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CalGEO - The California Geotechnical Engineering Association

The Voice of California's Consulting Geotechnical Engineers

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President's Message

By Larry Taylor, G.E./Taylor Group
CalGeo President 2015-2016

As I step into the role of President of CalGeo at the start of its 45th year, I find myself considering the past to see how it might help me to focus on what's ahead. A lot has changed since the time this Association was founded 44 years ago as the Soil and Foundation Engineers Association (SAFEA). Consider how things like technological changes, advances in geotechnical science/engineering, regulatory requirements, employer/employee relationships, and other factors have changed the way geotechnical consulting firms do business now as compared to then. Some big changes.

A lot has not changed. Soil and rock are still soil and rock and the fundamental way in which we work with our clients to help them deal with the geotechnical aspects of their projects has not really changed all that much – we just have a bigger and more sophisticated toolbox than we did in the past. And many of the most challenging issues that prompted our founding Member firms to band together have not gone away. In fact, many of the long-standing non-technical issues which profoundly affect our businesses have simply become more complex - like complying with prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements or managing the tight wire act of practicing an imperfect science with imperfect people in an ever-more litigious society while at the same time being asked to indemnify our clients.

The persistent issues that were a unifying force 44 years ago remain at the core of why CalGeo exists. These are difficult issues that will probably never go away, but mitigating their impacts on our profession requires that CalGeo must continue to grow. The equation is simple:

Larger Association = Louder voice = Ability to affect change where it is needed. (Equation 1)

With this in mind, my primary goal for the next year is to increase the number of Member firms and affiliate Members of CalGeo by 25% or more. We currently have about 100 Member firms and affiliates. There are hundreds of geotechnical firms in California which can and should be Members of CalGeo and are not…many are not even aware that our Association exists. Over the past several years CalGeo has developed some very good tools (like our website and the e-Geo) and information packets aimed, in part, at increasing membership. We need to increase our efforts to put those materials in the hands of prospective Members. So my call and my challenge to all Members is to make this happen. More on this soon in a separate article.

I want to highlight some of the ongoing important and challenging initiatives being pursued by CalGeo committees. These include:

  • The Technical Advisory (chaired by Past President Siamak Jafroudi) has made some good progress in raising our profile and providing rulemaking input to DSA in connection with geotechnical matters in the California Building Code for the 2015 Triennial Code Adoption Cycle. This important effort will benefit from your help and involvement.
  • The Government Practices/Legislative Committee (co-chaired by Directors Bob Lokteff and Rob Fingerson) has, among other things, been at the fore of making changes to BORPELSG rules and California Code language related to engineering oversight of soil technicians and materials testers. This committee will benefit from your help and involvement.
  • An ad-hoc subcommittee of the Government Practices committee (including Directors Dave Hamilton, Hannes Richter and myself) is investigating the possibility of CalGeo forming its own apprenticeship program for soil technicians. This committee will need your help and involvement.
  • The Technician Affairs Committee (chaired by Director Mike Moscrop) has re-invigorated and greatly improved our Loss Prevention Seminars over that past few years and is aiming at expanding the format to include an ICC Soils Special Inspector examination preparation element. This committee will benefit from your help and involvement.
  • The Student Outreach Committee (chaired by Director Neal Berliner) continues to add CalGeo Student Chapters. There are currently six student chapters and the count will soon be eight with the upcoming additions of UC San Diego and CSU Northridge. Member involvement and support of the student chapters is an important ingredient in their success and is always needed.
  • Our Emerging Professionals Committee (chaired by Director Martin McIlroy) is aiming at adding one or two new groups in southern California. This program is designed to help young geoprofessionals network and get more involved with their peers and our future leaders. This committee will benefit from your help and involvement.
  • The Business Factors Committee (co-chaired by Director Hamilton and myself) is in the process of revising and improving the annual salary survey to a more automated (e.g., web-based), flexible and useful format. We will be seeking assistance in this effort.

These are examples of the work CalGeo does to benefit our organization and our profession. Just in case you missed the subtle message, we are seeking help from all Members to make these efforts successful. Another simple equation:

More brains = More and better ideas = Better outcome (Equation 2)

For a full list of CalGeo committees and contacts, please visit our website: and click on "get involved". If you are not quite ready to get involved in a committee, we want all Members to encourage involvement by their staff in attending our regional meetings and annual conference. Our annual conferences have been trending towards more technical content in addition to business and legislative topics. The individual presentations and panel discussion at the 2015 Annual Conference in Carmel that featured Professors Bray, Boulanger, DeJong and Robertson on liquefaction topics is a good example. The upcoming 2016 Annual Conference at the Langham Hotel in Pasadena has great potential to be the largest and perhaps the best annual conference in CalGeo's history. You should come.

In closing, this is my message to all of our Members... Thank you for being a Member... I ask that you make a commitment to increase your direct involvement in CalGeo... see Equations 1 and 2.

Member Highlight

Peter K. Robertson

Professor Emeritus

Technical Advisor - Gregg Drilling & Testing, Inc.

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