For those who served: GNSS helps expand Arizona national cemetery

October 25, 2018  - By
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The base of the channel was just wide enough (12 feet) to fit the John Deere machine for grading the 2:1 slope. With GNSS, the operator did not have to reference grade stakes or stop for grade checks. (Photo: Topcon)

The base of the channel was just wide enough (12 feet) to fit the John Deere machine for grading the 2:1 slope. With GNSS, the operator did not have to reference grade stakes or stop for grade checks. (Photo: Topcon)

Noel Guevara, president and owner of JAG Construction, considers it an honor to have been involved in a project to expand the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona.

To get the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible, the fledgling company drew upon GNSS technology for the bulk of its grading and specialized excavation needs.

Doing so, it was able to wrap up the major expansion on time, with as little disruption as possible.

Additional Space Needed. The cemetery expansion will help alleviate a shortage of burial space brought about by the passing of veterans of World War II, the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam War.

The project involves development of 22 acres adjacent to the existing cemetery including construction of two columbarium courts to house 4,688 niches for cremains; 2,180 pre-placed crypts; grading for 1,900 in-ground cremains; 650 linear feet of roadway; two retention ponds; and 1,350 feet of shotcrete drainage channel.

A look around the expansion site — previously scrub land — revealed few grade stakes, a sign that GNSS technology was at work. “I first used GPS when I was with a company back in 2000,” Guevara said. “So I know the tremendous boost in productivity it can give, and felt that I had to have it on this project.”

Critical Support. While Guevara may have felt at home with machine control, some of his team needed a crash course in working within a GNSS environment. RDO Integrated Controls outfitted JAG’s two motor graders with Topcon 3D-MC2 machine control in a twin-antenna, single-mast configuration.

Guevara’s decision to place his faith in the GNSS solution put his company at what Topcon calls the “intersection of infrastructure and technology,” a conceptual crossroads where Topcon helps industry professionals best meet growing infrastructure demands through technological innovation — increasing both productivity and profitability.

A Channel Runs Through It. Though the majority of the cemetery expansion site is relatively flat, the retention ponds and drainage channel could have proven problematic, had they been done using traditional survey methods.

Guevara said being able to do the detail work with the Topcon system dramatically ramped up production.

“This is easily 70% faster than doing things old-school,” he said. “Having the blades equipped with GPS gave us the confidence to walk away each day knowing that the numbers were there.”

JAG was also contracted to excavate foundations for a pair of columbarium courts. Guevara once again turned to GNSS to streamline that effort, specifically a dual-antenna Topcon MC-i3 system with a GX-55 control box.

“Because of the GPS system on that machine, the operator knew exactly how far down he had to go; there was no questioning or verifying depths — that was a nice solution for us.”

In 2017, JAG invested in six GNSS-based machine control systems. This year they are looking at additional machine purchases to meet what is forecast to be more than double 2017’s numbers.

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