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Re[2]: Geotech

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As a Geotechnical Engineer, I'd like to thank you for your response.  Since
Structural Engineers are the knowledgeable consumers (although rarely clients)
of geotechnical consulting services, I hope they are assisting their clients in
choosing a qualified Geotechnical Engineer (capitalized GE since this is a
BORPELS entitlement in California).  All engineers should be in the business of
reducing both cost and risk, right?  We remember that from school.  You do,
however, get what you pay for, and as in any profession there is the good and
the bad.  That is why I think most of us in the design industry value personal
contacts and experience.  I think it is in all of our enlightened self interest
to promulgate Qualification Based Selection and the value to the client of
design services.  It is my goal to demonstrate to the client and other design
team architects and engineers that our service is valuable, and that we do
reduce cost and risk.  Low cost design services are not likely a value to the

But don't shoot the messenger (please).  Not all sites are dense sands or
granitic rock.  As we run out of real estate in some areas such as urban
California, we find our selves building on landfill, peat, soft clays, sawdust,
etc.  I hope that is where the Geotechnical Engineer's services are of value. 
Sorry for the lack of technical content in this response.

Tom Benson, GE at Lowney Associates

____________________Reply Separator____________________
Subject:    Re: Geotech 
Author: <seaint(--nospam--at)>
Date:       11/5/98 8:38 PM


Since you mentioned my name I had to jump in. Essentially I agree with you on
educating the client, etc. The same holds true for the soils report. I often
tell clients that a good soils report will easily re-coup the cost with the
savings in the foundation design and a higher quality design based upon
professional geotechnical input and construction inspections. When the client
is educated, more intelligent decisions will be made. And believe it or not,
if you educate the client they will develop a sense of trust with you and they
will be willing to pay a higher fee for this sense of security (if they don't,
you don't need these types of people).

But back to the geotechnical engineers. Before we, as structural engineers,
start complaining about the reports consider this: The fee (with lab testing,
etc.) only allows for 3 or 4 test pits on site. Now take these 3 or 4 test
pits and extrapolate soils design information for the entire project site. For
this reason, most soils engineers in the Los Angeles area cannot get E and O
insurance because the insurance companies feel that insuring geotechnical
engineering is too dicey. So, most geos are left with an interesting (politely
put) situation. Now throw in the standard industry practice (that "standard
level of care" thing that attorneys love so much) of providing a soils bearing
factor of safety of 2.5 to 1 or 3 to 1 and we end up with soils values that
are probably a little on the conservative side. But then again, the UBC and
the LABC give us 1000 psf, so conservative is relative. So with all of this
said, I don't envy the soils people but I do have tremendous respect and
admiration for the service that they provide.

And in regards to their fees, get the proposed scope of services first and
then make the comparison. The higher end fee can usually produce the best
services which is what the job and client deserves. Remember it's the services
and not the fees that count.

Greg Riley PE