EJ TODAA: A Deeper Look Beneath the Surface

Before coming to DAA, if you were to ask me what I thought the first step in building a structure was, I would have said it was having a solid foundation on which the building will stand. But how do we determine whether the soil beneath the surface is suitable enough to build on? The answer to this question is Geotechnical Engineering.


Geotechnical engineering consists of engineering the behavior of the earth’s material above and beneath the earth’s surface, which is the foundation on which all constructed facilities bear. Our geotechnical team evaluates the unique conditions and potential challenges of subsoil conditions at a given site and provides foundation recommendations to fit the specific needs of our clients. Our team estimates the magnitude and location of the loads to be supported, plans and executes subsurface explorations, determines the soil parameters by conducting field and lab tests, and designs foundations as safely and economically as possible.


I accompanied Julie Strunk to perform due diligence on a site near Culpepper, VA to ensure that the soil was suitable for development. Julie was responsible for monitoring the crew of drillers and collecting soil samples for class designation.  Once the drillers had the auger connected, they produced markings as a visual reference to determine how far they drilled into the ground. The goal was to retrieve samples from specific depth ranges instead of samples from each foot of subsoil. Once the auger reached the desired depth, the driller inserted the “spoon” inside of the hollow auger. The number of times the automated tamper makes contact with the spoon is recorded and the sample collected. The driller will stop the machine if it makes contact 50 times without the spoon reaching the desired depth. This process was repeated in increments until we reached 20 feet below the surface. To collect the sample, the spoon is opened along a vertical axis, and the soil is removed and placed into the jar. The jar is then labeled with the site name, drilling location, and the depth from which it originated and transported to the lab for testing.



In the brief time that I spent with our Geotech team observing and learning some of the core functions of geotechnical engineering, I realized that the scope of work for a geotechnical engineer is vast. Our engineers have extensive experience in projects involving residential and commercial buildings, government facilities, academic institutions, slope evaluation, transportation structures, pavement design, and more. Adequate assessment of these foundations is an essential element concerning the design of buildings. Since the loads from these structures are transmitted back to the earth through the foundations, our team goes above and beyond to ensure the foundations are strong enough to bear the applied loads.


In both the field and lab, our Geotechnical team boasts talented professionals who take pride in their attention to detail. This attention to detail has aligned our team for continuous improvement, one of the core values Draper Aden is committed to living out.


You can learn more about our firm’s mission as well as learn more information about our Geotechnical Division.


Written by EJ Wilson,
Business Development Manager
Connect with me on LinkedIn

To read more in this blog series, EJ TODAA, check out:
EJ TODAA: Employee Spotlight
EJ TODAA: The Importance of First Impressions
EJ TODAA: How DAA’s Technologies Unify
EJ TODAA: Engineering the Experience of Excellence