All About That Base

 In Mark's Message

Well, it seems like we are over the pandemic. It may not be completely over and done with us, but I think everyone is pretty much feeling “done” with it. I don’t know about you, but there are certain things that helped me get through the pandemic – and three, in particular, I’ll mention here:  One was the team at GeoSolv and the amazing way they pressed through and got it done, creating the conditions for a record year last year for GeoSolv and an even bigger year shaping up this year! A second was our clients, who sustained a fantastic construction market, created jobs for many folks, and helped carry Canada’s economy through a pretty unstable time. Thank you to our great clients and friends in the industry – you are inspiring!

A third thing that helped me through the last few years’ is music. Music keeps us sane, elevates our mood, and lowers stress – these are all things we need right now.

Those who know me, know that I’m an excessively proud dad and that my son is an excellent bassist who is looking to go to post-secondary school this fall for music. He’s taught me some really interesting things about the bass. When you hear a really good song, it’s the bass that holds it together and makes the song work. You don’t necessarily recognize that it’s the bass that gives the song a certain something – most folks focus on the vocals and guitar and maybe the great beat, but if the song has a bassline that is not in the groove and not properly harmonized and not doing what the bass should be doing, you notice it, but you may not know why. The song falls apart or doesn’t “make it” because of the poor bassline work. It’s actually the bassline that sets the rhythm for the song, tying the piece together.

My son loves jazz because it’s complex and challenging to play. And although many who listen to jazz would say that the rhythm is complex, the vast majority of jazz songs are actually built on the 4/4-time signature. Ultimately simple, but complex in the delivery with many rhythmic variations within the bar. And the bass again drives the rhythm and ties it all together, and actually simplifies the song, serving as the bridge between rhythm and harmony.

So, what does this all have to do with our industry?  Our clients are telling us that they face increasingly complex and challenging project sites – sites that have vastly more complexities than they used to. So whatever one can simplify, particularly if it’s at the front end of the project schedule, this will save big headaches.

If any of you have been to one of our job sites (and if you haven’t, please reach out for a tour!), one thing you will notice is that the Geopier® Ground Improvement Systems we employ are based on vertical ramming and downward crowd force. Vertical ramming is the basis of a quality Ground Improvement System, and that’s the rhythm that will set your overall project up for success. Like that provided by the bass in really great music, the rhythm of our systems on-site ensures the final product, your structure, is on a sound foundation. These systems are also very simple and quick, allowing you to get out of the ground and get to the stuff that gets all the attention – the above-ground stuff – the stuff that everyone notices.

And just like you want to hire the most experienced and skilled bassist for your hit song, the “Base-ist,” if you will, for your structure or development is equally important. There is a lot of experience and research and development that went into Geopier systems. 12,000+ projects worldwide and millions of dollars of investment into the technologies that are now tried and true. It’s that experience that you want to have holding up your structure.

You probably don’t often find yourself thinking, “Wow, what a great bassist.” Because when done right, to most people, the bassline “just” works, and the end result is “just” great music. But when the lead guitarist decides to play bass because it was cheaper for the band to hire… even the less musically passionate notice. So next time you are composing a hit song, start with the end in mind – a great song and a great performance – and build it from the bass.

Just like performing acts, seek out the best bassist because musicians know how important that is to the song; it’s also important to carefully select the right foundation team for your project. Foundations to a building are like a bassline to a song. So, to make sure your structure has the right “sound”, you want to have the right geotechnical engineer to assess your soils and provide good and practical recommendations (the writing of the song). Then you want a great structural engineer to design the foundations correctly (arranging the song). And, of course, those that design and build your foundation system (performing the song).

Ground Improvement simplifies your foundations and holds up your building, and ground improvement can be complex and challenging. We must take the existing, poor and heterogenous soil conditions and make them better. We must ensure this improved soil can support your structure, and we must ensure the overall system can be installed in a way that won’t cost the owner expensive change orders along the way. You want to choose someone who has the local experience and backing to handle this critical task to ensure the building performs the way it should.

Rarely, if ever, do building owners say “wow, great foundations” when we are involved in a project… but if the foundations are not done right, the rest of the structure doesn’t sing!  It’s all about that base!

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