Dr.-Ing. E. h. Siegmund Babendererde 1927 - 2012


Dr.-Ing. E. h. Siegmund Babendererde 1927 - 2012
Siegmund Babendererde  1927 - 2012

Siegmund Babendererde
1927 - 2012

Energy, enthusiasm, wit, these are just some of the qualities that are remembered of Siegmund Babendererde during his engagement with tunnelling. From the sharp end of tunnel headings, to understanding the contractual world of tunnelling as a project manager and CEO of one of the largest tunnel construction companies in the world, Babendererde was a leader in a generation when those with the practical experience and knowledge were promoted to the top. Babendererde died on 28 December at his home in Lübeck-Travemünde on the north coast of Germany. He is remembered by his wife Sybille and his sons Lars, Tim and Jan who continue their father's legacy in the tunnelling business. A memorial service on Thursday 10 January in Lübeck was open to all friends, colleagues and fellow tunnellers, with a private funeral on Friday 11 January.
There are few in the tunnelling community who do not recogise the name Babendererde. Such is the influence, reputation and legacy of Seigmund. From management of projects in countries as far away as Venezuela, to directorship of companies in Germany, publication of many technical papers and presentations, to untiring engagement on tunnelling associations and committees, Babendererde's place in tunnelling is assured.

He was born in 1927 in Gielow, close to Malchin in Mecklenburg, Germany where, after service in the war as a young conscript, he returned to graduate from high school in Lübeck and attend university to receive his Diploma in Civil Engineering in Stuttgart.
His first job, with the contractor Grün & Bilfinger in Wiesbaden, was a prime marker. Not only did it lead him to his future wife, Sybille, but also to his first overseas assignment in the early 1960s as Section Manager on the Bridge of Lake Maracaibo project in Venezuela. He was destined to go back to Venezuela, but on his return to Germany in 1962, he began work at the Tesch Company in West Berlin, where he advanced to serve as its CEO.
In 1969 he joined Hochtief AG, in Frankfurt. It was here that he was first introduced to mechanised tunnelling. Fascinated by the possibilities, he became one of the influential personalities in advancing this young and developing technology. In 1979 he was named Director of the Hochtief Central Underground Department in Essen, Germany. His focus was mainly on international projects, several of which are still valued as key developments in the industry. Among them was the return to Venezuela to introduce TBMs to the famous Yacambu water diversion tunnel. It was to offer up one of the salient lessons for the young TBM technology in the highly tectonically active geology of the Andes. The 24.5km long x 4.4m tunnelling project not only defeated the attempt of TBMs to tame the incredibly difficult geology, but also defeated many conventional tunnelling operations before it was finally completed in July 2008, some 34 years after its first of several stops and starts.
His passion was for developing TBM tunnelling

His passion was for developing TBM tunnelling

Babendererde continued to pioneer hard rock TBM tunnelling as well as applications of new and developing soft ground TBMs including slurry systems, working to advance the Hydroshield concept as developed initially by experiments in the UK and Japan and in Germany by manufacturer Bade & Theelen with contractor Wayss & Freytag and taken up to world-wide application by Herrenknecht of Germany. Following this he worked on early EPBM concepts as they developed through various modifications and upgrades.
As an innovator, and it has to be said a daring risk taker, he was involved in one of the most ingenious and far reaching applications in tunnelling - the application of slurry TBMs and the innovative extruded concrete concept as the initial support for twin tube metro drives under the Rhône and Saône Rivers for the metro system in Lyon, France, in joint venture with French contractors Dragages and Campenon Bernard.

This too proved a reach too far for its time, encountering serious problems with the slurry excavation and the extruded lining system. It did not however dull or dent Babendererde's innovative spirit or enthusiasm. Innovation and R&D continued to be a focal point of Babendererde's tenure at the top of Hochtief until his move to the Hamburg division of the company. This was at a time when the city's fourth highway crossing of the River Elbe was being developed by the company as another cutting edge, largest-ever at the time, TBM drive that went on to be highly successful. At the same time he began working on a desire to establish an independent engineering and consultancy practice. This he started in 1991 in Lübeck-Travemünde. Through his connections and expertise, the company grew steadily into the international business that is carried on today by his sons Lars and Tim. In 2004 Babendererde retired from the executive board of BABENDERERDE ENGINEERS GmbH, but was always available for advice.
Babendererde was a keen promoter of tunnelling, of new technology and of the underground and bored tunnel alternative for infrastructure projects. In 1987 he was awarded an honorary doctorate for his achievements in the underground industry by the Technical University of Aachen (RWTH Aachen). As member of the German Tunnelling Committee DAUB (Deutscher Ausschuss für unterirdisches Bauen) from 1980 to 1994, he was elected its President from 1991 to 1994. He was a regular presenter at the STUVA series of conferences in Germany and was actively engaged with the ITA, International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association, and its working groups. He gave several papers at the ITA Congresses and was a speaker at many international conferences, among them many on the development of TBMs and on the extruded concrete lining concept as a technology for advancing industrialised tunnelling.
For those with access to hard copy archives, a paper by Babendererde about the development and future of the extruded lining concept is printed in the Proceedings of the 2001 session of the RETC in the United States and a copy is available on the SME's Onemine electronic archive. The report of a meeting by Babendererde to the BTS (British Tunnelling Society) in London in 1986 about the Lyon Hydroshield and extruded lining experience is published in the December 1986 issue of Tunnels & Tunnelling.
There are many memories of meeting Babendererde at different conferences around the world.
At the BTS meeting about the Lyon experience in 1986, Babendererde is remembered (as reported by Eric Snowdon), as being "skilful in the use of understatement" in explaining the "unpleasant surprises". For the Hydroshield, there were boulders described as "contractual stones", or those that could be handled by the machine's crusher as opposed to larger boulders that needed man-entry removal from the excavation chamber; he described "practice makes perfect" in the time taken to recover from several blowouts, bentonite losses, and face collapses ahead of the TBM cutterhead during the under the river drives; and he "neatly sidestepped questions" from the audience about the number of workers at the face per shift, saying "too many competitors present" before finally admitting "too many".
As a member of the Mechanized Tunnelling Working Group of the ITA and at one Working Group sessions, the conversation was hung up on discussion about access to the site. Babendererde said, "We discussed this at last year's meeting. Do we still not have access to the job site?"At another conference, the discussion at the table after the official banquet was about language and thoughts about which language would become the universal language among tunnellers of different nationalities working on the same project. Babendererde said: "It will be what it has always been - bad English." As was usually the case, the group was nonplussed by the gravity of the statement until the funny side too was recognised.
His creativity and positive outlook on life will be missed by his family, friends, colleagues and the industry at large.

Shani Wallis, TunnelTalk


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