DR. ENGLISH: An Important New Descriptor for Your Geoprofessional Reports 

Many geoprofessional reports include recommendations whose efficacy is dependent upon findings in the field. If the subsurface conditions observed during excavation are the same as those inferred to exist based on the results of sampling and testing, and the geoprofessional’s knowledge, experience, and judgment, then – and only then – the recommendations can be “green lighted”; i.e., they become final and can be applied.

If observed conditions differ from inferred conditions, however, the recommendations must be modified before they can become final and used. This important information – that the recommendations included in a final report are not final recommendations – is covered in GBA’s unique series of “Important Information” report- and proposal-insert sheets; e.g., “Do not overrely on the construction recommendations included in your report. Those recommendations are not final….”

But how should you label these recommendations in your report? Should you simply write RECOMMENDATIONS and rely on the “Important Information” insert sheet? No! Because a user may assume the recommendations are “good to go” as written and, as a professional, you are obligated to warn users they are not. PRELIMINARY RECOMMENDATIONS is also incorrect, it seems because the recommendations are not preliminary. Dr. English suggests that you consider using CONFIRMATION-DEPENDENT RECOMMENDATIONS, to make clear exactly what the recommendations are; i.e., recommendations that can be applied only when conditions inferred to exist are confirmed to exist.

You may also want to consider using a lead-in paragraph such as the sample below:

We have developed the following recommendations under the tenuous assumption that the sampling and testing we performed on a relatively tiny portion of the site accurately portrays conditions that are otherwise concealed by earth, rock, water, and time. RESPONSIBLE GEOPROFESSIONALS CANNOT FINALIZE SUCH RECOMMENDATIONS UNTIL THEY CONFIRM THAT THE CONDITIONS THEY INFERRED TO EXIST ACTUALLY DO EXIST, a process they perform in the field, through observation of excavation. We are responsible geoprofessionals. Accordingly, if we do not observe excavation to see what actually exists, we cannot accept responsibility for these recommendations, given that – if we observe conditions we did not expect to see – we would modify the recommendations.

If another party performs field observation and confirms they are what we expected, that other party must take full responsibility for the recommendations. Please note, however, that another party would lack our project-specific knowledge and resources. DO NOT RELY ON THESE RECOMMENDATIONS UNLESS A QUALIFIED GEOPROFESSIONAL OBSERVES ACTUAL CONDITIONS AND TAKES APPROPRIATE FOLLOW-UP ACTION.