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Celebrating 20 years of pile testing

By Jim Chliboyko

 

Twenty years have gone by quickly for Sam Salem and Fred Agharazi. The two men are the founders of AATech Scientific, an Ottawa-based pile-testing company the two formed in 1997.

In the 20 years since, AATech Scientific has morphed from a two-man operation into a lean and efficient company of over a dozen versatile and globe-trotting specialists who are well versed in a variety of techniques and who have worked in a number of countries, states and provinces on a multitude of different projects.

“[Sam and Fred] were classmates at the University of Ottawa; they acquired some experience working in the field, both together and individually, in the following years,” said Tony E. Mohammadi, a 12-year company veteran and senior project manager. (A third man, Dr. Bengt Fellenius, is also a key partner.) “Following their dream, they decided to start their own firm, which is now one of the country’s leaders in foundation engineering and testing.”

AATech Scientific is a busy company, so any anniversary celebration may be a spur-of-the-moment situation.

“We’ve been keeping really busy so we might do a small barbecue this summer for employees and their families to celebrate our 20 years in business,” said Mohammadi.

Though based in Ottawa, AATech Scientific also has sattelite offices in Calgary and Evans Mills, N.Y., near the Canadian border.

“We specialize in pile testing,” said Mohammadi. “We offer dynamic load testing (PDA), which is a very common quantitative way of verifying pile capacity; we’ve done, over the last 20 years, more than 15,000 PDA tests and counting. Although we offer design and consulting services, we perform dynamic testing on driven piles, cross-hole sonic logging on concrete piles, thermal integrity profiling (TIP) and pile integrity testing (PIT), also known as low strain testing. Over the last few years, we have conducted several bi-directional loading tests (BDSLT), as well. BDSLT are becoming more and more popular and we are proud to say that we are one step above in innovation, having developed our own data acquisition system.

“I can’t stress enough how much experience AATech Scientific has in terms of pile testing and analysis. Our expertise is not just in data acquisition but also being able to accurately interpret the data. This comes with experience. Not a lot of firms have access to engineers who have experience with as many case studies as we do.”

 

"In the last 20 years, we've worked in almost every province in Canada."

- Tony E. Mohammadi, AATech Scientific

 

Across the Americas

The company also travels, practising throughout Canada and the Americas. Mohammadi himself has retained a Super Elite 100k Air Canada status for the last seven years, flying over 700 flights with the company.

“In the last 20 years, we’ve worked in almost every province in Canada,” said Mohammadi. “Our management and senior engineers are licensed in all of those provinces and some states in the United States. We’ve done work in several states, mainly New York, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Oklahoma and California. [We’ve also worked in] the Caribbean, Puerto Rico and Barbados, as well as South America – we’ve done some work in Bolivia and Brazil over the last five years.”

Mohammadi says their newer offering, in particular, has gotten the attention of the company.

“We have been working very actively at our BDSLT. AATech Scientific has performed BDSLT across North and South America in the last five years alone. We have been coming up with innovative, updated, more efficient and faster ways to perform this test, which we have done this year for the South West Calgary Ring Road project in Calgary, Alta. So, we’re not only expanding this service geographically but also in innovation, by perfecting our method of testing.”

AATech Scientific has worked on some high-profile projects, including recent work on Edmonton’s Anthony Henday Drive, which is the city’s ring road and one of Western Canada’s busiest highways. They’ve also done work on Vancouver’s SkyTrain system, Calgary’s LRT and Quebec’s Beauharnois Bridge, a new toll bridge on Highway 30. They’ve also done a lot of work in the Fort McMurray area (pre- and post-fire) for the oil and gas industry, and worked all over North America for CP Rail and various provincial ministries of transportation.

Working in South America is a new development for the company, but the region wasn’t initially a target of theirs, according to Mohammadi.

“Some of our testing jobs arise from contractors wanting a second opinion [from us],” he said. “So we would then come in and do alternative types of pile testing. When this happens, we are glad to give our input; the demand is due to our substantial experience in the field.”

Like many companies, AATech Scientific has to keep up with the variety of regulations of the different jurisdictions in which they find themselves working.

 

"I always say that we have the United Nations in our office. We speak English, French, Persian, Arabic, Hindi, Urdu, Spanish, Amharic, Mandarin and Romanlan."

- Tony E. Mohammadi, AATech Scientific

 

“The different specs or the different safety requirements sites have can differ from one state to one province to one territory,” said Mohammadi. “We do have to work hard at keeping updated as to the different requirements of the given jurisdictions, and adapting to those is an important aspect for our company’s health and safety.”

The team that Salem and Agharazi have assembled is an impressive cosmopolitan crew. With the company’s founders being Iranian (Agharazi), Lebanese (Salem) and Swedish (Fellenius), the rest of the staff are equally international.

“I always say that we have the United Nations in our office,” said Mohommadi. “We speak English, French, Persian, Arabic, Hindi, Urdu, Spanish, Amharic, Mandarin and Romanian. We have a lot of different backgrounds, so we can communicate fluently with almost everyone in the world.” 

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Piling Canada is the premier national voice for the Canadian deep foundation construction industry. Each issue is dedicated to providing readers with current and informative editorial, including project updates, company profiles, technological advancements, safety news, environmental information, HR advice, pertinent legal issues and more.