There are many different branches of engineering: civil, mechanical, electrical, environmental, etc. Although here at ORB we love the structural engineering, that doesn't mean we do not work with the other branches. One branch we work closely with is geotechnical engineering. This particular branch of engineering specializes in soils. Their job is to analyze the soil structure of a proposed building or construction site in order to understand the conditions of the ground underneath them. This can help explain problems of existing structures, such as settlement issues, and prevent issues in the future.
A key first step in construction is getting a soil report from a geotechnical engineer. The soil report will contain all the results from the subsurface exploration and analysis as well as recommendations for the type of foundation needed. A soils report tests the conditions of the earth. Soils reports provide information on the site's conditions, soil composition, and ground water levels. The engineer will drill a hole into the ground to test the soil to see how strong or weak it is. If they feel that they need more information, they will take some of the soil to a lab to be tested. The report helps the architect or contractor know what type of foundation they should build based on the site conditions.
As structural engineers, we use this information when designing the foundation of a new building. We must now whether or not piling is necessary, what kind of piles and how many or needed. It also lets us know if we can use post-tensioned concrete or another method of value engineering. The soil report tells us what we need to provide in order to give a structure the best foundation possible. Without a soil report, designing a foundation for a new structure is basically just taking a shot in the dark and hoping for the best.
Soil reports are also useful for diagnosing structural concerns. A crack in the wall can have many different causes. In order to provide the best solution possible, structural engineers must look at every possible cause and make sure that it is not the problem. Soil report show if the foundation type is appropriate to the soil. They also show if the soil is weak and as such more prone to creating structural issues, like settlement. A soil report is another tool in a structural engineer's tool belt to use when assessing damages and design to ensure the structure is built the best way possible.
Now that you are familiar with the value of a soil report, make sure you get one before building on a new site. Or, if you are concerned about structural damage and are looking for a solution, consider getting yourself in contact with a geotechnical engineer for a soils report. ORB often uses them during design and inspection services. Need some geotechnical engineer recommendations? Give us a call!
More to come soon.