Meet East Coast Instrumentation Lead – Luke Young

Instrumentation LY
Pictured: Luke Young performing Cone Penetration Testing on a pier for a potential upgrade

The successful delivery of any major infrastructure is underpinned by robust management. Constant measuring and monitoring of changes during the construction process is required to ensure that necessary measures can be taken to minimise risk and avoid costs or project delays.

Working within a niche group of experts within the geotechnical team is Luke Young, Tetra Tech Coffey’s East Coast Instrumentation Lead. A highly regarded specialist in the area of monitoring solutions, here Luke explains why his team adds a layer of expertise which raises the bar of delivery in the industry.

 Q:  As East Coast Instrumentation Lead, tell us a bit about your role?

I am based here in Victoria and since I started at Tetra Tech 11 years ago, I have been slowly building a team. The Instrumentation team are a specialists group working within the geotechnical team with five team members across Victoria and NSW. We are growing all the time as client demand for our services keeps increasing!

Q:  Instrumentation is a specialist area of expertise and what core areas do you focus on?

The team and I primarily provide monitoring solutions for geotechnical and structural applications. Our solutions tend to be focused on mining, tunnelling and slope stability projects but we also focus on soft soils, road embankments, and deep excavations.

Essentially, our role is to measure and monitor parameter changes that occur due to construction or environmental factors.In layman’s terms, we monitor factors like groundwater levels, displacement, or strain to see how and when they change during the construction process.

To better illustrate this, say ground water levels are not supposed to change and then a tunnel is built, and you immediately see groundwater levels reducing. This could cause settlement to occur which means the foundations of buildings may get wonky and adjust accordingly, which could lead to a very dire situation, particularly in relation to costs.

We’re like an early detection system for anything going wrong; if something starts to go wrong, we’ll pick it up before a catastrophic event happens.

Q:  How do our services benefit our clients and our projects?

The expertise our team brings to a project is to deliver portions of an overall Monitoring Program. These will include tasks such as site Investigation, geotechnical, hydrogeological, and structural design, sensor and data acquisition supply and installation, monitoring information management systems (A GIS dashboard for instrumentation) services, trigger action response plan (alarm nomination) and trigger monitoring.

Q:  What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in your career?

The greatest challenge we’ve had is gaining traction within the industry for our customised approach to instrumentation. Our approach is slightly different to other instrument specialists in that we aren’t a typical supply and installation team, which most of our competitors are. Our business is consulting and is service based rather than sales driven; meaning we sell engineering solutions which includes items such as engineering logs for our boreholes, design engineering for slope stability and dams or hydro engineering for water projects.

We really aim to simplify our clients’ needs by reducing the number of suppliers, and consulting interfaces. We believe this leads to better solutions as the team involved in the project work for the same company (Tetra Tech).

This atypical approach took a long time to gain traction because we had to gain the confidence of the industry. By delivering a number of large projects with reliable outcomes, we’ve demonstrated the benefits of our approach, not just externally to the wider community but within our own Tetra Tech family.

As a result, our instrumentation team is experiencing significant growth because we’ve gained the confidence of our colleagues and now, they’re putting us forward to their clients.

Q:  Where can clients see the real benefits of including Instrumentation team in their project?

Our goal with our clients is to simplify the problem they are facing and present data which is easily digested for quick and simple decision making. Clients will realise the most value when the instrumentation team is involved in the system design and the monitoring process, it’s about building relationships between the end client, instrumentation staff and the design team.

This approach ensures designers are confident they will receive the required parameters and a quality instrumentation installation. We often find the industry compartmentalises the designers from the events which occur on site, and I think our greatest value is realised when we bring the two together.

Q:  What do you most enjoy about your role and working at Tetra Tech?

I like the fast-paced environment where you’re always thinking, and if you’re not thinking, you’re doing. I like that I can be at my desk one day and getting my hands dirty in the field the next. Plus, I really like that we are reactive to our clients’ needs and our services are focused on providing the best outcomes.

I also really enjoy working in a global company like Tetra Tech, with many interesting people and projects. No two days are the same and we are always challenged with new problems requiring creative and effective solutions.

Q:  What are some of your most memorable projects you have worked work on, and you are most proud of?

There really have been so many, but what I am proud of, and get excited about is the number of amazing experiences and opportunities I’ve had throughout my career by working at Tetra Tech Coffey.

What other job enables you to watch the sunrise from a Tailings storage facility in the middle of the Indonesian jungle or work 1.5km underground in one of Australia’s largest mines? I’ve seen one of the largest land-based cranes in the world on a major gas project, and I’ve roasted a sausage on a campfire during winter in the Blue Mountains, waiting for grout to cure in a 450m deep borehole. Amazing opportunities and so many great projects I’ve delivered, but I am most proud of our approach to our instrumentation programs.

We truly do provide an engineering approach to all our monitoring projects. Our team has such extensive knowledge and a deep understanding regarding site investigation, design, instrumentation deployment, electronics, programming, and GIS.

Our team covers a wide breath of services, and I am proud of our ‘can do’ attitude.

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