The service industry has always relied on marketing to promote their wares and service. Sometimes the truth is stretched in these promotions to create excitement in the consumer. Often times these promoters attach themselves to keywords or terms that are in vogue. Recently this has happened in the foundation repair industry with the term "hybrid".
The definition of hybrid is "the combination of two or more different things, aimed at achieving a particular goal or objective". On the surface this sounds good and globally responsible ideas pop into our minds. In 2009 hybrid conjures up the idea of “Green Technologies” and smaller carbon footprints. This is exactly why marketers use the term hybrid.
In the foundation repair industry hybrid pier systems are the combination of two or more differing materials to achieve an objective. Sounds great doesn’t it. But, what is the objective? And, does combining any two or more materials always create a better product? Well with out question the objective is to sell more product for the manufacturer. This may not necessarily be good for the consumer, just more expensive. Next, just because you combine two or more materials together does not mean that it will perform better. Combining oil and water does not make better oil or better water.
Today we hear about combining steel and concrete to make “hybrid” foundation repair systems. They will advertise “the best of both worlds”, “the strength of steel with the benefits of concrete”. Well this sounds good but you must look past the advertising and see the engineering. Placing steel piers below concrete cylinders actually will take away the advantages of the steel piers and hamper the strength of the concrete. They say that they use steel to achieve depth (reading between the lines – concrete cylinders do not drive deep enough to supply support) and concrete in the upper soil zones to prevent corrosion. If this is the case, then why do they use steel shims at the very top of their system? Next, if the steel piers are galvanized to structural standards how are they going to corrode?
The next thing to think about is how will they drive the steel piers to the required depth if they are putting shallow driving concrete cylinders on top of the steel pier sections? The truth is, they will drive deeper than they were with concrete segmented piles alone but not as deep as true engineered steel piering systems.
Another combination of steel and concrete is to fill the steel pipe with a cement or grout mixture to “increase strength”. Sounds good, but does it work? Well let us look at it from a logic stand point (marketing people hate this), if the grout mixture is not as strong as the steel will it really increase the strength of the system? No! Adding a weaker component to a strong component will not make the system stronger it only makes it a hybrid. Do not fall for this smoke and mirrors advertising. The simple solution is to ask an engineer what they recommend. Engineers do not fall prey to slick commercials and fast talking salesmen, they look at numbers, calculations, and sound engineering practices.
So remember, if you want to buy a hybrid car to save money on fuel and leave a smaller carbon footprint – great buy it. If you want something to support your home or commercial building permanently listen to an engineer and require the highest quality steel piering system available that incorporates a manifold lifting system.