The RehabZone: From Concept to Industry Phenomenon

In 2001 it all started as a basic concept, weaved into a simple conversation, and quickly evolved into a massive, industry event presented in an objective, non-sales environment.  Today, the RehabZone brings interactive, high-quality information and education to the sewer and water rehabilitation market in a hands-on format that can’t be experienced anywhere else.

During its history, the RehabZone has grown from concept to attraction and is now a major element of the annual Underground Construction Technology International Conference & Exhibition (UCT). To keep pace, an army of highly active industry volunteers continues to rapidly expand along with the ’Zone’s many elements and activities. The remarkable RehabZone continues to gain traction and expand its educational influence every year.

The Beginnings

In 2001, underground utility construction dynamics were changing. The fiber explosion had been driving much of the market. Leading the way was an explosion of horizontal directional drilling technology combined with conventional trenchers and plows. But that market had reached its zenith in late 2000 and was beginning a rapid decline.

While sewer and water infrastructure construction had been going through its typical slow growth with minor ups and downs, there had been one major constant: the rehabilitation market had started a steady growth period, aided by quantum developmental leaps in trenchless methods. With the world’s infrastructure reaching a critical point of failure, the time was perfect for the rehabilitation market to assume the leadership role in infrastructure renewal.

But there was a major inhibiting factor: there existed an overall general ignorance as to the blossoming technological developments and opportunities available through modern rehab techniques. The market was in desperate need for education at all levels: owners, engineers and contractors.

At the same time, The National Association of Sewer Service Companies (NASSCO) was also going through a major direction shift. The group had long been an advocate for rehabilitation, but its industry role had been limited. The hire in October 2000 of new Executive Director, Michael Burkhard, heralded an overall shift in the organization and vision of NASSCO. Burkhard immediately began looking for opportunities that could help boost NASSCO’s transition and accomplish its new goals.

By 2001, Underground Construction magazine Editor and UCT founder, Robert Carpenter, recognized the opportunities and rewards that modern rehabilitation could bring to the sewer and water industry. The new groundbreaking study conducted by Underground Construction, the annual Municipal Sewer & Water Infrastructure Study, immediately demonstrated the overwhelming need for rehabilitation across the country. But the study also showed a low confidence factor among engineers and municipalities for many of the trenchless methods that were currently in place. Carpenter began developing ideas as to how best to showcase advances and establish confidence in trenchless rehab in a positive, educational and beneficial environment. And the RehabZone was born.