Headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, Richard Goettle, Inc. is a design-build contractor that began as a small general contracting company in 1956.
The company provides focused geotechnical engineering solutions for its clients’ individual needs, specializing in deep foundations (augercast piles, driven piles, drilled piers, and micropiles), earth retention (soldier pile and lagging, sheet piles, tangent/secant wall, shotcrete/soil nailing, and integrated wall solutions), ground modification (soil anchors, stabilization and underpinning, rigid inclusions, and displacement piles), and marine construction (river mooring, braced cofferdam, cellular cofferdam, bulkheads, and open cell technology).
The company was founded by Richard J. Goettle, III, joined with his colleague, Thomas A. Buzek. In its early days, it helped build schools, churches, interstate highway bridges, and water supply and treatment facilities.
Many of these projects required deep foundations or earth retention systems. In 1968, when the partners realized the growing need for advanced engineering relating to geotechnical construction projects, the partners decided to transform Goettle into the national geo-construction company that it is today. It was then that Richard J. Goettle, III requested engineer Larry Rayburn, Chairman emeritus of Goettle, to join the team and help realize this vision.
These three entrepreneurs led the company into a world of driven piles, drilled piles, retaining walls and marine work. Now, Goettle is well respected throughout the country as a growing, employee-owned business that builds lasting relationships with clients by demonstrating its commitment to quality and safety.
Goettle’s current President and CEO, Doug Keller, who has been with the company since 1988, tells Construction in Focus about the all-American company’s impressive safety standards. The team is proud to be completing its third year of being completely accident free. It is the winner of several industry accolades, such as the 2016 ACI (Allied Construction Industries) Safety Innovation Award; the 2017 AGC (Associated General Contractors) of America Excellence Finalist Award, Specialty Division; and the 2017 AGC of Ohio Construction Safety Excellence Award, Specialty Division.
Goettle is a firm that strives to do things differently by prioritizing safety at all levels of the company, and ingraining it into the company culture to look out for one another. “We were among the first companies to have a fulltime Safety Director,” says Keller. “However, creating a true culture of safety takes more than a safety director, regulations and paperwork. It requires the involvement and dedication of all our employees, from the office to the field. When they see something unsafe, they report it to eliminate or reduce the hazard,” he says.
Being a part of an employee-owned business adds to the team-oriented sentiment of Goettle’s employees, fostering their interest in the company’s wellbeing and helping to ensure that they embody Goettle’s core values of integrity, ingenuity, vision, and dedication. Keller adds that because people spend the majority of their time at work, it is important to be around people who can work well together in a team environment.
Some of Goettle’s everyday activities include analyzing earth retention systems or deep foundation systems for a particular project and recognizing which system is more appropriate from a geotechnical aspect. These recommendations are a crucial part of the early building process, playing a key role in the project’s success. Goettle’s in-house engineering team, project management team, and field installation personnel interact cohesively in a way that enables the entire process to be successful. Its design and drafting abilities set it apart from competitors, some of whom do not wish to take on the liability and prefer to subcontract the design portion of the project.
“We are performing work all over the U.S., from an emergency landslide repair consisting of a tieback soldier pile wall socketed into rock in Cincinnati, Ohio, to micropiles for the Norfolk Naval Yard in Portsmouth, Virginia, and a secant pile earth retention system in Miamisburg, Ohio. All of which were design-build projects completed by our in-house engineers. Also, we recently completed a rigid inclusion project for the Port of Charleston in Charleston, North Carolina,” Keller tells Construction in Focus.
Over the decades, Goettle has performed countless deep foundation, earth retention, ground modification, and marine construction projects.
With regards to its deep foundation work, which transfers building loads farther down from the earth’s surface, micropiles are often used for underpinning, strengthening the foundation of an existing building, or on job sites requiring minimal disturbance and a small installation footprint.
For example, Goettle completed a multimillion dollar deep foundation package for the renovations of Nippert Stadium at the University of Cincinnati. The project consisted of the installation of both micropiles and caissons. Work was performed inside the existing stadium, creating headroom restrictions and tight access. Micropiles, which are small diameter, high capacity deep foundation elements, were used due to the small footprint required to operate the equipment. The project also required the installation of caissons, located within the existing bowl. Due to access constraints and reach, 10 of the 48 caissons were hand dug. Goettle worked double shifts to meet a 12-week schedule for the client.
Earth Retention systems are designed to protect nearby streets, buildings, utilities, etc. during an excavation. The soil conditions, site access, and project constraints are used to determine the best system for each site. With soldier pile lagging, where soldier piles are drilled or driven at regular intervals along a perimeter of excavation, wood lagging is installed to maintain the excavated face once excavation begins. Goettle has completed numerous soldier pile and lagging systems for both permanent and temporary conditions. For example, Goettle has completed a $23.5 million-dollar project for Hamilton County, Tennessee, involving almost 200,000 square feet of permanent earth retention.
Ground modification is needed where slopes and embankments experience settlement, stability and erosion problems. Goettle designs and installs ground anchors, anchored reaction blocks, soil mixing, and jet grouting to reinforce soil stability and control erosion. For instance, a soil or rock anchor can be used in temporary or permanent applications to support a structure, including retaining walls, but also can be used for stabilization.
Once installed and load-locked, it exerts effort to the soil above it, with the soil also providing resistance. Goettle has completed a soil anchoring project to stabilize the hillside for West Greene Elementary in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, furnishing and installing 84 permanent soil anchors and 20 micropiles in a four-week schedule.
Goettle’s final specialty, marine construction, involves designing and building structures found along inland waterways to fleet, load, and unload equipment and material. If construction operations take place in or near water, a cofferdam is one such simple solution. These watertight structures facilitate projects in submerged areas. Sheet piles are driven into soil or rock, a bracing system is installed to resist lateral loads, and a dewatering system is used to allow construction to proceed.
Goettle actually completed a large, international design-build cofferdam marine construction project for the Panama Canal Authority in the Republic of Panama. The team installed 1,500 linear feet of bulkhead retaining wall with 17,000 tons PS-31 sheets, 230,000 cubic meters of cell fill, and 1,400 tons PZC-26 sheets in 38 weeks.
The company’s drug-free workplace employs approximately 100 employees, and operates out of three locations: a main office in Cincinnati, Ohio, an office in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which the company has had for over 20 years, and a newly opened office in Chicago, Illinois.
Keller states that the company is content to expand in areas that will help serve its nationwide customer base, but is looking to expand Goettle’s footprint both geographically and technologically at a controlled rate. For example, around the time that Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, Goettle had many projects in the area and temporarily set up an office there.
He likens growing a business to operating an airplane, in that both going up (expanding) and going down (downsizing) too quickly result in a bumpier ride, which is why Goettle’s long-term goal is smooth, controlled growth as it continues to meet the needs of its diverse customer base. By providing clients all over the United States with efficient, high quality geo-construction solutions, Goettle is doing exactly that.