Everything You Need to Know About Geotechnical Engineering and Blast Containment

Last Updated: 1/11/2018 10:46 a.m.

Almost all civil construction projects — commercial, residential and otherwise — are somehow supported by soil or rock. Perhaps only projects that float are truly independent of soil or rock considerations. Soil and rock comprise the firm foundation that any construction professional desperately needs, to make everything from a house to a bridge stand the test of time — including inclement weather, natural disasters and heavy use.

A geotechnical engineer is the specialist who knows about the soil and the rock and can make recommendations that consider the overall stability of a project as it relates to the foundation.

And think beyond basic home construction. As you're driving around, look at all the structures you see — not just the buildings, but the infrastructure, too. You may see a highway that curves and rises over a road and then passes beneath another highway. You may pass over a bridge or through a tunnel. You may arrive at a building that includes underground parking or a home that's built into a hillside.

Each of these structures has unique needs that only a geotechnical engineer can address. Read on to learn more about geotechnical engineering, what these unique engineers do and the challenging nature of a geotechnical engineer's blasting work.

What Is Geotechnical Engineering?

A geotechnical engineer is the person who specializes in construction implications related to the ground and what's below the ground. Think about soil, drainage, slippage and other factors. The geotechnical engineer on any given project is simply one part of a larger team, and serves as a specialist.

Most construction projects include a general contractor who pieces together the best team that fits within a project's budget. This team will include all sorts of specialists, from the engineer who builds the frame of the structure and the carpenters who work on cabinets to the AC specialist who installs the heating and cooling systems.

The geotechnical engineer is a hugely important part of this project, and he or she is typically brought in early on a project to discuss feasibility and other implications with the general contractor — or an architect who may be running the project.

There's no shortage of engineering specialties when studying engineering. Many people often hear about mechanical engineers and civil engineers, but geotechnical engineering is among the most important and least-well-known of the engineering disciplines. There's so much that goes into this work, and the implications for projects large and small are so overwhelming, that it's hard to underestimate the importance a geotechnical engineer plays in projects of all kinds.

What Does a Geotechnical Engineer Do?

If an engineer is someone who works on construction projects, think of a geotechnical engineer as someone who works on only construction projects that take place beneath the ground's surface. A geotechnical engineer is someone who can put together a soil report that describes the foundation a structure will be built upon. These types of reports deliver a great deal of value to others who are participating in a construction project, such as the structural engineer.

A structural engineer is the one who works on the foundation and frame, and these structural engineers rely on geotechnical engineers to provide invaluable information about the soil they will be building upon.

There's also a question of the slope where a structure will be constructed. Think about steep areas like those found in Colorado and California. It you're going to build a home or an office building onto a hillside or mountainside so that it delivers wonderful views, you need a firm understanding of just how stable that hillside or mountainside is.

For example, will it be affected by an earthquake or an avalanche? Geotechnical engineers help reduce risk and answer these questions by conducting tests of slip planes and soil conditions that might put a structure in danger.

The areas where a geotechnical engineer can be of service go on and on. Need a house that includes a water well? A geotechnical engineer can help you identify the ideal location for that well. How about a replacement septic system? A geotechnical engineer can help you identify what's wrong with your current system and how to replace it with the perfect new system.

Drainage issues also fall into the purview of geotechnical engineers, because proper water management can help ensure that your home or building isn't put in danger by settling soils related to poor drainage.

If you've ever tried to build a sand castle, backyard fort or any other kind of temporary project, you've certainly realized how important soils and foundations can be. It's hard enough to get a fort in the backyard to last for a weekend, or a sand castle to last much longer than an hour, given the soil and foundation challenges.

Geotechnical engineers are charged with making sure structures last a full lifetime. They must not only understand and analyze the soil as it currently is, but also explore all the possibilities related to heavy rains, natural disasters, adjacent construction and more. This vocation requires special expertise and knowledge, as well as incredible discipline, creativity and intelligence.

What Types of Products Require Geotechnical Engineering?

Almost any type of project will need geotechnical engineering expertise in some capacity — some more than others.

Think about an enormous wind-power facility that includes enormous turbines to harness gusts and turn them into electricity. The windmills themselves are huge structures that need a firm foundation to properly operate for decades to come. A geotechnical engineer might go to the site during planning to perform a number of tests and analyses. These tests might include pressure meter testing, electrical grid and thermal resistivity, geophysical surveys that address seismic factors and classification and more.

These tests are used to make recommendations on the foundation design and construction methods.

Highways projects also require geotechnical engineering. Any highway is being built because of heavy demand, so the road itself must be constructed to withstand heavy use. A geotechnical engineer might go in during the project's planning phase to make recommendations on how to construct bridges and retaining walls, as well as how and where to relocate existing infrastructure, such as levees.

Testing and analyses might lead to reports on sliding, overturning and stability. Bearing capacity will be an important consideration in pavement design, and drainage reports will indicate how the new highway will handle water. Without a geotechnical engineer making these recommendations at the beginning of a highway project, the ultimate result might not be safe for use.

Seismic testing is one of the most interesting aspects of geotechnical engineering. These construction professionals might simulate a seismic event by setting off controlled charges at depths more than 200 feet below the earth's surface. By capturing the results of these tests, a geotechnical engineer can predict how a structure might respond to an earthquake or another natural disaster.

Finally, blasting is another aspect of construction where geotechnical engineers play an invaluable role. Think about all the many projects that require soil and earth to be cleared. How do you clear it? You can dig it out, but that's not always the most effective path. Sometimes, you must opt for blasting, which is essentially using an explosion to form the foundation that you want and need for a project.

This type of activity is impossible without the skills and knowledge a geotechnical engineer brings to the table.

Blasting in Geotechnical Engineering?

Yes — sometimes, a large structure requires the clearing of space beneath the ground. Have you ever walked past a large apartment or office building that will have underground parking? There's often a large scar in the ground where soil has been cleared to make this underground parking possible.

And what about a tunnel, a hydro-electric plant, a reservoir or similar projects? Each requires blasting to clear space for the project at hand.

The challenge with blasting is that it needs to be a controlled exercise that takes into account the soil or earth being blasted, as well as the final result that needs to be achieved. A geotechnical engineer is the one who provides the recommendations that make blasting possible. The soil being blasted for a tunnel in Massachusetts will be completely different than the soil being blasted for construction of underground parking in Phoenix, Arizona.

A geotechnical engineer can perform the tests and the analyses that lead to firm conclusions about how to approach and execute blasting.

It's often helpful to find a geotechnical engineer who has experience in the area that requires blasting. An in-depth understanding of not only the local soils and ground but also the local regulations and requirements can help a blasting project go more smoothly than perhaps it would otherwise.

After all, blasting is never something to be undertaken lightly. So much is at risk, and only a skilled, qualified geotechnical engineer is in a good position to conduct it with the utmost confidence. If something goes wrong in blasting, it can become an expensive and time-consuming mistake for the project at hand and can pose a threat to those working on the project, or those who happen to be nearby when the blasting takes place.

There's also the future to consider. As with any construction project, the engineer must be focused on the safety and well-being of a structure not only today but also years down the road. In blasting, you must do your work in a way that's going to result in a safe structure not only for those who enter it or use it on day one, but also those who will be using it 30 years from now.

Mazzella Blasting Mats

It may feel strange to think of blasting as a controlled explosion. The words “controlled” and “explosion” don't seem to go together when you think about the explosions you see in feature films. Nevertheless, blasting is both art and science for geotechnical engineers who participate in blasting projects. It's important that the geotechnical engineer has experience in blasting, and that he or she has knowledge of the area.

Another key consideration is that the geotechnical engineer is outfitted with the right equipment for the job. How to you achieve civil construction blast containment? Blasting mats for civil construction are the answer, and Mazzella Blasting Mats can be part of the suite of tools needed for effective blasting.

Mazzella Blasting Mats are made of wire rope woven into an advanced pattern. This pattern helps to prevent the debris from flying all over a project site — achieving the benefit of a controlled explosion. Equipment of this type is designed to deliver strength while also allowing gasses to vent. Mazzella Blasting Mats are perhaps the most effective way to achieve the advanced workmanship that blasting requires — the perfect balance of art and science.

In short, steel cable blasting mats for civil construction reduce damaging vibrations that can wreck your project, while still giving gasses a chance to vent. Looking for additional benefits? Mazzella Blasting Mats are also lightweight, eco-friendly, durable and easily transportable.

You might assume that civil construction blasting mats are a one-use tool, given that they must survive an explosion. But that's not the case. When you make an investment in Mazzella Blasting Mats, you enjoy value for years to come. Time after time and blast after blast, these tools will keep on performing.

You may also assume that something so durable must also be heavy and difficult to transport. Again, this is not the case. Mazzella Blasting Mats are extremely helpful, because they go where you need them to go and do what you need them to do. Civil construction blasting containment isn't always needed in easily accessible areas. Rather, it often takes place in hard-to-reach spots. You need civil construction blasting mats that can reach those remote areas and still get the job done.

Not all blasting mats are like this, though, which is why steel cable blast mats, like those from Mazzella, are an excellent choice. As a geotechnical engineer, many different pieces of equipment are needed for effective blasting, but perhaps none are more important than having effective blasting mats that are proven to get the job done.

As we mentioned earlier, blasting is an incredibly important process that must be undertaken with the utmost care. It's far too important to trust to tools that are anything less than the best. In construction, you can get away with using a hammer or a wrench or even an excavator that you get a great deal on.

But you so often get what you pay for. If a hammer goes out on you, you can replace it without any harm or excessive cost. But in blasting, you can't afford for your civil construction blast containment measures to fail.

That, more than anything, is why you need Mazzella Blasting Mats or tools of similar quality that can help ensure your project remains safe and effective for all involved.

About TM International, LLC

At TM International, LLC, we develop the civil construction blasting mats you need for civil construction blast containment. We work with clients in a number of different industries, including construction, demolition, mining, government agencies, petro-chemical companies, stadium developers, universities, airports and others. These clients have different objectives, but they all require the right tools for blasting and civil construction blast containment.

They are drawn to TM International, LLC and to our Mazzella Blasting Mats for many of the reasons listed above. Not only do Mazzella Blasting Mats help control blasts in an effective manner, but they're also lightweight, durable and eco-friendly. Simply put, they are the obvious solution when you need blast containment you can count on.

You can find lots of providers who promise to deliver the best of the best in civil construction blast containment and other tools, but this is our passion at TM International, LLC. Our effective products like the Mazzella Blasting Mats are designed with every ounce of our knowledge and experience applied to the project at hand. The result is a product that many choose to trust when taking on the immense responsibility of blasting in civil construction projects.

Make sure you're getting the best tools available when you choose to invest in Mazzella Blasting Mats by TM International, LLC.

As you pursue blasting projects, you face the challenges of flyrock, explosive overpressure, flying debris and other factors. We offer the solution in a more efficient and cost-effective package, no matter the nature of your project. When you need the best of the best in civil construction blasting containment solutions, the team at TM International, LLC is here for you.

We're glad to answer questions about our products or provide expert guidance as you consider how best to pursue your construction project. We're always here for you, no matter the industry you work in or the nature of your project. We have expertise in the area of geotechnical engineering and civil construction blast containment, and we're pleased to share that knowledge when it means a safer and more effective project for you and your clients.

Contact us today about your civil construction blast containment needs.