabilized earth retaining walls and bridge abutments; and repair and maintenance of existing structures, utilizing Freyssinet’s wide arsenal of technologies and products in an effort to preserve the beauty and functionality of aging structures, thus allowing future generations to enjoy their splendor. For example, Freyssinet Portugal (Terra Armata) installed 192 stay cables, 11,000 tons of steel post-tensioning cables, and large movement expansion joints during construction of the Vasco de Gama Bridge, located in the seismically volatile region outside Lisbon, Portugal. Freyssinet Poland, participating in the construction of the Wolin Bridge in northwestern Poland, the largest steel arch bridge in that country, used 104 stay cables and 180 tons of steel to span the Dziwna River. According to Freyssinet LLC Chief Operating Officer Andrew Micklus, the Cooper River Bridge in Charleston, S.C., a $550 million design/build job, is the longest span cable stayed bridge in the United States. Freyssinet won a $9 million subcontract to design, test and install all stay cables as well as stay cable vibration suppression systems. The stay cable work should be complete by February 2005, and the bridge scheduled to open to traffic mid March 2005. Recently Freyssinet LLC completed stay cable work on the widest cable stayed bridge in the United States, the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge over the Charles River in Boston, Mass. This structure was the first cable stayed bridge in the U.S. to utilize ungrouted stays, a technology developed by Freyssinet and now being adopted by nearly all current and upcoming US cable stayed bridges. “Using a specialist for building the special portions of bridges and other structures is advantageous for the main contractor as well as the owner,” says Andre Coudret, chief executive officer of Freyssinet LLC. “We think it [stay cables and post-tensioning] is something really special and after all, it is what holds the bridge together. What is more important than that?” Freyssinet also has a strong presence in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area having worked on several projects in the region, including a number of bridge projects. According to Micklus, “We had two contracts in the Suitland Md. area that included all post-tensioning work for the Branch Avenue and Naylor Road Station and Line Structures for WMATA. There were pre-cast span-by-span segmental concrete bridges as well as more conventional cast-in-place box girder bridge work.” The extensions of the Branch Avenue Line won several awards for aesthetics for its novel design, which parallels the Suitland Parkway and crosses Route 5. Freyssinet also furnished and installed the post-tensioning on the first and to date, the only segmental concrete bridge in Washington D.C. where the firm worked with Dick Enterprises on the Whitehurst Freeway. Another D.C.-area project was at the National Airport Metro station, where Freyssinet strengthened the structures to allow the addition of canopies at the station. “We had an approximate $400,000 subcontract to provide external post-

tensioning and strengthen the girders,” says Micklus. Freyssinet LLC has employed similarly innovative techniques in replacing or restoring structures around Washington, D.C. According to Micklus, “We recently completed a job for Metro at its Shady Grove maintenance station. We jacked up the bridges and replaced the bearings, utilizing an alternative scheme for raising the superstructure. Freyssinet’s alternate jacking scheme ultimately saved time, money and had virtually no environmental impact on a local stream, which would have been disturbed, based had the original jacking scheme shown in the bid documents been used. We also replaced damaged expansion joints with Freyssinet’s CIPEC Joint System and provided up to a 5 Year warranty. The warranty was not a contractual requirement but offered by Freyssinet as evidence of our confidence in our products.” Freyssinet has just launched the re-introduction of its CIPEC line expansion joints in the U.S. market and is optimistic the joints will well received. A long and decorated history of research and development is what distinguishes Freyssinet from its competition and allows the company to set, rather than follow the standards within the civil engineering and construction industries. In keeping with its mission of constant innovation, the Freyssinet Group allocated €4.35 million ($5.2 million USD) to research and development last year alone. For Gedalia, the formula for success is clear, “When you bring to the table good ideas, clients see them and begin to have more confidence in the company and overall quality of the structure. And, next time, instead of engineering all the details of the structure, they may leave specialty portions for specialty contractors such as Freyssinet.” Perhaps the only thing more impressive than Freyssinet LLC’s innovative designs or state-ofthe-art technology and construction, is the company’s safety record. Despite being a leader in one of the most dangerous fields within the construction industry, the company has had only one minor accident and no lost time since 2000. When pressed to pin down that one thing that makes Freyssinet LLC unique, Andre Coudret answers, “All our work is based on invention. At Freyssinet, one out of every three people in the company is an engineer. Every time we repair something we try to improve by coming up with an inventive solution. For us, the cost savings is not in doing something more quickly or cutting corners, the cost-savings is in developing an inventive or alternative solution that is more suited to the particular situation. Then, it is a winwin game: We can do the job with an inventive solution, the client can save time and/or money and has a final product as good and in many cases better than originally anticipated.” Gedalia adds, “We want people to associate Freyssinet with effective problem solving. We want to use our investment in highly skilled field crews to do things better; implement valueengineering; find alternative designs to make us as competitive as possible.” Micklus is hopeful that the company’s unique business strategy, intelligent staff of engineers, and creative designs will set Freyssinet apart from its competition. Gedalia anticipates primary contractors continue to see Freyssinet LLC as valuable contributors on challenging projects: “We are not just builders; we are complete problem-solvers. We are building our market by bringing some intellectual added value to the project by implementing innovative solutions,” Freyssinet has experience, intelligence, a proven track record, and the full technical support of the largest construction organizations in the world; it is no stretch of the imagination to believe that the success enjoyed thus far by Freyssinet is just the tip of the iceberg for this rising star. For more information, visit Freyssinet LLC online at or phone (703) 378-2500.