Geotechnical and hydrogeology expertise kept hospital dry during major tropical storm

Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Binghamton, NY

Project highlights

Client challenge:
Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital is located on a floodplain near the Susquehanna River. Following major flooding in 2005 and 2006, the hospital hired civil engineering firm Griffiths Engineering to design a flood wall to prevent future flooding. Griffiths then partnered with Haley & Aldrich for our recognized geotechnical expertise.

Our approach:
Haley & Aldrich assembled a team of geotechnical engineers from multiple offices around the country to address the hospital’s need. We investigated complex subsurface conditions and conducted field and lab testing, groundwater modeling, and geotechnical analysis. We conducted the geotechnical engineering, hydrogeology and foundation design for the hospital’s flood wall structures. We provided recommendations for designing, constructing, and operating the flood wall at varying heights and proposed an alternate, more cost-effective flood wall design to meet the hospital’s needs. To most efficiently examine and identify the flood wall design that best suited Lourdes’ needs and budget, we developed a custom, flexible approach that included iterative floodwall stability calculations and parametric evaluations.

Our team also monitored the construction for conformance with design specifications, while enabling the hospital to remain fully operational.

Value delivered:

  • The flood wall proved successful when back-to-back tropical storms hit in 2011 and the hospital remained fully operational and able to provide services while 2,000 neighboring buildings suffered flood damage.
  • The hospital avoided substantial costs of flood damage, which in 2006 amounted to an estimated $20 million.

Geotechnical and Hydrogeology Expertise Helps Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Achieve Resilience in the Face of Extreme Weather Events

Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, a multi-service and critical-care facility located in Binghamton, NY, faced severe storms in 2005 and was forced to evacuate and relocate patients for two weeks in 2006 when the Susquehanna River flooded. The hospital’s existing flood-protection measures proved ineffective, as contaminated water breached its temporary earth berms, damaged stormwater pumps, and flooded the hospital’s ground floor and an on-site power plant. The facility’s emergency generators, fuel tanks and water supply were also severely damaged. In addition to approximately $20 million in damages, the hospital had to temporarily shut down critical operations and evacuate patients.

The hospital, located in a floodplain, needed an immediate solution to protect its critical infrastructure and operations from flooding and increase its ongoing resilience against the growing frequency and intensity of storms brought on by the uncertainties of a changing climate. The hospital hired Griffiths Engineering to design and construct a flood wall and they recommended Haley & Aldrich to manage the geotechnical aspects of the project based on our expertise in this area. Haley & Aldrich and Griffiths Engineering worked collaboratively throughout the project.

Comprehensive geotechnical expertise

The main hospital building, ancillary buildings, a power plant, and a large portion of the back parking lot are located in the floodplain. Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital wanted to build a flood wall to protect these areas.

To most effectively address the hospital’s needs, we assembled a team of geotechnical engineers from several of our offices to design a flood wall to keep the facility dry, enable it to withstand major storms, and meet FEMA’s 500-year flood requirements.

We investigated complex subsurface condition and conducted borehole permeability tests, field and lab testing, and geotechnical analysis. Our team researched relevant geological and construction records, measured groundwater levels, and collected and evaluated subsurface soil and rock conditions on-site and in surrounding areas. After thorough investigation, we prepared our design recommendations for the initially-planned flood wall and proposed a more cost-effective alternate. To most efficiently examine and identify the flood wall design that best suited Lourdes’ needs and budget, we developed a custom, flexible approach that included iterative floodwall stability calculations and parametric evaluations. The robust concrete flood wall, approximately 1,350 feet long and up to 14 feet high, has 10 active floodgates that are engaged automatically or manually during flooding. It is augmented with steel sheet pilings driven vertically under the wall to prevent seepage. We also estimated under-wall seepage during major storm events to help design an interior seepage control system. Our geotechnical experts helped ensure that the wall was stable and had the appropriate foundational support.

Haley & Aldrich also monitored the construction phase to verify that construction plans and specifications were followed, and Lourdes remained fully operational during all of the work.

Proven solution helps hospital maintain critical services during major storm event

The wall was completed in June 2011 and severely tested during tropical storms Irene and Lee, which hit Binghamton later that summer. In contrast to the major flooding that damaged 2,000 area buildings, the hospital remained dry and was able to maintain continuity of operations, providing critical care and support for the community’s medical needs.

The hospital was forward thinking by not only addressing its immediate needs, but by also taking resilience measures to address the increasing frequency and severity of storms brought by the uncertainties of a changing climate.

For more information on this project, contact:

Ed Zamiskie
Carrie Layhee

Photos courtesy of Ed Aswad, Carriage House Photography.