Microtrenching Offers Economical Installation Option

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | December 2012, Vol. 67 No. 12

For some time now, horizontal directional drilling (HDD) has been capable of replacing open-cut construction on segments of many projects. The benefits of HDD are well known -- it can minimize excavation, dust pollution, and reduce damage to surface improvements which can significantly lower time-consuming and costly restoration of surface damage.

While HDD and other trenchless underground utility construction methods receive heavy coverage in the trade press, little is written about trenching. However, trenching often is the fastest and least-costly method for installing duct and conduit for underground telecommunications and power distribution, particularly in open areas and locations without heavy concentrations of existing buried utilities.

Quanta Services has developed a microtrenching process specifically to install underground duct for fiber optic cable. Since its introduction in 2009, the Quanta Q-Trench Solution has played an increasingly important role in the expansion of broadband networks.

The patent-pending Q-Trench construction technique uses specially-developed equipment to simultaneously cut a trench as narrow as a half-an-inch and 12-inches deep through asphalt while at the same time removing spoil with a vacuum system.

After conduits are placed in the trench, the excavation is filled with a proprietary, environmentally-safe grout that is immune to shrinkage, weathering and erosion.

Although microtrenching equipment and vacuum equipment is available from various sources, Q-Trench is available as a turnkey service only from Quanta Services.

“The Q-Trench solution was the first in the marketplace to cleanly cut and vacuum a sub-inch-wide,12-inch-deep trench in one pass to install conduit for fiber cable,” said Ken Trawick, president of telecommunications and power generation divisions for Quanta. “This patent-pending method of microtrenching eliminates many of the concerns associated with traditional construction methods and it also is less expensive, and nearly eliminates community disruption inherent with other types of construction.”

When it was introduced, Quanta projected the Q-Trench process could cut project timelines in half and reduce costs as much as 75 percent.

Since then, refinement of the process has resulted in even greater savings, said Trawick.


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