Any construction project requires diligent planning and thoughtful consideration at every step. While it may be tempting to get the process started and develop construction documents with little outside help or focus on the structure or architecture itself, having a geotechnical engineer on your side from the outset is critical in designing and completing a successful construction project. If you are getting ready to prepare construction documents including contract documents, bidding documents, and more, the insight that a geotechnical engineer can provide is critical to cost savings, code compliance, and setting a solid foundation (pun intended!) for your success.

With the importance of a geotechnical engineer stated, you may be wondering, what does a geotechnical engineer do? Our expert team is here to detail what a geotechnical engineer does, and how that work can impact construction documents like contract documents, bidding documents, and more below!

What Does a Geotechnical Engineer Do?

So, what does a geotechnical engineer do? To put it simply, a geotechnical engineer analyzes subsurface and geological conditions at a potential construction site, then works with Structural Engineers, Architects, and other Civil Engineers to help optimize the design. While that may seem simple, the implications of their work can impact the entire trajectory of a project. Since the safety, stability, and longevity of a build depends heavily on the selection and solidity of the foundation, working with a geotechnical engineer is critical.

Geotechnical engineer observing a job site

A geotechnical engineer will conduct a site investigation to determine the physical characteristics and arrangement of soil present at a build site. Whether the job is for a residential build, a commercial development, or a government project, the role of a geotechnical engineer is to study the site and report back on their findings. These findings can detail soil materials, strength, density, and more—all to help the other members of the design team to initiate their own optimization of design.

The work of a geotechnical engineer is to also uncover potential subsurface hazards, such as unexpected fill (man-placed soil), slope stability, seismic issues such as liquefaction, environmental contaminants, and then to make suggestions for how to work around those issues. Discovering risk and understanding your soil before moving ahead on a project, and then incorporating the geotechnical engineering expertise will save time, money, and energy in the long run.

How Does a Geotechnical Engineer Impact Documentation and Planning?

Now that you know what a geotechnical engineer does, you may be wondering how their work impacts the planning and documentation phases of your project. First, let’s discuss construction documentation. Construction documents are defined by the Construction Specifications Institute as, “the written and graphic documents prepared for communicating the project design for construction and administering the construction contract.” Construction documents include contract documents, bidding documents, drawings, and specifications—all of which are needed during permitting. We will take a deeper dive into these specific documents below:

Contract Documents

Contract documents are legally binding documents that define the scope, roles, and responsibilities on a project. Properly prepared contract documents are concise, clear, and unambiguous. Working with a geotechnical engineer at this stage is wise, as their work can help to determine the scope of a project.

If contaminants are discovered or potential hazards are noted, the geotechnical engineer can propose a workaround with environmental specialists to accommodate the issue while preserving the integrity of the build. The solutions may impact the scope of a project in varying degrees, but it is important to accurately gauge the project requirements in the agreement between owner and contractor.

Bidding Documents

Bidding documents are prepared by a contractor in hopes of “winning” a job against competitors. Bidding documents will once again detail the scope of the project, but will also include an estimated work schedule and approximated costs. A geotechnical engineer can evaluate a site and determine if the intended project can move forward in a safe and sound manner—while providing critical information that could be a potential problem for future development.

Resolutions for soil contaminations, solutions for drainage concerns, and other workarounds can add time and money to a project. However—providing an accurate assessment of the true scope and cost of a project will facilitate a smooth project and cohesiveness between the developer and property owner.  Surprises involving earthwork or foundation issues during design—or worse—when construction is underway or after completion can result in life safety issues, loss, or claims that diminish the budget or return on investment. 

Drawings and Specifications

Construction drawings are a graphic display of the intended project. Usually accompanied by specifications (specs), these two documents lay out a roadmap for development. Construction drawings are usually drawn to scale, display floor plans, describe elevations, and provide specific detail drawings to represent a project. Construction specifications detail the work scope, necessary materials, installation methods, techniques, and standards a job requires. Should any problems be uncovered by the geotechnical engineer, solutions can be included in the plans at this stage.

Reach Out to Central Geotechnical Services, LLC for Guidance

If you are unsure when the time is right to get a geotechnical engineer involved with your build, get in touch with Central Geotechnical Services, LLC. Our team can provide you with key insight and guidance no matter what phase of your project you are on. We have worked on jobs across the globe and can help you complete your project successfully.