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Engineering Project Manager – GeoStructures and Ground Improvement

Salary Range $85,000 – $110,00/year

Looking for a different approach to geotechnical engineering?  Maybe a smaller company, owned and managed by engineers, whose projects have adequate budget for rigorous analyses and old-school collaboration?  We have a unique position available managing our extremely capable team and amplifying our success.

Atlas Geotechnical solves complex foundation and excavation problems on high value infrastructure projects in North American and out through the western Pacific. Current engagements include ground improvement behind a wharf at Naval Base Guam, tank foundation design near Fullerton TX, temporary cut walls for widening I-405 near Seattle, and shoring for 7 excavations at a WWTP expansion near St. Louis. This September we start work expanding the Tinian airfield. More about us here:  https://atlasgeotechnical.com

Our best customers are heavy civil and marine contractors with strong in-house technical capabilities. We do about 90% repeat business; we’ve not had to write a competitive proposal in years. We build relationships and achieve success by delivering very high quality advanced engineering designs on time and within budget.

How Atlas is different:

  • We are a boutique consultancy with an obvious commitment to developing each team member’s professional skills. You’ll pack tools into your toolbox faster than you ever thought possible.
  • Atlas designs solutions for construction problems. All of our projects get built.
  • We perform old school “muddy boots” engineering. We go to our project sites, witness the challenges firsthand, and brainstorm with our customers. There are opportunities to travel to exotic job sites for focused efforts.
  • Atlas’s entire workforce is geographically dispersed. Our employees choose where they want to live and work. Right now we’re working from Santa Cruz, Portland, Denver, and St. Louis.
  • We buy the tools that engineers need to be successful. New computers and advanced software are tools that we use to succeed, not a budget problem.

How the Engineering Project Manager job works:

  • You will be involved in projects from the incoming work request through the final invoice. 
  • You have direct access to the Chief Engineer. He and his team succeed when you have the support and resources that you need to provide effective management. We’re a close-knit team who work together to solve sticky problems.
  • Workflow management is the principal focus. You’ll develop project schedules, assign and oversee analyses, assemble deliverables, and ensure that we meet our customer’s needs.
  • Contract management is another important area of responsibility. Correct invoices delivered promptly are the backbone of Atlas’s strong financial performance. We’ll rely on you to oversee invoicing and manage interactions with our customer’s accounts payable departments.
  • We have decades-long relationships with our clients. Many of them are our good friends. The engineering project manager is a high-visibility role and will work to strengthen and further develop these relationships.

You:

  • Understand engineering principles: the way that engineers use mathematics to predict stability and deformation in the built environment.
  • Are able to break down complex engineering projects into actionable, trackable elements each defined by a scope, a schedule, and a budget.
  • Know how infrastructure projects are designed, contracted, and built so that our customer’s requests make sense and fit into context.
  • Relish finding solutions, equipment, and materials for unusual field engineering situations.
  • Feel comfortable working in a distributed team with people in multiple time zones.
  • Have a clear, clean communication style that helps keep everyone included in the process and moves projects forward.
  • Live and work in the United States.

The day-to-day responsibilities include:

  • Assess incoming work requests and work with the Atlas team to generate statements of work, timelines, and budgets.
  • Be the point of contact so that there is a consistent orchestration of the project from start to finish.
    • Participate in the scoping and estimating process that secures the work.
    • Establish clear expectations around timelines and ability to deliver high-quality designs.
    • Prioritize tasks with an eye to the difference between active construction projects and jobs that have less schedule risk.
    • Continue to set and amend expectations with the client and project partners as the team responds to real world elements of our projects.
  • Assign work to the engineers according to their availability and ensure that they have the information, tools, and time needed to complete their assignments.
  • Work with the Atlas team to evolve and improve our workflow processes.
    • Assess the resources needed to complete each assignment on time and within budget.
    • Work with the assigned project engineer to break each project into discrete tasks with timelines that allow for good work, quality assurance, and timely completion.
    • Reallocate resources and manage client expectations as high-priority requests arrive to compete with existing commitments.
    • Maintain awareness of our backlog and commitments and communicate that to the Atlas team and to our customers.
  • Oversee Atlas’s internal quality program
    • Schedule and track internal computations checks and reviews
    • Coordinate our responses to comments generated by our customers and review agencies.
    • Identify areas that could be improved and assess the resources needed to make those improvements
  • Oversee profitability:
    • Participate in the scoping and estimating process
    • Track progress and request budget changes where appropriate.
    • Analyze profitability by client and by project type to inform future cost estimating
    • Track payment status and resolve problems that are causing delays.

Perks and Benefits

  • Geographic flexibility. Work from home or from an Atlas-paid coworking space
  • Competitive wages
  • Quarterly bonuses based on company performance
  • 12 annual paid holidays. (We close the shop for the last week of the year.)
  • Two weeks paid vacation
  • 401k program with significant annual profit sharing contribution
  • Medical insurance 50% company paid

To Apply

Atlas Geotechnical is a small (6-person) tight-knit group managed by the company founder. Our interview and hiring process is informal but also somewhat rigorous. Start by emailing a cover letter and your resume to jobs@atlasgeotechnical.com. We reply to every application that includes a tailored cover letter. If your background and interests seem like a good fit, we’ll arrange one or more video interviews. A 40-hour (paid) work sample is usually the last step in our hiring process.

This book will change the way you think.

I have recommended this book to many of you. It was pivotal for my career and yet is specifically not a self-help book. It is filled with facts and observations, but has no advice or recommendations. It sets up the problem; the solution is left to the reader.

The title is just a colorful reference to a Random Walk, a mathematical term for a path comprised of successive random steps. Each next step begins at your current position, but you don’t know which direction you’ll move. There’s no way at all to know where you’ll end up.

The basic premise of the book, at least the way I read it, is that our career paths (and our lives) are strongly influenced by unexpected events, that our paths are far less under our control, than any of us want to admit. I started my career intending to follow my grandfather’s advice: “Plan your work. Work your plan.” It was calming to think that I controlled my destiny. That the actions I took, the decisions I made, controlled where I would end up in my career. What I learned, though, was that the important steps were always the ones that I could never have anticipated. Dr. Mlodinow’s well-selected examples, plus a little math, illustrate how naive I was in my initial plan.

Luck, it turns out, has far more influence than careful planning. I might even postulate that luck is more important than late nights at the office, but that’s a topic for a different essay.

My career path has been nothing if not a random walk filled with lucky happenstance. The 2002 move from Portland to Honolulu was a single step that only happened because my office was across the hall from Sean Ragain’s. All that I learned on the Midway project, the really interesting people I met and the projects we worked together, were steps that could only have happened from the “Midway” place along my walk.

Farther back in 1988, when I left Berkeley for San Diego to see about a girl, there’s no possibility I could have predicted I would be running a construction-focused geostructures shop from Santa Cruz 30 years later. And the 5-year stop on Maui? Really? Who could have planned that? Yet I walked my path, made my decisions, took my opportunities, and ended up right here. While I have some ideas about what happens next, intentions and preferences, my path so far has taught me that I can’t control the next step, nor should I want to. My best priority is to maximize exposure to good fortune for myself and the people I care about.

You all should read the book, think your own thoughts, and see how they pertain to your experience. If you agree with my assessment that increased exposure to good luck can be as important as technical competence or diligence, then making efforts to increase your exposure to good luck is a legitimate career development strategy. Here are my thoughts, refined over about a decade of thinking:

  • Have Good Friends: Embrace relationships with peers and collaborators. Good luck doesn’t happen just to you, it happens to your friends as well. More friends, more good luck. And when it does, they need reliable team members (often right away) to help them maximize their opportunity. We’re working on an important project in Pennsylvania right now because of a friendship I’ve enjoyed since 1997.
  • Just Say Yes: I borrowed this from my son’s Improvisational Comedy work, but it’s good advice for any venue. On 2 April 2002 Sean Ragain leaned out his office door across the hall and asked “Hey Doug, can we run Midway?” Yes, I replied. Just yes.
  • Be Prepared: It worked for Baden Powell, it’ll work for you. Do what you can to prepare for an extraordinary opportunity. Maybe keep a little money in a “war chest” account. Keep your field kit all in one place so it’s ready to go. Have a Council Record so you can get registered in the new state before your report needs stamping. (More here.)
  • Demonstrate Sincere Interest: You can’t be enthusiastic about work you don’t like. Your interest doesn’t need to be about the work itself. Some of my best friends are sincerely committed to time off with family. They’re great at jobs that accommodate more time off. Those jobs have advantages and disadvantages. They’re great at their jobs and achieve their overall goals.
  • Persevere:If you believe that you’re working a fantastic opportunity, rearrange your finances and priorities to make the most of it. Be visible in drumming up support. Speak at conferences. Let people know that you’re got something different to offer.
  • Fail Faster: This is the opposite of perseverance. (There’s no single right way to walk your path, remember?) If you’ve truly given it your best shot, and it’s just not working out like you had hoped, embrace the failure and move on. Put your extra effort into the next great opportunity. But be sure to maintain the relationships that you cultivated.
  • Work in Small Groups: The Law of Large Numbers states that the average value in any data subset tends toward the overall true average as the sample size increases. Engineering ability has an average just like coin tosses. Atlas Geotechnical, with a sample size of 6, has no below-average engineers. We’ve tossed 6 “heads” in a row (well we tossed a “tails” once but quickly corrected.) A company with 5,000 engineers, unavoidably, has about 2,500 below-average engineers.
  • Meet your Commitments: Schedule and quality are the most common commitments, but possibly more important are nuanced commitments that make you unique to your particular client base. Here at Atlas we’re committed to constructability. It’s worked out pretty well for us so far.

The crew at Atlas are working through a strategic exercise with our good friends at Cosmic. They prompt critical thinking, challenge preconceived notions, and bring out the best in businesses. They document the results websites and logos, but the hard work happens at a much deeper level. Organizing my thoughts here is one way I prepare to get the most out of our project. I’m hopeful there might be something equally helpful for some of you.

This is the right way to dig a hole

The best children’s story is Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel. About this there can be no debate. It was my favorite story growing up, and it remains pertinent to my work today. You dads and moms can get a copy here: Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne

You’re welcome.

This is Mary Anne’s grandchild

It’s about a hardworking owner-operator named Mike, his stalwart coal-fired excavator Mary Anne, and how together they navigate the difficult transition from steam to hydraulic power in the North American construction industry. There’s a heartwarming ending. I won’t spoil it for you.

Pertinent today is the way that Mike and Mary Anne dig a hole: neat and square. At each stage the hole is manifestly neat and square. When they finish, you guessed it, the hole is neat and square. The book doesn’t emphasize excavation techniques; it’s not a trenching manual. Neat and square is just how Mike, an operator so skilled they wrote a book about him, digs a hole. If you’re not digging like Mike and Mary Anne, you’re probably digging wrong. Read by my parents with great enthusiasm, this story taught 4-year old me the two most important characteristics of an excavation:

  1. Neat
  2. Square.

I have time to write these thoughts on a Friday afternoon as the crew works diligently to wrap up a shoring submittal for a hole that is not square. Not by a long shot. It’s not pear-shaped or anything; but it zig-zags all over Honolulu through some comically soft ground. There are odd-angled corners. Several of them.

The reason that we’re struggling to wrap up the design is because I failed to insist that we dig like Mike. The Contractor, a highly experienced excavator, prefers long stretches of braced sheetpiles with open corners that allow in-trench pipe fusing. The the shoring has angles that are measured in 32nds of a circle. It is not at all square, and our bracing design are far from neat. The level of effort has more than doubled.

To avoid suffering similar difficulties, I encourage you all to stay true to the example of Mike and Mary Anne, a lesson so important that every right-thinking parent reads it over and over again to their budding young engineer-children. Dig your excavations neat and square. Your shoring designs will go smoothly, and your Friday afternoons will be greatly improved.

The Atlas Geotechnical crew is privileged to work all over the world, collaborating with squared-away engineers of varied backgrounds and sharing stories that range from tall tales to practical advice.

I’ve learned that every community includes at least a little folklore in how they design and build. Always there is some inexplicable local practice, unique to the area and unknown elsewhere, that designers, regulators, and builders all assert is necessary to project success.

A fairy tale is created when the lesson learned from a real experience, over time, becomes disassociated with its context and starts being applied to all projects. What started as sound practice turns into a guiding fable that, more often than not, just adds cost and difficulty without any benefit.

As an example: “House your family in the sturdiest structure you can afford” becomes, over time, “don’t build a house out of straw because a wolf will come and huff and puff and blow it down.” Practical advice. Brick houses are better against wolf-blowing and also generally. But if all you have is straw, and you’re a professional engineer, maybe your best course of action is to engineer a wolf-proof straw bunker.

Vibratory Pile Hammers: On Oahu in the early 1980’s a contractor was extracting timber piles from the sand backfill of a closed wharf, some of which were near the sheetpile quaywall. A few interlocks had separated below the waterline. Of course vibrating the sand flows it out the defective interlocks. Subsidence broke the wharf; it was a legitimate problem. Instead of learning to inspect interlocks before extracting waterfront piles, the Owner invented a myth that vibratory hammers are dangerous and shall not be used. Henceforth all piles, including sheetpiles, are driven with impact hammers. Far far away from the water, on different islands, specifications prohibit vibratory hammers. This Owner is influential; engineers accept that vibratory hammers are dangerous and ban them from all of their projects, not just their wharf projects. It would be a charming superstition if it weren’t so costly. Vibratory hammers have been proscribed for nearly 30 years. The engineer who made the rule nears retirement. It may take another 30 years for the fable to fade into distant memory and for Engineering once again to prevail in Honolulu.

Scarify and Recompact: In San Diego and parts of southern California, all earthwork begins (after stripping) by removing 6″ of soil, moisture conditioning, and rolling it back down as fill. Maybe at a few sites this upper soil might have been compressible, in which case for heaven’s sake perform remedial grading and make it suitable. But blindly converting 6″ of competent semi-formational flat ground into fill just increases your fill thickness. It is equally effective as stepping over the sidewalk cracks while walking home from school. Upon arriving you find that your mother’s back is, in fact, not broken. Maybe your superstition works; maybe you just walked home funny.

Detensioning Tiebacks: At this year’s Spring Seminar in Seattle an engineer asked a panel of experts “why does the City require detensioning tiebacks?” Two panelists offered straightforward answers: (1) “that started before I took over administering the rules,” and (2) “yeah, we’ve been trying to get that requirement dropped for years now, despite running full-scale demonstrations.” One senior community member shared a story from the ’80’s about a bar tieback that got broken and jumped part-way out of its hole. A close call, sure, but how does that experience relate to strand tiebacks with heads confined by a cast basement wall? Folklore. An irrelevant cautionary tale, pure and simple. That community has recognized it and, over time, will dispel the local myth that tieback strands are unreasonably dangerous.

So here’s the question: What folklore have you incorporated into your practice? I promise you there’s some nugget of superstition in your reports and designs that your peers in other regions would struggle to understand. Do you test micropiles using an ASTM setup instead of PTI? Do you insist that only your techs are capable of performing quality assurance testing? Require 6″ of compacted crushed rock beneath footings even in dry weather?

I don’t advocate that we expunge all local traditions from our work. Consider, though, examining your practices, understanding the origins of your folklore, and retaining just the beneficial parts. The practice of engineering evolves constantly through the work of our whole community. The generational shift currently in process is our opportunity to improve our practices and better serve our communities.

We’ve got a particularly interesting problem on our desks here at Atlas Geotechnical. There’s a lot at risk, various stakeholders are frustrated with and suspicious of each other, and there’s not enough time. While working this problem through to a pretty tidy conclusion this afternoon, it occurred to me to share the process that we use to achieve a safe, efficient design.

It goes without saying that rigorous project framing is critical to any problem. Define the boundary limits and success factors. Write, refine, and document the basis of design. There’s no point in working really hard late into the night when you haven’t defined the problem you’re trying to solve.

Even when the project is framed and bounded correctly, the juiciest problems always offer sticking points; places where the natural tension between resources, budget, and performance simply don’t allow a path forward. When I get stuck at one of those obstacles, these are the techniques (in order) that I use to crack it:

  • Collect More Data: Usually when moving quickly through a conceptual design you adopt conservative and simplifying assumptions about important parameters. The best way to solve a problem is to collect real data and refine the assumed parameters. This is the most self-contained and linear problem solving technique.
  • Challenge Your Assumptions: Sometimes you’re limiting yourself. A classic is that soils are normally consolidated, when really there’s a desiccated crust and settlement will be less. The always-dependable Mohr-Coulomb constitutive model is another bountiful source of limiting assumptions embedded in our most useful analytical tools. Engineers in my office call this “doing it the hard way” but if it solves the problem, and nothing else would, how hard was it, really?
  • Push Back on External Constraints: This one is particularly effective here at Atlas, but you need to understand the discipline that you’re challenging along with the hopes and dreams (and fears) of the team member who imposed the limit. Someone tells you that you can’t drill through a pilecap? Can’t tolerate more than an inch of differential settlement? Can’t pump more than 150 gpm? Discover the simplifying assumptions embedded in that limit; perform Steps 1 and 2 on someone else’s work, and find a way to preserve project performance without complying with a simplistic limit.
  • Call a Friend: I can’t tell you the number of times that this one has saved my bacon. If I weren’t so proud it would be higher on my list. Clever engineers have been solving problems for millennia; one of my friends has, almost certainly, previously solved the problem that has puzzled me for an afternoon. This one can be humbling; try to be gracious. The corollary to this technique is “try to have clever friends.” I’m good friends with several old guys who’ve been everywhere, done everything, and shoots do they ever help me crack troublesome problems
  • Hold a Meeting: Just kidding. Meetings never solve problems.
  • Get Away from the Problem: Irv Olsen used to go see a movie; one of my best friends, an astonishingly effective engineer, hikes like a maniac; I thought up this post while swimming laps. You serve your clients best when you’re thinking creatively and clearly. Don’t stay at your desk putting on a show of hard work when really you should stretch your legs, clear your mind, and actually perform engineering. Sure, you’ll need to start again with Step 1 once you’ve blown the cobwebs out, but you already got down to this last step once without solving the problem, so what other choice do you have?

I’m considering distributing laminated cards to the younger engineers here at Atlas outlining these four steps. That or hardhat stickers.

While not a panacea, I’ve found that there are very few intractable problems when clever engineers, given a clear mandate through good project framing, apply themselves vigorously and enthusiastically.

It’s really not important what this is or what it does. The point is that every step of planning, design, and implementation happened in the correct order.

One of our projects achieved a significant milestone on Friday, exactly according to plan. Like most of our projects, it’s interesting construction at a unique site, and there’s no similar recent project to guide design and construction.

We learned recently that the shoring design failed to address a subtle but important detail. Once it was identified, though, it didn’t take long for the team to embrace the need for a rapidly field-engineered solution. Thankfully, strong relationships allowed us to add a ringer of a Structural Engineer to round out our already very strong team. They responded to our design requirements with an absolutely gorgeous 2-sheet drawing package in less than 3 days. We could not have met our deadline without their contribution.

Just because the work was installed before the deadline doesn’t mean that everything went smoothly. Atlas still have equipment stuck in Customs Purgatory at the Canadian border. I dearly hope to receive my 25 ton hydraulic ram back. Collaboration within the team, though, went flawlessly. The crew were able to source replacement equipment and keep us on schedule.

The point of this post is not that we made a pair of little gizmos and installed them in the nick of time, or that our clever little solution avoided a 6-month project delay. The takeaway from this project is that we achieved success using the exact same process that we use to succeed on huge projects. This one was just distilled down to a very compressed timeframe and had no schedule allowance for mis-steps. Every element of a big complicated design was executed on this small complicated one, just really fast and with intense coordination.

  • The project manager established clear lines of responsibility.
  • We wrote up a basis of design and stuck to it.
  • We established concise performance expectations.
  • We sourced locally available materials.
  • We identified a need for and hired specialty expertise.
  • The structural engineer adapted the design on the fly, and
  • The team assured quality.

The design and execution procedure was exactly identical to one used on a much larger project; we just moved through it in 5 days instead of five months or five years.

I feel grateful to be working with such a competent and diverse team on this large, visible, terrifically interesting project. Our project manager gave us about a week to recover, perform maintenance, etc, and then we tackle the next of the three remaining big problems. With the team we’ve assembled I have no doubt we’ll resolve them all with style and grace.

Classic art for a classic management problem

2019 started strongly here at Atlas Geotechnical, but almost immediately we found ourselves overwhelmed re-working problems that we thought we had solved. And that re-work distracted us from other commitments, to the point where we nearly landed on one of our project’s critical paths. And of course when we’re working faster than we should small details don’t get checked, like the PE expiration date on a permit drawing, causing more re-work. As soon as we frantically cut off one head, another grows in its place and the project continues to disrupt our workflow. Rinse and repeat. The past 4 weeks have been tough.

It’s increasingly obvious that the problem is not a phase. We’ll never just “get through this;” our workflow is not going to smooth itself out. Something that we are doing, or not doing, in how we approach these fast-paced, complicated problems is preventing solved issues from staying solved. We need to conduct ourselves differently if we want to achieve better outcomes.

Atlas takes on complicated projects. It’s unavoidable that we start our work while data are being collected, and sometimes it’s unavoidable that our partially-complete engineering needs to be set aside in favor of new strategies. Sometimes. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, not always. I’ve noticed that almost all of our frustrating projects never had a credible plan to begin with. We’re re-designing because the initial concept was not fully planned out. “Ready, fire, aim” is not the way to solve complicated problems.

Better, more thorough up-front planning is how we’re going to improve subsequent engineering so that solved issues stay solved, so that the cut-off heads stop growing back and fighting us while we’re trying to do other work.

The oil-and-gas industry, who build some of the most complicated infrastructure in the world, uses an explicit engineering process called Front End Engineering Design (FEED). We’ve participated in a few FEED studies and have seen how investing in up-front planning yields overall cost and schedule savings. Researchers at Delft Technical University wrote up a really excellent overview:

https://repository.tudelft.nl/islandora/object/uuid%3A020b04bf-5ddf-44b7-acf7-2141be505afa

So, we’re going to make an effort to adapt FEED practices to our more interesting projects.

  • We’ll assign ourselves more responsibility in the up-front work.
  • We’re going to exert more leadership over conceptual designs and means-and-methods choices.
  • We’ll host charettes, brainstorming sessions that include the full spectrum of stakeholders and subject matter experts.
  • We’re going to identify the likely problems before our customers order materials and mobilize equipment.

And if we’re successful, our first-try engineering solutions are going to stick and our fallback positions are going to deploy smoothly. We’re going to make a proper plan for killing the hydra all at once so we can stop frantically hacking at solutions during construction.

Look for an update in July for how things are turning out.

We’re very pleased to be supporting Weeks Marine on a dock-building project in Corpus Christi.  I don’t have a photo pass, so I can’t share with you pictures of the work.  It’s a fantastic site, though. I took this photo looking away from the site at the start of our shift this past weekend and thought it was worth sharing.

I just started work on a piledriving project where the GT of Record provided final tip elevations, based on 16 indicator piles, for the Contractor’s use in casting the design lengths. With the diagram he included a disclaimer that the site is variable, and that many of the piles might be different lengths in order to satisfy the acceptance criteria. The GT, accompanying the final design information, recommends that the Contractor hire another geotechnical engineer to monitor each production pile and make appropriate length adjustments, and also a structural engineer to design splices.  Without intending, I’m sure, the Owner’s engineer has converted the piledriving part of our project from conventional design-bid-build to a contract that relies on the Observational Method.

The Observational Method is extraordinarily effective on challenging sites, but also can be costly to implement. We use it explicitly on dams and tunnels. Ralph Peck’s 1969 Rankine lecture is, in my opinion, the best summary of the method’s origins, the rigor with which it is to be applied, and it’s significant advantages on projects with terribly difficult geotechnical conditions. Like all Rankine lectures, the paper is worth a read.  You can get your own copy here:

https://www.britishgeotech.org/prizes/rankine-lecture

I link to the full catalogue; scroll down to 1969.  Consider browsing a bit while you’re on the site. And yes, the photo that accompanies this post is my preferred headshot of Karl Terzaghi, not the author. Read Prof. Peck’s paper to understand why.

In my practice I find it helpful to recognize when the design team’s RFI responses induct elements of the Observational method into our project. When they do, it’s time to  evaluate whether or not the character of project has changed fundamentally from the project described in the bid documents. A conventionally procured project offers certainty in exchange for hard bid pricing. Other tendering formats are appropriate for projects where final design will be developed as conditions emerge, as is the case with the Observational Method.

It’s necessary to understand the Method in order to recognize unintentional implementations. Here’s a clip from Prof. Peck’s lecture, for those of you with just passing curiosity.

REVIEW OF METHOD

In brief, the complete application of the method embodies the following ingredients.

  • Exploration sufficient to establish at least the general nature, pattern and properties of the deposits, but not necessarily in detail.
  • Assessment of the most probable conditions and the most unfavourable conceivable deviations from these conditions. In this assessment geology often plays a major role.
  • Establishment of the design based on a working hypothesis of behaviour anticipated under the most probable conditions.
  • Selection of quantities to be observed as construction proceeds and calculation of their anticipated values on the basis of the working hypothesis.
  • Calculation of values of the same quantities under the most unfavourable conditions compatible with the available data concerning the subsurface conditions.
  • Selection in advance of a course of action or modification of design for every foreseeable significant deviation of the observational findings from those predicted on the basis of the working hypothesis.
  • Measurement of quantities to be observed and evaluation of actual conditions.
  • Modification of design to suit actual conditions.

The degree to which all these steps can be followed depends on the nature and complexity of the work.

I am particularly fond of that last statement. “It depends.” In the 50 years since those words were penned by one of the giants in our field, consulting geotechnical engineers have yet to address the fact that, really, the right course of action depends on the nature an complexity of the construction. There is always a way forward, of course, eVen in the most difficult conditions. The level of effort, though, depends on the nature and complexity of the work.

 

One benefit of working with friends is the non-work time we spend together, like sharing meals.  Longtime collaborator and good friend Steve Dickenson joined us in San Francisco for a project meeting last week.  While the meeting achieved the intended outcome, the real highlight of the day was the excellent bahn mi sandwich shop that we found on Eddy Street.  L&G Vietnamese Sandwich is a no-nonsense, locally owned, quick service shop. Lunch for the three of us cost less than $20, which surprised me considering we were in the middle of San Francisco.

The bread had the exact right texture, the jalapeno slice on top added the right amount of bite, and the rest of the ingredients were super fresh. There’s no seating in the shop, but there’s plenty of great public space in the neighborhood.  Here’s their website in case any of you guys need to pre-order before your next meeting in the Civic Center neighborhood:  http://orderlandgvietnamesesandwich.com/

The Atlas Geotechnical blog doesn’t really focus on restaurant reviews, but the unique experiences we collect in the course of our work-related travel are a thoroughly satisfying part of our careers. From Seattle seafood to a great hole-in-the-wall yakitori place on Oahu, from proper Kansas City bar-b-que to amazing camp meals in Athabasca, we share a lot of great meals with good friends as a direct result of our unique engineering practice.  Sharing great bahn mi with a good friend in San Francisco is another great memory from a 30-year engineering practice that just keeps getting more and more interesting.