GBA - Newslog - December 29, 2021

December 29, 2021

Vol. 50  No. 44

Most Popular Articles of 2021

As 2021 comes to a close, we take a moment to thank all our loyal members, our dedicated volunteers, and valuable business partners.

In this issue, we highlight the most popular NEWSlog articles from 2021.

We wish you all a safe and healthy holiday and we look forward to serving you in 2022 and beyond.


We Were Hacked! Cyber Attack Causes Total Business Disruption

GBA Business Practices Committee

A Member-Firm with multiple offices became the victim of foreign hacking enterprise. When an employee of the firm opened an email from an unsuspected contact, and clicked on a link, the hackers reached the Firm’s management systems. Once they got access to the systems, the infiltrators spent months learning about the operations, information storage and data, unbeknownst to anyone. After obtaining and securing all that they needed, they locked the access to the IT systems, including emails and files and demanded seven-figure sum of money to release the records.

What happens next?

Case Histories are real-life stories about GBA member-firm experiences. They provide background, problems, outcomes, and lessons learned. There is no easier way to learn expensive and time-consuming lessons than from others that went through the pain first and shared their experiences so we can all learn.

GBA Case Histories are free to all members.


Avoid Taboo Words

GBA Resource Collaboration Committee

This Best Practices document identifies words that should be considered “taboo” in professional practice. The six are not necessarily dangerous in and of themselves. How they are used and their context are important. Nonetheless, the consequences of using any one of them improperly can be so severe, many risk managers believe the words should be used only on a carefully considered, by-exception basis.


Guide to Third-Party Reliance Updated

GBA Resource Collaboration Committee

Developed by GBA’s Legal Affairs Committee, the GBA Guide to Third-Party Reliance provides comprehensive discussion of both authorized and unauthorized reliance and includes exhibits that contain sample materials firms can finalize with the assistance of qualified legal counsel. Contents include:

  1. Third-Party Reliance Defined
  2. Dealing with Reliance Requests
  3. Dealing with the Potential of Unauthorized Third-Party Reliance

The exhibits include (but not limited to):

  • Sample Letters Authorizing a Third Party to Rely on a Geotechnical-Engineering Report and GeoEnvironmental Report
  • Sample Contract Clauses about Document Use and Third-Party Reliance
  • Sample CoMET Advisory Letter to a Contractor
  • Sample Letter to Client about Contractors’ Use of Report for Bid Preparation
  • Sample Cease-and-Desist Letter
  • Sample Application for Authorization to Use

GBA Guide to Third-Party Reliance also includes an interactive table of contents and an interactive index.


Managing Project Risk Starts with an Honest Go/No-Go Evaluation

GBA Business Practice Committee

There are very good reasons why we would choose not to spend time and effort pursuing a client or a project. Some projects have technical risks that make them more likely to end up in a lawsuit. For some projects, the selection will be made on price, and we may be unable to make a reasonable profit with the fee required to get the work.

Recognizing these issues early on allows us to make an informed decision on whether we choose to pursue the project or not.

GBA’s Business Practices Committee has prepared a comprehensive, simple to use, Go/No-Go checklist for your use. The goal of the go/no go check list is to evaluate opportunities to see if they are the ones which will be beneficial for the firm currently and in the future. The completion of the check list is not meant to be arduous nor is it meant for every opportunity that comes to the firm as it gets you to think about risks you would not normally think about or glance over. It may be a tool you use to evaluate opportunities in new sectors, new clients, or a new line of service for your firm.


2021 Photo Contest Winners Announced

GBA is committed to promoting the value of geoprofessionals and for our 2021 photo contest we asked Members to share: “How do you depict the day in the life of a Geoprofessional?”

With over 90 photos submitted this year, the pride of geoprofessionals was on full display. We think you will agree, these vibrant photos capture our members in field activities, meeting with colleagues and clients, and observing safety in some amazing locations.


Grand Prize Winner

Photographer: Luke Ducey (Geotechnolology)

Description: Drilling piers for the St. Louis Arch Grounds early morning. Museum renovation and expansion. Downtown, St. Louis, Missouri

Congratulations Luke Ducey! Luke will receive a $100 gift card, Grand Prize Winner’s plaque and be recognized during GBA’s 2021 Fall Conference.

Overall Runner Up

Photographer: James “Jim” Potts, EIT (DOWL)

Description: DOWL Geologist, Paul Pribyl performs peat probes in a wetland along the proposed Sterling Highway MP 45 to 60 Project.

Congratulations Jim Potts.  Jim will receive a plaque, $50 gift card and be recognized during GBA’s 2021 Fall Conference.

Thank you to all who submitted photos and to our contest judges!


New Podcast - Case History #86: Dream Home or Nightmare?

GBA has published over 100 case histories based on real-life events that have happened to geoprofessional firms.  GBA Case Histories are unique because our members share real-life stories of problems that impacted their businesses.  They also include the outcomes of corrective action, and lessons learned.

This episode in the series explores Case History #86 where the GBA member firm conducted a geotechnical engineering study and performed COMET services during earthwork for a builder on a single-family home in an area where expansive shales are interbedded with sandstone. The member firm advised for slope-stability analyses. Eight months after construction was complete, the foundation started to move, creating distress in the slab and some walls. Remediation attempts were unsuccessful and as a result the project went to litigation.



Future GBA Events: Mark Your Calendars Now!

GBA Events Calendar


High Wind Building Design - Preparing for the Next Storm


Dangerous storms threaten our infrastructure every year with hurricane force winds, storm surge, and flooding. How do we best prepare our structures for the next big storm? From large scale projects like Opal Sands Resort on the Gulf of Mexico, to municipal buildings and residential sites up and down the East coast, our High Wind Design experts have designed hundreds of buildings with hurricanes and severe storms in mind.

In addition to new design, we often complete vulnerability studies on existing structures and provide a list of changes to implement to help strengthen those buildings. The decisions we make with our clients and partners have impacts far beyond the design process and we are prepared to face the challenges of the next storm head on.


Avoiding the “Good Enough” Mindset

Ardaman & Associates, Inc.

For most of us, we have been doing our jobs long enough to know what is the right way to do something and what falls short to “good enough”. When it comes to workplace safety “good enough” does not cut it. When addressing hazards, having this mindset will lead to exposure to risk that will eventually result in incidents and injuries occurring.

It is important to take the time to not only identify hazards but also taking the proper time and energy to mitigate them.

What Leads to the “Good Enough” Mindset?

There are many reasons why individuals may be tolerant of unnecessary risk during work tasks. A few of these reasons could include:

Complacency. For individuals who have been doing their work for long periods of time, complacency can be one of the biggest challenges to avoiding a “good enough” mindset.

Lack of training or understanding. Some workers, especially those less experienced, may not understand the importance of taking certain steps to protect themselves and those around them while completing their work.


Caring for Our Community


Over the past 18 months the GeoEngineers community has experienced unprecedented attacks on our health that we have not experienced in our lifetime and hope we never see again. As leaders of the firm, we have a legal—but more importantly a moral—responsibility to protect the health and safety of GeoEngineers’ staff and their families in the face of these threats.

We have always said to our staff do the right thing, make good choices, and take care of one another. As leaders we also need to follow this advice, so we are increasing our defenses as a company against this virus that has devastated so many.

Here is our very simple plan, which will apply to all GeoEngineers employees and go into effect September 15, 2021:

If you come into our office, travel for work or engage with other GeoEngineers staff in any way, you have a choice. You can be vaccinated or, if for personal reasons you are not able to get vaccinated, you can get tested regularly to show that you are COVID-19 free.

Why are we doing this? We have a responsibility to make sure people feel safe coming to work and not be exposed to an illness that can kill them or their family or cause long term health effects. The way to mitigate this risk is clear – vaccinations, testing and continuing to mask—so let’s do what is needed to care for our home and our family.

Thank you for your efforts to make our workplace a healthy place for all. We are better together.

  - Chief Executive Officer Mike Hutchinson and Chairman of the Board David Sauls


Aspect Leads Environmental Oversight for Amazon HQ2

Aspect Consulting

On February 2, 2021, Amazon announced the Phase 2 design proposal for its second headquarters, located in Arlington, Virginia, featuring a blend of sustainable architecture and public green spaces.

In partnership with Amazon and development manager Seneca Group, Aspect (and our subconsultant, Sanborn Head) is leading environmental due diligence, cleanup, environmental construction oversight, and regulatory strategy on Phase 1 (Metropolitan Park property) and Phase 2 (PenPlace property) of this project, as we have for the past several years.


First Triathlon Experience: Conquering the Triathlon Fear

BSK Associates

his past September 26th, 2021, I had my first triathlon experience in Malibu, CA. The race included 0.5 miles of open water swimming in the Ocean, 17 miles of cycling, and 4 miles of running. The idea of entering a triathlon has always been on my bucket list. However, I am not a strong swimmer and had never swum in open water. As with many of my excursions, this experience was the result of a challenge from my brother.

Once I decided to enter, I knew I had to focus my training on my weakest element. My goal is to overcome my fear of swimming and build my endurance for the other portions of the race.

In order to accomplish swimming a half-mile distance in open water, I needed to focus on proper technique. I was lucky to connect with several experienced swimmers at the gym, and they all gave me valuable pointers and feedback. Even though I was only able to swim a couple of laps at the time, the swimmers I met during my daily training encouraged and energized me to push through and persist. In addition, YouTube also provided me with valuable tips from professional triathletes and swimming enthusiasts. Within three months, I was able to complete thirty laps at the gym without stopping!

Gradually, I began to believe that I could complete the triathlon. This race was an opportunity to face my lifelong fear of water, and for the first time, I felt confident that I could overcome it!


Watch Equity in the Built Environment


VHB remains dedicated to delivering insightful, equitable solutions. There is tremendous opportunity to reimagine the built environment— and at VHB, everyone has a role in developing equitable solutions for our communities.



Green Concrete

CBC News

We're addicted to concrete. It's all around us — in our sidewalks, houses, schools and hospitals, all of which makes it the most widely used human-made material on Earth. But how can we make concrete more environmentally friendly?


Monetizing Technology


The convergence of innovation and information at industrial companies is setting the stage for exponential growth potential.


Experts Get First Clues On What May Have Caused Surfside Condo Collapse

Chicago Sun-Times

Experts are closely examining a 2018 report that identified numerous issues with the Miami-area condo, including “major structural damage” to a concrete structural slab below its pool deck that needed to be extensively repaired.


Retention Recession

Washington Post

An unexpected new trend has begun to make itself known in American unemployment. With employment up, more people have decided to voluntarily leave their jobs.


Blow the Whistle

National Law Review

As we look back at the tradegy of the Surfside Condo collapse, many wonder what role can “whistleblowers” play to prevent similar tragedies?


Markets Rebounding, but Uncertainty Reigns for AEC Firms

Friedman & Partners

These are confusing times for AEC firms wondering where their markets are heading. This issue of The Friedman File, assesses the current state and outlook for the markets that AEC firms serve, as well as disruptors and catalysts that could dictate the health of the industry for the next several years.



"It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan."

- Eleanor Roosevelt


President - Thomas "Tom" W. Blackburn, P.E., G.E., F. ASCE, F.ACEC (Blackburn Consulting / Auburn, CA) 530/887-1494

President-Elect - Leo J. Titus, Jr. P.E., (ECS, Ltd. / Chantilly, VA) 703/471-8400

Secretary/Treasurer - Christopher Matthew "Matt" Moler, P.E. (S&ME, Inc. / Greensboro, NC) 336/553-1245

Director - Martin LaRoche, P. Eng, M.Sc.(Kiewit / Montreal, Canada)

Director - Guy Marcozzi, P.E., LEED AP BD+C, F. ASCE (Duffield Associates, Inc. / Wilmington, DE) 302/239-6634

Director - Steve Wendland, P.G., P.E., R.G., D.GE (GeoEngineers, Inc. / Prairie Village, KS) 913/475-5851

Director - Teresa L. Peterson, P.E., C.M.E., LEED AP O&M ENV SP (Gannett Fleming / Harrisburg, PA) 717/763-7211

Director - Bradley M. Melocik, P.E., P.H. (DOWL / Redmond, WA) 800/478-3695


Connect with GBA

GBA Staff
Joel G. Carson, Execuive Director, 301-565-2733 (office) | 402-517-1819 (cell)
Sara Menase, Program Manager, 301-5652733
Phillip D. Pettway, Controller, 301-565-2733
Barb Nappy, Program Director, 301-565-2733 (office) | 727-457-2272 (cell)

Geoprofessional Business Association
15800 Crabbs Branch Way, Suite 300 | Rockville, MD 20855 | 301-565-2733 | Contact Us

About GBA
The Geoprofessional Business Association (GBA) helps its members and their clients confront risk and optimize business performance by delivering unique professional resources, programs, and services that make them stronger and more successful.

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