The Far East District is recognized as one of only nine in-house drilling & subsurface exploration production centers (drilling production centers) and one of only eight in-house materials testing laboratories for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers providing professional services during design and construction. The exploration unit and materials testing laboratory is part of the geotechnical and environmental engineering branch in the engineering division of the district.
FED exploration unit drilling teams collect soil and rock samples with the use of in-house drill rigs. These samples are then tested in the MTL which has the USACE validation for testing from the material testing center at Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, Mississippi. The testing helps engineers and geologists to expertly characterize the subsurface soil and rock for a future construction site. Material testing includes, but is not limited to, engineering classification of soil such as sieve analyses and density, soil consolidation and direct shear, tri-axial, and testing for aggregate, concrete and asphalt quality.
“Based on testing we can determine the engineering characteristic of the soil and how it will perform when built upon,” said Pam Lovasz, geotechnical section chief. “Things like what type of soil it is, how much it will settle, compaction characteristics and bearing capacity.”
The information will then get written up in a foundation design and recommendation report by a geotechnical engineer which is a critical part of the design process. Within this report, the engineer will recommend what type of foundation should be used in the project such as a shallow footing or deep foundation supported on piles. The MTL also provides quality assurance support during pile driving using a pile-driving analyzer.
“If we didn’t perform a geotechnical investigation it’s possible that a foundation will settle and all types of foundation problems will occur - cracks in buildings - and things of that nature,” said Lovasz. “Engineers also need to know what is in the ground because you don’t want to be surprised [when you are in the construction phase]. Getting an accurate view of what’s underneath the ground will in the long run save time, money and reduce risk on projects. We’re recognized as having this in-house ability throughout the Corps which also gives us better controls over the quality,” “I am proud of the work our team does and ability to perform this work in-house.”