C+S March 2020 Vol. 6 Issue 3 (web)

component as well. One should speak his or her mind, especially when having an idea that may move a project forward. C+S: As you well know, tunnel projects are risky. How does the pres- ence of such great risk inform the decisions you make when working on a project? SZ: Dealing with risks is challenging in every profession, and this is especially true for the tunnel industry. Risks, if not well understood and managed, may lead to major events that could impact lives, material property, and even regional economies. Therefore, risk management is one of the most important subject matters on tunnel projects that needs to be addressed continuously, from the very onset of the project to its closure. Risk register is a living document that not only defines differ- ent areas and levels of risk, including technical, but recognizes parties that are best equipped to handle various risk elements throughout the life of the project. Those parties could be designers, owners, or con- tractors. Recognizing early technical and other risks and having a plan to address them is a must in our industry. The best way of dealing with risks is their avoidance, whenever possible. In this realm, establish- ing the right project configuration and understanding the subsurface conditions and environmental factors for practical construction often is a crucial step. Dealing with risks in construction that could have been avoided in design is the wrong way to manage the issue. C+S: The Alaska Way Viaduct Replacement was transformative for Seattle. The project also used “Bertha,” an extremely large boring machine. The tunnel opened to traffic last year. With the Seattle project in mind, what is the future of tunnels here in the United States and abroad, and how will they shape the urban landscape? SZ: Rapid urbanization and growing migrations from rural to urban areas have been worldwide issues for a few decades. It is expected that in less than three decades about two-thirds of the world population will live in cities. The cities would need to double in size to accommo- date such growth. This issue is much more pronounced in the United States since the nation’s urban population growth already outpaced the overall growth over a decade ago. In 2015, about 83 percent of the total population in the United States lived in urban areas. It is being projected that in 2050 this number will be over 87 percent. Therefore, there is a real urgency to make our own cities ready for such urban population increases. The issues of livability, quality of life, and ef- fectiveness of transportation networks are of special concern. Cities are finding their own unique ways in addressing those issues. Seattle is a notable example. The city adopted utilization of a large double deck tunnel beneath downtown Seattle to improve mobility. With the decision to demolish the old viaduct, they brought the shoreline closer to their people and communities. Bertha, at the time the largest bored tunnel machine in the world, completed her journey on a high note and with exceptional performance. Generally, recent advancements of tun- neling technologies permit better utilization of underground space and allow surfaces to be considered for more noble uses that bring signifi- cant improvements to quality of life in overcrowded urban dwellings. C+S: Tell us about your work with the Associated Research Centers for Urban Underground Space (ACUUS).

SZ: ACUUS was established in 1996 and was subsequently incorpo- rated. The organization has an important non-governmental function; it establishes a unique world “coalition” of experts that designs, plans, analyzes, and decides upon the sustainable use of urban underground space. It was designed to connect public and private sectors with academia’s latest research and related findings in terms of the use of underground space. Also, it created a platform for exchange and co- operation. As Secretary General, and a member of the ACUUS Board, I am active within this framework and able to learn and transfer my experiences, especially in the realm of integrated planning and design; sustainable approach to the environment; as well as safety and techni- cal innovations. Embracing disruptive technologies to help resolve the issues of urbanization and overcrowding, and finding ways to better plan and utilize urban underground space for a purpose of freeing surface resources (already very limited), is another realm ACUUS is ready to tackle. C+S: You grew up in the former Yugoslavia and fled the war there in 1991. These days, you have an office in the Empire State Building. That is a remarkable journey for a variety of reasons, and is symbolic of the American Dream. What role did engineering and tunneling play in this incredible life/career arc? SZ: Yes, you are right – my engineering dream had pretty much over- lapped with my American dream. I tend to associate my growth as a professional and as anAmerican primarily to the hard work, persistence, tremendous will power to continue working on self-improvement, trust in the professionals I am working with, and above all, with my fam- ily that has always supported me through this journey. Starting with a well-known tunneling company, learning tools of the trade and how, when and where to use them, as well as being able to work alongside the biggest names in the U.S. tunneling industry, played a big part in my career. C+S: What was the most challenging project you have ever worked on and why? SZ: Every project has its own challenges. Possibly the most challeng- ing one was, sadly, one that was cancelled – Access to Region’s Core, the tunnel project that is being revived in the form of the Gateway project. This project had all the great technical challenges one would look for in a tunneling project, as well as challenges of working with multiple agencies and stakeholders. All of it is to be revived in the new project the industry has been waiting for. Applying lessons learned and previous experiences, and working with tunnel industry veterans addressing similar challenges will be refreshing. I hope it gets to that point soon. C+S: Building great teams. What’s the secret? SZ: Trust, trust, trust. Also, technical competence, strong will to learn, and having open and cordial relationships with team members while understanding their issues and aspirations. As chair of HNTB’s National Tunnel Practice, I am leading an exem- plary group of national tunnel experts that practice technical excel-


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