At a Glance
Geotechnical engineering, construction-materials testing, and environmental-consulting services
The specialists at ALLWEST Testing & Engineering, LLC, a full-service engineering-, environmental-, and construction-materials testing firm, know their collective role on a construction project isn’t always the most popular one: to ensure compliance. So, ALLWEST employees do everything they can to seem more like members of the team than on-site inspectors, and they recommend cost-effective answers when pointing out problems. The approach has succeeded in setting them apart from the competition.
“There are a number of firms that do what we do,” principal Chris Beck says. “But we strive to find cost-effective solutions that can be accomplished using the resources available in our region.”
That region is the Inland Northwest, where Beck partnered with principal Mitch Keith in 1999 to combine their respective backgrounds in geotechnical engineering and construction-materials testing. By 2011, one office had grown to four, and ALLWEST now employs upwards of 60 people.
Construction monitoring, materials testing, and certification provide approximately 60–65 percent of revenues. (The geotechnical-engineering side accounts for approximately 25–30 percent, and the final 10 percent or less comes from environmental services.) For those projects, the company acts as a third party paid by the client to ensure compliance in public and private development work. If materials-testing results are unfavorable—if the asphalt mix on a highway construction project is out of the specified range, for example—ALLWEST works with the contractor to figure out the next step as quickly as possible rather than bringing the project to a halt. “Our people put in the hours necessary to fix the problem,” Keith says. “There’s a shorter construction window here—seven or eight months out of the year—so time really is of the essence.”
Top 5 Principles of Construction-Materials Testing
1. Technicians should possess specialized knowledge of the properties and the performance of soil, aggregate, asphalt, concrete, and steel.
2. Accuracy of test results minimizes construction delays and the associated costs.
3. Good communication and an efficient process allow clients to quickly address potential issues rather than bring a project to a halt.
4. Regional geological expertise permits engineers to recommend cost-effective and site-specific solutions.
5. State-of-the-art equipment and education provide continued improvement in the delivery of professional services.
Projects range in size from one- and two-story commercial buildings to much larger developments. For a recent multistory hotel expansion and a six-level parking ramp, the Northern Quest Casino, in Airway Heights, Washington, hired ALLWEST to conduct special inspections for soil borings, rock coring, and field-pressure meter testing. Similar services were provided for the Wildhorse Resort and Casino in Pendleton, Oregon. There, the facility’s 184,000-square-foot addition required soil and asphalt density-compaction testing; masonry inspections; and concrete testing, inspections, and coring. ALLWEST also inspected the structure’s fireproofing, steel and epoxy bolting, and welding. In addition to the casino projects, ALLWEST recently has provided materials testing for several hospital additions, including the 69,000-square-foot, $25 million Coulee Medical Center in Coulee City, Washington, which broke ground in 2009.
The firm performs site assessments and remediation, too, often to facilitate the lending process on property transfers. “There’s a lot of property changing hands at the moment,” Beck says. “Companies are selling it to generate revenue, and then other companies pick it up at a reduced rate. Banks want to make sure they’re making good investments.”
The principals acknowledge they have been fortunate in terms of growth given the financial climate. In recent years industry competition has only grown stronger, though, and ALLWEST knows success in the past doesn’t guarantee the same in the future. So the firm is focused on further strengthening its relationships and building new connections, keeping in mind that personal efforts—such the ALLWEST problem-solving approach—still matter most. “In our business,” Keith says, “clients hire people, not companies.” ABQ