Building Safety Month around the world puts an important emphasis on working safely within buildings, but we also want to highlight critical expertise that goes into safe construction before anyone ever steps inside. Alpha-Omega Geotech is a proud symbol of safe construction and our special inspections and testing teams play an especially important role in ensuring projects get out of the ground safely.
“We confirm buildings are constructed the way design professionals intend,” says AOG General Manager Blake Bennett. “We validate compliance, and accuracy is our highest priority because safety depends on it.”
Cracking the Code Behind Peace of Mind
Everyone knows there’s a code for pretty much everything in construction. Codes amount to an evolving rule book of standards for doing things right and we’ve been studying it for decades. After architects and structural engineers hand off designs to a general contractor, we step up to nail down compliance when construction begins. Bennett says that’s when our role immediately becomes crucial.
“The horse is out of the barn at that point, along with the risk of human error. When construction crews go to work, we become the eyes and the ears for the project owner to make sure it all comes together as expected. Through inspections and testing, we confirm construction directly reflects plans and codes are being followed.”
AOG engineers carefully examine everything from soil to materials like concrete, steel, and asphalt prepared on-site specifically for the project. Then we zero-in on the use of the materials, monitoring how exactly they’re spaced, positioned, and put into place. Our work is painstaking but we never lose sight of the fact that the safety of the entire building depends on what we do, from the subgrade, footings, slab, and foundation to the walls and the welding connections.
“We tackle pretty much anything that requires special testing or testing knowledge,” says Bennett. “Buildings can’t be occupied until we sign off. Any discrepancies we flag must be addressed first. The result is peace of mind about strength and durability. You know plans were precisely executed and your structure is fundamentally safe.”
Our Experience Offers Even More
Every city has building codes and they can vary from city to city. It can be especially confusing and difficult in an area like Kansas City made up of a collage of communities in two states. Our team is familiar with code variations across the metro and that often comes in handy for builders looking to save time. Inspection requirements can also vary substantially all the way down to forms and other essential documentation.
“Builders really have to understand what they’re dealing with if they want to work in these communities, and it’s not easy,” explains Bennett. “Just the other day, I got a call from an architect in St. Louis about a project in KC. He said, ‘They’ve asked me for something we don’t do over here. What exactly is that about?’ We get those kinds of calls all the time.”
Outside of the rigid and strict nature of our code compliance work, builders also depend on our vast experience to help solve other problems on the fly that aren’t as black and white. Conditions can vary widely and often result in changes at a job site. Our deep knowledge of local soil combined with our seasoned expertise can offer insight and illuminate creative ideas for ensuring safety in difficult situations. Navigating things like soft soil spots around footings, the presence of tree limbs, and other unstable material in the subgrade, and rock layers in different states of hardness really benefits from our perspective.
“We know all about these challenges and we’ve been down these roads over and over again in KC,” says Bennett. “Our experience gives us the confidence to make judgment calls that keep projects moving forward without sacrificing quality, or shortcutting in a way that threatens the integrity of construction materials.”
Much of our geotech analysis ultimately depends on the results of our laboratory testing, but our crew has so much experience, they can often shape expectations before testing so builders can plan ahead. Bennett says it’s hard to put a price on the value of that kind of know-how. “You get pros like Tracy Westhoff, Tom Burdick, and others who can take one look at a soil sample and know exactly what they’re up against before testing even begins. They’ve been doing this for decades and our partners are always grateful for their input.”
We Believe There is No Other Way.
Of course, safety is bigger than soil, materials, and welding torches. It’s part of life in the construction industry and we consider ourselves advocates backed by a lot of years of first-hand experience. When your job is all about ensuring the fundamental stability of a building, it’s easy to become a champion of the bigger picture.
“Many of us at AOG have been in construction for a very long time and we’ve watched safety become the highest priority for most contractors,” says Bennett. “It’s now the price of admission to participate in the best projects, and research shows it also offers a solid return on investment. Putting time and money into safety pays off in so many ways. There is no downside.”
Bennett says safety has blossomed into much more than obligatory policies and procedures. It’s now a cornerstone of construction culture that has everyone watching for dangers overhead and on the ground as they move through job sites. It compels workers to keep work areas clear of hazards and clean up at the end of the day.
“You know our work at AOG is in sort of a gray area when it comes to observing Building Safety Month, but we know every step we take in our contribution to a project is a step toward safety. And we believe our responsibilities go beyond our work at job sites. We look out for everyone we work with and we’re believers in maintaining safe work environments, not just safe structures.”
Safety is, after all, not just something we all should do. Construction professionals know it’s the right thing to do and Bennett easily makes the case for keeping it paramount.
“You can replace materials and equipment, but you can’t replace parents and grandparents. That’s the bottom line. That’s why safety is important from the moment you start digging at a project site through all the ways the finished building will be used. If you can’t do something safely, don’t do it at all. No one can argue with that.”