Allston, MA

Harvard University Science Complex, MWRA Sewer


Harvard University planned to locate a new science complex above a Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) brick masonry pipeline that was over 115 years old. The University was concerned about the impact of construction on the 69 in. high by 62 in. wide active masonry sewer. SGH studied the potential effects of ground displacement that can distort and increase soil loads on buried structures, construction traffic live loads, surface vibrations, and impacts from falling objects.

Highlights of SGH’s work to assess pipeline response to construction-induced vibration and movement include the following:

  • Examined the sequences of both Boston blue clay excavation and installation and tensioning of a tie-back system
  • Used ABACUS Explicit to develop three-dimensional soil-structure interaction models
  • Analyzed stress-wave propagation through the soil
  • Assessed the extent of ground displacement
  • Modeled construction of the slurry wall adjacent to the pipe using nonlinear finite-element soil-structure interaction analysis
  • Used different nonlinear soil models, such as Mohr-Coulomb in ABAQUS, to simulate the soil layers, buried and above-grade structures, and construction processes
  • Collaborated with the owner, contractor, and other consultants, enabling Harvard to proceed with the project without endangering the pipeline

To minimize impact, the design of the four-building research complex wraps around the pipeline.

Project Summary



Completion Date
Repair & Rehabilitation
Advanced Analysis
Infrastructure & Transportation
Sea Consultants, Inc.
Specialized Capabilities
Buried Infrastructure | Computational Mechanics

Key team members

Mehdi Zarghamee
Mehdi Zarghamee
Senior Principal
Daniel Valentine
Daniel Valentine
Senior Project Manger