Q&A: What are some major seismic design challenges in the Middle East?

As with most regions of the world, the challenge to evaluating seismic hazards is proper quantification of seismicity of the region of interest. Because of the Middle East’s tremendous size, spanning from Western India to North Africa and Turkey and Central Asia to the Southern Arabian Peninsula, it encompasses a region of very different seismic environments. Not only is the seismicity in the region tremendously varied from the highly seismic region of Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Iran to low seismicity in the Southern Gulf region, but the cultural and language barriers provide unique challenges for projects in the region.

Langan provided seismic hazard assessments for the structures at Basrah Sports City in Iraq.

Langan provided seismic hazard assessments for the structures at Basrah Sports City in Iraq.
(Rendering courtesy of HOK)

With the high rate of signature developments in the Middle East and the prevalence of Performance-Based Design, appropriately quantified site-specific seismic criteria is imperative for effective and efficient design. Proper quantification of seismic load demands on structures provides the best value engineering that Langan can provide. As such, understanding of the geology and seismic histories of the particular region of interest is critical in seismic evaluations. Another equally important factor is quality, quantity, and appropriateness of locally developed subsurface information used in the development of site-specific seismic design criteria. It is critical to provide seismic recommendations that properly evaluate geologic, geotechnical, and seismologic conditions, that are appropriate, and not overly conservative.

Langan completed a geotechnical earthquake engineering study for Abu Dhabi Media Zone.

Langan completed a geotechnical earthquake engineering study for Abu Dhabi Media Zone.


About Ramin Golesorkhi, PhD, PE, GE
Dr. Golesorkhi, with over 28 years of experience in international seismic analysis and foundation engineering, is the director of seismic engineering services at Langan. He has developed seismic and geotechnical design criteria appropriate for industrial, residential, private and government office buildings, hospitals and healthcare facilities, bridges, elevated freeways and viaducts, structures with energy dissipation systems such as base-isolators and dampers, tunnels, and seismic strengthening of existing structures.

Langan Participates in Shell Safety Day 2015

Achieving Goal Zero Because We Care!

Langan will participate in its inaugural Shell Safety Day 2015 on Wednesday, May 6th with activities centered in the Langan Irvine Office. Langan understands and values that on Shell Safety Day all employees and contractors are encouraged to engage with one another on the topic of safety, and has put together activities to support this objective. Shell Safety Day at Langan will be a forum to get together and share ideas and good practices, to work together on plans to deliver continuous improvement in safety performance, and to reflect on our personal and collective commitment to safety.

This year Langan has identifed road safety as the primary focus area, and put together an agenda to include learnings on “Why We Care About Road Safety,” “How to Improve Your Intervention,” “Distracted Driving,” and “Driver Fatigue Management.”

Langan’s participation in Safety Day reinforces our commitment to providing a healthy and safe work environment and our goal of staying accident free every day.

Q&A: What technical challenges did the Langan Treadwell Rollo team overcome on Avaya Stadium?


Avaya Stadium during a San Jose Earthquakes Game

Avaya Stadium during a San Jose
Earthquakes Game

Background Information

Home to the Major League Soccer’s San Jose Earthquakes, Avaya Stadium is a soccer-specific stadium that opened in early 2015. Formerly the site of an FMC Corp. facility, the stadium is located just two miles from downtown San José and is next to San José International Airport. Langan provided geotechnical, seismic, environmental, and construction monitoring services for the project. Our team observed and tested mass grading, installation of foundations, preparation of sub-grade for slab-on-grade, and backfill of underground utility trenches and pre-existing concrete obstructions. Langan also assisted the construction team to comply with the Department of Toxic Substances Control’s (DTSC) approved Soil Management Plan, and evaluated potential vapor intrusion risks from residual volatile organic compounds.

Solutions to Challenges

Langan was a key member of the project team, working closely with Magnusson Klemencic Associates and Devcon Construction. The project had two significant challenges.

The first challenge we encountered was the weak compressible layers in some areas of the site. To address these subsurface conditions, we developed design criteria for an economically efficient foundation system that could adequately perform under the design loads with acceptable settlements.

The largest outdoor bar in North America at Avaya Stadium.

The largest outdoor bar in North America
at Avaya Stadium.

We faced our second challenge during the grading and installation of the underground utilities: buried, pre-existing obstructions. These obstructions consisted primarily of old concrete footings, drilled piers, pier caps, and below grade basement structures. Due to the lack of information regarding these obstructions, our team thought outside the box to come up with effective measures to deal with them without adversely impacting the construction progress. 

Underground obstructions are common – but not to the degree and depth that we found in this project. There were numerous obstructions, with many extending below the groundwater table. We implemented appropriate grading requirements to properly place and compact fill in the openings after removing the obstructions.

Our environmental team also had to ensure the project complied with DTSC’s Soil Management Plan. To that end, we evaluated potential vapor intrusion risks from residual volatile organic compounds, coordinated with DTSC on the plan’s implementation, and observed and documented construction activities to assure compliance with DTSC’s requirements.

We overcame these challenges by being flexible in our approach and innovative in our solutions. One of our favorite moments was seeing the tall sections of the structural steel being placed—verifying our successful work underneath. Another great moment was watching the Earthquakes’ first game at the inaugural soft opening event—it was great to see such a wonderful landmark structure become reality.

Answer provided by Scott Walker, PE, GE
Scott provides project management, engineering analysis, construction observation, and subsurface investigation services for various projects throughout California and southwestern Montana. His experience includes performing geotechnical services as well as staff supervision during investigations and construction for schools, hospitals, residential and commercial buildings (including high rise structures), sports facilities, industrial projects (including bridges, roadways, utilities), and resort development.

Q&A: How are civil engineering and master planning evolving in the Middle East?

Ege Yapi Mixed-Use Development

Ege Yapi in Istanbul, Turkey is an 800,000-square-meter mixed-use development featuring residential and retail space, a five-star hotel, a high school, office buildings, and parking facilities.


I believe 2015 and beyond will mark the progression of sustainable and smart master planning for real estate development in the Middle East. Governments and developers will continue to emphasize perfecting the art of efficiently engineered and architecturally sustainable real estate development projects. This is a breath of fresh air from the “design-and-build as fast as you can” days of old for which the Middle East was known. We are already witnessing the time and effort spent on preliminary planning and forward thinking of the projects revolving around the Dubai Expo 2020 and the Qatar 2020 World Cup. Both events are a driving force for new and smarter developments in the Middle East, and have shown the need for sustainable and long-term building solutions.

I strongly believe that the emphasis on planning will become the norm for future projects as all stakeholders will continue to benefit from the results of carefully planned real estate development. Langan has been involved with a number of initial planning projects, working closely with the master planners/architects, and has seen first-hand the positive impact of extensive planning before the project even gets underway. Our recent projects include large master planned developments in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Russia, and other CIS countries which have been successful due to the involvement from the site/civil engineer from the beginning planning stages, and the preliminary planning on the part of the architect and developer.

Estidama (UAE's sustainability initiative) certified Dubai Silicon Oasis (DSO) Data Center - Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Estidama (UAE’s sustainability initiative) certified Dubai Silicon Oasis (DSO) Data Center – Dubai, United Arab Emirates


About Can Karayel, PE, LEED AP

Can has over 16 years of design and project management experience in the Middle East, Europe, CIS, and the US, specializing in civil and land development engineering. He has successfully designed and managed numerous land development projects within the retail, office, residential, industrial, school, and government sectors.

Langan Environmental Team on Tour

Our team of expert environmental professionals, headed by Steve Ueland, Managing Principal, is always out and about giving presentations geared towards our industry colleagues. In case you missed any, below is a list of recent presentation topics. For more information or details on upcoming presentations, be sure to stay connected with Langan on Twitter and LinkedIn. For questions, please contact Steve at sueland@langan.com.

Decision Making at Contaminated Sites: Issues and Options in Human Health Risk Assessment
ITRC – National Webinar, 1/28/2015

Environmental Compliance and Self-Auditing: How to Stay Ahead of the Regulatory Curve
South Florida Manufacturer’s Association – Broward College, FL, 1/23/2015

Vapor Intrusion for Lawyers
Webinar, 12/5/2014

NJDEP Data of Known Quality Protocols
Doylestown, PA, 10/25/2014

VI Data Usability – Making Your Case, Maximizing Credibility and Minimizing Exposure
Alpha Analytical’s New Jersey VI Guidance Update – Mount Laurel/Edison, NJ 10/21/2014 and 11/6/2014

Evaluation of the Forensic 1, 1, 1-TCA Ratio Age-Dating Method in Multiple Case Studies
30th Annual International Conference on Soils, Sediments, Water, and Energy – Amherst, MA, 10/21/2014

Source Remediation for TCE Treatment in a Heterogeneous Deposit
Langan Remediation Summit 2014 – Vernon, NJ, 10/14/2014

Geologic Characterization / High Resolution Techniques
Langan Remediation Summit 2014 – Vernon, NJ, 10/14/2014

Transmissivity as a Primary Metric for LNAPL Recovery
International Petroleum Environmental Conference – Houston, Texas, 10/14/20014

Life at Langan: Career Panel
Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences – Lehigh University, 10/9/2014

Techniques, Tools & Tips for Navigating the Ecological Evaluation & Ecological Risk Assessment Process in NJ
New Jersey Society of Women Environmental Professionals – Elmwood Park, NJ, 10/9/2014

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for Water/Sewer Utility Asset Management
PA American Water Works Association NE District Fall Meeting – Bethlehem, PA, 10/9/2014

Q&A: What were the challenges of the Crescent City Harbor Rehabilitation Project?

Crescent City Inner Harbor

Floating docks and piles were replaced with stronger concrete versions.

A little background information

Four years ago the Crescent City Harbor, named for the crescent shaped beach south of the city, was destroyed by devastating tsunami waves generated from an 8.9 magnitude earthquake in Japan. Langan provided geotechnical engineering services during design, contractor selection, and construction for the rehabilitation of the harbor. The harbor previously consisted of floating docks, which served as slips for commercial and recreational boats, supported by concrete piles with relatively little embedment into the weak bedrock. Most of the concrete piles were sheared off by the forces generated by the tsunami waves. The project included replacing the old piles with piles designed to resist future tsunamis, stabilization of the harbor slopes, and other onshore improvements.


New foundations were constructed for the three gangway landings.


Langan was a critical part of the project team, working closely with Ben C. Gerwick and Strover Engineering, from 2011 to 2014.  The challenges of this project included designing the facility to resist future tsunamis, shallow highly-fractured bedrock, and high seismicity and potential for strong ground shaking.

Langan’s geotechnical engineering services included developing lateral pile response analyses (L-Pile) to aid in the design of the floating boat docks, providing recommendations and design criteria for the foundations of the gangway landings, and reviewing contractor value engineering, testing, and installation logs. The lateral capacity of the piles included kinematic forces due to a design level tsunami.  In addition to foundation design, we also evaluated the stability of harbor slopes for both static and seismic conditions, and provided recommendations for increasing their stability. We used historical design documents and boring longs, as well as the result of our exploration on land and water.

Crescent City Inner Harbor

A barge-mounted drill rig was used to advance the borings over water.

Today, Crescent City Harbor is completely restored and fully operational. Overall, Langan’s engineering design services were a critical part of assisting the Harbor District in achieving their goal to recreate the harbor better than it was, with the ability to withstand future natural disasters.


Answer provided by Haze Rodgers, PE, GE
Haze has over twelve years of professional experience managing, developing, and performing geotechnical studies including explorations, analyses, and construction observation services for various projects throughout California, specializing in offshore design.

Q&A: What are some of the site/civil engineering challenges in Latin America?

One major challenge throughout Latin America is extensive earthwork on large land masses with poor soil conditions. Projects with hundreds and even thousands of acres are common, and typically involve the movement of millions of cubic meters of soil.

Intelligent site grading software provides significant savings in construction costs.

Intelligent site grading software helps decrease construction costs.

Grading design – often overlooked as a way to save millions on budget – is critical. Langan has successfully focused on earthwork management design to save millions of dollars at the onset of construction. Our approach combines the skills and experience of our engineers with the latest software applications to optimize grading for our clients.

Also, on large projects, we know that master planning goes hand in glove with master engineering – thinking about and considering infrastructure for the full build-out and future phases. Minimizing a project’s infrastructure investment in the initial construction phase helps bring it to life. That’s key because once a project becomes visible, further funding often becomes available.

Stabilizing/Reusing On-site Clay Oils

Clayey soils or steep slopes require ground improvement methods that strengthen the soil for long-term high performance.

Soil quality is also an issue. Much of LATAM (and especially undeveloped areas) is situated on clayey soils, steep slopes, or has seismic concerns such as liquefaction failures. Our geotechnical teams have extensive experience with ground improvement methods to strengthen the soil for long-term high performance. Our proven techniques shorten schedules from years to months. This saves clients’ money, time, and long-term reconstruction headaches while positioning their project on premium infrastructure.

Answer provided by Eric Schwarz, PE, LEED AP
Eric specializes in site/civil land development engineering, hydraulics and hydrology, storm drainage, water distribution and sanitary sewerage conveyance design. During his 20 years at Langan, he has managed dozens of major projects throughout Latin America.