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Geotechnical Engineering: Building Foundations for Tomorrow

Updated: Jul 3, 2023

Geotechnical engineering is a sometimes misunderstood and not well known branch of civil engineering. According to the University of Delaware, geotechnical engineering is a discipline within civil engineering that focuses on the behavior of natural materials. It should be the first step in any construction project.

Geotechnical engineers learn to use the earth's resources, such as soil and rock mechanics, to solve common building problems. One of the most important problems that geotechnical engineering aims to solve is how to build durable and safe foundations.

Geotechnical Engineering & Testing

South Florida presents its own unique challenges when building:

  • The water table is very high,

  • The soil is extremely diverse depending on where you drill,

  • The area is subject to very extreme weather.

Many traditional methods of building foundations are not appropriate in our area and therefore require ground improvement. This is where geotechnical engineering can help. A soil test engineer will run different tests to help a builder know what materials they'll need. Geotechnical reports will also determine what kind of foundation a project will need.

Examples of soil tests:

  • Proctor

  • LBR (Limerock Bearing Ratio)

There are two kinds of foundational methods used:

  • Shallow Foundations

  • Deep Foundations

Shallow Foundations

  • Foundations that can be poured once a the soil is prepared

  • AKA Slab on Grade

Deep Foundations

Sometimes, deep foundations have to be used because the soil at a site can't bear the foundational load. A foundation engineer determines if the load will need to be transferred from the topsoil to lower soil layers. There are several kinds of deep foundations but some of the most common are:

  • Auger Cast Pilings

  • Helical Piles

  • Precast C

  • Concrete Piling

Remedy & Repair

Our geotechnical engineers at Specialty Engineering spend a good deal of time doing site investigations for a variety of projects. However, most of our work is spent focusing on existing work around us. As buildings settle, foundations may begin to settle or fail. As professional engineers, we know how to diagnose foundational settlement problems and concrete restoration issues.

However, soil testing is not complete without material testing. The sister process to soil testing is to lab test construction materials to make sure they are up to building standard. At Specialty Engineering, our in house laboratory is state of the art and operated by certified and dedicated technicians. Some of the test performed are:

  • Compressive Strength Tests

  • Concrete Slump Test

  • Aggregate Gradations

  • Air Content Tests

  • Block Prisms

  • Cores

  • Concrete Mix Designs

Remember the types of foundations we mentioned above? Some of those same foundation methods are used to repair settling or failing foundations. Because of this kind of work, geotechnical engineers are also able to help in the certification of older buildings. Did you know that if your residential building is over 40 years old it must have all its structural members examined?

In South Florida building certifications are the law and these kinds of inspections have been required since the early 2000s.

Specialty Engineering Consultants, SPEC, is a geotechnical engineer near you. Located in South Florida since 1985 under the expertise of Mark LeBlanc, SPEC has been helping design and construct the foundations of Florida. Our experience dates back to the construction of I-595/I-75 interchange in West Broward county. Specialty Engineering has truly reshaped the landscape of South Florida.

If you would like to learn more about the extensive geotechnical services that we offer visit our dedicated webpage. You can also learn about our hands on experience while reading our blog linked below.

Don't hesitate to contact us for all of your dirt and materials testing needs!


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