Case Studies

Earth Systems

Providing full-service geotechnical solutions in California

For more than 47 years, Earth Systems has provided expert geoprofessional services, such as geologic projects, environmental assessments, construction materials testing, laboratory testing, construction observation and materials testing, among many other geotechnical engineering services. By holding a keen interest in the planet, the environments within it, projects built upon it and people that live on it, Earth Systems is able to help its clients achieve great projects that meet their goals, but also have low environmental impacts. Headquartered in San Luis Obispo, California, Earth Systems manages numerous offices throughout the state.

Founded in 1969 by Alger Baldo, Earth Systems provides a wide variety of geotechnical engineering services. While many firms similar to Earth Systems only perform geotechnical engineering, Earth Systems complements that with a full-service operation that also conducts preconstruction testing. The company employs inspectors who carry certifications from various agencies in concrete inspection, fireproofing, welding inspection and compaction testing. “We have a niche market because builders will often have to use multiple resources to complete all those tasks,” says Fred Potthast, president and chief materials engineer for Earth Systems. “With us, you get all of that in one company.”

A step above the rest

With a target market of municipalities, school districts and regional airports, Earth Systems performs geotechnical investigations and provides further support in the construction phases that follow. The company is able to utilize mobile laboratories at jobsites, which allows the team to test asphalt as it is being installed. In order to perform geotechnical services on an essential services facility, companies are required to have a certified lab through the Division of the State Architect (DSA). Earth Systems manages several DSA labs throughout its offices. The company is also currently involved in numerous projects for the military, working on multiple Air Force bases throughout California.

A recent project that Earth Systems was involved in was the historic Atascadero City Administration Building. Constructed between 1914 and 1918, this four-story domed structure is concrete post and beam with unreinforced brick infill wall construction. The structure was damaged during the 2003 San Simeon earthquake, which compromised the settlement of the foundation, cracked brick walls, left spalled concrete columns and heaving of the basement floor. Earth Systems played an integral role in the design phase of the rehabilitation process for this significant structure.

The scope of work included a series of geotechnical investigations and analyses that were closely scrutinized by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Earth Systems helped develop a plan to underpin the existing foundation using more than 200 micropiles embedded into the underlying bedrock. A structural slab was then cast in the basement over the retrofitted foundation. The remaining structure was repaired using epoxy injection, shotcrete shear walls, masonry anchors and fiber-reinforced polymer. Earth Systems’ scope of services during the design phase included analyses for liquefaction, seismicity, static settlement and lateral earth pressures. Earth Systems also provided all of the materials testing and special inspection services for the City of Atascadero. The project won the Best Project in the Renovation/Restoration category in the Engineering News- Record (ENR) California’s Best Projects for 2014.

A means for success

Potthast has been with Earth Systems for 33 years. After receiving a degree in civil engineering, Potthast began working for a paper company. “We happened to share some warehouse space with the company I was working for and when I found out they were an engineering company I went and bugged them for a job,” he recalls. “I started out as a field technician and worked my way up over the years.”

Potthast is not unique when it comes to having a long tenure with the company. Many of Earth Systems’ employees have been with the company for many years. Potthast credits that fact to the family atmosphere the company creates. “We really care about our employees,” he explains. “We provide a good working environment for them with some really great benefits packages. That is what has allowed us to retain some really great people for as long as we have.”

By solidifying its market in California, Earth Systems will continue on its path as it maintains steady growth. The company will continue to hire engineers as it builds and maintains relationships with clients. With cautious optimism, Potthast envisions a strong economy and the construction industry to continue to be on the upswing. While providing full-service geotechnical solutions, Earth Systems will build upon the integrity and quality that the company has displayed for nearly 50 years.

Published on: August 2, 2016


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