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Forensic Friday.jpg


Probably the most famous geotechnical forensic engineering example in the world is the leaning Tower of Pisa. The tower’s tilt began during construction, caused by an inadequate foundation on ground too soft on one side to properly support the structure’s weight. There are numerous potential causes for visible distress on buildings or other structures. The visible distress can rear its head in many forms such as: cracking in floor slabs, cracking in walls, racking of doors or popping of windows. In pavements it usually begins in the form of longitudinal and transverse cracking that can quickly deteriorate into alligator cracking.

Just like any investigation, the visible indicators help to develop a recommended course of action. Possible field investigation measures include: footing exposures, ground penetrating radar, Schmitt hammer, seismic refraction surveys, floor survey, slab exposures, concrete or asphaltic concrete cores, borings, historical data investigation and associated laboratory testing. Ultimately, the forensic geotechnical study should include site conditions, analysis of field investigation, an analysis of the laboratory data with conclusions of likely cause with associated alternatives for remedial action. In Arizona, the common issues that we are asked to investigate include:

  • Expansive Soils

  • Collapsible Soils

  • Rock instability

  • Inadequate materials (out of specification ABC, pavement or concrete)

  • Settlement of Shallow and Deep Compacted Fill Soils

  • Moisture Intrusion Below Slabs

  • Excessive moisture under slabs during construction

  • Soil Corrosion

  • Sulfate Exposure

  • Site Runoff and Drainage – negative slopes toward foundations

  • Roadway and Parking Area Pavement Failures

  • Slope Stability Failures

  • Foundation Failures

  • Excavation Failures

  • Differing Site Condition Disputes

  • Underground Pipeline Failures


We typically prefer to visit your project to determine if the distress is soils related. If the site visit determines that the likely culprit is soils related, we then provide a detailed proposal for your consideration. The initial site visit usually requires approximately 1 hour of time on-site. If you have a project you would like to talk to us about give us a call or email Jeff Vann at

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