The Geotechnical Engineering Podcast provides engineering career advice and success stories specifically for geotechnical engineers. Jared M. Green, PE, D.GE, Senior Associate and Award-Winning Geotechnical Practice Leader hosts the show and showcase geotechnical engineering projects and professionals.
Each show includes an overview of an interesting geotechnical engineering project and an interview with a successful civil engineering professional.
TGEP 26: The Role of Geotechnical Engineers in Design-Build Projects
In this episode, we talk to Roch Player, PE, DGE, PMP., the chief engineer at GeoStabilization International, about the role geotechnical engineers play in design-build.
Here Are Some of the Questions We Ask Roch Player, PE, DGE, PMP.:
Can you tell us more about what goes into the planning process for laying the groundwork to ensure the safety of the public and to help minimize the impact on the environment?
What is the design-build delivery process you use?
What are the sole-source responsibilities of the owner, as well as the contractor during projects?
Talk to us about the architect-engineer liability gap, what is each one’s role, and what do you do to avoid gaps in coverage?
For those of our listeners that are not too familiar with constructability, can you please explain what it is and how you use it for risk management?
How do you implement a standard of care for engineers into your projects?
What are some of the processes and challenges faced when determining construction estimation?
How does your company ensure they follow and maintain professional responsibilities?
Here Are Some of the Key Points Discussed About the Role of Geotechnical Engineer in Design-Build:
There are two large uncertainties in every project. Firstly, where you are, and secondly, what are you building on top of? Without a thorough understanding of either of these problems, the project will not be successful, and the goal of the project will not be accomplished.
The core of design-build is considering in the design of how it will be constructed. In design-build, you can consider not only what needs to be built, but who is going to be building it. In the planning process, you, the engineer, can discuss all construction aspects of the project with the people who will be constructing it. It is a great way to make the design eliminate most of the problems that the construction teams might have. The planning process in conjunction with healthy coordination between the design and construction has a better solution than either one can make on their own.
The term, design-build, means that the people designing the project and the people building the project fall under the same contract. It provides a great tool to accelerate the decision-making process and the return on the owner’s investment more quickly.
Sole-source projects boil down to who can manage the risk more effectively. If the owner gives a sole-source contract to an individual, it does not mean the owner is giving up control or responsibilities. It means that the owner has decided that someone can better manage and control the risk that they experience.
The architect-engineer liability gap comes down to who is responsible for what. There needs to be good line communication, and everyone needs to understand upfront who is responsible for what, and when. The standard needs to be set early in the project so that nothing can fall into the gap. The gaps form when you take what you are doing out of context. To overcome this, you need to look at what the goal is, what the definitions of success are, and what the constraints are before you dive into solving a problem. By using design-build contracts, you eliminate the possibility of these gaps forming, because everyone falls under one contract.
To find the constructability of a design, you need to find out if it can be built using the means, methods, and materials, which are readily available for that project. You must look at the context of what you are building and how you are going to build it. The best solution is the best value that hits all the success metrics for the owner.
For a standard of care for engineers to work, you must not take on something that you are not confident to take on.
TGEP 25: Practical Project Management Solutions for Geotechnical Engineers
In this episode, we talk to Dr. Antonio Marinucci, Ph.D., MBA, P.E., the founder and President of V2C Strategists LLC, about practical project management solutions for geotechnical engineers.
Here Are Some of the Questions We Ask Antonio in This Episode:
What are some of the benefits for engineers to develop their project management skills?
How does someone get experience in project management solutions?
Can you give us an example of a time you had to act fast to avoid a crisis?
Is there a particular geotechnical project that you worked on in your career that stands out to you that you would like to share with the audience?
How has having an MBA and a Ph.D. in engineering benefited or affected your career?
What is the benefit or importance of being engaged in technical and professional organizations, and how can it benefit geotechnical project managers?
What benefit have you seen from publishing research and case studies and presenting them to others, especially internationally?
Given the typical daily demands of the workplace, what motivated you to be an instructor for the National Highway Institute and the university level?
What advice can you give geotechnical engineers out there working on large geotechnical projects?
Here Are Some of the Key Points Discussed About Practical Project Management Solutions for Geotechnical Engineers:
There are many benefits to developing your project management skills. Project management drives everything in a project, such as the decisions, risk, human resources, capital expenditure, and much more. Keeping all of the different aspects of a project on schedule is key to the success of the project. Your project management skills play a crucial role if you want to continue growing in an organization or move between organizations.
There are many online learning programs that you can enroll in to grow your project management skills. Things like getting involved with associations, having a good mentor, and being involved with what is going on in the organization are all ways for you to grow your project management skills.
To avoid a crisis, you need to be truthful and respectful with your clients. Answer their questions even if you know they will not react well to them. You need to understand their position and explain why certain things are happening and what needs to be done. This kind of conversation can teach you how to structure your approach to your client. Keep in mind how you can deal with emotions and different cultures in your approach. Mannerisms, tone, language, respect, and even knowing when to take a short break are all ways that can help you in your approach. Do not approach your client with a problem if you do not have three possible solutions. It will help you to think through the situation and not rush in with the first solution that comes to mind.
If anyone comes with a proposed solution to a problem, even if it will not work, see if there is any part of it that can be used. Working on large projects will teach you far more about the industry in a couple of years than you would learn in five years in a business school. You can learn from every individual who is working on a project. Sometimes things get through the system, even for people who are well advanced in their careers and listening to individuals can help to identify the problem areas.
Having an MBA and a Ph.D. is like looking at a ball from different ends of the poles without having conflicting interests or viewpoints. It can open your eyes to many things. It will change how you do things when working with different departments in your organization. It is like putting the technical side in the Ph.D. and expanding the way you think and ask questions. It is a very completing thing to do,
TGEP 24: The Benefits of Using Energy Foundations in Geotechnical Engineering
In this episode, we talk to Tony Amis, MSc, the Senior Vice President at Endurant Energy (formerly GI Energy), and a recognized expert in multirenewable solutions involving energy foundations and ground-source heating and cooling solutions. We discuss energy piles, and more specifically, ground-sourced heating and cooling solutions.
Here Are Some of the Questions We Ask Tony:
How do energy foundation solutions differ from conventional geothermal solutions?
What are the hurdles preventing this type of solution from being a standard part of the foundation solution?
You have been heavily involved with raising opportunities associated with renewable energy solutions. One of them is the use of heat pumps connected to geothermal loops that enable a heating and cooling solution that is four to six times more energy-efficient than conventional heating and cooling solutions. Could you please talk to us more about this?
From a design standpoint, do energy piles have an impact on how the foundation is designed?
What do you think the future holds for geotechnical engineering?
Here Are Some of the Key Points Discussed About the Benefits of Using Energy Piles in Geotechnical Engineering:
Geothermal means to exchange heat with the ground by placing geothermal loops into the ground. Once you go deeper than approximately 10 feet into the ground, the earth's temperature is between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The goal is to exchange around 10 degrees with the ground. It is done by circulating cooler liquid through the geothermal loops into the ground, where it is warmed up by the earth's temperature. The warmer liquid passes through a refrigeration cycle, which warms the liquid refrigerants up to their boiling point. The liquid refrigerants are compressed and converted into vapor. This method transforms the lower grade heat up to approximately 130 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, which is delivered into the building. In summer, this cycle is reversed to provide cooling into the building. It is a very efficient method of heating and cooling.
The main component of this method is the recycling of heat energy. Instead of having an evaporative cooler on the roof that wastes enormous amounts of water, use the extra heat to heat water for the residents.
Geothermal loops can be placed in many ways and areas. One of the best ways to place geothermal loops is to work with the foundation contractor and place the loops on the building foundation's reinforcement during the installation of the foundations. A good depth for energy piles is around 60 to 80 feet. A diameter of 6 to 8 inches is the smallest pile that you will need, and some as large as 8 to 9 feet can be used. The larger the diameter of the energy pile, the more geothermal loops are needed. This method is very versatile and can be used on almost any foundation method. If you get the coordination right on an energy foundation solution, there should be no impact on the construction schedule.
Some of the biggest hurdles of energy foundations are:
The cost compared to traditional foundations and the low gas prices in some places in the world.
People who are not familiar with the technology and are very reluctant to change from what they have been doing for many years.
Discussing an energy solution like geothermal loops can take months to complete.
There is a big “disconnect” between mechanical and technical engineering.
Many technical instruments are placed in an energy pile. Some are for measuring the temperature at various depths of the energy pile. There are also monitoring devices that monitor the demands of heating and cooling of the building. Obtaining this energy profile is a crucial part of the design of the geothermal solution.
TGEP 23: Ground Anchor Systems for Geotechnical Engineers
In this episode, we talk to Devon Mothersille, BEng (Hons), Ph.D., CEng, FICE, LETAPAEWE, the Managing Director of Geoserve Global Ltd, about ground anchor systems for geotechnical engineers. He also touches on what it takes to run a sole consultancy and find expert witness work.
Here Are Some of the Questions We Ask Devon:
What are ground anchor systems, how do they work, and what is their purpose?
How does being a sole consultant work for you?
What tips can you give our audience on running a consultancy in geotechnical engineering?
How do you find expert witness work, and is there an intriguing case that you can describe?
How have you found working in the current pandemic environment?
What do you think the future holds for ground anchor technology?
Here Are Some of the Key Points Discussed About Ground Anchor Systems for Geotechnical Engineers:
A ground anchor system is an installation in the ground that allows us to tie structures on the ground's surface to the more stable ground beneath the surface. The ground anchor system comprises an anchor head, a free anchor length, and a fixed anchor. The anchor head is attached to the structure. The free anchor length transfers the loads from the anchor head to the fixed anchor. The fixed anchor is bonded to the more stable ground below the surface. The ground anchor system works similarly to an anchored boat at sea, but through the ground instead of water.
Strand ground anchor systems are more suitable for projects where the free anchor lengths are exceptionally long and the loads on them are large.
When working internationally on ground anchor systems, you must consider things like dealing with different cultures, languages, methods of working, and philosophies of working. You should embrace all of these things and apply logic to the entire system to get the ground anchor systems to work.
A sole consultant means that you are essentially working on your own. It is not always the case when working on larger projects. You may need to temporarily engage the services of other professionals to get the work done. A sole consultant does not conventionally employ people. They hire companies and people on different occasions depending on the project and then release them once the work is done.
The Geo-Trust is a network of like-minded companies and individuals who provide clients with an enhanced portfolio of geotechnical services, having ready access to a referral list of top experts. Geo-Trust members are among the most successful companies and individuals in the industry at understanding and effectively implementing their areas of geotechnical expertise.
If you are thinking of becoming a sole consultant, you need to look at your business model very carefully. It can be a wonderful thing to start a traditional company that employs people and make it grow. However, you might find that this kind of business model might not award you with the flexibility that you desire. A sole consultant business model can be a very flexible career for you in terms of traveling and counteracting with different cultures and languages across the world. You should start building a strong network of people with many different skills as early as you can. It is a strong resource that you can tap into. No matter how good you are in your work, as an individual, you cannot do everything.
As you develop in your career and expertise level, expert witness work is something that will confront you at some point. You must choose whether to do this work or not because it is certainly not something for everybody. It is a rewarding job but can be incredibly stressful as well. You must understand your field or you will not be called in as an expert. You need adequate training, separate from your profession,
TGEP 22: Career Planning Tips for Geotechnical Engineers
In this episode of The Geotechnical Engineering Podcast, we talk to John Peirce, Jr., P.E., D.GE, founder and principal of Peirce Engineering that provides us with some great career planning tips on the importance of mentoring young engineers, the need for field experience before becoming a design engineer, and continuing education. I believe this episode will especially help you if you are earlier in your career and if you are trying to plan how to move up in your engineering career.
Here Are Some of the Questions We Ask John in This Episode:
You believe that engineering education begins after graduation. What do you mean by that?
What are some things, in your opinion, that you must consider when choosing a mentor?
The way we communicate with other people says a lot about us, even when we don’t say a word. Why is it so important for engineers to speak less and listen more?
Do you believe that engineers should know how structures are built before they start designing those structures?
How does an engineer know what the limitations of their experience are?
How can engineers remain diligent and keep up with continuing education?
Here Are Some of the Key Points Discussed About Career Planning Tips for Geotechnical Engineers:
College provides limited hours of instruction and covers the basics of engineering, but there is a whole lot more to be learned. College leaves little time for learning real-world engineering. You need to learn some of the important things on your own, accumulate the right reference books, talk to people, and find people who do things that you have not done yet.
When choosing a mentor, one of the first things you should look for in this person is ethics. You have to do what is right, and there are too many people around who do not put ethics at the top of their priority list. A mentor also must have really good experiences and be well-respected by others, both inside and outside of your company. They must have an openness and willingness to share their knowledge and be confident enough to not look at the younger engineer as being a competitor. The mentor must believe that the younger engineer is or will be a valuable team member.
What a young engineer does with the shared knowledge from his or her mentor is extremely important. The younger engineer must question what the mentor is trying to transfer and make sure they use that knowledge and remember it.
Speaking without knowing the facts is a recipe for disaster. Don’t be in a hurry to talk, do your learning, make sure you have something important to say, and then be prepared to talk. It is very important to listen and learn before speaking.
Learning how things are built and getting experience in the field is of utmost importance in your career. How can you tell someone else to build something if you don’t know how? Inexperienced engineers can cause owners lots of money and can cause serious safety issues.
There are far too many engineers who don’t know their limits. It is unethical for engineers to perform services in which they are not competent, but it happens every day. It’s important to know what you don’t know and to stay away from the areas that you are not really confident in.
Continuing education is extremely important as the world is changing so fast. New methods, structures, equipment, and even new educational courses are becoming a requirement and need to be properly communicated so they are properly implemented. Good engineers will get the continuing education needed, whether it is mandatory or not.
More Details in This Episode…
About John Peirce Jr., P.E., D.GE
With over 50 years of design-build, civil, geo-structural, and construction engineering experience, Mr. John J. Peirce, Jr., P.
TGEP 21: What a Structural Engineer Thinks a Geotechnical Engineer Needs to Know
In this episode, I talk to the co-host of The Structural Engineering Channel, Mathew Picardal, P.E., about what he, as a structural engineer, thinks a geotechnical engineer needs to know, and how geotechnical and structural engineers collaborate.
Here Are Some of the Questions We Ask Mat:
What does a structural engineer do, and what areas of work are they involved in?
How can a graduate student choose between structural engineering and geotechnical engineering as a career?
If a new developer thinks they only need an architect, how would you convince them that they also need a structural engineer?
There are many differences in the day-to-day approach to modeling structural and geotechnical behavior. Is there a way to identify these differences so that structural and geotechnical engineers can move toward a more integrated approach during projects?
What role does communication play between geotechnical and structural engineers, and how do you think engineers can improve their communication skills between geo and structural engineers?
Do you have one secret or tip that you think geotechnical engineers may not know about structural engineering?
What can we expect of structural engineering in the future?
Here Are Some of the Key Points Discussed About What a Structural Engineer Thinks a Geotechnical Engineer Needs to Know:
Structural engineering is like a human body. The architect has the overall vision and the function of it. The structural engineer then designs the skeletal system to support the body and adds the strength to withstand any forces inflicted on it. The mechanical, electrical, and plumbing are like the cardiovascular and nervous systems of the body. Geotechnical engineers are the foundation of the body — the feet.
Structural and geotechnical engineers come together to discuss how to best support the structures. Structural engineers need to know what kind of soil they are building on because you need different foundation systems for all different soils.
For graduate students to decide between structural engineering and geotechnical engineering as a career, they should first look at which projects they enjoy doing most. If you want to learn all that you can about a subject, this means that you like that kind of engineering. You can then talk to a professional or ask for information or interviews on LinkedIn. Many professionals are willing to give you this information because they were also students before. Go to professional associations to find out more about each profession. These organizations are volunteer organizations, and they want to help students.
Engineers do a better job of showing the developer how they would add value to a project. Many different materials and techniques can make a project more efficient and cost-effective.
Structural engineers and geotechnical engineers have different procedures for modeling. To integrate them on most projects, the communication between the two needs to be on par. It will help to provide more effective solutions for any technique requests or problems that could arise. It can be an iterative task to get both models to have the same readings and are effective on larger projects.
Structural engineers appreciate good Geotechnical reports that are clear and tell them what they need to know.
There is a lot of dependence on software in the structural engineering industry. It does not mean that you will not get hired because you do not know a particular software. If you know the fundamentals of engineering, then you can learn any software by reading the manual. There will be a lot more automation and computer-based designs in the coming future. Structural engineers and geotechnical engineers need to evolve with this technology.
Great Listen for Young Professionals
If you’re in the early stages of your Geotechnical Engineering career, definitely give this podcast a shot!
I’m an EIT working in construction management looking to make a switch to geotechnical engineering. This podcast is extremely helpful giving us amazing exposure to geotech engineers’ actual experiences.
Great & Informative Podcast
I’m an EIT with 2 years of engineering experience and joined the geotechnical engineering profession last month. I’ve always been interested in geotechnical engineering and see myself doing it for the rest of my career. I hope to benefit from your podcast. Thanks!