Piling Canada

DFI Celebrates 40 Years

The Deep Foundations Institute has a diverse membership that encompasses all disciplines of the deep foundations industry
Written by Lisa Kopochinski
April 2016

The Deep Foundations Institute has a diverse membership that encompasses all disciplines of the deep foundations industry

While the idea for the Deep Foundations Institute (DFI) was first formed in 1974, it took another two years for DFI – which would become an international organization of designers, contractors, engineers, suppliers, academics and owners in the deep foundations industry – to become a reality.

In 1976, deep foundations for building construction were quite commonplace and being utilized to support very large design loads or improve poor soils that were previously unsuitable for construction. However, agencies were in need of qualified designers, contractors and manufacturers/suppliers to collaborate with on major projects.

“Several people at a Piletalk seminar in Saddle Brook, N.J. – sponsored by Associated Pile & Fitting (APF) – discussed the idea of a ‘piling institute’ that would equally represent designers, field engineers, contractors, materials and equipment suppliers and owners,” said Theresa Engler, who became DFI’s executive director in 2006. “A steering committee was formed and eventually chose the name Deep Foundations Institute to emphasize the broader coverage of all foundation types. In 1976, Hal Hunt and Jack Dougherty of APF – along with the other steering committee members – became the founders.”

Right from the start, says Engler, the goal was for DFI to be a true institute – a consensus organization, not a professional society or a trade association.

“This strong differentiator is one of the reasons DFI is highly regarded as an organization that generates ideas, knowledge and information that can be immediately applied to the industry,” said Engler.

Today, 40 years later, DFI has international representation from more than 50 countries and six continents, as well as regional chapters in Europe, India and the Middle East.

With its main headquarters located in Hawthorne, N.J., DFI has a diverse membership of approximately 3,000 involved, knowledgeable and committed members worldwide that encompasses all disciplines of the deep foundation industry. This helps global members create a consensus voice and a common vision for the continual improvement of planning, design and construction of deep foundations and excavations.

Canadian connection
About 87 per cent of DFI membership is in North America. Of that number, 11 per cent are member companies headquartered in Canada.

“Additionally, several other corporate members have offices in Canada – making our Canadian representation much larger,” said Engler. “Our Canadian members benefit from the fact that we are a global institute and that all DFI members gain knowledge about foundation design and construction issues from experts across the world, making them better informed professionals and global industry contributors.”

One long-time Canadian member is Dean Construction Company in LaSalle, Ont. As one of the foremost deep foundation and marine construction companies in the Great Lakes Region, Dean Construction has been a DFI member since 1987.

“My father joined DFI with an eye towards expanding Dean Construction’s technical abilities into areas past straight pile driving which, in fact, has happened,” said Marc Dean, vice president of Dean Construction.

A family-owned business that can trace its beginnings back to 1926, Dean stresses the importance for other companies in the industry to not just join DFI, but to also attend the conferences and seminars.

“Join a committee that’s relevant to your business and keep your eyes and ears open,” he said. “There is a huge wealth of knowledge to tap into. Keeping up with what the vendors have to offer has been a benefit, too.”

Bengt Fellenius, Dr. Tech, P. Eng, who is based in Sidney, B.C., has been a DFI member for 40 years and helped create the Steering Committee.

“DFI has become more than the Steering Committee had hoped for,” he said. “It provides the means for people from different backgrounds to come together and discuss their differences and similarities; it is a forum for sharing experiences and to learn from each other; and it is a source for information needed by those outside our industry.”

He says that after four decades, he has found that the lasting benefit has been the social aspect of making friends amongst colleagues who may or may not be dealing with the same issues.

“In short,” he said, “Get off your behind and come in!”

Committees and groups
DFI’s 18 technical committees and three working groups form the backbone of DFI, says Engler.

“It is their role to focus on the unique issues of major methods and technologies within deep foundations and excavation,” she said. “To keep in touch with the ever-changing technology of the industry, we depend on our technical committees to keep members and the industry up to date with the state of practice through publications, guidance documents, peer-review of papers in the DFI Journal, educational events and committee reports in Deep Foundations magazine.”

In 2011, the DFI Committee Project Fund was established to provide funding of technical committee projects that advance the state of practice and understanding of deep foundations and provide a usable deliverable.

“The fund has generated great interest, discussion and activity in the committees,” said Engler. “To date, DFI has funded close to $500,000 in projects proposed by 12 technical committees. The deliverables include analytical tools, design guides, journal articles, project reports, databases and surveys. All projects involved significant in-kind contributions or joint funding with allied associations, furthering DFI’s industry-wide collaborative efforts.”

Major achievements
DFI has celebrated many successes over the past four decades. One is the continued growth of its membership from 18 corporate members and 100 individual members in 1976 to 433 corporate members and 2,439 individual members at the end of 2015.

There has also been a strategic expansion of DFI internationally. In 2005, DFI Europe was established, followed by DFI Middle East in 2010 and DFI of India in 2013.

Another achievement has been the growth and activities of the technical committees and working groups that are actively involved in advancing the wide range of technologies and techniques in the deep foundations industry.

“Last year, we established two new committees that strengthen our commitment to a diverse and multi-disciplined membership,” said Engler. “The Manufacturers, Suppliers and Service Providers Committee was established to leverage the knowledge and innovation of these DFI members. And the Women in Deep Foundations Committee was established to focus on retaining professional women in the deep foundations industry.”

Another area of investment is in students and young professionals. DFI recognizes that the future of the industry depends on the ability to encourage and engage promising young engineers to consider careers in the deep foundations industry.

In 2006, it established the DFI Educational Trust to support and encourage individuals in the fields of study related to the deep foundations industry by providing scholarships and opportunities to meet and work with industry leaders. Since its founding, the trust has awarded more than $600,000 in scholarships to over 160 students studying at colleges and universities across the United States.

In Canada, a scholarship was established in 2013 for civil engineering students attending universities in Ontario. The Manuel Fine Civil Engineering Scholarship Fund was established through a $25,000 donation from the Heavy Construction Association of Ontario and a $25,000 donation from the Ontario Association of Foundation Specialists. The fund honors Manuel Fine, who served DFI for 24 years in many roles, including trustee, president, executive director, managing editor of Deep Foundations magazine and as publisher of the DFI Journal.

Upcoming events
DFI supports the advancement of the deep foundations industry by hosting several educational seminars and events each year.

DFI’s technical committees develop specialty seminars, short courses and workshops to educate and update members on the fundamental applications of deep foundation elements and systems, present innovations and technological advancements, and discuss relevant market and practice issues.

“Seminars, which are attended by 40 to 300 people, provide a valuable learning experience for professionals in the industry to build and strengthen their knowledge base and obtain practical information that may be applied immediately to their ongoing projects,” said Engler. “Our regional chapters in Europe, India and the Middle East host workshops and conferences each year, and DFI manages international conferences on piling and deep foundations worldwide. These conferences provide opportunities to share common interests with counterparts around the world and gain global perspectives on the use and advances of methods and technologies.”

In June, DFI is hosting its ninth annual SuperPile conference, June 7 to 9, at the Westin Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Ill. SuperPile ’16 – a collaboration of nine DFI technical committees and partnership from ADSC-IAFD, an affiliated association on foundation drilling – will include presentations on the latest developments in driven piles, augered cast-in-place/drilled displacement piles, micropiles, marine foundations, testing and evaluation of foundation systems, seismic and lateral loads, drilled shafts, ground improvement and helical piles and tiebacks.

From August 1 to 3 in Denver, Colo., DFI’s Deep Foundations for Landslides/Slope Stabilization and Tiebacks and Soil Nailing Committees are hosting a seminar called “S3: Slopes, Slides and Stabilization.” This three-day event will feature meetings of the sponsoring technical committees, lectures by industry experts on current technologies, key design concepts and case histories that illustrate effective application of deep foundations for stabilization of slopes and excavation support and an exhibition.

September 9 to 10, DFI of India is hosting its annual conference on Deep Foundations Technologies for Infrastructure Development. The two-day conference is in Kolkata, India at the Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology; it will focus on technology developments and case histories on drilled and driven piling systems, ground improvement and deep excavation systems – preceded by a full-day workshop on Sept. 8 – on soft soil engineering in underground space applications.

And in October, DFI will hold its 41st Annual Conference in New York City.

“This year’s conference is introducing a new technical track featuring seepage control and remediation for dam and levee projects worldwide,” said Engler. “To reflect this addition, the conference title is ‘DFI International Conference on Deep Foundations, Seepage Control and Remediation.’ The conference is expected to draw more than 1,000 industry professionals from across the globe to gather and share experiences, exchange ideas and learn the current state of the practice from various disciplines.”

The future
As for the next one to three years, Engler says DFI will remain focused on four strategic goals: 1) globalization of the institute; 2) revitalization of technical activities; 3) engaging manufacturer/supplier members; and 4) fostering involvement of younger members.

“It is truly an exciting time to be involved in the Deep Foundations Institute,” said Engler.

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