A Conversation with Dave Whitmore, President of Vector Corrosion Technologies
Author: Lorella Angelini, Angelini Consulting Services, LLC
Dave Whitmore is the President and Chief Innovation Officer for Vector Corrosion Technologies Ltd., a Canadian company based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, that operates in North America and worldwide.
Dave has an unmatched knowledge and experience related to bridge preservation. He started dealing with preservation issues early in his career that has spanned from contracting to manufacturing and consulting.
Dave is active in AASHTO, TSP2 and TRB. He also participates in industry organizations that focus on concrete repair and corrosion.
Can you illustrate the path that led you to become the President of Vector Corrosion Technologies?
It started in the 1960’s when my father and two partners established a construction business focusing on road and highway construction. The company then got into concrete restoration and became Vector Construction. Having been involved in the family business, I got an opportunity to be exposed to concrete repair early in my career thus gaining knowledge and experience in the concrete restoration industry.
After graduating with an engineering degree from the University of Manitoba and an MBA from the Ivey School of Business, I went to work for Vector Construction. I established Vector Corrosion Technologies in the 1990’s, focusing on the product and technology side of the concrete repair business.
What about your commitment to the industry? I know that you are active with several Committees related to bridge preservation, concrete restoration, and steel corrosion.
I enjoy our industry and the opportunity to participate in a number of industry organizations.
With regard to bridge preservation, I am part of the TRB Bridge Preservation Committee. (Ed Note: see Linkage section). This is a very interesting and useful Committee that promotes bridge preservation at quite a high level within DOTs. I did a presentation for that Committee last year. (Ed Note: see Linkage section). The year before I did a presentation for a session that was sponsored by the same Committee
I am a big supporter of TSP2. I especially support the annual Regional Meetings and the National Conference that takes place every four years. These gatherings are a great opportunity for industry and DOT representatives to come together, discuss and solve problems.
I am involved in other industry groups that are not specific to bridge preservation but share many of the same concerns. These are the American Concrete Institute (ACI), the International Concrete Repair Institute (ICRI), the National Association of Corrosion Engineers (NACE), the Post-Tensioning Institute (PTI) and the American Segmental Bridge Institute (ASBI). (Ed Note: see Linkage section). They are all really good organizations. I am on a number of Committees with these organizations concerning repair, corrosion, specifications and codes. Hopefully the activity of these Committees will help the industry to be more productive and effective in the future. On a personal level, I am happy that I get to meet and spend time with a lot of interesting people.
Vector Corrosion Technologies offers products and services to solve corrosion problems, as it is summarized by the tagline: “Innovative Solutions for Corrosion Problems”. Can you introduce your company? Is bridge preservation a focus sector?
Helping owners extend the service life of their concrete structures is the mission of Vector Corrosion Technologies.
Bridge preservation is a key market segment for Vector. Both in North America and internationally, our focus is on structures that have durability challenges, such as marine structures and bridge decks that are exposed to de-icing salts. These structures suffer the most from corrosion and can really benefit from pro-active bridge preservation activities. (Ed Note: see Linkage section).
Can you speak of your core values as the leader of Vector Corrosion Technologies?
Persistence and honesty are my core values and I look for these values in everyone I work with. Striving for knowledge and continuing to learn every day is also important. At Vector, these values help us to address a lot of the problems we see out there.
Vector’s tag line, “We Save Structures”, is at the core of the company’s strategy for bridge preservation. Has Vector’s strategy evolved over time? If so, how?
There is no question that Vector has evolved over time. We started as a contractor and we are now involved in determining the cause of concrete deterioration problems and recommending appropriate repair solutions. We are engaged in the overall process, which helps make sure that our customers have positive results.
It may not be widely known but a lot of concrete repairs have not performed very well, or, at least, have not performed as intended over time. There have been a number of reports about this issue. I believe the major reason why many repairs have performed below expectations is that they have been simply cosmetic and have not addressed the underlying cause of concrete deterioration.
Vector focuses on the evaluation so that we can understand the underlying causes of deterioration and develop a durable, long-term repair strategy.
If I understand correctly, filling a concrete pothole is not enough. In order to have a successful repair, it is important to evaluate the root cause that generated that pothole.
Yes, it is easy to do what somebody asks you to do. Do you want me to patch this pothole? Yes, I will patch the pothole. Do you want me to repair this crack? OK, I will repair the crack. But if I don’t address what caused the pothole or the crack, fixing the pothole or the crack will likely be temporary and in the long term will likely end up being a waste of time and money.
What are the most popular products and services that Vector currently offers for bridge preservation?
Our most popular products for bridge preservation are definitively the galvanic anodes that help prevent corrosion of reinforcing steel. These products are widely used since they are effective, measurable and very simple to install.
In terms of services, investigation and testing are critically important in order to determine cause and extent of corrosion problems. Providing these services was a very small part of our business twenty years ago. The evaluation business has increased significantly as people are becoming more aware that it is important to address the underlying cause of a problem and not just fix where they see visible damage.
Does Vector Corrosion Technologies offer these services directly to DOTs?
In some cases we provide evaluation services directly the DOTs. In many cases we work as a sub-consultant to a prime consultant that is under contract to the DOT. We are not a structural engineering firm. We support structural consultants with evaluation and testing services.
Has Vector recently released new products or new services for bridge preservation?
We have released three new products specifically for bridge preservation.
The first is in the area of galvanic anodes. We released a new line of galvanic anodes that are faster to install. These anodes can be installed in approximately half the time required to install standard anodes. This saves time on site and money as a result of the reduced installation time. (Ed Note: see Linkage section).
The second product is a galvanic jacket specifically designed for marine structures. Very often the main issue with coastal or marine bridges is corrosion of the columns that support the superstructure. If you extend the service life of the columns then you can significantly extend the service life of the entire bridge. The new jacket provides improved corrosion protection for the columns from the water line up. Being modular, it is easy to install and can be modified in the field to suit different site conditions. (Ed Note: see Linkage section).
The third new product is designed to solve a specific and really important problem related to post-tensioned structures. Working together with Florida DOT, we developed a corrosion protection impregnation technique for post-tensioned bridge tendons. Like any other type of steel, post-tensioned tendons will corrode if they are not well protected. This can lead to tendon failures and eventually bridge closure. Vector’s new post-tension impregnation technique has been shown to reduce corrosion of the tendons by 95%, thus dramatically increasing DOTs’ confidence in the condition of their post-tension structures. (Ed Note: see Linkage section).
Could you point out a major challenge that Vector Corrosion Technologies is facing in promoting products and services for bridge preservation? If so, what is your advice on how to overcome this challenge?
Despite increasing awareness of the importance of bridge preservation, people still spend a lot of time and money on cosmetic repairs. As we discussed earlier, cosmetic repairs are temporary since they don’t usually address the underlying cause of the problem. As a result, owners end up spending more money than necessary for concrete repairs.
My advice is for DOTs to adopt performance specifications and performance requirements. Most DOT specifications are prescriptive and they are often written to the lowest common denominator. This can only lead to low quality work. On the other hand, if you hold the contractor responsible for the work that is performed, the contractor will take more care with the installation thus improving the overall performance of the work.
Could you further comment about prescriptive Vs performance-based specifications?
In my experience prescriptive specifications are not effective unless they are very detailed and there is a way of checking all of the steps that are specified.
As an example, there are many bridge deck overlay and repair specifications that state “clean the surface” or “provide a certain roughness of the substrate” but ultimately bond is what really counts. Having a performance specification that requires a minimum bond strength and provides a way to measure it, is more important than a series of prescriptive statements where no one is held responsible for the final outcome.
With regard to corrosion, there are some very important steps that must be taken. For example, it is important to clean the reinforcing steel to ensure there is good electrical contact between the anode and the steel. However, specifications should not only require “cleaning of the steel”, but they should also include performance requirements where the electrical connection is actually measured and confirmed.
Vector Corrosion Technologies web site:
TRB AHD37 – Standing Committee on Bridge Preservation Committee web site:
Dave Whitmore 2017 TRB Power Point presentation:
We Save Structures: Concrete Preservation & Restoration – Preservation is a Sustainable Practice video:
Concrete Preservation Alliance web site:
Galvashield XP Compact – Single Wire vs Two Wire Anode Installation video:
Galvashield Fusion T2 Anode for Concrete video
Galvashield Jacket Systems – Mitigating Corrosion to Extend the Life of Marine Piles PDF:
Post-Tech PTI Impregnation System – Corrosion Protection System for Bonded Post-Tension Tendons PDF:
American Concrete Institute (ACI)
International Concrete Repair Institute (ICRI)
National Association of Corrosion Engineers (NACE)
Post-Tensioning Institute (PTI)
American Segmental Bridge Institute (ASBI)