Typically a property is purchased for its location or price. More often than not, however, the real cost of developing a property comes down to the site’s soil and groundwater conditions. If you are buying a property in an urban area, most all of the “good spots” with suitable soil and groundwater conditions are already taken. We have seen a tremendous increase in construction and redevelopment on marginal sites and on a large number of problem sites. Here are some things to consider when selecting a property to develop:
1. Primarily, you should look for evidence of marsh soils, uncontrolled fill and rubble, and high groundwater. In established urban areas, a site might contain buried foundations and even contaminated soil and groundwater. Actually, almost any soil or groundwater condition can be found somewhere in the Twin Cities, including expansive soil, landslides, springs and caverns.
2. Look at the land around the prospective property. If the property is near a lake, park, athletic field, golf course or even rail yards, there is a strong possibility of poor soil. A low site might have water problems.
3. The property’s history may yield insights about its condition. If it was used for farming, the property may be tiled for drainage and the upper three feet of soil may be extensively reworked and soft. A former service station could potentially be contaminated with gasoline. An old gravel pit might contain buried debris.
4. Don’t be deceived by what you see and hear. A level property might be naturally flat, but more likely it contains fill. If the seller says the property was prepared carefully and is “buildable,” ask for documentation. Large trees on a site are not a foolproof indication of good soil conditions, nor does high ground preclude any groundwater problems.
5. Contact an experienced geotechnical consultant and/or environmental professional early on in your property selection process, particularly if you have any reservations about a property. The consultants can quickly check files for existing information on your property.
6. Lastly, ask yourself, “If this property is so good, why is it still available?”
Braun Intertec has an experienced group of engineers, scientists and technicians who understand the variety of challenges property owners face on projects. For more information on how we can help, please contact Jeff Segar at [email protected].