Cold Region Engineering
Supporting project design & environmental impact in dynamic & susceptible environments
BGC’s cold regions and permafrost engineering and environmental impact assessments are specialized services that focus on the unique challenges that cold climates evoke. Understanding the temporality of processes associated with cold regions has been a core BGC competence since our inception. Our services span from specialized geotechnical design in Arctic settings to the evaluation of environmental impacts in arid periglacial belts of South America.
Cold regions and permafrost engineering are specialized aspects of geotechnical and geoenvironmental engineering that focus on the unique cold climate conditions, including ground ice characterization, geothermal evaluation, creep, cryo-hydrology, as well as glacial and periglacial environment baseline and impact assessments.
BGC is a world leader in cold climate services. We have undertaken civil, mining and pipeline projects at high latitude and altitude sites across northern territories in Canada, Alaska, Russia, Greenland and high elevation sites in Central Asia and the South American Andes.
BGC’s core competencies of cold regions and permafrost engineering support all our services, providing our clients with appropriate designs that can be properly constructed and operated in challenging cold climate environments, specifically in the context of climate change.
As industrial development continues to expand in cold regions, there is growing concern related to the availability of water and environmental impacts that may exist in glacial and periglacial environments. Understanding glaciers and permafrost (including rock glaciers), as well as the regulatory environment, is crucial for the development of projects, impact assessments and engineering designs in these cold environments. BGC is at the forefront of high elevation glaciology and periglacial assessments and mountain permafrost studies.
We offer a variety of services for glaciological and permafrost studies, including:
- Glacial, periglacial and permafrost baseline studies and environmental impact assessments together with the design and implementation of glacial and periglacial monitoring and management programs
- Development of regional, probabilistic permafrost and ground ice distribution models
- Evaluation of natural and anthropogenic impacts on the glacial and periglacial environment
- Assessment of geohazards related to the glacial and periglacial environments
- Strategic input and review support for corporate and legal teams regarding these specialized environments
- Providing technical training and outreach to other designers, corporations, regulators, and stakeholders regarding glacial, periglacial, and permafrost environments.
Cold regions and permafrost engineering are, by nature, focused on the geothermal considerations and proper characterization of permafrost, including aspects of both the geothermal regime and ground ice content. This requires specialized training and experience in the investigation, design (including thermal) and construction of facilities and structures in complex ground conditions. BGC’s cold regions and permafrost engineering services include:
- Terrain mapping and granular resource assessments, including identification of ground ice potential
- Routing assessments for linear infrastructure, including roads and pipelines, across permafrost terrain
- Specialized site investigation techniques for permafrost soils and rock, including the use of geophysics for delineation of areas with high ground ice content, thermistor installation and monitoring of ground thermal regimes, and specialized laboratory testing of permafrost and assessment of frost heave
- Geothermal modelling for mapping the distribution of probable permafrost and ground ice
- Geothermal design of artificial ground freezing systems, including thermosyphons
- Design of foundations, earthworks, slopes, roads, dams, waste rock and tailings storage facilities and pipelines on permafrost soils and bedrock, incorporating potential impacts from climate change
- Construction monitoring of foundations, earthworks, and structures, as well as mine closure and soil cover design for mine waste facilities located in permafrost environments.
The interaction between snow, glacier and permafrost (active layer/ground ice), in particular in mountainous environments, is complex, but a detailed understanding of it is crucial in the assessment of environmental impacts and the design of water management systems. Building on our global experience, BGC has developed specific expertise in cryo-hydro modelling to quantify runoff in these dynamic watersheds where snowmelt, glacier melt, and permafrost degradation occur. The associated services include:
- Hydrological assessments in mountainous periglacial and permafrost regimes
- Specialized hydrological and hydrotechnical designs for cold regions
- Design of water management systems within or near glacial and periglacial environments
- Assessment of climate change impacts on runoff
- Closure and soil cover design for facilities located on permafrost.
BGC provides comprehensive solutions for climate change risk assessments, adaptation and mitigation, which are of particular importance in cold regions where climate change is occurring at higher rates. Our expertise in applied earth sciences allows us to evaluate and project climate change impacts in hydrological and geological systems. We provide answers and solutions when the past is no longer indicative of the future, and where traditional analytical methods need to be augmented with climate change modelling. BGC bridges the gap between climate model projections and engineering solutions for the future.
We have adapted a framework for our own Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA), originally developed by Engineers Canada, by expanding for geomorphic (earth surface processes) systems. BGC utilizes a variety of climate projection tools to systematically assess the risks to assets for direct and indirect losses, individually and sequentially. Our assessment methods can be embedded in a geospatial web application or in augmented reality for easy visualization of complex local or regional studies. BGC’s expertise ranges from offering solutions in mountainous terrain, permafrost and glacier environments, riverbank protection, northern coastline erosion, various forms of landslide monitoring and protection as well as groundwater-related mitigation strategies. BGC aims to decrease our clients’ exposure to legal claims and regulatory reprimands, improving social congruence, fostering community and stakeholder relationships and satisfying lenders’ and governments’ needs for climate-change-related sustainability.