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Driving Down the Cost of Construction Quality


Have you ever thought to yourself, why am I paying thousands a year on car Insurance when I’ve never had an accident?  I’ll just drive without insurance.  Everything begins well and there’s certainly more money in the bank account … until the accident, the repairs, the injury medical costs …

“Insurance is not there for when things go well, but when they don’t”

The same can be said about construction testing (and quality insurance), which can be viewed as excessive in terms of construction time and cost in what is a low margin business.  Unfortunately, when problems do occur, the impact and remediation costs can be extremely high, not to mention the amount of publicity such events create:  remember Minneapolis, Quebec, and the Selman Expressway in Tampa, Florida


Foundation failures can be especially problematic since when the foundation fails, the entire structure is suspect.  Recent high profile problems with Boston’s infrastructure lead to this Boston Globe (May 10th, 2010) article questioning quality and cost:

High-profile failures raise worry …

So to maximize profits and margin, we look to minimize expensive testing and monitoring, hoping that we’ve done enough testing to avoid a highly publicized failure.  The SmartPile™ Structural Surety System was developed to help balance the cost and quality equation by enabling MORE testing that can reduce the overall cost of the foundation AND minimizing the required setup and reporting of quality assurance data.   This is done by using the AASHTO allowances for testing and changes to the Structure design overbuild (or resistance factor).  If the quality and capacity can be ensured, then the amount of overbuild can be reduced (as there’s less estimating and more hard data), this reduction in the size of the substructure translates into less materials and construction time.

This holds together ONLY if the testing process can be performed with minimal impact to the construction process (and associated labor and equipment costs).  The SmartPile™ System uses wireless sensors embedded directly in the concrete structure to enable fast setup and non-invasive data collection.  The Operator/Tester simply uses his data collection Laptop and wireless link to collect data during the construction process (pile driving) to collect capacity, health, and quality information in real time.  This information can be reported at the end of the installation process (drive).

Fast … and Safer …

With the sensors embedded, data collection requires no setup and certainly no time required to connect and adjust sensors.  The SmartPile™ Embedded Data Collector (EDC) comes calibrated and ready to collect, avoiding any timely and possibly dangerous setup and configuration … like these (acrobatics):


More importantly SmartPile™ wireless sensors allow the Operator/Tester to collect data away from the construction equipment, in some instances several hundred feet.   

So with the SmartPile™, it’s possible to increase the quality of the foundation: collecting and reporting more data about the performance and capacity of the structure, and also enjoy the cost and material savings of a higher resistance factor.   As an added benefit, the SmartPile™ System is safer to use, allowing data collection to be done away from dangerous equipment and without construction site “acrobatics”.

In development for over 5 years and in volume production use since 2008, the SmartPile™ system was developed specifically to realize full pre-stressed concrete Pile testing for State, Municipal and Commercial projects.  With the SmartPile™ system, the cost benefits of the AASHTO LRFD resistance factors for full testing can be realized.  It is no longer too expensive or time consuming to test every pile. 

To Learn More

We continue to add new features and capabilities to the SmartPile System.  Watch us on the Web ( or contact us directly for more information:

Smart Structures Inc.

324 2nd Street Pike, Unit 13

Southampton,  PA   18966

267-983-6106 x601