Geotechnical Engineering Services: The Cornerstone of Real Estate Development

Real estate development is a complex and multifaceted industry that involves a wide range of activities, from site selection and design to construction and property management. One critical aspect of real estate development that often goes unnoticed but is of paramount importance is geotechnical engineering services. Geotechnical engineering plays a pivotal role in ensuring the safety, stability, and long-term success of real estate projects.

What Are Geotechnical Engineering Services?

Geotechnical engineering is a branch of civil engineering that focuses on the behavior and properties of the earth’s materials, particularly as they relate to the design, construction, and operation of civil engineering projects. Geotechnical engineers assess the geological, geophysical, and environmental conditions of a site to provide valuable insights and recommendations for real estate developers. These services can be broken down into several key components:

Site Investigation

Before any real estate development project begins, geotechnical engineers conduct thorough site investigations. They examine the soil and rock properties, groundwater conditions, and geological features of the site. This information is crucial for determining the project’s feasibility, possible profitability and liability related to previously unknown site conditions that could dramatically alter the intended purpose of the development.  The information identified in this investigation is used to determine the ultimate available options for site use.

Foundation Design

Geotechnical engineers play a critical role in designing the foundations for not only buildings but for all of the associated structures, utility accesses and ancillary aspects of site development that are critical to support the crucial structure being developed. They analyze the site’s soil properties and bearing capacity to ensure that the foundation can support the intended structure safely and durably.  This is done on a site-by-site basis based on the intended purpose of the site.  There are many tools that are used to get an understanding of the condition of the soils on site and how they will affect the foundation design.  They included borings that can take samples ranging from a geo-probe that can address the soil condition in sort order to rock boring that are used for larger structures and several options in between.  With all of these options there is also the option to take samples to be analyzed offsite to confirm any observations that are made on site.

Slope Stability Analysis

In areas with hilly or sloping terrain, geotechnical engineers assess the stability of slopes to prevent landslides or erosion. This is particularly important for properties situated on uneven land.  The slope stability analysis is especially important when the conditions on a slope show that additional support from mechanical or geosynthetic support would be needed to increase the stability of the slope.  Modeling can be done to increase the stability of the slope for development.

Earth Retaining Structures

Geotechnical engineers design retaining structures to provided slope stability while allowing for water flow through the structure without creating a soil erosion problem.  Earth retaining structures can range greatly depending on the condition of the site and can be gabion baskets to shotcrete and soil nailed walls.  They increase the footprint of the site available for use while also increasing the safety of any structures in the area of the structures.

Ground Improvement Techniques

When the soil conditions are less than ideal, geotechnical engineers can recommend ground improvement techniques, such as dynamic compaction, compaction,  grouting, or soil stabilization, to enhance the site’s load-bearing capacity.

The Importance of Geotechnical Engineering Services for Real Estate Developers

Geotechnical engineering services are vital for several reasons, project costs, site stability, and completion of projected project successfully.  Each of which directly impacts the success and safety of real estate development projects.

Risk Mitigation

Geotechnical engineers identify potential risks associated with a site, such as soil instability, subsidence, or liquefaction during seismic events. By understanding and mitigating these risks, real estate developers can avoid costly delays, structural failures, and safety hazards.

Cost-Effective Design

Geotechnical engineers help real estate developers optimize the design of their projects. By tailoring foundations and structures to site-specific conditions, developers can save on construction costs and avoid over-engineering.

Regulatory Compliance

Many regions have strict building codes and regulations that require geotechnical assessments before issuing permits for construction. By engaging geotechnical engineers, real estate developers ensure compliance with these regulations, avoiding legal and financial repercussions.

Long-Term Durability

Proper geotechnical engineering leads to the long-term durability of real estate projects. By ensuring that foundations are designed to withstand the site’s conditions, developers can extend the life of their investments and reduce maintenance costs.

Case Study

Combe South Landfill, Chester New Jersey

Liberty provided geotechnical design services for the construction of six (6) gabion basket support walls along an access road in support of a new leachate location system.  The access road dropped off quickly into a wetland area with varying soil and site conditions.  The purpose of the walls and subsequent backfill was to support an active 80,000-pound rock drill installing a well over 300 feet deep.

Prior to construction Liberty was responsible for the following:

  • Coordinate with the project manager, the driller and the offsite lab to ensure that all aspects of the field work are conducted to obtain the information needed.
  • Liberty was onsite for all soil investigations and took all samples.
  • Liberty provided a design package and associated documentation for approval by the client and the Army Corp of Engineers.

During construction Liberty was responsible for the following:

  • Do inspections of each wall as they were being constructed and take confirmation measurements.
  • Coordinate with the project manager to obtain all site data for review.

Following the construction of the walls Liberty provided the as-built drawings for final review.

Geotechnical engineering services are the unsung heroes of real estate development. While often operating behind the scenes, these professionals provide invaluable expertise that can make or break a project. From ensuring safety and stability to optimizing costs and complying with regulations, geotechnical engineering is the cornerstone on which successful real estate developments are built. Developers who prioritize geotechnical services are not only safeguarding their investments but also contributing to the long-term sustainability and success of the real estate industry.