Top 10

Top 25 GBA Resources

GBA provides hundreds of highly effective resources developed to satisfy the unique needs of geoprofessionals, giving members essential tools for achieving success. However, we also know that it can be overwhelming to sort through them all. So to help, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 GBA resources by numbers ordered over the last six months. This is a great place to start your exploration of GBA’s resources, or to get acquainted with a publication loved by your peers and “new to you”.

The list below is the top 10 GBA resources, in order by popularity, with the most ordered resource at the top. Topics cover a wide range of geoprofessional business issues, so there is certain to be something on this list that could help your business succeed. Select a title to learn more and order it today.

Top 10 GBA Resources


This new edition not only provides significant updates from the prior editions, but also includes important new topics, such as Climate Change, Indemnities and Hold Harmless Provisions in Favor of the Consultant, and Instruments of Professional Service.

Since contracts that reflect a fair and balanced allocation of risk and reward are essential to any risk management program, we hope that this Guide will help to promote the success of your firm. The Guide includes sample recommended language, supported by explanations of the legal issues involved in each, and suggested negotiation strategies. The Guide was designed to foster good risk management while maintaining and enhancing client relationships.

A great tool for project managers and others!

GBA’s Contract Reference Guide, Fourth  Edition, now is available to our members in e-book version, available in Mobi File (PC version) or EPub file (Apple products) as well as a PDF and in a hard copy version.  The searchable, flip-book allows you to take the Guide with you on any device for quick reference at your fingertips.


There are very good reasons why we would choose not to spend time and effort pursuing a client or a project.GBA’s Business Practices Committee has prepared a comprehensive, simple to use, Go/No-Go checklist for your use. The goal of the go/no go check list is to evaluate opportunities to see if they are the ones which will be beneficial for the firm currently and in the future. This checklist may be a tool you use to evaluate opportunities in new sectors, new clients, or a new line of service for your firm.


Absolutes are words that connote an extreme condition; e.g., absolutely no exceptions. They are most commonly thought of as modifiers – adjectives and adverbs – but also occur as nouns, pronouns, and verbs. In common or colloquial parlance, they usually are harmless. However, when they are used by professionals within an instrument of professional service, correspondence, or other written communication (electronic or otherwise), or when they are spoken by professionals while acting in a professional capacity, absolutes are almost always inappropriate.


The newest GBA Business Brief — available only to members and free of charge – comprises the GBA Business Practices Committee’s 2019-2020 Financial-Performance Survey report, covering key financial-performance issues surveyed firms reported. These include pre-distribution profit, discretionary-profit distribution, net multiplier, utilization rate, pre-distribution overhead, marketing costs, group insurance, collections, and fee backlog.


The Geoprofessional Business Association (GBA)’s Best Practices: Bridge the Gap presents the recommendations developed by a Special Task Force formed by GBA to address the gap between the responsibilities of the geotechnical engineer of record (GER) and the geotechnical-specialty constructor (GSC). This document discusses the reasons for the gap; defines a model to help both geotechnical engineers and GSCs allocate responsibilities based on the delivery method being used on the project; and outlines recommendations for GSCs and geotechnical engineers to use in avoiding the gap. The paper encourages geotechnical engineers to evolve their scope of services when appropriate to collect the data needed for specialty design, prepare specialty designs, assist the Owner in selecting the GSC, and review the specialty construction.


This is the first of a series of ASFE Practice Alerts developed by GBA’s Practice Education Committee to examine language use. This one focuses on six “taboo words”: certify, inspect, monitor, supervise, safety, and represent. The six are not necessarily dangerous in and of themselves. How they are used and their context are important. Nonetheless, the consequences of using any one of them improperly can be so severe, many risk managers believe the words should be used only on a carefully considered, by-exception basis.


This 20-page guide was created to help GBA-Member Firms review their proposals and reports internally. It provides guidance to report writers, including a definition of an effective report, a list of elements that should be attached to a report, and recommendations for communicating with the reviewer once the report has been submitted. It also relates instruction to reviewers, including recommendations for conducting the initial review, revising comments, keeping a report control log, and communicating with the report writer throughout the review process. A separate section sets forth general guide questions relating to contractual obligations, technical content, risk management, and clarity of presentation. The guide also includes a sample report control log, a report transmittal cover sheet, and a section that identifies commonly used engineering jargon and recommended alternative words.


“Slipshod synonyms” are words that are used incorrectly in written and/or oral communication, from the belief they mean something that other words mean. One of the most common of these shows up only in writing: it’s, when used to indicate the possessive form of it; i.e., “It’s bark is worse than it’s bite.” In fact, it’s is a contraction that means “it is”. The possessive form if it is its, meaning that only “Its bark is worse than its bite” is correct.


This report transmittal cover sheet identifies limitations in geotechnical engineering reports and stresses the need for the geotechnical engineer’s involvement throughout the course of the project.


Effective Project Managers are key to the success of all geoprofessional businesses. GBA recognizes development of highly effective Project Managers requires training, experience, and mentorship in numerous areas. GBA has developed, with support of member-firm volunteers, a Project Manager essential skills training course to support and augment training available by member-firms.

The foundation of this 11 module Project Manager course has been generously donated by a GBA member firm. While the slides have been rebranded by GBA, there may be content or concepts that are specific to this GBA member firm and may require slight modifications to make presentations appropriate for your firm. This course will help you introduce and discuss the essential skills needed as a Project Manager.

The PowerPoint format of this course has been developed so that it can be given in a group setting by a leader in your organization or used as a self-teaching tool by an individual. The course can be delivered all at once in an 8-hour day, or a module at a time as time permits. Each module contains a short quiz at the end to confirm clarity on the topics presented. Each module also includes a printable completion certificate. Module 11 includes a printable and framable Course Completion Certificate for those that have completed all the modules of this course.

LUNCH & LEARN: Risky Language

Words can kill, or at least create a great many difficulties, especially when they are the wrong words, like taboo words whose legal meanings may be far different from what they seem to imply. This well-crafted Lunch & Learn seminar discusses the U.S. legal system and why geoprofessionals need to avoid it as a dispute-resolution forum, then addresses a variety of taboo and other words and phrases that can result in formal dispute resolution and litigation becoming unavoidable, time-consuming, costly, and frustrating. GBA’s Practice Education Committee developed the Lunch & Learn seminar series to help GBA-Member Firms conduct high-quality, to-the-point seminars for members of staff and, possibly, others, such as client and colleague staffs. Each Lunch & Learn seminar outlines key points to be made, and includes note-taking forms participants can use to help reinforce key lessons learned, as well as a PowerPoint presentation. Each seminar uses GBA materials that members can obtain free of charge, in unlimited quantity. Many of these also are available to nonmembers, for a fee.


The publication provides step-by-step instructions – as well as overarching concepts – for report writers and reviewers. Organized into three principal content areas to help reviewers consider major issues and to give report writers a clear framework for preparing reports and considering reviewers’ comments, the guide addresses a report’s ability to satisfy the contractual obligations it was intended to fulfill; the quality of its technical and risk-management content; and the clarity of presentation. Supplemental materials include a report-control log, copies of GBA’s widely used report-insert sheets (geotechnical, environmental, and construction-materials engineering and testing), and three best-practices monographs covering “taboo” words, absolutes, and “slipshod synonyms.”

Top 10 Case Histories


GBA-Member Firm provided suggested changes to a sewer pipe design in order to keep construction moving forward on a five-story senior-living facility.  Four years later, swelling clays caused the sewer line to back-up and the lower-level slab began showing heaving related distress.  That good deed with other project related complications resulted in a $25 million claim that required an extensive defense of contract limitations of liability, standards of care, and project documentation.


A Member-Firm with firm with multiple offices became the victim of foreign hacking enterprise. When an employee of the firm opened an email from an unsuspected contact, and clicked on a link, the hackers reached the Firm’s management systems,and had control to all the files and everything related to their operations. The firm had to pay a very large amount of money as a ransom and updated their computers and software, at additional expense.


When a GBA-Member Firm realized it had committed a serious error while conducting construction-materials engineering and testing (CoMET) services for a new hospital building, it knew it was in trouble. The project – a 738,000-square-foot hospital – was the key element of a high-profile, $800-million project and the constructor-in-charge faced significant penalties if it failed to complete its work by the targeted date.


A “dream home” built on expansive soil and nonexpansive sandstone began to move about eight months after construction. The original geotechnical-engineering report warned of that risk, noted that a slope-stability analysis had intentionally been excluded from the scope of service, and advised that a slope-stability analysis was needed. During construction, the builder releveled the excavation by as much as 18 inches, without any geotechnical-engineering observations or tests, and this was the likely cause of the problems. But the builder was bankrupt and the other parties, except for the geotechnical engineer, were insufficiently insured. To get into the geotechnical engineer’s deep pockets, the homeowner’s attorney brought in a “hired gun” expert who knew just what to say.


The GBA-Member Firm agreed to provide geotechnical engineering and construction materials engineering and testing (CoMET) services for a contractor hired to construct a two-story office building on a 60-foot fill slope.“The owner can’t afford to build this,” the contractor said when reviewing the Member Firm’s recommendations.” The firm agreed to eliminate a geogrid it had recommended and to use spread foundations instead of caissons given the contractor’s promise to lower the pad elevation by 10 feet and locate the building an additional 20 feet back from the top of the slope. Required by the local government to review and stamp the final grading plan, the Member Firm did so quickly, at its client’s request, because the project was behind schedule. Unfortunately, the Member Firm failed to note that the contractor did not keep its promise. Soon after construction, the owner became concerned about stability issues and spent more than $1 million to effect repairs and then sued the Member Firm to recover its costs. The Member Firm’s experts established that gross instability was not an issue and the stability measures the owner took taken were ineffective and unnecessary. Nonetheless, even though allowing placement of the building near the edge of the slope had no real effect on stability, it was a mistake and that impelled the Member Firm to settle during trial. Its overall expense exceeded $3.25 million. Haste makes waste.


The Member Firm’s project manager studied a problem site that the owner purchased at a discount and developed an economic means of making the land usable for a new factory. The owner declined the Member Firm’s field services, however, and instead vested that responsibility in the earthwork contractor. Later, the contractor and the owner’s representative called the project manager, asking him to significantly reduce cut-and-fill requirements because the contractor’s representative said he was encountering “pretty good material.” Not fond of the owner’s representative at this point, the project manager said, “Go ahead,” without even bothering to visit the site. Soon after construction, the new plant’s floor slab began to crack and move, and the project manager knew why. The bad news: It cost the Member Firm $275,000 to correct the problem. The good news: Were it not for the firm’s fast, aggressive response, the loss could have been far, far worse.


A long-term, significant client – a regional grocery store chain – was replacing an existing outlet in a somewhat remote area. The store was one of the client’s less profitable, so the owner’s representative encouraged all involved with design and construction to keep costs low. Unfortunately, the general contractor seemed somewhat distracted, as did the architect. As a consequence, the Member Firm – engaged to provide geotechnical engineering and construction materials engineering and testing (CoMET) services – had to deal with an inadequate submittal-review process and poor scheduling. The member decided to not make waves about the situation, and that was a mistake: The new pavement system failed before construction was complete. Ultimately, the Member Firm got aggressively involved in problem remediation, and that prevented a bad situation from becoming worse. Still, the Member Firm had to contribute about $70,000 to recognize its own performance shortcomings, but – by using meditation – it salvaged its relationship with the client.


A major health-maintenance organization (HMO) engaged the GBA-Member Firm to conduct a geotechnical-engineering study for a new office building to be constructed on a site underlain by old fill and expansive soil. The client clearly was concerned by the subsurface conditions, and that caused the Member Firm – also engaged to provide construction materials engineering and testing (CoMET) services – to work directly with the contractor when its geotechnical recommendations were overridden by the architect and the owner’s staff engineer. The Member Firm’s failure to take a more diplomatic approach caused reactions that forced it to “go along to get along.” It continued to serve, buy only to evaluate construction for compliance with the specifications as written. Because those specifications were inadequate, serious pavement distress occurred, followed by a dispute. When mediation failed to resolve the dispute, the Member Firm figured it could be in for a protracted problem, despite having a limitation of liability provision in its agreement with the HMO. Fortunately, the Member Firm’s worst fears were not realized, but that was a stroke of luck.


A construction-management company retained the GBA-Member Firm to perform a geotechnical engineering study for a simple structure that involved somewhat complex subsurface issues. The Member Firm later submitted a proposal to observe construction, but the client instead asked the Member Firm to sign a purchase order that included several troublesome conditions. The Member Firm refused, but – having worked with the client before – it agreed to move forward. Serious problems arose, but none was caused by the Member Firm. It was named in the suit nonetheless and agreed to participate in mediation. The firm’s CEO argued that the firm was blameless and so owed nothing. The owner’s attorneys said they didn’t care; the firm would have to pay something. It did, and because it was accommodating, it retained the good will of both the client and the owner.


A GBA-Member Firm performed a geotechnical-engineering study for a 35-lot subdivision. The developer – a long-time client of the Member Firm – sold the land and development plans to a colleague. The colleague developer then sold one of the lots to a homebuilder. As it so happens, the homebuilder’s lot was located on an ancient landslide. Local authorities were concerned by the situation and told the homebuilder to contact the Member Firm, under the mistaken belief that the Member Firm still was the geotechnical engineer of record. The Member Firm responded promptly, sending a field representative to the site to perform a few basic services. Member Firm personnel assumed that the lot was being developed more or less as they had originally called for, and that was a bad mistake. It cost the Member Firm $95,000 to extricate itself from a situation it should not have gotten involved in to begin with.