Welcome to Sacramento’s New Sports/Entertainment Center!

The Sacramento Entertainment and Sports Center (ESC) will be the home for the National Basketball Association (NBA) Sacramento Kings starting with the 2016 season. The ESC will also be host to other sporting events and a variety of family and cultural activities. Development of the ESC is expected to be a catalyst for redevelopment and revitalization of the downtown core.


The ESC arena project is located within the central-eastern portion of the Downtown Plaza development roughly within the area bounded by J and L Streets and 5th and 7th Streets in Downtown Sacramento. The existing Downtown Plaza development includes several two- to four-level retail/commercial buildings and two levels of subterranean parking.

Geocon is the Geotechnical Engineer of Record for the project and is providing geotechnical and environmental engineering services to the ESC project design and development team. Specific geotechnical challenges for the project include: soft, compressible silt soil within the top 25 feet, potentially liquefiable sand between 25 and 40 feet; and shallow groundwater. Given these constraints and the magnitude of structural loading, Geocon developed design and construction recommendations for low-vibration, drilled-displacement deep foundations to support the structure.

Pages from 20131210 City Planning Commission v3

We have further provided assessments for potential soil and groundwater environmental contamination, performed pre-demolition structure surveys, provided asbestos/lead-paint/universal waste abatement specifications, and will provide engineering consultation and monitoring services during abatement, demolition, dewatering, mass excavation/earthwork, and foundation construction activities.

We are privileged to be part of the world-class design team and to be involved in this transformative and energizing project for the City of Sacramento.

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Happy Holidays from all of us at Geocon!

2013 Holiday Card for email

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Sharing our Love of Geology at the Gem-o-Rama

In October, Mike Conkle & Gerry Kasman (Burbank office) led a group of over two dozen cub scouts and boy scouts to the annual Gem-o-Rama in Trona, California.  Trona is an unincorporated community in San Bernardino County located about 30 minutes east of Ridgecrest.  The same collection of geologic forces which created the Searles Valley where Trona sits also created the natural resources of Searles Dry Lake, which contains rich deposits of chemicals, including dozens of minerals. The weekend trip included field trips out onto Searles Lake where the scouts could collect rare hanksite minerals from the mud, pink halite (salt) from the brine pools, and many more specimens.  The purpose of the trip was to show scouts the fun (and dirty) side of geology.



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Los Angeles River Revitalization Project

The Los Angeles River Revitalization Project is aimed at reconnecting and revitalizing the river’s neighborhoods by creating a network of trails, parks, habitat areas, recreational facilities, green streets, portals, and bridges. The City of Los Angeles adopted the long-range Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan in 2007 and is hoping that the project will create healthy and vibrant communities with more open space, better recreational facilities, and enhanced green infrastructure.

LA River Revitalization

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in conjunction with the City of Los Angeles, released a proposal to restore 11 miles of the LA River between Griffith Park and Downtown Los Angeles. Restoration measures include “creation and reestablishment of historic riparian strand and freshwater marsh habitat to support increased populations of wildlife and enhance habitat connectivity within the study area, as well as to provide opportunities for connectivity to ecological zones, such as the Santa Monica Mountains, Verdugo Hills, and San Gabriel Mountains.”

Alternative 13 or ACE (Arbor Corridor Extension) proposes to restore the channel along most of the 11-mile stretch, widen an 80-foot stretch along Taylor Yard, restore the historic wash at Piggyback Yard, increase the amount of restored habitat by over 100 percent, restore the connection to Arroyo Seco watershed, and add four miles of trails, a pedestrian tunnel and three bridges throughout the project area.

A Draft Integrated Feasibility Report (IFR), which includes a Draft Feasibility Study and Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report, is now available for a 45-day review period from September 20 through November 5, 2013.

Geocon is currently performing environmental consultation, as well as geotechnical and materials testing and inspection services, for the construction of the Taylor Yard Transit Village,  a mixed-use, transit-oriented development by McCormack Baron Salazar. This development is situated on a 247-acre former rail yard with over two miles of river frontage located near Downtown Los Angeles, opposite of Elysian Park. The planned development consists of a transit station, apartment buildings, town homes, mixed-use and retail structures. This will be an exciting new addition to the developing mixed-use and transit-oriented living scene and presents extraordinary opportunities for river restoration, stormwater detention, recreational resources, and economic revitalization.

Useful Links:

Los Angeles River Revitalization Homepage

Draft Integrated Feasibility Report

LA River Corp

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Geocon Part of Award Winning Team for the Lopez Adobe Rehabilitation Project

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The Los Angeles Conservancy is awarding the Lopez Adobe Rehabilitation project the Preservation Award for outstanding achievements in historic preservation. The Lopez Adobe is one of the oldest private residences and the first two-story adobe built as a residence in the San Fernando Valley. It was built by the Lopez family, who operated the first general store, English language school and post office in the San Fernando Valley. The first local newspaper, the San Fernando Times, was also printed in April 1889 at the Adobe. The Lopez Adobe has been recognized as an important historical site from both a State and National level. It is dedicated as a State Historic Landmark, registered with the State of California Office of Historic Preservation and is listed on the National Register of Historical Places.

The Los Angeles Conservancy Preservation Award is the second award the Lopez Adobe project has received. It was also awarded a Governor’s Historic Preservation Award in November 2012. Geocon was part of the Spectra Company’s team that aided in the restoration of the project. We prepared a geotechnical investigation report to provide design recommendations for improvements to the site including the relocation of the existing fountain, construction of a new utility building, relocation of the Adobe Villegas house to the site, and improvements to landscaping and drainage.

Adobe Lopez

For more information about the Lopez Adobe Rehabilitation project, visit Spectra Company.

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CalGeo Cal Poly Student Recreation Center Field Trip

Students from CalGeo’s Cal Poly Pomona student chapter were invited to attend a technical presentation and construction jobsite walk at the new Student Recreation Center site. Rod Mikesell (Geocon San Diego) and Neal Berliner (Geocon Burbank) educated students about the geotechnical challenges associated with the deep foundation system being installed for support of the structure. Students watched the installation of CIDH piles, were able to peer into the boring excavation, and were taught about groundwater, casing, concrete placement, and gamma-gamma testing for pile integrity. Ronald Pacheco (Geocon Burbank), Special Inspector and lead inspector on this project, educated students about the required inspection and testing requirements during construction. 24 students and 1 professor were able to join us for an educational day on the site!


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Burbank lab and technicians are now Caltrans certified!

Geocon’s Burbank testing laboratory and field personnel are now certified by Caltrans to perform both soils and concrete testing. We are proficient in the following tests: 105, 106, 125 for Plain Cement Concrete, Aggregate and Asphalt Concrete, 201, 202, 206, 207, 208, 209, 216, 217, 226, 227, 229, 231, 375, 504, 521, 518, 539, 540, 556, and 557.




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A day at Millennial Tech Middle School

Earthlab operates a 5-acre parcel of land adjacent to Millennial Tech Middle School in the Chollas View area of San Diego. The middle schoolers at Millennial are currently studying contamination associated with heavy metals. Joe Vettel presented the 120 twelve- and thirteen-year-olds with Phase 1 environmental site assessment documents related to the Earthlab site including air photos, topographic maps, air photos, geologic maps and database search information for a nearby site used to find the Earthlab site and evaluate possible past uses. Then the kids hand augered and collected samples within Earthlab near the adjacent State Route 94 and in a nearby park that was formerly a citrus orchard. Advanced Technology Laboratories performed two tests pro bono (near surface and at depth) for lead (freeway samples) and two for copper (park samples) given the possibility of fungicide use.

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Geocon Instrumental in Completion of Award Winning Gold Run Pipeline Replacement Project


Geocon was awarded CalGeo’s 2011 Outstanding Project of the Year Award for our work on the Placer County Gold Run Pipeline Replacement Project. Jeremy Zorne, Geocon Project Manager, received the award on behalf of the Company and Placer County Water Agency. The project also won Utility Project of the Year from the Sacramento Section of ASCE.

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Geocon Supports The Water Project

It is estimated that one billion people in developing third world countries don’t have clean water to drink. During this holiday season where we take this basic necessity for granted, Geocon has made a contribution and is matching employee donations to The Water Project, a non-profit organization that’s bringing immediate relief to communities in Africa who suffer needlessly from lack of access to clean water. Our contributions will support the efforts of Brianna Juhrend, a civil engineering student at University of the Pacific, who is requesting donations to fund a specific $6,500 water well installation project. The funds will help provide clean, safe drinking water to people in the developing world.

We will periodically update the progress of Brianna’s water well project and be able to see the actual results of what we have funded. Should you like to donate (as little as $10) or learn more about The Water Project, please see the link below. We are very excited to help fund and monitor the progress of this life-changing project!

Water Well Project Goal = $6,500
Through 2-18-13 – $5, 085.00 in donations


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Geocon Completes Emergency PCB Cleanup Adjacent to Elementary School Site

Geocon recently completed rapid removal of over 4,500 tons of PCB-impacted soil from a vacant Imperial Irrigation District (IID) substation property located adjacent to an elementary school play field in Brawley, California. The cleanup was performed under voluntary agreement with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control with technical oversight provided by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The project was fast-tracked to facilitate cleanup of the property prior to transfer and use by the School District as additional play fields. The presence of PCBs in soil was identified during an environmental assessment completed by Geocon. PCBs in soil is likely attributable to incidental leakage of transformer cooling liquids. In addition to performing the site cleanup and restoration operations, Geocon assisted IID with community relations, health and safety monitoring, and regulatory oversight coordination during the fast-tracked cleanup.

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Geocon receives Sacramento Regional Transit District’s Partners in Business Outstanding Professional Services Award

Sacramento Regional Transit District (RT) recently awarded Geocon the prestigious RT Partners in Business Outstanding Professional Services Award. Geocon has provided engineering consulting services to RT since 1994 and has participated on every light rail extension and capital improvement project.

We are currently providing quality management, environmental support, and construction inspection services for the design-build team on RT’s Green Line Project. This project includes construction of a 1.1-mile track extension from Downtown Sacramento to Richards Boulevard as the initial segment of the Downtown Natomas Airport Light Rail project. We are also providing geotechnical design and construction inspection services for the new light rail station on Richards Boulevard in conjunction with the Township 9 development.

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V & T Railway Bridge Construction Completed

On a cold night in March the long awaited V&T Railway Bridge overcrossing of US 50 was completed. The 77 ton sections of the bridge were placed on reinforced concrete abutments and center pier by the use of a single crane. The entire bridge construction was completed between November of 2008 and March 25, 2009. In order to reuse the bridge, the super structure had to be sandblasted to remove lead paint and then structural repairs completed for areas of rust and corrosion. The bridge was donated to the project by NDOT from their Interstate 15 widening project in Las Vegas, Nevada. The bridge had been in service on the mainline of the Union Pacific since 1962.

The overall V&T Railway Reconstruction Project when completed will total 17 miles and link Carson City to Virginia City over much of the original route. The Railroad was first constructed in 1869 to serve the mines and mills of the Comstock Mining District. The V&T was one of richest and famous short lines ever constructed. Operations between Carson City and Virginia City ceased in 1938. The reconstruction project is intended to create a historic tourist railway to promote economic development in the region by capitalizing on the legacy of the V&T. In addition to the economic considerations the project is restoring a sense of pride in the local communities for the role that Nevada played in building the nation. The bridge raising is an especially historic milestone for the project in the sense that the bridge is the first significant construction completed in Carson City after 17 years of efforts by the local community.

Geocon performed the geotechnical site investigation for the bridge foundation design and did all of the construction observation and special inspection for the grading, reinforced concrete and structural steel. With the completion of the bridge, rail construction can now continue with the anticipated completion of this phase in mid June. Construction costs will be approximately 6.5 million dollars. Total construction costs for the completed project are anticipated to reach approximately 55 million dollars of which 38 million will have been expended to build 12 miles of the route including the current phase.

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Geocon Ranked No. 1 Geotechnical Consultant for State Parks and Recreation

Sacramento, California, May 2009: Geocon was recently selected as the No. 1 Ranked Geotechnical Engineering Consultant for the State of California Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), Northern Service Center for 2009 – 2012. Over 20 geotechnical firms submitted qualifications for this contract. Geocon was ranked No. 1 out of a shortlist of four firms. As the incumbent for this contract, Geocon has been providing cost-effective and practical geotechnical engineering services for DPR since 2005. Our services have typically included geotechnical investigations and engineering geology evaluations for new park facilities, infrastructure, and rehabilitation projects. To date, Geocon has provided geotechnical and engineering geology services for over 25 State Parks throughout the state. Following the devastating June 2008 fire in the Big Sur area, Geocon provided emergency- response geotechnical and geological evaluation services for DPR and provided mitigation recommendations for impending rockfalls, debris flows, and mudflows.

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Geocon Leads the Way in Promoting Engineering Sciences

Geocon leads the way in promoting geotechnical engineering, engineering geology and environmental sciences to young people. The demand for candidates with the appropriate technical education and background is rising while the number of students in these fields is dropping. Geocon and its staff promote math and science education through involvement in Project Lead the Way, Sally Ride Science Festival for girls, San Diego Science Alliance, CalGeo Board of Directors, ACEC East Bay student outreach, San Diego State University Advisory Boards, UCSD Englekirk Center Advisory Board, Poway Unified School District – Partners in Education Advisory Board, Center for Research in Mathematics and Science Education, San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation (EDC) – Workforce Development Committee and EDC/San Diego Unified School District Task Force. Geocon staff members have also been guest lecturers at Portland State University, Sacramento State University, Orange Coast College, San Diego State University and University of California San Diego as well as attended career fairs throughout the western United States.

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Geocon Inland Empire Announces Name Change to Geocon West

To better reflect our southwestern United States operations, Geocon Inland Empire announces a name change to Geocon West effective September 1, 2009. Geocon West operates offices out of Burbank, Murrieta, and Palm Desert California.Neal Berliner, PE, GE, based out of our Burbank, California, office assumes the role of President of Geocon West.

Geocon West is a multi-disciplinary geotechnical and environmental consulting firm that also provides materials testing and inspection services during construction. The firm specializes in urban redevelopment, residential and commercial development, schools, infrastructure and public works. According to Neal Berliner, the name change will help facilitate communicating our broad service area coverage with new and existing clients. Geocon West will continue to provide the same quality and responsive services that have resulted in very successful repeat and referral project completions.

We look forward to surpassing your expectations on your next project!

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Geocon Consulting on Hawaiian Island Development

The approximately 1000-acre Kukuiula resort community is located on the beautiful south shore of Kauai. This exclusive development is positioned on gently sloping volcanic terrain with spectacular panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. The up-scale community boasts a variety of amenities including a plantation club house, spa, parks and an 18-hole Tom Weiskopf-designed golf course commanding lofty views of blue sea and rugged volcanic coastline intermixed with lush plantation landscaping. Up to 1500 custom and cottage homes are approved to be constructed over the next 5 to 10 years with lot sizes up to 1.5 acres. The minimum price of a single-family cottage home is in excess of 2 million dollars. Significant Infrastructure consisting of a waste water treatment plant, three water reservoirs and a deep well system which will provide water for the project has been constructed and site grading is currently on-going. Since the project site is underlain be hard volcanic rock and expansive clays near the ground surface, important geotechnical considerations were required during grading with respect to rippability and materials management. Shallow blasting, the treatment of blast affected bedrock, oversize rock handling and placement, and grading with expansive soils were all significant challenges during project development. Geocon performed periodic third party geotechnical consultation and oversight during the grading of Kukuiula Phase I. Our role consisted of providing technical support to the engineer of record and assisting with the development of rock over-excavation criteria, and rock fill and expansive soil placement guidelines. These considerations were necessary to provide suitable building sites for the guest builders. Our services also included consulting with respect to geotechnical explorations in future phases of development.

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Geocon Awarded Caltrans Hazardous Waste Site Assessment Contracts

Geocon was recently awarded five regional hazardous waste contracts totaling over $15M to support transportation infrastructure projects statewide. Since 1994, Geocon has provided the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) with statewide on-call hazardous waste site assessment and environmental contracting services.

We have completed over 1,000 task order delivery assignments with the majority of the task order assignments containing multiple sites with accelerated schedules. High profile projects have included the San Francisco Bay Area toll bridges retrofit and replacement program, Devil’s Slide Tunnel, Caldecott Tunnel fourth bore, and emergency response to the I-80/I-580 MacArthur Maze freeway collapse. Geocon has demonstrated the ability to provide safe, expedient, and competent technical consulting services to Caltrans and remains a key design team and construction support consultant and emergency response contractor for their transportation projects.

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The Ranch House at Del Sur – High Profile Platinum LEED Project

The new community of Del Sur has achieved many acknowledgments such as the 2006 Smart Growth Project Award from ULI San Diego, 2007 Sustainable Community of the Year from BIA of Southern California, Recycler of the Year 2006 and 2007 from the City of San Diego, and 2007 Sustainable Communities Champion from San Diego Gas & Electric. The cornerstone of the project is The Ranch House at Del Sur. It was awarded a Platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating, a program of the U.S. Green Building Council and the most widely recognized standard worldwide for sustainable, high-performance, low-energy-use buildings.

The Ranch House at Del Sur is the first private-enterprise, new construction building to achieve Platinum rating in California, and San Diego’s first Platinum-rated structure. Of the approximately 680 LEED-NC (New Construction) certified buildings in the world, only 28 have achieved Platinum rating.

Geocon provided geotechnical engineering services during the development of Del Sur and the Ranch House site including the design of a storm water infiltration facility and porous pavements to assist in retaining on-site runoff. The presence of expansive soils and potentially unstable slopes were important geotechnical considerations during the project investigation and site development.

Other LEED projects recently completed by Geocon include the San Diego Foundation at Liberty Station (Certified), Nobel Recreation Center and North University Community Branch Library (Silver), Pacific Highland Ranch Fire Station #47 (Silver) and SmartCorner (Silver).

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City of Sutter Creek Awarded EPA Brownfields Remediation Grant

The City of Sutter Creek was recently awarded two $200,000 EPA Brownfield grants to be used in the assessment and cleanup of two historic sites within the city – the Central Eureka Mine and the Knight Foundry. The grants were awarded through a competitive process based on applications authored by Geocon with the assistance of the California Department of Toxic Substances Control and the Knight Foundry Corporation.

The Central Eureka Mine is an abandoned gold mine located near the edge of historic downtown Sutter Creek that ceased operations in the 1950s and has been sitting vacant and idle since then. The mine’s well-preserved headframe standing above the mine and surrounding area is a highly visible reminder of the city’s mining legacy. Mine waste at the site, consisting of tailings left behind from processing of gold-bearing ore and waste rock deposited around the minehead, is impacted with elevated concentrations of naturally-occurring arsenic. The arsenic concentrations in the mine waste exceed health screening criteria. Therefore, future use of the Site will require that the routes of exposure to arsenic in mine waste be eliminated. The City plans to redevelop the site as a park and walking trail to increase the City’s limited parkland acreage while preserving the mining history of the site and the City. The cleanup grant awarded for the mine will be used in the development and implementation of a cleanup plan for the mine that incorporates covering of the mine waste with clean soil cover in areas that will be accessible to the public.

The historic Knight Foundry in Sutter Creek is the only operational water powered foundry and machine shop in the United States. The Knight Foundry was established in 1873 and operated nearly continuously until the 1990s. Although currently closed, the foundry remains in operating condition. The Knight Foundry consists of a foundry, machine shop, pattern making shop, blacksmith shop and other ancillary buildings. Surface dust in several of the buildings is impacted with lead exceeding health risk criteria. Soil outside some of the buildings is impacted with lead, arsenic, petroleum hydrocarbons, and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons. An assessment grant awarded for the Knight Foundry will be used to collect additional data and to plan the cleanup of impacted dust and soil.

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More Accurate and Less Intrusive Device for Geotechnical In Situ Testing

While working on his Ph.D. at the Georgia Institute of Technology in the mid-1990s, Wesley Spang learned of an innovative technology that would change the way he did business. The technology, which was discovered by an Italian geotechnical engineering professor in the 1970s, is called “in situ” (in ground) testing and involves taking ground samples for geotechnical work using a system that is less destructive to soil and can test more accurately. As a geotechnical engineer and president of Geocon Northwest, a geotechnical and environmental consulting firm, Spang said the system is superior to the technique used on 80 to 90 percent of geotechnical sampling projects.

With the rising costs of concrete and steel, Spang said the in situ system is becoming more useful than ever. “Everybody in the building industry is trying to save on costs and time,” said Spang. “The smaller the footings, the lower the cost will be.” The system, invented by Silvano Marchetti, was introduced in the United States by Florida geotechnical engineering professor John Schmertmann in the early 1980s. Spang said it is in widespread use in the eastern U.S., but not used by Northwest firms other than his. Conventional soil testing – known as standard penetration testing – calls for a hammer that drives a sampler into the ground. The soil is then brought to a lab for testing. “This can commonly result in conservative estimates of the soil’s geotechnical characteristics,” said Spang. “That potentially costs clients in overdesign.”

Marchetti’s device, called a dilatometer, consists of a wedge-shaped, high-strength stainless steel blade with an expandable membrane, connected to a pneumatic-electrical cable. The blade is pushed into the soil with a cone penetrometer rig, causing significantly less disturbance than conventional soil testing. Nitrogen gas is then introduced through a control box on the surface, flowing through the cables to the dilatometer blade. The control box takes two measurements: the first reading measures the pressure it takes to move the diaphragm off the steel sensing disc, and the second measures the pressure needed to move the diaphragm 1 millimeter into the soil. The device, he said, “causes as little impact on the soil as possible.” Those readings are combined with information about the depth to groundwater to determine soil type, soil stiffness and shear strength. That information can be used for building foundation designs, bridge foundations and highway embankments.

“At $150 to $200 per cubic yard of foundation construction, an increase of footing bearing pressure can provide significant construction cost savings,” said Spang. “The potential cost savings increases with increasing building footprint and number of building stories.” He said the greatest savings result when a building that is initially designed for pile foundations can be determined to be supported on shallow footings.”

Geocon, which has a Beaverton office and is based in San Diego, has used the soil testing device on local projects such as the Oregon Convention Center expansion, the Benson condo tower, Legacy Salmon Creek Hospital and several yet-unbuilt downtown high rises. Seismic upgrade projects include Downtown Self Storage and Kells Irish Restaurant & Pub. Spang said he has used the dilatometer in other parts of the county, as well. He used it for a multibuilding project in Florida, after another consultant had determined the developer needed to construct several buildings on pilings. Spang’s soil samples determined the buildings could be constructed on traditional footings, not pilings, and saved the developer about $100,000 on each building, he said.

In the area of seismic upgrades, Spang said he has done geotechnical projects that show that existing foundation footings can support more loads safely and the seismic retrofit can be done without the expense of expanding the building’s footprint or adding to the footings. The dilatometer blade can take as many as 250 tests in a day. Spang said the dilatometer is particularly accurate when testing soils in the Portland area, which are the silt and clay type. “This area’s soils are very conducive to this testing,” he said.

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