The Corps, the Earth, and its scientists

Mr. Song, Un-Ho and Mr. Choe, Chong-UK (material engineering technicians) performing tests in the Materials Testing Lab.
Mr. Song, Un-Ho and Mr. Choe, Chong-UK (material engineering technicians) performing tests in the Materials Testing Lab.

The Corps, the Earth, and its scientists

by Edwyna Brooks, Pak Song Hyon, Dr. Pak Chun Pom, Dr. Shin Hyun Jun, Jeff Taylor, Yu Yon Chun, Yun Yong Hwan
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Far East District

A geotechnical and environmental investigation is required anytime the Corps of Engineers constructs something on or within the ground. This comprehensive investigation ensures the structures can be successfully constructed on solid foundations in accordance with analysis of subsurface conditions. Most importantly, it guarantees the building won’t collapse or fall down because of foundation failure.

Therefore, the Geotechnical and Environmental Engineering (G&EE) Branch is vital to any project or construction site’s big picture. Their site investigations take place before construction begins and the data they gather determines design of the structure and future stability of the proposed building.

The geotechnical engineering discipline delves into the science involving the behavior of soils, rocks, groundwater and other materials. Ultimately, the Far East District (FED) G&EE Branch’s goal is to investigate and understand what lies beneath the earth’s surface. Their research is used to evaluate subsurface conditions; to identify potential impacts on the planned construction; and to design foundations and retaining walls for the planned structure.

The G&EE Branch consists of four sections including Geotechnical section; Geology and Hydrology section; Environmental section; Geomatics and support section and secures its proficiencies during the Design phase of a project. Each of the sections contribute to the overall quality assurance support the G&EE provides. This group of varied professionals include civil and environmental engineers, geologists, biologists, and chemists.

The Geotechnical Design Unit and the Materials Testing Lab (MTL) fall within the Geotechnical Section. Their MTL is periodically inspected and validated by the Materials Testing Center (MTC), Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC). No other commercial lab in Korea has been validated by MTC and fully confirmed to the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials). This enhanced capability allows the branch to provide various quality assurance activities such as the inspection of the QC lab, concrete and asphalt batch plants as well as quality assurance testing in-house and in the field.

PROVIDING QUALITY ASSURANCE SUPPORT FOR THE FED

The G&EE Branch provides quality assurance via inspections, its test pile program, and construction materials testing. The construction materials testing analyzes soil, concrete, aggregate, and bituminous material at both design and construction stage.

Geotechnical engineers develop the drilling, sampling and laboratory testing programs to understand what is beneath the footprint of the facility and provide geotechnical recommendations to the project designer concerning the grading plan, design load, and performance criteria.

Materials engineering technicians, Mr. Song, Un-Ho (standing) and Mr. Choe, Chong-UK (sitting) are responsible for conducting a portion of the geotechnical investigation that discovers the bearing capabilities and degree of settlement that take place as a result of a proposed construction. This information contributes to the overall construction process because their determinations will be used by the branch’s geotechnical engineer to design the foundation and soil improvement recommendations.

For example, Camp Humphreys’ new Family Housing Towers has a concrete placement of over 3000m3  based in part on the results from the Geotechnical Section’s reporting. This means that over 8,000 tons of concrete was placed to support this massive structure.

CLOSING OUT THE GEOTECHNICAL PROCESS

The geotechnical phase of the project is complete once the preparation of the geotechnical design report is complete. This extensive report is comprised of the engineers’ analyses and design recommendations, topographic survey, subsurface explorations, and materials testing that was performed for the project.

The idea of geotechnical engineering or using scientists to complete a building may seem a foreign concept, but to put it plainly, this dynamic team is put in place to make sure its latest building doesn’t lean or collapse.

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