You’ve found the spot where you want to build your commercial building or factory. Congrats! It’s a beautiful piece of open land, far from any competitors or other harmful interference. It’s so beautiful and quiet….almost too quiet. You may wonder why the price of the land is so good, and yet no one else has started to build here. What do they know that you don’t? Before grading the dirt to lay your foundation, you’ll likely need to consult a soil engineer for permitting reasons.

“A soil engineer? I’m not building a garden.”

You’ve likely heard biblical wisdom, “A wise man builds his house upon the rock.” Well, though you’re likely not building your new building on a rock, per se, you also don’t want to lay your new foundation on potentially loose soil. That piece of ground that seemed too good to be true may actually be too “expansive” to be tenable for construction purposes. In other words, your building’s foundation is at risk of sinking into the dirt. Beyond applying immense pressure to the ground before laying a concrete foundation, you’ll want to make sure that the soil itself isn’t going to be an issue. Enter the soil engineer.

What does a soil engineer do?

A soil engineer is an expert in how different types of soil and soil conditions contribute to architectural and construction stability. They’re typically hired to analyze soil conditions on proposed construction sites where the existing soil conditions could drastically impact foundations, plumbing, septic systems, and drainage. Soil engineers are well versed in various soil compositions and their effects on the lasting stability of structures. They will also understand the hazards of such soil during adverse climates, severe weather, flooding, or seismic activity.

When is the assistance of a soil engineer required?

While consulting a soil engineer before any construction project is advised, the acquisition of building permits may require the approval of such an authority. Soil engineers are typically hired through a building contractor, architect, other building officials, or even a realtor. Soil engineers must be appropriately licensed and registered as such with their state or local governments.

Before you write off that piece of land as a no-build zone on the initial advice of the soil engineer, you’re forgetting the second half of their title—engineer. Yes, if there is a way to build on a site safely, soil engineers will be able to identify how. There are various architectural and construction methods to making a new commercial construction project achievable with less-than-ideal soil conditions. A licensed and experienced soil engineer can help you determine what steps to take next—sometimes literally.