Soil Testing Companies Background on soil testing companies



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Merwin-Harding, Inc. (1955-69); Harding Associates (1957-66); Harding-Miller-Lawson & Associates (1966-77); Harding-Lawson Associates (1977-2000)

In 1955 Oliver E. Merwin, Sr. (1898-1969) and Richard S. Harding (BSCE ’50 Texas) formed Merwin-Harding, a foundation contracting and drilling firm based in San Francisco. Merwin had worked as a heavy construction engineer for several decades before joining Dames & Moore in 1943, during the Second World War. He continued his role as a resident partner in the San Francisco office of D&M until 1959, when he joined Harding Associates as a principal. Dick Harding had served as an Army combat engineer in the European Theater during the Second World War and Korean War, before joining Dames & Moore as a staff engineer in 1951. Merwin-Harding performed the exploratory drilling for various clients, then for Harding Associates after 1957, and for Harding-Miller-Lawson through the late 1960s.

The geotechnical consulting firm Harding Associates was founded in 1957 by Richard S. Harding, PE. In 1958 Eugene A. Miller, PE (BSCE ’51 ColoState; MS ’56 Georgia Tech) came from Dames & Moore as a junior partner, joined by Oliver Merwin in 1959, who was also a principal. In 1960 they were joined by Robert T. Lawson PE (BSCE ’48 Washington). Lawson was a partner at Dames & Moore’s San Francisco office (1956-60), having previously worked in their Seattle (1948-50) and Los Angeles offices (1952-56), interrupted by service in the Marine Corps during the Korean War (1950-52). In 1962 Henry T. “Hank” Taylor, PE (BSCE ’48 Columbia) left Dames & Moore to become the principal of the firm’s new branch office in San Francisco.

In 1966 Harding Associates became Harding-Miller-Lawson and Associates. The firm’s home office was in San Rafael, with branches in San Francisco, Santa Rosa, and Martinez. In the 1970s, they were serving Marin, San Francisco, north San Mateo, Contra Costa, and Sonoma Counties. The five original principals were: Richard S. Harding, PE, Eugene A. Miller, PE; Oliver Merwin, Robert T. Lawson, PE, and Hank Taylor, PE. The original associates included: Keith H. Bergman, GE (BSCE ’53 Michigan Tech; MS ’59 Berkeley), who joined the firm in 1961; Lyle E. Lewis, GE (BS AgEng ’62 CSPU Pomona; MSCE ’71 Berkeley) who joined the firm in 1962 and became their first lab director; Gerald M. Diaz, PE (BSCE ’59 New Mexico State) came from the Division of Highways in 1963 to manage the firm’s Santa Rosa branch office, Thomas J. Lowry, GE (BSCE ’50 Berkeley) left Raymond International in 1964, Jay M. England, PE (BSCE ’59 Penn State), Al Buchignani, PE (BSCE ’57, MS ‘68 Berkeley), and Frank L. Rollo, PE (BSCE ’63, MS ‘64 Berkeley).

In the early 70s their senior staff expanded to include: Richard G. Tait, PE (BSCE ’61; MS ‘62 Berkeley), Tom Stimac, PE (BSCE ’68 Berkeley), Roy A. Bell, PE (BSCE Nevada-Reno), Dennis Furbe, PE, Hugo J. Hanson, GE (BSCE ’51, MS ‘69 Berkeley), Arthur Stephens, PE (BSCE ’63 Iowa State), Cecil B. Wood, GE (BSCE Heald College) ran the branch office in Martinez, and then Concord, for several decades, Jay A. Nelson, GE, Donald G. Gray, GE (BSCE ’69 Utah; MS ’70 Berkeley), Don Quigley, PhD, GE (BSCE ’67, MS ‘78, PhD ’81 Berkeley), Don Schreuder, GE, Don Bruggers, GE (BSCE ’76 Michigan State) went onto manage Anchorage office (joined ENGEO in 1996), Kai Wong, PhD, PE (went onto AAT in Singapore), Lelio Mejia, PhD, GE (went to Woodward-Clyde in 1989).

Gerry Diaz PE became the firm’s Chief Engineer in 1971, and departed to manage the Orange County office in 1979. J. P. Singh, PhD, GE supervised their geophysical services wing (after Ken Blom departed in 1983) and their geotechnical earthquake engineering expertise between 1980-87 (he departed to start Geospectra, profiled below). During the late 70s-early 80s Ed Hultgren and Tom Cundey (MSCE ’77 Berkeley) ran the firm’s Honolulu office. In the late 1990s the firm’s Regional Manager was Claude Corvino, GE (BS Geol ’75; MSCE, ‘77 UCLA), and Principals David Leland and James G. McClure, PhD, GE (BSCE ’73, MS ’74, PhD ’80 Berkeley). Other geotech engineers in the 1980s included Tom A. Tobin (BSCE ’78; MS ’79 Berkeley), and many others.

Harding’s first engineering geologist was Richard “Dick” Warton, followed soon thereafter by Erwin C. Chuck” Winterhalder, CEG (BS MinTech ‘51 Berkeley), who joined the firm in 1962 and served as the Chief Geologist for three decades. Other senior geologists included Frank Kresse CEG (BA Geol ’56 Berkeley; joining in 1976), Mike Huffman CEG (BA Geol ’62 Berkeley), Steve Korbay, CEG (BA Geol ’57 Berkeley), Gary Van Houten, CEG, and Jim Joyce, CEG. From 1973-83 their chief geophysicist was Kenneth Blom, PG, RGP (who founded Norcal Geophysics in 1983). From 1969-90 their senior soils technician was David M. Lallatin. In 1990 he stood up Lallatin Geotech to provide site inspection and testing services, out of Petaluma. From 1984 forward, waste management engineering fueled HLA's growth, precipitating a steady rise in its sales.


Harding Lawson Associates Group, Inc. (1994-2000)

In 1994 Harding Lawson Associates went public with its privately held stock, bringing considerable windfall profits to the principals and senior associates who owned private shares. The new publicly-owned corporation was called Harding Lawson Associates Group Inc.


Harding ESE/MACTEC (2000-present)

In June 2000 Harding Lawson Associates Group was purchased by MACTEC and merged with another MACTEC subsidiary firm Environmental Science & Engineering Inc. to form Harding ESE, a wholly owned subsidiary of MACTEC. This allowed MACTEC to expand into the oil & gas, mining, manufacturing, consumer products, chemical and pharmaceutical, aerospace, transportation, telecommunications and waste management industries. Claude Corvino, GE (BS Geol '75; MSCE, '77 UCLA) served as Harding ESE’s president from 2000-02, when the firm had 1,750 employees and $225 million in revenue.


Derivative firms of Harding-Lawson

Diablo Soil Engineers (1974-2010); Diablo Engineers, Inc (2000-05)

Founded by Herbert R. Volin, GE (BSCE ’67 Heald College; MSCE ‘74 SJSU), after he had worked for Harding-Miller-Lawson, Caltrans, and United Soil Engineering. Office originally located in Orinda, then in Lafayette, and finally, in Walnut Creek. His first geologist was Dean Affeldt, CEG (who moved onto Purcell-Rhoades), followed by Mike Carey, CEG (who started Adobe Geotechnical in 1993). Other staff engineers have included Dave Mathy, GE (MSCE ’79 Berkeley), Chris Nardi, GE (MSCE ’81 Berkeley), Gary Underdahl (from HML), Mark Wahler, GE (MSCE ’77 Berkeley), John Stout (BSCE CSU; MS SJSU), formerly with MK and IECO. In 2000 Herb Volin, GE (Diablo Soil Engineers) and Edward Searby, GE (North Coast Engineering) formed Diablo Engineers, Inc. Following Ed Searby’s untimely death in 2005, that company was dissolved. In 2010 the company shut down and their job files were purchased by John R. Sutton, GE (profiled below).


The Sutton Group (1993- present);

John R. Sutton, GE received his undergraduate degree from Sydney Technical College in Australia and worked for Ove Arup & Partners. He moved to Denver in 1973 and earned his MSCE from Colorado in 1975, when he switched to geotechnical engineering and joined Woodward Clyde’s Denver office. He took a position with Stone and Webster’s Denver office in 1980, then moved to the Bay Area in early 1986 to join Berlogar Geotechnical Consultants as their Engineering Manager. Nine months later he accepted a position with IT Corporation in Martinez, where he served as Geotechnical Engineer, Project Manager, and finally, as Manager of their Geoscience Department. In 1990 he joined Kaldveer as an associate. Following their acquisition by Harza Engineering, he formed The Sutton Group in 1993. From 2000-05 he was a partner in Diablo Engineers, inc.. After that form dissolved in 2005 he has continued practicing as The Sutton Group, with an office in Lafayette.
Consulting Quality Control Engineers (1976-80); Alexander Buller Associates (1980-95); Buller Group (1995-2000)

Series of small firms founded by Alex Buller, GE (RCE 19648/QE 1333/GE 172) in Martinez, and later, Oakley, in eastern Contra Costa County. Buller had previously worked for Harding Lawson in San Rafael. One of his engineers was Don Stockwell. Alex began as a quality control engineer, mostly performing soil compaction and concrete tests, but occasional foundation engineering projects, mostly on distressed properties. Buller died in June 2000, at age 65.


Donald Herzog & Associates (1973-89); Huntingdon Engineering and Environmental (1989-96)

Donald Herzog & Associates was founded by H. Donald Herzog, GE (BSCE ’64 GeorgiaTech; MBA ’72 USF) in April 1973. Don came to the Bay Area in 1964 to work for Caltrans, moving to Harding Lawson, and Peter Kiewit & Sons on the BART Transbay Tube, then for Dillingham for the Embarcadero One project. In 1970 he rejoined Harding Lawson at their Novato office, and also worked out of their branch office in Guam. Don started his own firm in 1973, based in Mill Valley (Marin County). He was an original member of the Geotechnical Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) to BORPELS in the late 1980s, when GE registration was established. Herzog & Associates was the dominant geotechnical firm in Marin and Sonoma Counties through the 1970s and 80s.



John Hom was the firm’s first engineer employee and Michael D. Malone, CEG was the senior geologist, through the late 70s to mid-80s. In 1983, Fred Maurer, GE (BSCE ’73; MS ’78 UC Davis) came from Kaldveer Associates to manage the firm’s geoenvironmental operations, remining until 1993. In the early 1990s some of their senior geotechnical engineers included Lyle E. Lewis, GE (BS AgEng ’62 Cal Poly; MSCE ’71 Berkeley) and Nersi Hemati, GE (MSCE ’78 Berkeley), both from Harding Lawson. After Malone left, they used Donn Ristau, CEG (BS Geol ’70 CSUN; MS ’73, PhD ’77 UC Davis) as their senior engineering geologist from 1982-91.

In 1989 Herzog sold his firm to Huntingdon International Holdings Group of the UK, who establuished an office in Petaluma. Huntingdon shut down their opeerations in 1996 and Kleinfelder acquired their assets and hired Novato office manager Lyle Lewis and much of his staff to form their new San Rafael branch office. Kleinfelder also moved Herzog’s Lab Supervisor Terry McCue to their geotechnical lab in Santa Rosa.


Herzog Associates (1989-94); Herzog Geotechnical Consulting Services (1994-present)

After selling Donald Herzog & Associates to Huntingdon, Don Herzog opened Herzog Associates as a specialized geotechnical consulting firm, mostly doing expert witness work. In December 1994 Don’s son Craig W. Herzog, GE (BSCE ’89 CalPolySLO; MS ’90 Berkeley) founded Herzog Geotechnical Consulting Services. He had previously worked for Huntingdon Engineering & Environmental from 1990-94. The new firm was based in Mill Valley. Donn Ristau, PhD, CEG left Herzog in 1991 to establish Phoenix Geotechnical in Napa, and has provided engineering geology expertise to Herzog Geotechnical since their founding.


John C. Hom & Associates (1988 – present)

Founded by John C. Hom, GE (BSCE ’72 Berkeley) in 1988 as a DVBE in California, after working for Herzog & Associates. The firm was based in San Rafael.


Earth Science Consultants (1973 – present)

After working for Harding Lawson Jay A. Nelson, GE (RCE 19738/GE 630) started Earth Science Consultants, Foundation and Geological Engineers, based in San Rafael, CA. May have been a sole practitioner.


Subsurface Consultants, Inc. (1983-2002); Fugro West (2002-10); Fugro Consultants, Inc. (2010-present)

Founded in 1983 by Jim Bowers (BSCE ’75, MS ’76 Berkeley) and Bill Rudolph (BSCE ’77, MS ’78 Berkeley), who both previously worked for the San Francisco office of Harding-Lawson Associates. The firm was based in downtown Oakland. Their principal clients included the Ports of Oakland and San Francisco, and the SFO Airport runway expansion. Bill succeeded as principal owner when he purchased ownership from Bowers in July 1994. Some of their key staff included Don Gray, (BSCE ’69 Utah; MS ’70 Berkeley), Tom Cundey (BS Muhlenberg; MSCE ’77 Berkeley), Andrew Herlache (BSCE ’82; MS ’84 Illinois), Bill Wikander, Samuel Won, and many others.

In March 2002 Subsurface Consultants, Inc. (SCI) was purchased by Fugro West, Inc., and reorganized as Fugro Consultants, Inc in 2010. Bill Rudolph took over management of Fugro's Onshore and Geotechnical Services. Shah Vahdani, supervises earthquake and seismic site characterization work for Fugro worldwide. Glenn Young oversees Environmental Services in Northern California, and Tony Dover headed up Northern California Geotechnical Operations. Rudolph moved on within a few years and started Land Marine Geotechnics, after a stint at Treadwell and Rollo. Land Marine was subsequently purchased by ENGEO, and Bill Rudolph joined them as a principal geotechnical consultant.
A.L.B. Associates, Inc. (1984-97)

Consultancy founded by Albert L. Buchignani, GE (BSCE ’57; MS ’68 Berkeley) in June 1984 and based in Mill Valley. While working for Harding Lawson Associates, he collaborated with Professor J. Michael Duncan at Berkeley to prepare a series of influential manuals and reports published by Berkeley’s Institute of Transportation & Traffic Engineering, in the Department of Civil Engineering, including: An Engineering Manual for Slope Stability Studies (released in March 1975); An Engineering Manual for Settlement Studies (released in June 1976); and Failure of Underwater Slope in San Francisco Bay (released in November 1973). Professor Duncan re-published the two manuals in October 1987 while he was teaching at Virginia Tech, which were still in print in 2005. These manuals had a significant impact on the state-of-the-practice for geotechnical engineering in the Bay Delta region from 1976 for the next few decades, being referenced frequently in reports. ALB Associates ceased doing business in March 1997.


Van Houten Consultants (1986 - 2004)

Founded by Gary E. Van Houten, CEG (BA Geol ’68 UCSB; MS UCLA) and based in Petaluma, after working for HLA. His project engineer was Bill C. Wiggins, PE. The firm did most of their work in Marin and Sonoma Counties. Van Houten ceased doing business around 2004 and took a position with the Oregon Department of Transportation Region 5 in La Grande, OR.


Trans Tech Consultants (1987-present); FileTeam.com (2010-present)

Founded in December 1987 by Bill C. Wiggins, PE and based in Windsor, after working for Donald Herzog Associates and Van Houten Consultants. The firm’s principal focus was in geoenvironmental consulting, performing investigations, cleanups, and contracting services. In Jan 2010 he and David M. Schissler co-founded FileTeam.com to work on product development and visioning.


Geospectra (1987-1994); J.P. Singh & Associates (1996-present)

Founded in 1987 by Dr. Jogeshwar Preet ‘J P’ Singh (BSCE ’64 Thapar Inst; MS ’66; PhD ’81 Berkeley) after working for Dames & Moore (beginning in 1966) and Harding-Lawson Associates (where he directed their soils lab and field/geophysical testing). The firm was based in Richmond. Known to all of his colleagues as “J. P.,” Singh received his BSCE degree in India and MSCE in 1965 at UC Berkeley. He returned to Berkeley in the fall of 1976 and completed his PhD under Harry Seed in 1981.

Geospectra performed seismic assessment for ground motions on Golden Gate Bridge in early 1990s. Principal associates were Mansour Tabatabai, PhD, GE (PhD ’82 Berkeley) and Larry D. Porter, RGP. They also used John M. Coyle, CEG as a consulting engineering geologist. The firm was purchased by Kleinfelder in August 1994 to increase their capabilities in geotechnical earthquake engineering. Within two years Singh left Kleinfelder to work as a private consultant, and remains active, as J.P. Singh & Associates in Richmond.
Giblin Associates (1987-present)

Founded by Jere A. Giblin, GE (1938- ) (BSCE ’67 Berkeley) and based in Santa Rosa. Previous to the start-up, Giblin began working for Harding Associates as a soils tech in 1964, advancing through the ranks to become manager of their Santa Rosa branch office when it opened in 1974.


Gilpin Geosciences, Inc. (1996-2015)

Established in 1996 by Dr. Lawrence M. Lou” Gilpin, PhD, CEG (BA Geol ’79 Pennsylvania; MS ’82 Cornell; PhD ’95 UC Santa Cruz). Performed engineering geologic work for various geotechnical consultants in the Bay Area, including Treadwell & Rollo. At one time they expanded to three offices: San Rafael, Napa, and Walnut Creek, then were consolidated in St. Helena. Lou served as Chair of the Geology & Public Policy Committee for the Geological Society of America in 2005-06. In January 2015 Gilpin joined Langan Treadwell Rollo in San Francisco as their Chief Engineering Geologist, after serving as their contract geologist for the previous 18+ years.


Treadwell & Rollo (see write-up under Woodward Clyde threadline)
Harlan-Miller-Tait (see write-up under Dames & Moore threadline)
Miller Pacific Engineering Group (1989-present)

Founded in 1989 by Eugene “Gene” A. Miller, GE (BSCE ’51 Colorado A&M; MS ’56 Georgia Tech), who had worked for Dames & Moore (1956-58), before becoming a partner with Harding-Miller-Lawson (1958-73), senior vice president of Converse Ward Davis Dixon (1973-82), and partner with Harlan-Miller-Tait (1982-89). Gene served as a Navy Seabee officer during the Korean War (1951-53). He was a vociferous advocate of geotechnical engineers employing limitation-of-liability clauses in their contracts, which he promoted at continuing education seminars sponsored by ASFE and ASCE. The firm’s office was in Mill Valley, and later, in San Rafael. One of the early associates was Glen A. Roycroft, GE (BSCE ’80 Berkeley), who moved to Waste Management in 2000.



Scott A. Stephens, GE (BSCE ’88; MS ’91 Berkeley) is the current president of the 20-person firm, with offices in Novato, Napa, and Petaluma. Scott’s early engineering years were at Dames & Moore’s San Francisco office. One of the other partners is Michael P. Morisoli, GE (BSCE ’92 Cal Poly SLO; MS ’95 UC Davis). In July 2009 Dan Caldwell, GE (BSCE ’78, MS ’80 Berkeley) joined the firm as an associate.
RGH Geotechnical & Environmental Consulting Services (1991-present)

Founded by Gary Russey, PG (BS Geol ’79 SDSU), Keith Gregory, and Juan Hidalgo, GE in 1991, and based in Santa Rosa. Russey came from Klienfelder, while Gregory and Hidalgo had worked for Harding Lawson. Hidalgo formerly owned Hidalgo Associates, a DVBM subsidiary of RGH. In 2008 they added Eric G. Chase, GE (BSCE ’89 Cal Poly SLO) as an associate. VPs include Travis Whitted, GE and Jared Pratt, CEG, and assisted by Project Geologist Ryan Padgett, PG.


Hultgren-Tillis Engineers (1993-present)

Founded in 1996 by Edwin M. Hultgren, GE (BSCE ’69 CSU Sac; MS ’71 Berkeley) and R. Kevin Tillis, GE (BSCE ’83 Illinois; MS ’86 Berkeley). Ed Hultgren worked for Woodward-Clyde from 1969-77 before joining Harding Lawson and managing HLA’s Honolulu office during the late 70s and 80s. Kevin Tillis worked for Lowney Associates from 1983-85, then for Harding Lawson. Their firm has always been based in Concord. They have an established book of business working on levees in the San Joaquin Delta. Senior engineers have included Marlene K. Jackson, GE, Christian P. Mueller, GE, Steve K. S. Tsang, GE, and Jerry Hanson, PE.


Geotecnia (1996-present)

Luis E. Moura, GE founded the firm Geotecnia in 1996, as an MBE/DBE firm based in Walnut Creek. Moura’s degrees are BS in Eng Geoscience ‘82 and MSCE ’83, both from Berkeley.
Earth Mechanics Consulting Engineers (1992-present)

Founded by H. Allen Gruen, Jr., GE of Harding Lawson Associates, around ~1992, originally based in Oakland, then Concord, then back to Oakland (as of 2007). Gruen holds BSCE (1980) and MSCE (1983) degrees from Purdue, where he worked with Prof. Milt Harr. Gruen had previously supervised Harding Lawson’s Geotechnical Lab in Novato.


Gary Underdahl-Consulting Geotechnical Engineer (mid 1990s-2009)

Gary E. Underdahl, GE worked for Harding Lawson and Diablo Soil Engineers before launching his own consultancy in the 1990s, working out of Walnut Creek. He then worked for Questa Engineering in the 2000s before leaving the Bay Area, and his engineering licenses were not renewed, as of 2010.
GEC Consulting Corp. (2005-present)

Founded by Marlene K. Jackson, GE (BS Geol ’83 Harvard; MSCE ’90 Berkeley) as an SBE and DBE firm in September 2005, after working for Harding Lawson, Hultgren & Tillis, and Alan Kropp. Their office is in Pleasant Hill.


Rockridge Geotechnical (2006 – present)

Craig Shields, GE (BSCE ’81; MS ’82 Berkeley) left Treadwell & Rollo in 2006 to form Rockridge Geotechnical as an SBE firm in 2006. Their office is in Oakland. Their senior engineers include Linda H.J. Liang, GE (BSCE ’97; MS ’98 Berkeley), and Logan D. Medeiros, GE (BSCE 2004 CPSLO; MS 2007 Berkeley).
Rollo & Ridley (2008 – present)

Frank J. Rollo, GE (BSCE ’87 Purdue; MS ’88 Berkeley) and Christopher A. Ridley, GE (BSCE ’96 CalPolySLO; MS ’99 Berkeley) left Treadwell & Rollo in 2008 to form Rollo & Ridley, based in San Francisco. Frank is the son of Frank L. Rollo (co-founder of Treadwell & Rollo). Frank J. worked for Dames & Moore (1988-91) and Treadwell & Rollo (1991-2008) prior to the start-up. Chris worked for Treadwell & Rollo from 1996-2008.
California Division of Highways/Caltrans threadline
The Department of Highways was formed by the California Legislature in November 1896, when most of the state’s ground transportation were crude dirt roads maintained by county governments as well as some paved roads within the boundaries of the largest cities, such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego. In 1907 the Legislature replaced the Department of Highways with the Department of Engineering, within which they created a Division of Highways. Voters approved an $18 million bond issue for the construction of a state highway system in 1910 and the first Highway Commission was convened in 1911. The first state highway projects began in August 1912, which also witnessed the founding of the Transportation Laboratory in Sacramento, which would garner national prominence in the years to come.

In 1921, the Legislature changed the name from the State Department of Engineering into the Department of Public Works, which included the Division of Highways. Over the next half century the Division of Highways became the leading highway transportation authority in the United States, garnering many “firsts,” such as the painting of centerlines on highways statewide; first to build a freeway west of the Mississippi (the Pasadena Freeway); the first to build a four-level stack interchange; the first to develop and deploy non-reflective raised pavement markers; and one of the first to implement dedicated freeway-to-freeway connector ramps for carpools. Most of this progress was chronicled in a State publication called California Highways & Public Works, which was in print between 1927 and 1967.

In late 1972, the Legislature approved a reorganization (suggested by a study initiated by Governor Ronald Reagan), in which the Department of Public Works was merged with the Department of Aeronautics to become the modern Department of Transportation, known simply as Caltrans. Caltrans operations are spilt into twelve districts statewide, with the Headquarters, Transportation Laboratory, and Bridge Engineering Group in Sacramento and the rock slope engineering group based in San Luis Obispo.

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