Why is Environmental Soil Testing Critical in Commercial Development?

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Why is Environmental Soil Testing Critical in Commercial Development?

If you have a commercial building project in mind, you have plenty of moving parts to sort through
and manage before the ground is broken. Perhaps most important is to form the right
partnerships with experts to ensure the project goes as smoothly as possible. When you
partner with the right builder, you’ll understand the long list of variables that can impact
your project. You’ll also know how they can best be handled. One of the most important
factors for the long-term success of your project is the consistency, quality, and
composition of your soil. This is where environmental soil testing comes in.

At first glance, you might assume that soil testing is only relevant if you have concerns
about contaminants or overall quality, but it can reveal critical information that helps
your construction team makes informed decisions, as well.

Whether you’ve already bought land for a residential project or are on the lookout for a
commercial property, environmental soil testing is critical for the integrity of your building
and the long-term success of your project. Here, we’ll dive into how soil testing works
and what makes it valuable.

What is Environmental Soil Testing?

Soil testing is used across a wide range of industries to scientifically evaluate the
composition and characteristics of a piece of property. The process involves the
collection of soil samples from a given site, sample preparation, and detailed analysis.

Soil testing identifies the physical, chemical, and behavioral properties of a given piece
of land. In addition, it illuminates specific soil features, such as its density, permeability,
compaction, and more.

The results of these tests deliver critical information to scientists, farmers, building
engineers, architects, planners, and property owners. The data helps them to make safe,
practical decisions as they plan, design, build, and adjust to conditions.

Environmental soil testing often uses samples from several locations within a property,
offering a wider view of soil quality and composition. Generally, the more information
decision-makers have in hand, the better decisions they will be able to make.

How is the Information Used?

Industries that rely on environmental soil testing, including agriculture and construction,
rely on the data for critical information about soil quality and composition. Knowing
details about soil quality can help professionals make decisions that impact
operations, safety, and budgets.

In agriculture, soil testing is used to identify the organic composition and pH levels of
land. It can also be used to identify contaminants, such as heavy metals, chemicals or
their by-products. The results of environmental soil testing are critical to the success of
any agricultural operation. You wouldn’t want to plant crops in contaminated soil, nor a
nursery in soil with a pH level that won’t support healthy growth.

Similarly, in construction, builders need to know the composition of soil before they start
a project. Environmental soil testing produces data to create safe, efficient building
practices. With an understanding of the soil’s composition and behavior, it is easier to
understand the suitability of the site for specific construction projects.

Of course, the state and composition of soil are often in a state of change. In both
agriculture and construction, it is important to use multiple data points, taken and
analyzed over time. In many cases, best practices for environmental soil testing involve
multiple samples, taken over several rounds.

Getting Specific with Construction Jobs

Environmental soil testing offers two specific benefits in the construction industry. First,
it improves the structural integrity of buildings, allowing structural and design engineers
to make informed decisions about construction techniques, design fundamentals,
foundation selection, site location, and more. With soil data in hand, builders and their
teams can assess factors such as compressibility, soil-bearing capacity, and other
variables that will determine whether a property can support the anticipated loads.

Second, soil testing mitigates construction risks on a given job. Knowing the
composition and properties of the soil, builders can maximize safety, while minimizing
potential risks. If the builder knows the anticipated load of a structure and the properties
of the proposed site, they can make decisions around building features and details that
will prioritize safety and mitigate risks.

Ultimately, improving these two factors—structural integrity and construction safety—will
make a project more efficient and will lower overall costs. Larger-scale construction
projects often have ongoing environmental soil testing programs throughout the project,
to give regular feedback to build teams, while complying with safety standards.

Your Property Variables

If you’re considering a building project, whether residential or commercial, land
characteristics and soil quality will impact several factors related to the structure you
have planned.

Is there a slope to the property? Is there adequate drainage? Will you need to remove
or work around areas of rock?

Compounding these questions are those related to the soil itself. Environmental soil
testing reveals truths about the stability of a given slope, the tendency of soil to liquefy
and whether natural drainage will be suitable. Testing allows you to identify the
strengths and weaknesses of the soil, and it provides your builder with enough
information to minimize risks, reduce unforeseen risks, and avoid delays.

Timing is Everything

Of course, information used to mitigate risk is only useful if it’s available ahead of time.
If you’re considering a building project, be sure to think about environmental soil testing
alongside other early-stage steps. You may need to repeat soil testing throughout a
project, especially if it is a larger-scale build, but early testing is critical, both for
benchmark measurements and to understand the best way forward.

Perhaps most important, is to work with a builder you trust. A reliable builder will
regularly conduct environmental soil testing to identify and prepare to mitigate against
soil-related risks, just as they work to anticipate and avoid other challenges related to a
building project. Engineers and design teams will use the information to adjust the
materials used, the procedures followed, and potentially the timeline required to properly
prepare the soil.

If you’re considering a new build project, be sure to find an experienced team you can
trust. Ask around for personal referrals, looking for builders with extensive expertise
who prioritize innovation and excellence. You’ll want to find a build partner who
collaborates with you, making your vision, timeline, and budget key priorities.

As you search for your building partner, read their reviews and speak to referrals along
the way. Be sure to ask about their approach to environmental soil testing, as well.
Don’t be afraid to ask about testing their protocols and procedures, as you may find
their attention to detail comforting. To dig even deeper, ask about experiences they’ve
had, in which soil testing changed the course of a project.

At J.B. Donaldson, we are a premium design-build contractor with over 20 years of
experience in a wide range of industries. With extensive in-house expertise, we

collaborate with our clients, helping you navigate every aspect of your project, starting
with the pre-construction process.

We value quality, consistency, and predictability – allowing you to count on schedules,
costs, and project integrity. Our commitment to excellence allows us to provide creative
designs, practical solutions, and innovative ideas while keeping your goals and
objectives as top priorities.

Picture of J.B. Donaldson
J.B. Donaldson

A Premium Commercial Development & Construction Company.
37610 Hills Tech Drive, Farmington Hills, MI 48331

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