Why use Specialist Engineers such as Geotechnical Engineers?

SWJ engineers are structural engineers and like any profession, there are specialisms that individuals may have more experience with – to provide the best service, SWJ Consulting uses external experts in specialist engineering fields as they not only have the expertise and experience but they also have the specialist equipment.

We have often written that the first thing to do in any project is understanding the ground conditions. Depending on the project we may be able to do this internally but for larger or more complex projects, particularly on brownfield sites, we would consult a geotechnical engineer.

Geotechnical engineering is a vital part of assessing a site’s potential and suitability for any building project. Without assessing and understanding the strength of the ground we can’t design piles, understand the water table or design deep trench foundations. Although we understand the implications of the results, we as a consultancy are not best placed to carry out the investigations, especially when it comes to large projects like a basement.

It is particularly important that these projects have a full site investigation to mitigate issues which may arise later in the project however, clients can be unwilling to pay for a full investigation.

Another vital element to understanding that Geotechnical Engineers investigate with their specialist equipment is chemical testing. You cannot tell without tests how much sulphur is in the ground. Over time the sulphur turns into sulphuric acid and attacks concrete and to design a basement we need to know chemical levels and account for them. These laboratory tests can also check for sources of any contaminates nearby such as leaking or buried oil tanks. For example, the Banbury area has naturally occurring high rates of arsenic and it’s important we know and understand this for our foundation calculations.

Not only understanding the properties of the soil but how they may affect the structure, the varying pressures on slabs and the estimates of the settlements is a specialised area of engineering we happily outsource to specialists. They report back to us on how contaminated or consolidated the clay is and how much stress it is under now so what pressure release would return it to its natural state. With these precise calculations, we can confidently design a solution that takes all these risks/challenges/variables into account.

We work with several tried and trusted specialist engineers. If you’d like us to make a recommendation, then please give us a call on 01993 225 085 or email mail@swjconsulting.co.uk and we will be able to suggest the expert we think would be the best fit for your project.

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Author: Charlotte Martin