Redeveloping property is often a thorny task. This is particularly true for sites with a history of industrial use which are frequently littered with uncontrolled fills, construction materials, abandoned structures and industrial waste. Now, imagine these materials scattered anywhere near or below the groundwater surface and you have a bit of a predicament on your hands.
The steps you need to take next to address these impacts can be very costly. Some of the costliness is a result of uncoordinated environmental and geotechnical investigations which could have been avoided with the right project partners. In these scenarios excessive costs originate from either basic site investigation rework or a failure to leverage both environmental and geotechnical expertise early in the process when evaluating site redevelopment alternatives.
Mitigate Project Rework With Planning and Expertise
Rework is generally the product of poor logistics or inexperience and can be mitigated through better planning. Leveraging environmental and geotechnical expertise requires more experience, a solid understanding of regulations governing design and construction, and industry savvy.
This is where Braun Intertec excels as a multidisciplinary geotechnical and environmental engineering consultant. In Texas, Braun Intertec offers our clients both geotechnical consulting services and environmental consulting services with the help of W&M Environmental, a division of Braun Intertec. Together we provide our clients well-coordinated redevelopment project plans in addition to a broad-spectrum of other geotechnical and environmental consulting services
Multidisciplinary Collaboration on Site Investigations
Environmental professionals characterize environmental site contamination and perform remediation plans—it’s what they are trained to do. However, many environmental site investigations come up short on difficult sites. In fact, site contamination is often characterized with little or no thought regarding how the contaminated material(s) can be avoided, relocated or repurposed to support redevelopment. As a result, geotechnical consultants often re-drill at additional cost to obtain geotechnical information that could have been gathered during the environmental investigation.
Similarly, while geotechnical engineers understand what it takes to characterize subsurface geologic conditions to support construction of buildings and pavements, they often fail to recognize potential impacts to projects related to environmental issues that may be evident in surface features (abandoned fuel pumps), borehole samples (odorous or discolored soil), or test pits (entrained demolition debris). Whether environmental or geotechnical, such omissions can ruin a project.
Interconnected Science and Site Design
Once a site has been characterized, it is critical to understand the environmental and geotechnical constraints, how they affect each other, and how they affect the project’s bottom line cost and the risk of future structural problems. Unfortunately, neither traditional environmental investigation and remediation process nor conventional geotechnical engineering can do this very well on its own.
While environmental consultants can rigorously delineate limits and estimate the volume of uncontrolled fill impacted with chemicals at concentrations above applicable regulatory standards, what are the disposal options once it’s excavated? Are there options for on-site relocation of the fill that won’t limit redevelopment options or prevent redevelopment from occurring at all? What about sites with uncontrolled fill impacted by contaminated groundwater? Is there a ground improvement or building support alternative available to reduce or eliminate groundwater management costs associated with dewatering?
These complex challenges are where experience and multidisciplinary industry know-how come into play. For instance, it may be possible to place fill containing construction debris outside foundation oversize planes and/or at depth below pavements to reduce potential impacts to building or pavement performance. Many times, additional excavation work can be performed to accommodate placement of contaminated soils at depths below buildings or pavements to prevent off-site disposal of contaminated soils.
Overcome Project Hurdles with Experienced Geotechnical and Environmental Consultants
No matter how well a site is characterized, unforeseen conditions frequently arise. Experienced field staff present during construction understand both the environmental regulatory framework and the plans for building construction. They are the first line of defense when these issues arise in the field and facilitate prompt resolution of minor issues and proper assessment and communication of larger issues.
It is critical to bring environmental and geotechnical professionals together early in the planning process for redevelopment sites. Working together, these professionals can design field investigations that capture as much environmental and geotechnical information as possible. Braun Intertec and W&M Environmental, a division of Braun Intertec, can help implement this approach to assist the site owner in their efforts to maximize the performance of new structures while minimizing total project costs. For more information about the services we provide, please contact Rachel Koehring.