2002 – Karapiro Dam Stability Enhancement Project – Construction

R.M. Dawson, A. Orange

Karapiro dam is the last in a line of hydro-electric dams on the Waikato River, in New Zealand’s North Island. Investigations identified a potential deficiency in parts of the dam under seismic loading. Detailed investigations and analysis narrowed the deficiency to a low strength clay seam under the concrete gravity left abutment structure. An innovative approach was taken to solving the stability problems at minimum cost, without lowering the storage lake, which would have had significant environmental and social impacts. The process of design and construction was overviewed by an international board of review.

Construction was completed in three main stages with further investigation and design refinement between. The main contract was completed over about eight months and included detailed concrete mix and pour schedule design to control stress development due to temperature gradients for the 2000 + cubic metres of mass concrete placed. While the extent of work was relatively small, the quality control, programming, and presence of a full reservoir throughout demanded a high degree of communication and co-operation between the Principal, Designer and Constructor. Despite some surprises during construction, the project was completed within budget and formed strong bonds between all those involved. This paper briefly describes the design process, and focuses on construction, from the point of view of the Owner, Constructor and the Designer.

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