What is Soil Characterization in a Construction Project?

Soil characterization is the process of testing the soil on a construction site in order to review subsurface conditions and ensure that the soil composition adheres to any state and federal regulations. For real estate investors, property managers and construction companies alike, the composition, depth, density, quantity and quality of soils on your site are integral to construction projects. These and other characteristics of the soil throughout an entire site can determine real estate purchases and investments, as well as the kind of structural materials and plan of construction to be used and implemented. The soil testing process can also help you predict and determine the costs involved with your project.

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The Importance of Soil Characterization

Where anything is to be built, it is essential to have a thorough understanding of the earth and soil composition. Be it an office building, housing project, school, or community center or even a recreation facility, the reasons for conducting a soil characterization study are tantamount.

Protect Others

  • Build Safely: A comprehensive understanding of your soil makeup can ensure your team has the right structure in place to prohibit any future damage to property or those who live on it. Soil characterization can affect a business’ plan for building structure, which supports the wellbeing of those who are and will be involved in the building process. 
  • Dispose Safely: Soil must be tested before transporting or removing it from your jobsite. This is so professionals have an understanding the health risks associated with the jobsite dirt. The composition of your soil determines where and how you can excavate in order to protect the health of the community. 

Protect Your Business From Risk

  • Government Regulations: If soil goes untested or is tested poorly, businesses might find themselves in violation of applicable regulations. This could cause your business to face large fees or other consequences.  
  • Brand Value: Mismanaging the soil characterization process can have poor long term effects on your business. Maintain a good relationship with local residents, your employees, and others by ensuring your soil is safe and build-ready (or transport-ready). 

Protect Your Project

  • Adhere to Timelines: Once you understand what the soil composition of a certain jobsite means for your business, you can better predict the project timeline. This may include allowing for additional testing, adjusting the transportation logistics for soil excavation, or ordering more PPE for your jobsite employees. 
  • Keep Under Budget: Did you allocate enough of your project budget for adjustments that need to be made based on the soil analysis? Consider the same examples that might affect your project timeline – these could affect your budget too!  

Other Soil Testing Benefits

In addition to real estate investment and construction, soil characterization can support the following: 

  • the interpretation of soil moisture and temperature, land cover, and atmosphere measurements
  • to complement and extend land cover mapping
  • to develop soil maps of a region
  • to provide information for computer modeling.

Soil Characterization Process for a Construction Site

It’s important to let those involved in a real estate transaction understand the process involved in soil characterization. 

  • A potential real estate investor who becomes interested in a particular property or parcel of land will be able to find existing soil analyses that will characterize the property as ‘safe’ to build new construction and maintain structures upon.
    • Sometimes, such analyses may be dated and no longer effective. Soil composition can change over years of time and from rain, storms, sediment flow, earthquakes, automobile traffic and from other natural and manmade factors.
    • In this case, you’ll want to start your soil characterization process here by hiring an expert like Essel to determine whether the site is safe for your plans.
  • If the property is deemed safe (either by existing analyses or new), construction still cannot begin until a new soil analysis is conducted after the purchase. This kind of analysis is extensive, thorough, and determines the kind of construction and materials allowed to be utilized on the site in adherence with existing regulations.
  • Start your soil characterization by hiring soil experts, geologists and scientists to conduct the soil study and analysis. Companies like Essel exist who employ professionals like these and other experts critical to conducting a soil characterization analysis that is in-depth and complete.
  • Essel will perform a site analysis that includes the following: 
    • The kind of soil (sand, rock, clay, loose dirt, etc.) composing the property, its depth and solidity, and its ability to safely hold and maintain heavy steel and concrete structures, all become factors in the construction process
    • The detection of groundwater wells or canals, for example, need to be found and mapped. 
    • The presence of underground “air pockets” and tunnels or voids, also need to be determined. 
    • These and other geological changes can occur underground and wherever manmade structures have existed for any period of time.

Construction Site Protocols for Soil Characterization

There are site protocols for soil characterization that pertain to a site analysis and its complete findings and conclusion. All these protocols can determine interest in real estate investments and construction methods and costs. They include the following protocols:

  • Latitude, Longitude and Elevation: The lines of latitude and longitude and elevation above sea level will determine the location of the site. These can be determined by a GPS (Global Positioning System) and other scientific means.
  • Site Exposure Method: An approach used to expose and study the soil and is identified via scientific methods called the pit method, auger method or near-surface method.
  • Site Location: Protocols for soil characterization can be added to any existing site. Together, all these are significant for interpreting soil moisture, temperature measurements, atmospheric measurements, and land cover measurements.
  • Slope: The slope of a property is important, and using an instrument called a clinometer, the angle at which the land of a site varies from a horizontal surface can be measured in degrees.
  • Aspect: Aspect indicates how the sun will influence soil properties. Soils can be drier or wetter, depending on which of Earth’s hemispheres the property in question is located. Local weather conditions also can influence aspects.
  • Landscape Position: At a soil characterization site, landscape position describes the contours of the land and how the soil was formed. For example, formed by erosion or deposition? Also, what can be determined is whether the rain falling upon a site will run off, flow and become a pond or seep into the ground.
  • Cover Type: The cover type entails a description of the material (such as gravel or pavement) and vegetation covering the surface of the soil. When nothing is covering the soil, then it is called bare soil. Material covering the soil can be described as grass, shrubs, trees, rocks, gravel, concrete or other.
  • Land Use: The way in which land is used at a soil characterization site can be defined as urban, recreational, agricultural, wilderness or other. Land use can have a serious effect upon the formation of soil and assist in interpreting and defining a soil’s properties and development.

Hire the Right Soil Characterization Service to Serve You!

The condition and quality of soil on your site does indeed play a major key role in your real estate investments and construction projects. Because of this, it’s critical you identify the characteristics of the soil to determine its ability to support your structure and construction goals. Thus, proper and thorough soil testing to analyze and define the state and suitability of the soil should be conducted by an experienced and highly-rated environmental engineering company. ESSEL has the expertise and experience to conduct soil characterization analyses and studies as required by federal and state laws to determine the quality and suitability of soil on your property. Set up a call with one of our soil remediation experts or request a free quote for soil testing.