An Institution of Civil Engineers report from 1991 found that 50% of commercial buildings suffered construction delays due to unforseen ground conditions – fast forward to 2015 and we’re still losing time and money for the same reasons.

The biggest risks are the ones you can’t see – and yet, avoiding undertaking a quality ground investigation is still the norm rather than the exception.

Developers have at times reduced geotechnical investigations at the early stage of a project. Why spend money to obtain a better understanding of the ground conditions when you can spend it on the structure, or even leave it in the bank – right?

And when investigations are completed, increasing competition often sees them stripped to the bare minimum (or less) to keep costs low. More often than not, this is counter intuitive to the needs of the client. At Coffey, we believe in delivering the smartest solution, and this doesn’t come close.

While the allure of saving thousands of dollars by forgoing geotechnical investigation works in the early stages of a development seems the ‘go to’ position for many, taking this option will often come back to bite you somewhere down the track.

What many fail to realise is that investing in these investigations early on means greater savings further down the line, because the data they produce is crucial to providing significant savings in foundation construction.

Every additional dollar spent in the investigation stage could potentially save thousands during construction because you’ll develop a more efficient design with fewer surprises.

20150422 Assessing design parameters for an educational facilities contentgraphic

Smarter doesn’t always mean more expensive.

We provide our clients with the insight they need to better inform their decision making process. We’ll undertake a targeted investigation program and then utilise our IANZ accredited testing labs to produce quality information that allows us to consider all the options rather than a limited few. This results in an optimised solution as opposed to a generic ‘off the shelf’ one.

Working on the iconic Canterbury rebuild project Stranges Lane, demonstrates the value of early geotechnical consultation in the concept design phase. Our investigation findings led to the development of a ground improvement solution that incorporated natural dense soils and strengthened layers of weaker ones to create a stiff raft of ground. The structural engineer was then able to design a reinforced concrete raft foundation – a solution that was cheaper, quicker and simpler to build for our client and carried significantly less design and construction risk compared to the deep pile solution originally planned.

We’ve also had similar experiences in Wellington where we developed multiple foundation options to mitigate the risk of seismic events, liquefaction and 100 year flood conditions – and ultimately adopted the more cost effective and traditional foundation option when our early findings proved a more conservative option wasn’t necessary.

Assessing design parameters for an educational facility – St Patrick's Gymnasium, Wellington, New Zealand

How Coffey can help

When we understand your requirements and life of asset risks, we can ensure the development of a bespoke design – one that’s more efficient and will save costs. We’ll communicate with the structural engineer and contractor so we use the right equipment, in the right location, to coordinate works so we get the best result for you and your project.

Limiting your budget spend during the early stages of a project can pretty much guarantee you get what you pay for in the end – it may not be evident straight away, but over the life of your asset the cracks will start to show.

Rather than thinking of a geotechnical investigation and detailed foundation design as an unnecessary cost, perhaps you’ll consider them an investment – one that will minimise risk during construction and enhance the quality of your asset over its lifetime.

Are you confident that you’re making the smartest choice – one that’s based on the long life of your asset rather than the project duration?

If not, we’d like to help. Contact me on +64 27 700 7243 or via email at

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