Geotechnical Engineering

Founded as a geotechnical firm, R&M has remained at the forefront of that field in Alaska for 45 years. Given the extreme variability in Alaska’s environments and physical settings, the success and economics of any project starts with a thorough appreciation and understanding of geologic and geotechnical conditions. R&M has developed a wealth of experience and knowledge from successfully completing geotechnical engineering services for projects throughout Alaska, including performing analysis and developing project-specific recommendations for design and construction of transportation infrastructure, ports and harbors, hydroelectric facilities, structures of all kinds, utilities and other civil works. Our service areas include: foundation evaluations; retaining wall and reinforced steepened slope designs; slope stability modeling; seismic hazard assessments; thermal modeling; and pavement design.

Senior Geotechnical Engineer

Robert (Buzz) Scher, PE

read Buzz's bio

Buzz has more than 37 years of geotechnical engineering experience, including 35 years in Alaska. He is responsible for planning field explorations and laboratory testing programs, and performing engineering analyses supporting foundation design, seismic hazardous assessments, slope stability, pavements and specialized thermal modeling to evaluate the effects of seasonal frost or permafrost. Buzz provides innovative and creative solutions to geotechnical, construction and logistical problems, and is fully knowledgeable of cold region marine and upland design requirements, earth science applications, and the seismic environment across Alaska. He holds a M.S. in Arctic Engineering from the University of Alaska Anchorage and a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Purdue University. Buzz has served as a member of the Alaska Seismic Hazards Safety Commission for more than three years, and the Municipality of Anchorage Geotechnical Advisory Commission for over 18 years.

R&M provided geotechnical services associated with design and construction of a 280’ long, single-span timber pedestrian bridge across the Placer River to enhance the trail system at the Whistle Stop Recreational Area in Chugach National Forest, about 10 miles south of Portage. During our assessment of the seismic hazards at the site, we identified a ground failure from the 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake (magnitude 9.2), which necessitated moving one of the bridge abutments. Additionally, the abutment pile foundation design had to consider limitations on the size of equipment that could be brought to the remote site.
R&M completed a geotechnical investigation for design and construction of a steel and concrete dock to replace an existing timber structure located in a highly seismic region with a history of devastating earthquakes. Unique geotechnical challenges included evaluating potential for and magnitude of lateral ground failure (spreading or slope displacements) towards the channel during an earthquake, qualifying the magnitude of kinematic loads from that failing soil sliding past the piles, and developing non-linear parameters to model how the piles, socketed into bedrock, would deflect when subjected to lateral kinematic soil, as well as structural inertial loads.
R&M completed four geotechnical investigations to support development of Mertarvik, a new community being developed on the north side of Nelson Island for relocation of Newtok. R&M’s investigations were associated with an airport location study (four sites), borrow material and rock quarry sources (two sites), a barge landing and waterfront facility, and a pile-supported community evacuation center. The extreme remote locations, limited access and support field operations, sensitive tundra vegetation, and design of pile foundations in variable warm permafrost conditions presented unique challenges to completing these geotechnical investigations.