• 2017 Grand Award Recipients

  • The following Grand Award recipients were chosen to compete for the coveted Pinnacle Award. These firms have shown excellence in innovation and creativity, as well as exceptional social, economic and environmental benefits through their work on the following projects.

  • Dunbar Milby Williams Pittman & Vaughan and Schnabel Engineering

  • The Children's Hospital of Richmond Pavilion at VCU has been touted as the largest and most advanced outpatient facility in the region dedicated solely to children. Standing 11 stories above ground and four stories below grade, this Children’s Hospital has consolidated several pediatric services into one location. Structural engineering for this project was provided by Dunbar Milby Williams Pittman & Vaughan (DMWPV) with Schnabel Engineering, who met the project’s geotechnical and geostructural engineering needs. 

    One of the most impressive aspects of the entire project was the engineering that allowed for excavation of the south half of the existing Children’s Pavilion to occur while the Pavilion remained in operation. Together, DMWPV and Schnabel designed a system of vertical and battered micopiles to underpin the existing pavilion. To resist unbalanced lateral forces in the existing Pavilion created by the excavation, builders used grade beams with post-tensioned ties and battered micropiles. Then to meet the goal of providing adequate parking for the new building, below-grade levels were installed 35 feet deeper than the lowest grade of the existing Pavilion. The concrete parking deck was designed to include increased concrete cover, and a low-resistivity concrete design. The new pavilion also needed to be integrated into VCU Health Campus’s emergency power, chilled water, steam, pneumatic tube and data connections.

    DMWPV and Schnabel encountered several roadblocks during construction, in conjunction with the need to minimize excavation time. The foundation design needed to be built with the possibility of future vertical expansion in mind, while working space itself was limited and cluttered. To reduce the possibility of extending the time excavation was open and avoid other potential issues, engineers from DMWPV and Schnabel designed a 6-foot thick mat foundation to handle the large building loads. 


  • Froehling & Robertson

  • The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), built on the last available parcel of land on the National Mall, right next to the Washington Monument Grounds. It has been estimated that three-million people will visit the NMAAHC in its opening year. This project has been 13 years in the making, and was established in 2003 through legislation signed by President George W. Bush.

    This project faced several geotechnical challenges during its construction. What was once a small tributary of the Potomac River is now primarily heterogeneous artificial fill which makes up most of the land west of 15th Street. This fill was considered unsuitable to support large structural loads—especially not the anticipated 11,500 ton building load of the museum, where 600 tons maximum was the typical standard. F&R’s subsurface investigation accomplished several goals for the design team, such as foundation design parameters, subsurface water recommendations and geothermal testing. Settlement in the surrounding structures during construction was a major concern, as the NMAAHC would be located in close proximity to these national landmarks. F&R used a hybrid foundation system of driven piles and mat foundation, as well as a dual-wall Support of Excavation (SOE) to hydraulically isolate the structure. They also designed a sub-layer to collect and recycle any excess groundwater to be used within the museum.

    F&R also conducted several hydrologic studies to understand how the subsurface would respond to dewatering. Their studies showed that this method would be detrimental to construction and cause ground settlement. F&R instead recommended the isolation of the structure from the pressure of 27.78 pounds of groundwater per inch, which would be placed on its walls. The design team worked with F&R to determine that the best method to isolate construction from groundwater would be by using a dual wall system, which consists of an exterior Support of Excavation (SOE). The SOE acts as the traditional excavation support and the hydrologic cutoff to groundwater. A sub-drainage layer under the mat foundation collects groundwater to be pumped to a treatment system that recycles the water to non-potable utility systems in the museum. This reduces hydrostatic pressure and the potential for building uplift. F&R worked with the general contractor to create corrective action and arrest water intrusion when excessive water penetration through the SOE started causing significant deflation. Grout injections into the wall were determined to be the best solution to the problem. 

  • Moffatt & Nichol

  • Since 1767 the Norfolk Naval Shipyard has been used for ship repair and overhaul. Moffatt & Nichol of Norfolk, Virginia, designed a replacement for Ship Repair Pier 5 at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Virginia. The new Pier 5 can simultaneously support up to two U.S. Navy Ford Class aircraft carriers, or any other combination of Navy ships and barges.

    After demolishing five buildings and two deteriorated piers built in 1919 and 1940, the new Pier 5 was constructed in their place. The ship repair pier is 1,225-feet-long, 230-feet-wide, and is supported by over 1,200 36-inch-diameter precast, pre-stressed concrete cylinder piles. A new low-level relieving platform supporting mechanical and electrical shore-tie stations replaced over 1,000 feet of existing wharf. More than 750,000 cubic yards of sediment from the berth area was dredged to attain a uniform, 47-foot dredge depth.

    Moffatt & Nichol designed the most critical components of the new Pier to last for a minimum of 75 years, as part of the Navy’s approach to extending their infrastructure’s service life. The new pier design includes a restroom, salt water pump station building, heavy weather mooring, portal crane rail tracks and railroad tracks. Primary and secondary power systems, high mast lighting and a fiber optic communications network are included in the design, as well as 127-ship-to-shore utility connections. These ship connections include fresh water, salt water, pure water, sanitary sewer, steam, compressed air, oily waste/waste oil and nitrogen. The final project design was delivered less than a year after contract award, and more than $20 million under the Navy’s construction estimates.


  • WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff and SKW Constructors

  • The existing Midtown Tunnel was built in 1962, and carried a million vehicles a month. The Hampton Roads region population has increased by nearly 70 percent since the tunnel was built, which led to the tunnel’s usage to increase by nearly 600 percent. The new Midtown Tunnel was opened to traffic June 2016, six months ahead of schedule. Substantial completion of the project was reached four months ahead of schedule and reduced travel time for commuters, saving drivers approximately 30 minutes per day. This new tunnel is also intended to reduce traffic and accidents, through the elimination of bi-directional traffic in the existing Midtown Tunnel. 

    WSP|Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) was the Lead Designer for the Elizabeth River Tunnels Project. This project required the designing of a relocated 4,000+ foot, 36-inch waterline, using a directional drill, 170 feet below the Elizabeth River. They designed an immersed tunnel to carry westbound traffic by the existing Midtown Tunnel. Innovative engineering, including the large diameter horizontal directional drill, the use of pre-cast concrete tunnel elements, and LED lighting in the tunnel contributed to the overall success of this project.

    For this project, engineers faced rehabilitating three existing tunnels, designing the new tunnel, two buildings, five pump stations, 10 bridges, flood control elements, six stormwater management ponds, and extensive environmental permitting before construction. As part of their innovative design, WSP|PB created extended polystyrene (EPS) embankment fills and lightweight fill to mitigate poor subsurface conditions. WSP|PB designed aesthetic bridge treatments for the Martin Luther King Expressway Extension in Portsmouth. Flood walls and flood berms were designed to mitigate potential flooding at the Norfolk approach to the tunnel. The tunnel was also designed to meet current National Fire Protection Association standards, which include a deluge system to control fire events in the tunnel. An egress system and longitudinal ventilation for the new tunnel using jet fans also contribute to the safety standards.