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RE: Earthwork specifications and the Geotechnical Engineer

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It is my belief that if the SEOR writes the geotechnical requirements into
the contract documents that this will increase his liability exposure.  
Most structural engineers do not have sufficient background to appreciate
the nuances of  geotechnical terminology  and how it could be interpreted,
nor are they familiar with standards related to soils.  In addition if
there was a problem it would be natural for the Geotechnical to distance
himself from the problem by saying it wasn't his wording.  

I do not   know about you, but I do not believe that the SEOR has to accept
responsibility for the adequacy of the soil under the buildings foundation.
 The Geotechnical Engineer gets paid to deal with the adequacy of the 
soil.  Our responsibility it to identify our needs, to define the loads
that will be placed on the soil,  to help coordinate the issues at the
interface, and to ask pointed questions if the recommendations  do not
appear to make sense.  

In a previously posting I was righteously informed that Geotechnical
Engineers were licensed Civil Engineers and were capable of making
engineering judgements.  I am fully in favor of involving the Geotechnical
Engineers as  active members of the design team.

Mark Gilligan

In my opinion, the Geotechnical Engineer should make "recommendations" for
fill materials and construction methods but the EOR should be responsible
for writing those requirements into the contract documents. As others have
noted, the geotechnical report is generally not written in mandatory
specification language and may include alternatives for the EOR to choose
from; and in some cases the EOR may use other alternatives not directly
addressed in the geotechnical report. 

The geotechnical reports I have seen generally recommend that the
Geotechnical Engineer be given an opportunity to "review the final plans
specifications prior to their release for bidding". I think that this is a
good idea - but I find it inconsistently applied in practice. It seems that
budgets and schedules are tight near issue for bidding and this step often
seems to be skipped. 

I have seen a number of ways to refer to the geotechnical report in

1. By general reference in drawing or spec notes, listing title of report,
date, and the name of the soil's firm which prepared the report. 

2. With a statement that the geotechnical report is available in the
Engineer's office for review by appointment. 

3. Inclusion of soil borings in the specs or on a drawing but without the
written "recommendations" of the Geotechnical Engineer. 

4. Inclusion of the full geotechnical report as an Appendix, generally
stated to be for "reference" but not part of the Contract documents (but
occasionally specifically stated to be a part of the contract documents). 

I feel that item 1 is the "minimum" one should do but is too vague as to
what the Contractor is to do about the information. Item 2 is what I've
the most often, although I question why the information is not included in
the published contract documents - if you want the bidders to properly
evaluate the subsurface conditions, why not include the necessary
information in the documents provided to them? Item 3 lets the Contractor
see the subsurface conditions and make their own judgments regarding
conditions - this initially appears to be a good solution, but the full
report usually provides additional valuable information that may be
relevant. Thus, I prefer item 4 including the statement that the report in
the Appendix is not part of the contract documents. This ensures that the
bidders have all relevant information readily at hand but cannot cite the
report as allowing deviations from the contract documents. 

William C. Sherman, PE
CDM, Denver, CO
Phone: 303-298-1311
Fax: 303-293-8236
email: shermanwc(--nospam--at)

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