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1. Since you started with Earth Anchoring Suppliers, what’s the most unexpected thing you’ve been repeatedly asked to do?
There have been occasional “breaks” from regular helical pile design, talking with clients on how to provide a more meaningful, inclusive approach to foundation support. Some clients are excited about a value engineering alternative that they can provide clients instead of large drilled shafts, etc. Others are curious about what options there are to connect the tops of helical piles to new steel framing. I enjoy weighing in on the possibilities of simplifying the overall foundation construction.
2. What part of your work has had the greatest positive impact on the EAS staff… on clients?
Joining EAS in February has allowed me to provide useful engineering strategies to clients in very little time. This is especially important in the development of their bids. They take comfort knowing I’ve reviewed plans and details. I recommend options that meet our understanding of what’s specified. As plans and specs allow, I present a value engineering alternative for comparison. Without the engineering to justify an alternative, some clients and owners can be hesitant to consider anything different than specified. When possible, we discuss and present more efficient options with our material quotes.
3. What’s been the most challenging?
The most challenging (yet still gratifying) tasks involve coming up with potential pile options with very preliminary information. We understand that jobs can progress significantly between 30% design development and 60% construction documents. Sometimes, many of our clients want to develop their bids as accurately as possible in very early stages. For example: we might know some conceptual timber framing details for a new boardwalk, but design loads haven’t been explicitly identified. We present our assumptions with our quoted pile option(s). Often this early discussion and our quote shapes the overall thinking of the design team – allowing them to consider aspects about the foundation that they hadn’t yet considered. It’s challenging at times, but valuable points can be identified and expressed very early on.
4. What do you find to be the most satisfying?
Anybody who uses engineering software can be at risk of becoming complacent and losing track of what’s happening “behind the curtain”. It’s incredibly rewarding to develop design tools yourself. Because you know what went into the tools’ development, it doesn’t feel like you’re taking elaborate software for granted. I’ve developed several ways of incorporating current design methodology into calculation sheets with plots for modeling and presentation. The tedious parts of design go away – and as a designer, you can quickly identify the impacts of design parameters on an overall design. EAS has developed such tools for large-diameter CHANCE helical piles with atypical lead configurations, CHANCE’s Drivecast, and light/utility pole bases – among others. If we can arrive at answers quicker, then we can get them to our clients quicker.
5. Almost been a year, if you could “snap your fingers” and change something about your work or the industry, what would it be?
I’d like to snap my fingers and add more time/money to project schedules for more gathering of data. There could be many opportunities to try something a bit different and see how the outcome changes – safely. Most often, such experimentation costs additional time and money…luxuries that most projects don’t have. I welcome any opportunity to learn a little bit more. In the long run, it allows all designs to be developed more efficiently.
Engineering & Adding Value - Five More Questions with Earth Anchoring Suppliers’ Geotech Nate Seguin