Reliable Materials Testing for a 9,000 Square Foot Airport Cargo Facility

Project Background

Austin has experienced significant growth in recent years, requiring Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA) to undertake several expansion projects to meet transportation demands. In 2021, ABIA identified a persistent problem of air cargo activity exceeding airport capacity, leading them to initiate the construction of a new $16.5 million new cargo facility. The 90,000 square facility is on 12 acres of land near other cargo facilities. It is an integral part of the airport’s expansion priorities that will allow e-commerce companies such as Amazon.com to expand distribution operations. HVJ was selected as part of an IDIQ contract to provide materials testing services for the new facility.

Practice: Construction Materials Engineering and Testing

Sector: Airports

Location: Austin, Texas

Services: Materials Testing



The Problem

As part of the early construction process for the cargo facility’s building pad, we needed to overcome uncertainty about the construction materials to ensure they met construction requirements. We typically conduct these investigations before construction, but in this case, we were brought in later to determine if the already-placed material was sufficient. The strict engineering requirements and large footprint made materials a particularly vital issue requiring attention to detail and extreme accuracy.

The Goal

Our goal was to use our extensive materials testing experience to present the client with workable options to investigate the already-placed materials. Our investigation needed to eliminate any uncertainties and ensure the materials would be suitable to meet construction goals. We also needed to complete our investigation as quickly as possible to avoid an interruption and delay to the project.

The Solution 

HVJ’s construction materials project manager joined the on-site team due to the extra detail and accuracy needed. We provided multiple options for the investigation and discussed these options in detail with the client team, ensuring that all stakeholders understood the possibilities and had confidence in the solution. The choices included creating test pits using contractor equipment, performing shallow borings using a soil push tube sampler and contractor equipment, and (if time allowed) then drilling borings using a drill rig. After discussing with the client and considering the time constraints, we ultimately recommended using test pits to sample the material and to perform laboratory testing soon after. Our team efficiently obtained accurate layer information in the field and then communicated this information directly to the lab.

The Results

We completed the laboratory testing of the soil samples and created a data matrix for soil samples obtained at two separate test pits at different depths within the building pad. Our team analyzed the data and determined with high confidence that the material placed at the project site met the gradation and plasticity requirements of the select fill material as prescribed by the Geotechnical Engineer of record. 

The testing allowed the facility’s construction to continue on schedule, and our team’s on-site presence allowed us to build a strong working relationship with the client. Thorough, frequent communication and the client’s receptiveness to various options resulted in a smooth process. Everyone was confident in the agreed-upon solution, and we educated ABIA to help them plan for future projects.



"Unbelievable level of service and input, ensuring all facets of reports are understood and comprehended, and exemplary level of knowledge brought to the table."

Otis Pousson, City of Austin

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