Adding value with geotechnical peer review

Peer reviews of geotechnical design by owners and their design teams are steadily increasing in the construction sector.

In the last couple of years, GEODesign has received more requests for peer reviews than ever before. Often these requests come in one or more of these contexts:

  • “We would just like to double-check the solutions being presented”
  • “This is an unusual project”
  • “We’ve not done this type of project or used this technology before”
  • “We would like another opinion”.

A peer review process can help all parties better understand, address and ultimately reduce project risk. Naturally, the “reviewee” engineer or team can feel slightly uncomfortable by the prospect of an outside review. However, this can be mitigated with a highly respectful, collaborative approach on the part of the reviewing firm.

The best reviews actively and positively engage the design team to the benefit of all involved. The best peer reviewers possess both the required technical expertise (or know when, where and how to bring it in), and strong team-building skills.

Most peer reviews take place during the design phase, although can also arise to address a construction issue. The review process may include inquiries about design procedures, analytical methods and results, and/or – whether alternative solutions considered. Commercial bid-ability and constructability may also be central topics.

The true purpose of a review is not to find fault or redo the work, but to review the big picture and the processes, procedures and rationale used during analysis and design. While the situation may dictate “audit level” technical or computational checking, the key is asking the right questions. Therefore the best peer review firms:

  • Exhibit extraordinary analytical and problem-solving skills
  • Possess both technical and team-working skills
  • Know when to bring in highly specialized experts
  • Obsessively seek opportunities to reduce risk, time and cost

Recent examples of our geotechnical peer assignments include:

  • Governors Island, New York, NY – man-made hills up to 80 feet high over filled land – review of slope stability and settlement estimates and slope stabilization
  • Martin’s Point Bridge, Portland, ME – design build bridge replacement on large diameter driven pipe piles and approach fills over compressible soils
  • State Office Complex, Waterbury, VT – peer review of settlement estimates for new fill over alluvial soils
  • New Middle School, Hartford, CT – peer review of settlement estimates and foundation design for foundations over thick glacial clay deposit
  • Commercial Building, Teton Village, WY – address subgrade instability during construction for two basement level excavation below water table
  • Manufacturing Facility Warehouse, Fairfield, CT – peer review of foundation recommendations to address slab and foundation settlement resulted in a $1,000,000 savings

For Martin’s Point Bridge, we were retained by VHB – the designer for this design build project.”The geotechnical issues on this project were many and quite complex. As MaineDOT’s first multi-integral pier project the geotechnical investigation was highly scrutinized. It was great having GEODesign in a peer review capacity using their extensive experience to ensure that we got it right!” Steven M. Hodgdon, PE VHB Designer-of-Record.

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