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Taking Our Talents to the Air

Renewable energy, NASA and air traffic control towers – it’s all in a day’s work for Building & Earth.

The Raleigh, North Carolina, branch of Building & Earth is currently involved in a project at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Building & Earth team is working with Archer Western Contracting (AWC) to build an Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT) and a Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) Building for the airport.

photo_1The Federal Aviation Administration project includes the construction of the 370-foot-tall ATCT, and the construction of the 40,000-square-foot TRACON facility. The ATCT structure is supported a deep foundation system consisting of 49 drilled shaft piers that are approximately 52.5 feet long. The shafts are reinforced with eight #14 bars with #5 hoops every 12 inches. The test shaft was load tested using an Osterburg Load Cell (O-Cell). The load test showed a capacity of 1,400 kips. The pile cap for the tower is an 80-foot, cast-in-place concrete mat. From the top of the mat foundation, a series of precast panels will be set into place for each level of the tower, which boasts 17 levels to achieve the overall height of 370 feet.

The TRACON building is also a precast concrete building, but is supported on shallow footings and a slab-on-grade floor system. The TRACON building is supported by nearly 20 feet of structural fill that was placed to grade to achieve the planned elevations. The TRACON building will be connected to the new tower by an enclosed, pre-cast concrete “link.”

photo_4“Our team worked very closely with the AWC estimating group to develop the quality control plan, which was one of the most heavily weighed factors in being awarded the contract,” said Kurt Miller, P.E., Building & Earth North Carolina branch manager. “Our scope of service for the project includes performing construction civil, structural and architectural submittal and shop drawing reviews, providing monthly, “over-the-shoulder” quality control peer review, and performing the materials testing and special inspections.”

According to Miller, during the installation of the drilled shaft, the Building & Earth team was performing monitoring of the drilled shaft construction. This included identifying the depth to rock and water, recording drill rates and times, and performing concrete testing as the shafts were placed. Once the shafts were complete, and prior to setting the reinforcing steel, gas and radon testing was performed for selected shafts. The gas testing was performed to determine if explosive gases were present in the shaft, and a 48-hour radon test was performed. The Building & Earth team was also prepared to perform digital videography of the shaft walls. However, due to the presence of shallow groundwater, and the fact that the shafts excavations were sleeved, the videography was not able to performed.

For more information on the project, click here.

Building & Earth Hires Mike Sebren as Project Engineer

img_0833Building & Earth recently announced it has hired Mike Sebren, P.E., to take the position of project engineer in the company’s Little Rock, Arkansas, branch.

Sebren holds a bachelor’s of science in civil engineering from Memphis State University, located in Memphis, Tennessee.

Prior to his position at Building & Earth, Sebren was a state construction engineer with the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department. He worked for the department for 37 years.

“We are excited to add Mike to our Central Arkansas office,” said Curtis Osier, Building & Earth project manager for the Little Rock branch. “His extensive experience with transportation projects, including state and federal highways and bridges, will supplement our engineering and business development capabilities in Central Arkansas and in our Springdale office as well.”

Birmingham’s Renaissance: The Pizitz Building

img_3833Downtown Birmingham, Alabama, is currently undergoing a transformation, and Building & Earth aims to play a significant role in its success. With our headquarters located in the greater Birmingham area and a long history of successful work in the city center, we have a firsthand vantage point to the revitalization of an area of the city that has needed it for some time.

A star in this transformation is the historic Pizitz Building on 2nd Avenue North, a former flagship department store for the iconic Birmingham retailer Louis Pizitz, which was built in 1923 but sat dormant since 1988.

According to developer Bayer Properties’ website, the 250,000-square-foot building will feature six floors of multifamily residential space, a mezzanine with office space, a ground-level food hall (the first of its kind in Birmingham) and an attached parking deck. Birmingham-based Brasfield & Gorrie is the general contractor on the project and KPS is the architect.

The food hall will feature 13 food stalls, 2 restaurants and a bar, including a restaurant incubator that will rotate every 4 to 6 months. Some of these vendors will include Birmingham staples like Alabama Biscuit Co., Eli’s Jerusalem Grill and Revelator Coffee.



img_3837“The renaissance going on in downtown Birmingham serves to strengthen a critical area of the overall metro region. Many people who live in surrounding cities and suburbs are coming around to the idea that a strong, vibrant Birmingham city center is a key element to improving the perception of the region as a whole, which in turn increases the potential to attract new businesses and industries to our area,” said Matt Adams, a principal with Building & Earth. “Such growth benefits everyone, regardless of where you live in the Birmingham metro area.”

Adams said the historic property fosters nostalgia for many who grew up in the Birmingham area, too.

“To see it brought back to life and take its place in the revitalization of that part of the city center, rather than being completely demolished to make way for something with no historical context, is a testament to the development team,” Adams said. “Several elements, such as the food hall, will be unique ‘firsts’ in the Birmingham area.”

Building & Earth’s role in the project was to provide geotechnical engineering consultation, construction materials testing and Special Inspections on behalf of Bayer Properties.

“We have evaluated bearing capacity for new foundations; testing soil backfill; utilized ground-penetrating radar (GPR) to scan existing beams, columns and walls to locate and identify steel reinforcing; performed a geotechnical exploration for a planned new bridge between the building and its parking deck; and conducted positive material identification (PMI), a type of metallurgical analysis of the existing steel beams to help determine proper welding methods,” said Richard D. Brown, P.E., assistant branch manager for the Birmingham branch.

Over the course of the project, Building & Earth engineers, technicians, special inspectors and certified welding inspectors have all worked on the building on an on-call, as needed basis, according to Brown.

The newly revitalized Pizitz Building will open its doors this fall and, after a 28-year absence, once again take its place as a vibrant part of the city center.

For more information, visit Bayer Properties. For related articles, see below.

Building & Earth Hires Billy Wilson as Project Manager

wilson-billyBuilding & Earth recently hired Billy Wilson, P.E., to take the position of project manager for CTL, a division of the company located in Montgomery, Alabama.

Wilson has a wealth of knowledge concerning asphalts and concrete, which will be valuable to the future growth of Building & Earth’s Montgomery branch. Wilson holds both a bachelor’s and a master’s of science in civil engineering.

He brings to Building & Earth over 30 years of laboratory and field experience in construction materials testing. Prior to Building & Earth, Wilson was a concrete materials laboratory manager at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama.

“Obviously, Billy has a lot of experience from his time at Auburn University. He will certainly be an asset to our company, especially with respect to our lab facility,” said Dave McKee, Building & Earth’s Montgomery branch manager. “He will help us get the lab more up to date and in a position where we will be able to offer testing services to the Montgomery area.”

McKee said the branch also looks forward to leveraging Wilson’s contacts throughout the Montgomery area.


UAB Football Complex Project

Building & Earth will be part of the project team constructing the new University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) football operations and practice complex, with construction planned to commence late summer 2016 after receiving a generous naming sponsorship by Legacy Community Federal Credit Union and UA System Board of Trustees approval on June 16, 2016.

“In preparation for its return to NCAA Division I football competition in the fall of 2017, Building & Earth is honored to have been selected by UAB to provide geotechnical engineering, construction materials testing and special inspections services for its new football operations center,” said Matt Adams, director of corporate client development and principal. “Our firm has a successful track record of providing similar services to UAB, including for the upcoming Collat School of Business project, and we are proud to be a part of the construction team delivering this game-changing project for UAB’s football program, students, alumni and community participants.”

The $22.5 million dollar facility will include athletic training and conditioning areas, meeting rooms, office space and both covered and open practice fields, which will be funded by Legacy Community Federal Credit Union’s $4.2 million, 20-year naming rights sponsorship, according to the Associated Press. The project includes a host of other corporate and individual sponsors including Thompson Foundation, Alabama Power Foundation, Medical Properties Trust, Protective Life and Jimmy Filler, a local businessman and ServisFirst Bank board member.

Read more about this project on the UAB website.

Dr. Feng Zhu, P.E. Joins Building & Earth

FENG_FINALDr. Feng Zhu has joined the staff of Building & Earth. Zhu will be based in the corporate office located in Birmingham, Alabama, and will serve as senior geotechnical engineer, providing engineering support throughout the firm.

Zhu received his Master of Science degree in geotechnical engineering from Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China, one of the top five engineering schools in China. Zhu moved to the United States in 2004 and subsequently obtained his Ph.D in Geotechnical Engineering from the University of Akron.

Zhu has extensive experience in analysis and resolution of complex geotechnical problems. His expertise includes shallow and deep foundation design for buildings, bridges and industrial structures, design and construction of earth retaining structures, sheet pile wall design, settlement evaluation, deep excavation support system design, levee design and seepage analysis, slope stability analysis for embankments and channels, failed slope stabilization, erosion evaluation and control, pavement design, above ground storage tanks and soft soil improvements methods.

Chief Ladiga Trail Sinkholes

Report recommends $100,000 fix for Chief Ladiga Trail sinkholes

The Anniston Star – April 5, 2016
By Seth Boster, Anniston Star Staff Writer,
View Original Article


Filling sinkholes that have closed a section of the Chief Ladiga Trail could cost upwards of $100,000, according to a report by an engineering firm.

And the money, the report says, wouldn’t prevent Mother Nature from striking again.

The report to the city of Jacksonville, obtained by The Star on Monday, recommends a concrete-filling process that the firm, Birmingham-based Building & Earth Sciences, estimates will cost between $100,000 and $150,000. The report includes three other restoration options but calls “grouting” the most feasible at the site, near Warren Drive in Weaver. Jacksonville in February committed $8,000 for Building & Earth’s services after portions of the city’s trail section, two spots about 100 feet apart, toppled into underground voids.

No option guarantees the trail from being swallowed again, the report states. It points even to a section south of the sinkholes as “a possible location for a future collapse,” based on a study that found subsurface conditions to be prime for sinking.

The other, less-detailed options listed in the firm’s report are: excavating and backfilling the sinkholes with rock, clay and synthetic material; leaving the sinkholes be and building the trail around them; or forming a bridge-like structure over them. The report didn’t include costs for the other options. Jeff Cowen, a Building & Earth engineer who helped prepare the report, explained in a phone call Monday that those options could be less effective and more expensive than grouting.

Excavating and backfilling, Cowen said, is typically the “preferred method” in fixing sinkholes. He cautioned against that method in Jacksonville’s case, though: Considering the depth — engineers were able to drill 30 feet down but did testing that showed bedrock some 30 feet deeper — and considering the narrow, sloping area at the site, Cowen doubted the procedure would work.

Building the trail around the sinkholes, the report notes, would commit Jacksonville to acquiring additional right of way and to an extensive construction project.

And due to the site’s sinkhole-prone geography, Cowen noted that the newly-formed trail would be susceptible to the same fate of the current trail. A bridge might not be safe, either.

“These are very active. That’s what stands out about these,” Cowen said, speaking to the rapid growth of the sinkholes and their nearness to each other. “That could indicate, it probably does indicate, that both of these holes are related to the same features underneath that could bring into question everything between them.”​​

Material_Sample Sinkhole_Pavement Sinkhole_Pavement_2 Sinkhole_2
Sinkhole_Pavement_3 Sinkhole_Area Sinkhole_Area_2 Sinkhole_1

Officials in Jacksonville on Monday were weighing the options. Mayor Johnny Smith said he flipped through Building & Earth’s 40-page report and wondered about chances.

“That’s the hardest question about this whole thing,” Smith said. “What are the chances of a permanent fix?”

The area, like much of north Alabama, is at risk because of the prevalence of limestone bedrock. Water can erode the rock, causing soil to seep down through the spaces.

Calhoun County Commissioner Lee Patterson has said the commission would dedicate resources along with Jacksonville to see the trail restored. Smith said the city was hoping for grant money but sounded doubtful of that coming. Weaver Mayor Wayne Willis told Smith that his city could provide non-financial resources, but otherwise, Smith said he had not heard offers of help from other municipalities along the 33-mile trail, stretching from Anniston up to Piedmont.

The sinkholes came six months after the Jacksonville City Council passed a current fiscal year budget anticipating a $300,000 shortfall.

“We talk about quality of life that we all strive for, and that trail is a big factor in that,” Smith said of the trail, which is popular with cyclists, runners and walkers and is a tourist attraction. “It’s important to us, no question.

“It’ll be tough,” he said of restoring the trail. “But we’ll figure it out. We’ll find a way.”

Staff writer Seth Boster: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @SethBoster_Star.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Power Play

It’s no secret that there is major activity in the U.S. power market these days. Despite the development of more energy efficient appliances and a new emphasis on conservation efforts, consumer demand for electricity continues to grow. As a result, utilities are constantly looking for new sources of energy generation like wind and biomass as well as more traditional sources like combined and single cycle natural gas turbine and clean coal generation. We’ve been actively involved in projects in all of these areas of energy generation in the last few years, including a number of current projects. These complex, schedule-driven projects often require us to provide our services in remote areas with sometimes harsh climate conditions.

George Hays, a project manager who leads many of our energy projects, has been working in Wisconsin this winter for a new utility client, updating an existing power plant scheduled to receive a SCR scrubber system in 2014-2015. Our work at this 405 megawatt gross output power plant consists of four CMT projects and one geotech project. Dry Sorbent Injection (DSI) and Activated Carbon Injection (ACI) are both needed to reduce emissions. The total project also includes the installation of an ammonia storage structure, unloading station, surrounding earthwork, crane pad geotechnical evaluation, crane pad construction, and east and west SCR foundation systems. Building & Earth has the responsibility for materials testing and construction inspections where needed. The DSI, ACI, crane pad, and SCR foundation projects are supported on deep cast auger piles. Inspections include the auger cast piles, reinforcing steel, structural steel, construction activities as directed, and field testing of the grout and structural concrete. We are working closely with the client’s QA section to provide assistance for inspection and construction documentation.

Our Louisville branch has been equally busy over the last year with several active projects for a Kentucky-based utility company. We are providing geotechnical engineering and materials testing/inspection services as part of a significant capacity upgrade to an existing ash storage area in order to extend the life of a coal fired generation plant with a net generating capacity of 563 megawatts. Additionally, Building & Earth personnel have been providing materials testing for two new 600′ stack units as part of a $1.3 billion modernization of another plant’s flue gas desulfurization scrubber system. The plant’s net summer capacity is 1,472 megawatts.

With demand for cleaner more efficient energy continuing to heat up, we plan to keep growing this business segment. Building & Earth looks forward to our role in helping clients meet the need, from the development of new power generation to maximizing existing generation systems.

Shooting for a Cause

At Building & Earth, community has several layers-the internal team, our professional relationships, our families and the cities where we live and work. Serving each of these communities is a privilege.

That’s why we are proud to partner with several others in the architectural/engineering/construction community to raise funding for Children’s Harbor, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to serving and strengthening children and their families. Imagined almost 30 years ago by the family who founded Russell Athletic, the Lake Martin, AL campus partners with more than 16 groups who serve the seriously ill and the disabled, providing camping and adventure services.

Last fall, the Building & Earth team participated in the 9th Annual Magic Moments Children’s Harbor Sporting Clay Shoot. The event has been a yearly favorite for us since it kicked off in 2004. All proceeds benefit Magic Moments and Children’s Harbor, and over the years, the event has raised more than $400,000 to support Children’s Harbor/Magic Moments in its mission. The teams we field enjoy the camaraderie, the weather and most importantly the knowledge that they are part of something much bigger than just another day of sport in the field.

This year’s event is set for September 24, and the folks at Magic Moments tell us it’s already filling up. Add your name to the participant list here. We’ll look forward to seeing you there!

Site Classification for Seismic Design

remi-1We all know the old real estate adage: “Location, location, location.” In commercial and industrial construction, the saying goes beyond proximity or curb appeal. When it comes to design, one of the major ‘location’ considerations is seismic site classification. Several of the design parameters relative to site location can be determined by reviewing the Building Code Risk Coefficient Maps which are based on proximity to known seismic zones, however the specific subsurface conditions at the project site must also be determined. Even in areas relatively far away from known active seismic areas, the cost associated with seismic design can have a significant impact on the cost of the structural framework of the building. The biggest variable in the equation is the Site Class.

The Site Class is based on the average conditions present within 100 feet of the ground surface, and are designated as A-F, with hard rock, considered an ‘A,’ down to potentially collapsible soils, which get an ‘F.’ The Site Classification is based on shear wave velocity. For the A and B classification, it is preferable to measure the shear wave velocity on-site. The Building Code does allow the design condition to be estimated by a geotechnical engineer, engineering geologist or seismologist, with significant past knowledge of specific geologic formations and conditions (considering weathering and fracturing). Site Classes C, D and E can also be determined by seismic methods or typical soil drilling Standard Penetration Test (SPT-N) results. Site Class F is used for potentially collapsible soils, usually soft alluvial deposits.

Due to the cost of the exploration required to accurately determine the Site Class versus the relative additional cost to the structure, (savings on the order of 100x the cost of the analysis have been realized!) it is prudent to evaluate the upper 100 feet using soil drilling methods or seismic methods. Due to the relative quickness and ease and accuracy in which the seismic data can be obtained, the seismic method is typically more cost effective. Additionally, the building code limits SPT-N values to 100 if rock is encountered in the upper 100 feet, so when rock is present, it is not uncommon to improve the Site Class using seismic data relative to data from soil test borings. Pre-construction knowledge of the soil’s capabilities not only keeps everyone in compliance with International Building Code, it makes good business sense.
Building & Earth surveys are conducted using SeisOpt’s® patented Refraction Microtremor (ReMi®) technology.

This surface-performed geophysical survey evaluates surface waves, shear waves in particular. These dispersive waves are measured along a linear seismic array and evaluated relative to wave frequency and slowness. A seismograph, geophones placed in an array, and a seismic source are used to measure the propagating waves, all while data is recorded. This information is used to generate a 1-D subsurface profile based on the velocity with depth.

We’ve found that ReMi technology has some measurable advantages, including:

• Tests a much larger volume of the subsurface, in contrast to borehole measurements.
• Non-invasive and nondestructive, and uses only ambient noise as a seismic source.
• No permits are required for its use.
• No need to close a street or shut down work for the purpose of data acquisition.
• Usually takes less than two hours, from setup through breakdown.

The technology can also be used to determine liquefaction potential, soil compaction and subsurface geology.