Contract Surety

Good Building Sites?



Are they all gone? Yes, no, maybe? While it’s true that dream sites on untouched land are scarce, that doesn’t mean there are no good building sites available. It does make it increasingly worthwhile to invest in thorough data collection up front, which ultimately saves time and money down the line, as decisions and plans are based on useful intel. 

Early Planning and Intervention

“All the good sites are gone” is a common lament at construction gatherings–especially those involving the push to build state of the art manufacturing facilities across the country. The truth is, there are viable sites:

But many of those sites must be made good with early planning and intervention. To achieve an equally good final outcome in terms of cost and schedule, it is important to put together a pre-construction team that represents a range of expertise, and to invest in all relevant testing and assessments….Even if a real estate parcel gives the first impression of being easily developable, it is wise to perform comprehensive testing to understand what the scope of work to build on that land might entail. Project teams who have failed to make these early investments and who have consequently paid millions of dollars to mitigate unforeseen conditions are the ones lamenting that “all the good sites are gone.”

Indeed, attempts to rush through or short-shrift testing and preparation, usually do result in more problems–and expense–down the line. Cautionary examples of site selection failures include:

One company relied on a geotechnical survey that stated rock would be encountered 5-6 feet beneath the surface. In reality, rock was discovered 6-7 inches below the surface. The shallower rock required increased blasting and fill dirt, adding three months to the schedule and costing the owner an additional $8 million.

Similarly, another company unexpectedly encountered a network of water pipes underground on their chosen site; pipes that had not been identified in geotechnical or environmental site surveys. Situations such as these, while not uncommon, indicate that site surveys and ecological assessments are all too often rudimentary, lacking the amount of thorough testing needed to fully inform the building team.

Adequate Data?

Cost efficiency related to selecting and planning for the sites needed for big projects requires “adequate” testing, making what constitutes adequate the real challenge, since that likely depends on the site: “For example, it may not be enough to know that rock exists on site; it may also be necessary to know the rock classification, especially if the site is a known expansive rock area. Identifying rock classification may require additional borings as well as lab testing.” Ultimately, in pursuit of success, securing contracting partners with solid experience can be game changing when it comes to reviewing a variety of data and mitigating risks while plans to build are developed:

Reliable geotechnical reports can provide information on the amount of rock that will need to be excavated, the amount of groundwater or surface water that will need to be pumped out, and the bearing capacities of existing soils. They can even identify slope stability and seismic risks. Geotechnical information is essential for the team to arrive at an optimal site layout, develop a grading and/or shoring plan, lay out utilities, design load-bearing components, and much more. Nevertheless, it is crucial to exercise caution and thoroughly review geotechnical investigations for common issues in the specific region where the construction project is located…..Environmental assessments further assist the team, identifying toxic substances such as lead, oil, asbestos, and other contaminants. Soil borings and well monitoring of groundwater are typical testing approaches. 

Financial Planning

Thorough testing and analysis does cost money up front, but experts point out that this investment can be recouped in other ways as plans progress, perhaps even through responsive design practices:

For example, groundwater may be eliminated by designing and constructing proper drainage systems, and structural systems that work with existing soil conditions may be designed in early. Economic incentives are also often available, including tax incentives and abatements, grants, and low-interest loans. Expenses associated with site remediation may also be rolled into initial land deals. When a prospective site can be made suitable for building by extending utilities (such as water, electricity or gas lines) or infrastructure (such as paving or rail services), funding may be available to offset these costs. States and municipalities often use funding tools in this way to attract development…..

We’re Here To Help…

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