Magazine article Corrections Forum

A Secure Foundation

Magazine article Corrections Forum

A Secure Foundation

Article excerpt

Of all the elements involved in the process of building a new corrections facility, one of the least glamorous and least understood, yet most important, is geotechnical engineering. Most operators tend to focus on the exterior and interior design and the new high-tech security systems of a new building. Geotechnical engineering is often taken for granted, if considered at all. Yet, those who are responsible for building such projects know that sound geotechnical engineering is vital to a successful completion, and that it plays a major role giving the owner and operator full value for their construction dollar.

What is geotechnical engineering? Briefly, it is the study of the subsurface conditions of a building site in order to develop parameters to design foundations and deal with other soil related issues for the building that is to occupy that site. Its purpose is to increase the potential for a building to retain its integrity over its long service life, free from significant structural damage due to soil settling, or more drastic, soil shearing. Geotechnical engineering also includes to all paved areas on the site, where pavements are also designed to resist cracking and deterioration over time.

Geotechnical engineering begins with borings at the site to obtain samples of the soil, which are then subjected to a series of laboratory tests to establish the nature and load-bearing properties of those soils. This information, detailed in a comprehensive geotechnical report, allows the geotechnical engineer (GE) to determine the allowable bearing capacity for spread footing foundations, end bearing and side friction for drilled piers, side friction for piles and the structural engineer involved in the project. The geotechnical engineering report establishes sound design parameters and recommendations relating to construction procedures.

Working hand-in-hand with the Federal Bureau of Prisons

Geotechnical engineering for a corrections facility takes on another dimension because of the active role played by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBOP). The FBOP not only has strict requirements and guidelines that must be followed, they also hire a construction manager to oversee the work of both the geotechnical engineer and the design build firm to be certain that all FBOP specifications are met or exceeded. Whatis more, as a design build project specifications are revised or new ones presented as the project develops, requiring flexibility and a cooperative spirit of the GE and the general contractor to keep the project moving forward. The GE may also suggest modifications along the way as the foundations are dug and the actual bearing materials are exposed for the first time. …

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