If there’s one thing Tom Burdick might know better than science, it’s Alpha-Omega Geotech. He’s always loved and believed in our company as if it belonged to him. “I’m not literally an owner of AOG, but I certainly feel ownership,” says Burdick. “I’ve been here from the start of my career. It’s where I became me and I’m just so proud of our work. It’s the best.”
As our Laboratory Manager for nearly 30 years, Burdick’s impact on construction projects across Kansas City is as big as his reputation. He has a deep understanding of local soils and fits his services into the realities of construction processes. Burdick delivers exactly what builders need to unlock the potential of projects from the ground up. He analyzes soil and tests construction materials to ensure they meet the demands of design plans.
“You might say our Lab supplies key ingredients for construction,” explains Burdick. “Our pride comes from ensuring accurate test results every single time. That’s what we’re known for and what really drives us.”
Nearly three decades — that’s a lot of testing, and it’s resulted in a sophisticated appreciation of soil and materials that’s become second nature. While other geotechnical firms also have in-house labs, none can offer the kind of experience and hard-earned expertise that keeps AOG partners coming back. But you’ll never hear Burdick boasting or digging for praise. That’s not at all his style. His satisfaction comes simply from proof of a job well done.
“I’d say 99% of our Lab clients are return clients,” says Burdick. “That’s all the feedback I need. It’s priceless, really, and sustains me through the years.”
Burdick’s priorities over the years have included piecing together a robust collection of technologies that helps make AOG a magnet for specialized work. Resistivity testing, for example, and the substantial tech investment that goes with it, is the price of admission for helping utilities build new sites for massive electrical components. Burdick says it’s not so much the power of Lab equipment worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, it’s the way it all performs in experienced hands.
“Our testing tech isn’t extremely high-tech, but it is very specialized. We’ve been working with it for a long time so we know exactly what it can do and how we can apply it to get a wide-spectrum of results builders need.”
A Soil Savant at the Heart of AOG
You might see AOG teams at project sites doing things like drilling, taking samples, or working on special inspections. But what you don’t see is Burdick working behind the curtain back at our headquarters, sifting through science to discover data that’s construction gold. “I look at our Lab as the heart of what we do,” says Burdick. “All paths at AOG, from boring to materials inspections, run through the Lab. Those are the arteries. Test results are the blood.”
Burdick is typically first called into action when exploration gets going at a construction site. He’s involved from the very beginning and focused directly on the soil. Yes, that’s his job, but for Burdick, plunging his fingers into a sample bucket doesn’t feel like work. It’s more like getting back in touch with a lifelong passion. He’s a true scientist’s scientist, rewarded by the sensation of earthy textures and the intrigue of painstaking analysis more than a paycheck or recognition.
“I love getting my hands dirty. It’s that simple. I like to feel the material I’m working with. It allows me to enjoy my work to a degree that I think is pretty rare. I’m not sure there are too many people out there who like their jobs quite this much.”
Literally getting a feel for the soil immediately gets the science flowing on a project. Burdick knows Kansas City soil like the Chiefs know football. Many times he can scoop up a handful and anticipate results before testing even begins. It’s a refined gut instinct that longtime partners have come to expect and trust as an opportunity to speed up timelines without sacrificing quality. Burdick says assessing soil between his fingers is just part of a process that ends in the precise testing accuracy that means everything to him.
“I can quickly get a feel for things like moisture, compaction and density, but the testing itself is what counts the most. We observe data that must be perfectly evaluated and recorded. That’s the most important thing we do.”
It’s most important because combined with Burdick’s extraordinary experience, testing delivers the confidence project partners need to make key decisions about foundation design and other plans for getting a building up and out of the ground successfully. No one wants the risk of collapse or the slow deterioration of stability beneath expensive structures otherwise built to last. Bottom line, Burdick’s analyses empower construction teams to complete their best work.
“The soil is the starting point,” says Burdick. “Knowing it’s exact profile, limitations and potential is essential. What can it handle. How will it perform. Understanding what you’re dealing with in detail is the only way to launch your project with peace of mind that it’s off to a solid and safe start. Skipping testing can come back to haunt you after the project is complete. My engineering colleagues will tell you that correcting problems at that point can be extremely expensive if even possible.”
Soil testing often continues after construction begins if engineers seek ongoing assurance through changing weather and other conditions. Burdick may also need to stick with a project long enough to test concrete, asphalt and other material mixtures to ensure consistency, stability and strength.
The Perfect Partner for Performance Under the Gun
Sharpening your skills over decades to become a leading expert is one thing, but shaping yourself to the crunch of construction timelines and processes is quite another. If scientific know-how ranks as Burdick’s superpower, his collaborative spirit is a close second.
“Many clients don’t understand our testing processes and don’t really need to. They’re focused on getting test results quickly and then moving on. They’re after a certain number or set of numbers that come from testing. That’s all. I understand that and work to support the rush reality of their world.”
Burdick’s days are filled with setting up, testing and recording data while juggling emails and phone calls. “The communication demands are substantial and don’t let up,” says Burdick. “My inbox is dominated by requests for testing or requests for updates on tests currently underway. It never ends.”
Endless demands make for endless weeks. Burdick typically works every day, Monday through Sunday. AOG’s clients need results now and he doesn’t want to keep them waiting. It’s quality and confidence delivered at the speed of construction. In other words, it’s Burdick’s specialty. “I like to be under the gun,” he admits. “I hold up just fine under pressure. I think I thrive, actually.”
Rising to the challenge can mean walking a fine line between impatient construction crews and an unwavering commitment to doing testing right. He’s always working to optimize speed without sacrificing the integrity of his work, and that’s not easy. Some tests take just a day or so but others can take three days and advanced testing can stretch into weeks.
“When you get into higher-end testing, like maybe slope testing that’s more complicated, the process might take a month.”
But AOG clients know Burdick only takes the time he needs and it always pays off. They also know that when he recommends additional testing, it’s smart to go with it. “I typically run tests per the instructions of our internal engineers or external clients. But sometimes I can see the big picture and identify a missed opportunity that additional testing can provide.”
An elite laboratory known for delivering timely, accurate results plus ‘opportunities.’ That pretty much says it all about what Tom Burdick has built inside AOG. He loves the dirt under his fingernails as well as his achievements for our clients. We couldn’t be more proud of him and we’re grateful for all his work perfecting a critical expertise and service experience that our competitors envy and the local construction industry covets.
“You know I’ve worked with some clients for years and I really try to make a difference for them in ways that are meaningful for them,” says Burdick. “I truly enjoy proving what we can do with our Lab and how we tackle challenges and help solve problems in a way that’s really hard to beat in Kansas City.”