Advocates for a Reliable Support System

Pile Driving Contractors Association (PDCA)

pdca

The Pile Driving Contractors Association (PDCA) was established in 1995 and has its international headquarters in Orange Park, Florida. It may not have a long history compared to some groups that are over a century old, but its twenty-plus years have seen it grow to over nine hundred members, all proactively involved in PDCA’s activities that enrich the membership experience.
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The PDCA began when a few entrepreneurial minds got together to discuss how the pile driving industry needed a singular voice. These pile driving contractors and engineers, “realized that there was no organization that was specific to the pile driving industry,” says Stevan Hall, the association’s executive director.

There are more than 100,000 trade and professional associations in the United States. That number is ever climbing as new ones are formed. Associations provide not only support, education and a sense of camaraderie among members but act as a communications medium through which all involved parties can more readily acquire the newest pertinent information and share ideas.

Joining an association has its unique benefits, not the least of which is keeping businesses at the leading edge of industry trends, issues and legislation within their sectors. Involvement also projects a positive perception of a company. In fact, eighty-five percent, or more, of all businesses not involved as members of their trade associations will undoubtedly fail.

“Your future members will work in industries, businesses and organizations that evolve faster in terms of their focus, products, services and mandates,” says author and futurist Jim Carroll.

When the Pile Driving Contractors Association began, there were other foundation types available in the market such as drill shaft, auger cast and caissons, for example. The PDCA was established to maintain a market share for the driven pile industry. “It was the vision of some very forward-thinking individuals that came together and talked about the formation of the PDCA and brought that vision to fruition. Twenty years later, we are still a strong organization and getting bigger every year.”

The PDCA is active in seventeen countries thus far, and although not all fifty states have members, the association is always open to affiliations in all states.

The association’s members include pile driving contractors, associate members who are equipment manufacturers, material suppliers, geotechnical engineers and specialized service providers to the industry. “It’s just a very broad group of people that either are directly or, in some cases, indirectly associated with the pile driving industry,” Stevan adds. “We don’t disqualify anybody who wants to be a member of PDCA.”

The PDCA operates through several committees that include its chapters committee, of which there are seven volunteer-driven groups throughout the United States as well as membership, communications, technical and an educational committee, all of which focus on specific directives.

Speaking about the educational committee specifically, Stevan explains that the responsibility of this committee is to, “develop all of our educational programs including the annual conference, general sessions, all of our seminars, workshops and the development and maintenance of relationships with our educational institutions.” The association is also very active in promoting research and technical papers.

PDCA conducts two major conferences a year which include its annual Design and Installation of Cost-Efficient Piles (DICEP) conference. With these two conferences, the educational committee reaches out with its general session presentations, which are generally thirty to fifty minutes long. These sessions are, “relevant presentations that are specific to the pile driving industry, whether they are case histories or whether they are more technical in nature,” Stevan notes, he says that the company is always seeking new product design and methodologies to keep the pile driving industry on the leading edge of innovation.

As part of the educational component, the PDCA also provides the pile driving inspectors course, the pile load test options course and is developing a short course in 2017 about sheet piling, an excavation support technique most often used to retain soil or water.

Additionally, the PDCA also hosts a deep foundation dynamic testing and analysis course twice a year which involves a one-day seminar and two-day workshop. “We work with another company on that particular program that’s a member of PDCA,” Stevan adds.

The association sponsors the Professors’ Driven Pile Institute (PDPI) workshops that were established in 2002 and were, up until 2015, held at Utah State University. These workshops are taught by both practitioners and academics with extensive experience in design and construction who incorporate theoretical lectures with field experience. Professors are required to be teachers of foundation courses in engineering programs at their local college or university.

In the future, this program will be moved to the East Coast where the PDCA will also be developing an EDPI course similar to the PDPI but exclusively for engineers. The EDPI will be a shorter course since, “the engineers don’t need all of the information that we currently provide,” continues Stevan. “It’s something that we hope will be transportable to various regions of the United States and Canada.”

The PDCA also publishes Pile Driver magazine with numerous articles and information related to the industry. The publication has a database with vibration case histories and research. It also provides networking, communications, seminars, monthly newsletters and conferences in different cities throughout Canada.

All of PDCA’s educational programs are made to be as, “portable as possible,” he says. Its seven U.S. chapters can make adjustments in program content to accommodate geographical differences or practices that may differ from a program’s core curriculum. “They can change those to benefit their areas and present that to their members.”

The pile driven industry is ever evolving technologically, and the PDCA ensures that it remains at the forefront of these advances. “The industry is always doing what it can to advance technologically,” says Stevan, noting that all efforts are really borne out of the companies that provide equipment and materials and the movers and shakers – the innovators – in the industry.

One particular issue for the industry is that of noise and vibration which has, “probably been over-exaggerated over the years,” continues Stevan. Pile driving equipment is now available that is zero resonance, “where the pile is driven into the ground with almost zero vibration and minimal noise.” There are measures to test, monitor and control wave attenuation of vibrations to determine their extent from a driving site as well as the monitoring of structures in proximity to such sites.

Such monitoring ensures that “the vibrations are not strong enough to damage any buildings or any structures. We’ve driven piles within feet of historical buildings without any problem at all.” The pile driving equipment employed and the type of pile, whether it is concrete, steel or timber, all affect resonance differently. Such equipment, “can be matched up with the appropriate pile driving hammer so that you minimize not only noise but you can minimize the vibration as well,” explains Stevan.

There are other organizations in the U.S. aside from the PDCA that are directly or indirectly related to foundation engineering. Associations such as The International Association of Foundation Drilling (ADSC); Deep Foundations Institute (DFI); Geo-Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE); Association of Environmental Engineering Geologists (AEG); and the United States Universities Council on Geotechnical Education and Research (USUCGER). The Canadian Geotechnical Society (CGS) recently became a part of these association forums, collectively referred to as the GeoCoalition.

Stevan says that these associations were not entirely in active communication with each other, each feeling that they were all competitors striving to retain their own piece of the market. The GeoCoalition was an attempt to bring all of the groups together. Stevan confirms that “the initial idea behind the GeoCoalition was to bring those organizations together to see if they could start talking. It worked very well.”

The GeoCoalition has led to numerous joint conferences, and the PDCA has held conferences with DFI and an international foundation conference and equipment expo with the Geo-Institute of ASCE and ADSC in 2009. The PDCA, ADSC, DFI and Geo-Institute have come together and are working together to, “meet the needs of the industry,” affirms Stevan. This synergy of organizations provides technical information, innovative ideas and showcases interior and exterior equipment shows and exhibits so that, “people can see all of the latest equipment that’s used in the industry … I think in 2009, we had 2600 people. Now we’re up to 3,000, and we expect at least that many in 2018.”

Steel, concrete and timber piles have to be manufactured and concrete and steel piles must meet ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) standards to be acceptable to the pile driving industry. “There’s a quality control and quality assurance that exists throughout the process of finally getting the pile into the ground as a foundation element,” explains Stevan. Piles are delivered on site and inspected for defects – no cracks in cement piles, no deformities in steel piles and correct toe and tip diameters in timber piles.

Testing is also performed while driving the pile through a dynamic analysis test to ensure that it is being driven into the pile with no anomalies. “These are some of the things that the other foundations almost don’t have,” explains Stevan. “Under the right conditions, I don’t think there’s any other foundation element that is better economically, faster, more productive [and] more environmentally friendly than a driven pile.”

As advocates of the driven pile industry, the PDCA “is a tremendous resource to the industry. If you need to find out something that would help you in your business efforts to be more competitive, you can always rely on PDCA for that information,” stresses Stevan.

As for challenges, there can be many that come in the form of soil conditions – permafrost, rock, shale, limestone and soft soils are just some examples, as well as earthquake or hurricane prone areas that require appropriate effective pile engineering designs.

Looking forward, Stevan wants to, “see the PDCA continue to grow. I think that there’s a lot of pile driving going on out there. What we need to do is make sure that we have the ability to reach out to this industry. To let them know what we’re doing and the ways that we can provide benefits and services to those that become a member of PDCA.”

Building the Next Generation

As thousands of experienced workers retire across North America every day, it is small wonder many industries are concerned about the future. It has been a decade since the oldest members of the baby boom generation started leaving their jobs, removing from the workplace decades of experience and skills that are tough to replace. The situation is so dire that, when younger workers are not available or knowledgeable enough to take over, retired staffers are often called back to work on a part-time basis.

December 8, 2019, 1:39 AM EST