I stumbled across a nice interview of Dan Brown, a recognized deep foundation expert and founder of Dan Brown and Associates, in a back issue of Pile Buck magazine. He discussed some of the large design-build contracts that they have been involved in, designing foundations for some of the biggest bridges in the Country. One of my takeaways was that he called himself and his colleagues ‘foundation engineers’ and pointed out that we shouldn’t pigeon-hole ourselves as geotechnical engineers or structural engineers, foundation engineering requires elements of both and you must look at it from design all the way through construction. Overall, he has a very practical approach to his work, focusing on solving problems and designing things that are constructable and optimized. But perhaps my favorite tidbit from the interview was a football analogy for the design-build work that they do:
I tell people it’s like a football team. We’re the left tackle on the offensive line. We don’t always see what’s going on. If the quarterback fumbles the ball, it’s not always our fault. If we score a touchdown, we don’t always get noticed. But, if we miss a block, we definitely get noticed.
So, in foundation engineering, if we do our job well, we’re like the offensive line: somebody else gets credit but everyone on the team knows we did our job. If we don’t do our job, well, it’s a disaster of epic proportions: the quarterback is sacked, the ball is fumbled and the other team scores a touchdown. We are in big trouble. It’s not for the faint-of-heart. It’s still fun