- Written by: Erica Berry
- Produced by: Lindsay Jeffries
- Estimated reading time: 5 mins
During its early years, HJ Foundation, founded in 1988 by Edwin Hickey and Robert Johnson, acted solely as a foundation subcontractor, providing excavation and deep foundation solutions. However, as its clients’ needs grew, the company’s focus expanded to include engineering departments; one focused on the foundation design, redesign and value engineering; while the other is focused on equipment design and modifications, allowing the company to offer comprehensive foundation solutions for all commercial, institutional and residential markets.
In 2007 Keller, the world’s largest ground engineering specialists, with operations in 30 countries across five continents, saw the value of HJ Foundation’s unique business model and purchased the company – positioning it among a portfolio of major construction outfits. Since the acquisition, HJ Foundation has experienced drastic growth, capturing the market share of high-rise buildings in Miami.
Headquartered in Miami, HJ Foundation has regional offices handling the Florida and New York markets with specific projects throughout the southeast U.S.
“No matter what challenges our clients face, we must, and will, find a solution,” explains Andres Baquerizo, vice president. “We apply technical ability, experience and specialized equipment to install complex and not-so-complex deep foundations for structures, specializing in augured cast-in-place piling, excavation shoring and basement underwater seals: soil mix and Tremie seals.”
HJ Foundation’s innovative approach to business was recognized upon receiving the Engineer of the Year Award in 2011 by the Miami Chapter of American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), marking the first time the award was given to an engineer outside of the consulting engineering sector.
The forefront of foundation technology
Always keeping up with new deep foundation and excavation techniques, HJ Foundation is committed to ongoing education and industry involvement of its team members. “The mentality is that we must provide above and beyond what the client needs,” explains Andres. “To stay ahead of the curve we have begun to employ a new technology called tangent bearing element [TBE] where we actually change the type of foundation used for a building.”
Unlike traditional foundations, TBE consists of groups of deep foundation elements installed close to one another using the ACIP equipment, acting as a foundation, which saves time and money on foundation and excavation costs. Because water intrusion has potential to create major setbacks for builders in Miami and other coastal areas, forcing delayed deadlines and busting budgets, the company has found that a TBE solution results in savings up to 30 percent and allowing for between 40 and 50 percent faster construction than typical caisson, shaft and barrettes solutions.
“We are the first company to employ and successfully test TBE technology,” Andres says. “It’s going to be a game-changer for the foundation industry, which works 10 to 35 feet below the water table and is consistently faced with water intrusion challenges.”
In addition to leading the forefront of foundation technology, the company also has representation at the Deep Foundation Institute (DFI), an association that develops the foundation industry. By staying involved in the foundation build community, HJ Foundation is able to contribute to the changing regulations in the industry, as well as learn new approaches to building challenges firsthand.
HJ Foundation is currently working on several Miami-based high-rise projects, such as Panorama Tower, an 80-story residential tower, that once completed, will rank as the tallest building in Miami. The company is also working on others projects using TBE technology, such as Echo, a 175-unit luxury condominium development.
In addition to these projects, HJ Foundation is in the midst of turnkey operation for Oceana Bal Harbor, a residential and commercial high-rise located off Bal Harbor Beach. On this site, HJ Foundation is presented with the task of developing a two-story, 107,000-square-foot dry basement, 28 feet below water level, directly adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean and installation of all deep foundation elements.
“This is a very complex project,” explains Andres. “The typical foundation project would require one set up – one crane, one excavator, one pump and a crew – but we have six complete set ups working simultaneously here. We’re moving one truck every two to four minutes, delivering or picking up. The logistics of this project are just impressive. As the only company equipped, trained and staffed to complete turnkey operations for mega-projects, such as Oceana, we’re very excited for the final reveal in early 2015.”
The company has also completed foundations in Miami using the TBE method, such as Surf Club, One Ocean and the City Center Test Program. Buildings are currently being built atop the foundations.
A record setting business
Thanks to a rigorous training program for all HJ Foundation employees, from superintendents to new team members, the company boasts the best safety record in its industry. “Construction safety is very important, which is why we are dedicated to teaching all of our workers how to stay safe on the job,” explains Andres. “Not only does excellent workplace safety keep our employees from harming themselves, but it also boosts our productivity and rapport with clients.”
And it has paid off. “For multiple years in a row, we had zero lost time accidents, and in the past 25 years we have completed 100 percent of our contracts and have never been removed from or faulted on a project,” Andres continues.
The company currently holds 10 world records, including highest load ever tested on auger cast pile, 5,200 tons; highest auger pile test in a statnamic, 4,700 tons; deepest fully reinforced auger pile; and its most infamous claim to fame, the Mile of Pile – a feat that requires installing over 1 mile worth of pile in a single day with a single rig.
With Miami-based developers facing new regulations under Miami 21, a zoning code that limits the height and sellable space in new builds, HJ Foundation expects to see exponential growth as basements become the new wave of construction in South Florida.
“Building owners are looking to basements to increase the overall value of their buildings,” explains Andres. “Because basements do not count toward sellable area or building height, they increase the amount of sellable space in a building and also provide extra stories.”
Since 1988, the company’s dedicated service to its clients has resulted in many long-term mutually beneficial relationships with general contractors, real estate developers and corporate construction groups. HJ Foundation’s reputation and strategic role in the foundation industry has allowed it to flourish, showing no signs of slowing down.
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