Posted by Jay W. Curry

Hugh Durlam, director of Marketing for All-Terra Engineering, talks about geotechnical engineering and materials testing.

Please excuse any typos in this hasty transcript.


Jay: And we’re back. Hello Texas, welcome back to Texas Business Radio. We’ve got a great day, a great program. We’re having a lot of fun today.

This is Jay Curry, your host. Matt had to step out, he’ll be back, I hope, for the next segment. But in the meantime, we’re gonna have some fun.

We’re gonna learn a little bit about business. We’re going to get smart. Today we’re talking with, for this segment, Hugh Durlam, did I get close on that one? That’s good.

Hugh: You nailed it.

Jay: Nailed it, finally. Hugh is the Marketing Director for New Business Development, for an engineering firm called All-Terra Engineering. We’re gonna talk about dirt, and clean up, and tracking, and monitoring, all kinds of fun stuff.

But before we get started, let me remind everybody to go to TexasBusinessRadio.com, that’s our website, everything’s there. All the video’s, all about our guests, all about our sponsors. Anything you want to know, TexasBusinessRadio.com. We also monitor, 24 hours a day, so Matt tells me, 24 hours a day, the hot line, 844-814-8144.

You get that urge to ask a question, call 844-814-8144. Get your call in, we’re gonna get it, we’re gonna get either Hugh or whomever, we’ll get a specialist. We’ll get the answer, and we’ll get it on the air for you, alright?

And it you’re into Twittering, #TBR, pretty easy, Texas Business Radio. #TBR. But everything is at TexasBusinessRadio.com. Alright, so let’s get started, this is gonna be kind of fun. Hugh Durlam, tell me what All-Terra Engineering is about. What is that?

Hugh: Well, All-Terra Engineering, we are a geo technical in the construction materials testing firm. We serve the greater Houston area. And typically we get hired when somebody has a piece of land that they want to develop. We’re usually one of the first calls that they make.

So, if a developer buys a couple of acres and they want to build a structure on there, they’re typically gonna call us out first, to do some due diligence, which is gonna be a Phase I Environmental Study. And typically what that entails, is we’re gonna do research on the property to see what’s been on that property for the last 100, 200 years.

Jay: That tells you a lot, doesn’t it?

Hugh: Absolutely. You find a lot of interesting things when you go back that far. But what we’re looking for is, have they had any hazardous chemicals, was there any oil production, any type of gas production done on that property? And if there has, then that’s typically going to escalate to a Phase II Environmental Study, where we investigate a little bit more. We’ll do some research on the soil composition, see if any chemicals have leaked into there, things of that nature.

Jay: So we’re talking about very large projects, right?

Hugh: Yeah, I mean, we do some little gas stations, free standing buildings, but of course we always like the big projects. University’s, we work with a lot of the School Districts, we work with City of Houston, and Fort Bend County, and all the municipalities out there.

Jay: It sounds like you gt involved early-

Hugh: Yes sir.

Jay: … and that means, I’m thinking about it, I need to call you? Or I’ve decided to do it, I need to call you?

Hugh: A little bit of both. If they just kind of want to tow the water on the property, we can go out there and just let them know, and again, it’s kind of some due diligence, to put their mind at ease, that what they’re buying is a good property. And then, where we really make our money is when they start building on that property.

And before any construction starts, when they’re in the design phase, at a Civil Engineering Firm, we’re gonna go out there and do our Geotechnical Analysis. And that’s where we will drill down, and take core samples. And we’ll go anywhere from eight feet to 20 feet, deeper if they need us to. And we take out these long cylinders of soil, and we cut ’em up into segments, and we-

Jay: See what’s there.

Hugh: We see what it’s made up of, and let ’em know if the dirt is rich in clay, if it’s the black gumbo. And it kind of gives them an idea, let’s say, on a neighborhood development, where they might want to put a retention or a detention pond. Or where is a good place to put the homes at, and things of that nature.

Jay: I can see then, I’m looking at buying property, the person that’s selling, would they have your study, so that they can assure me? ‘Cause they’re not gonna let me, before I buy it, do the study. And I don’t want to buy it till I know what the results are.

Hugh: Correct. Now, they may have a study, but I don’t know if you’d want to take the sellers word on that.

Jay: Right.

Hugh: And they absolutely will, if you’re engaged in a real estate transaction, they will let you go on there to do some due diligence. And we actually have a project that we’re working on right now, like that.

Jay: That’s a case where the owner would hire you? The General Contractor, do you ever get called by them, or?

Hugh: We do get called by the General Contractor, but a lot of times we try to deal with the owner. It’s their investment, and typically they’re gonna hire a General Contractor to do the development. Our job is to keep an eye on that contractor, and make sure that they’re doing the job correctly, and that they’re not taking any shortcuts.

Oddly enough, though, I do talk with a lot of Developers that say, oh, I’ve let my General Contractor select which Engineering Firm we’re going to use. Which I tell them, in the future, you may want to hire us directly, because we’re here to protect your investment.

Jay: Very interesting. When do you get finished? When the buildings all done? I mean, the testing’s kind of over and it’s done, but then, right?

Hugh: Well, we monitor a lot of the concrete. So typically we’re gonna be done once the slab is built or the street is poured. Once they start building up, unless it’s a parking garage or a high rise condo, where they’re gonna have concrete floors, we typically stop at the slab, or once the streets are done.

Jay: But you’re actually looking at the concrete, as well. You want to know that this whole project is gonna hold up and meet specs.

Hugh: Correct. Depending on what they’re gonna be using or putting on that slab, or that structure-

Jay: Right.

Hugh: We’ll come up with the prescription, if you will, for the concrete. And there’s a lot of science that goes into concrete. I didn’t know this when I first started with the company, and I’ve learned a lot about the science that goes into concrete, and how crucial it is, depending on what type of aggregate you’re using. How much Portland cement is in there.

Is it gonna be in a wet area? A dry area? What type of soil is it gonna be sitting on? But we will actually go to the concrete manufacturer, and give them the recipe, if you will, on how the concrete needs to be made, and we will watch them put that into their trucks, and we will follow those trucks to the job site, and watch them pour.

And then we will take core samples out of there. We have our little buckets that we put the concrete in, and we’ll set ’em aside. And then we also measure for temperature, and monitor to make sure that it’s not drying out too quickly.

And then, those core samples, we store them in a controlled environment. And then we’ll crack ’em, we put ’em in a hydraulic press, and we break ’em at anywhere between five and seven days-

Jay: Different places. Right.

Hugh: … and then 21 to 28 days, to let the contractor know that the concrete passed, that it is sufficient to continue on.

Jay: I mean, you’re beautiful for the owner and the person that wants to make sure this is done right. But I can also see the contractor’s kind of glad you’re around, ’cause you’re gonna give certification that the quality of their work, right?

Hugh: Absolutely. And sometimes it gets a little chippy out there, with the contractors, but we always try to tell them, hey, you’re putting your mane on this-

Jay: Right.

Hugh: We want to make sure that you guys are putting out a good product. And sometimes they may not know what their guys are doing out there, on the job site. So we try to keep it professional, and keep the project on pace, but we also want to make sure that they’re doing the job right and that the developer is, that their investment is protected.

Jay: Why you? What’s your competitive advantage? Why you over somebody else?

Hugh: Well, I know people always say customer service, but I really so stand behind that. We’re a very accessible company, everyone has our cell phone numbers. If we get calls on the weekends we answer ’em.

And I’ll give you a good example of that. There was a major street that was poured in Fort Bend County, in, I believe it was Sugarland. And they had a whole panel fail, on a Sunday afternoon. And the County Engineer and our client was out there.

And we weren’t on that project, and they were trying to get a hold of somebody to get a recommendation. And they called our Principle, Haddis, and he was out there within 30 minutes, on a Sunday afternoon, and was able to give them a recommendation on how to proceed.

Jay: And that was a potential major disaster.

Hugh: Absolutely.

Jay: This has been very interesting. So Hugh, if somebody wanted to learn more about All-Terra Engineering, how would they do that?

Hugh: They can feel free to call me, my phone number is 832-878-7321. Visit our website at www.all-terra.com, A-L-L dash T-E-R-R-A dot com. Or email me, HDurlam@all-terra.com.

Jay: Sounds good. Many ways to get a hold of you. Thank you so much for joining us.

Hugh: Thanks for having us.

Jay: Very interesting business, and very important process that you guys provide. Folks, we’re running out of time, we got to go pay a few bills. And we’re gonna get somebody else right in here, so you don’t have time to go anywhere. Stay right there.

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About the Author
Jay W. Curry

Jay W. Curry

Along with hosting “Texas Business Radio”, Jay is a Professional Certified Coach and Master Chair facilitating four Houston-based Vistage peer groups. In addition to being a best selling non-fiction author, the 2015 release of his award winning novel, Nixon and Dovey: the Legend Returns, adds novelist to his title. Jay holds a BS in Mathematics from Oklahoma State and an MS in Computer Science from Kansas State. You can learn more about Jay HERE.

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