Clients of geotechnical services are often civil and structural engineers. So why, when it comes to ground related risks, do they find it so hard to grasp the concept of best value?
Here's a tale that needs to be told. It came as something of a surprise to Keith Gabriel, chairman of the Association of Geotechnical & Geoenvironmental Specialists (AGS), to discover that the Institution of Civil Engineers had revised the Conditions of Contract for Ground Investigation without input from AGS or the British Geotechnical Association - the ICE's geotechnical group.
More bad news was to follow;
the ICE's Engineering Committee based its document on the Minor Works 3rd edition - a form of contract that was considered inappropriate for ground investigations by industry practitioners.
Fortunately, this wasn't the end of the story. The AGS made representations to ICE and, following a presentation on its work, was offered a place on the working group committee.
Together with BGA, says Gabriel, the AGS has persuaded the committee to reassess the wisdom of using the Minor Works 3rd edition. 'The existing document will now be revised in line with the ICE Seventh Edition Conditions of Contract and a short form contract for use on simple jobs will be included as an appendix.'
So, a victory of sorts, and there is a positive outcome as it has created a situation where 'the AGS will build on the opportunity to develop a closer working relationship with ICE'.
The AGS too had important lessons to learn from this episode. 'One of the problems we have identified during the past year is that there are many civil engineers around - including senior members of ICE - who still have not heard of the AGS, ' Gabriel explains. And when clients of geotechnical services are often other civil and structural engineers, this is a big omission.
The AGS, above all else, stresses that quality and early involvement of geotechnical specialists lead to best value. If civil engineers don't get it, how is the association going to convince non-engineering clients?
There is good reason why the AGS should be shouting more.
Within the ground sector, it is acknowledged as an active and influential association that is helping to improve standards and tackle important industry issues. With more than 120 members, the association is representative of the industry too - particularly the ground investigation and consulting sectors. In Gabriel's words:
'AGS punches above its weight.'
The AGS will undoubtedly continue to do what it has always done well at a grass roots level. But will the coming year, the second of Gabriel's two year term, see a raising of the organisation's profile?
As Gabriel acknowledges, 'we need to broaden the information - there are distinct gaps in the publicity and we need to do more.
'Looking externally, we have built closer links during the year with several other industry organisations, but we must endeavour to broaden and strengthen the growing number of links with other industry organisations, both in the UK and overseas.'
Another issue Gabriel faces is the need to increase membership. 'Our active membership puts in a tremendous effort, but there is an awful lot to be done and if we are going to do more we need a bigger pool.
'Thus, the primary challenges for the year ahead will be promoting greater involvement of existing members, and recruiting new members who are committed to providing quality services to their clients.'
INFOPLUS www. ags. org. uk