The Fabricated Geomembrane Institute (FGI) grew out of the PVC Geomembrane Institute (PGI), which was an industry-based research center based in Michigan that focused on the appropriate use of PVC geomembranes in containment applications. In 1998, the PGI sought proposals from various universities to establish a technical collaboration and liaison to increase research and technology transfer related to PVC geomembranes. In 1998, the PGI accepted Dr. Timothy D. Stark’s proposal to collaborate with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). From 1998 to 2009 the PGI operated from the UIUC and conducted various short courses, developed and promulgated material specifications for PVC geomembranes, and conducted research on geomembrane durability, minimum plasticizer molecular weight needed for long-term durability, constructing and monitoring a long-term field test section in Hibbing, Minnesota, and various other topics related to PVC geomembranes.
In 2009, Dr. Stark proposed to broaden the PGI to include other flexible geomembranes that could be factory-fabricated into large panels, transported to a project site, and quickly installed. This expanded the PGI to include other geomembrane polymers, such as, polypropylene, Linear Low Density Polyethylene (LLDPE), PVC Elvaloys, Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (EPDM), Chlorosulphonated Polythylene (CSPE), Ethylene Interpolymer Alloy (EIA), Ethylene Vinyl Alcohol (EVOH), and others. After about four years of discussion from 2009 to 2013, the Fabricated Geomembrane Institute (FGI) was founded in Illinois and based at the UIUC. In 2013 Dr. Stark and the first FGI President (Andrew Mills) launched the FGI with an innovative dues structure. The initial operating budget was estimated and it was proposed that the more members that joined the FGI, the lower the annual dues would be. This resulted in a large number of companies joining the FGI and a simple dues annual structure of $2,000 per manufacturer and fabricator/installer members, which is still in operation today. Shortly thereafter, the FGI hired Jennifer Miller as the FGI Coordinator and “the rest is history”.
The FGI focuses on the research of flexible geomembrane or geosynthetic materials that can be prefabricated in a controlled factory environment resulting in more constant, uniform, and predictable completed seams than in the field and less installation damage because of the shorter installation time.
The FGI now offers monthly webinars, short courses, and podcasts all over the world and supervises research on fabricated flexible geosynthetic materials using graduate and undergraduate students from the UIUC. The FGI website provides various resources, including, calculators to estimate pond leakage with and without geomembrane wrinkles, cost comparison between factory and field seam fabrication, panel weights for shipping, anchor trench design, and others, flexible geomembrane installation and attachment details for typical ponds, geomembrane testing videos, a geomembrane specifier’s guide, geomembrane equipment guide, field safety messages, and more!