Can you explain your ground engineering experience and qualifications?
I have a PhD in earth sciences. After completing an undergraduate degree with Honours at The University of Melbourne, I undertook a PhD at Deakin University majoring in palaeontology, which is a specialist field examining the fossil remains of animals and plants.
While completing my PhD, I lectured at university in the school of Earth Science and Engineering and did some mineralogical exploration. Following the PhD, I worked in the geotechnical and environmental field which involved pre-construction ground assessments and site classification, ground water testing and environmental site assessments. I also gained experience in a number of sales roles, before joining Mainmark.
Mainmark is the ideal fit for me as the company requires someone with an understanding of geotechnical work as well as a passion for sales. Being able to bring these two skills together is an ideal scenario.
I like educating people. While studying for my PhD, I worked as a university lecturer and got a lot of enjoyment from passing on knowledge. I take a similar approach at Mainmark by trying to educate and inform customers about what’s happening to their home.
Knowledge is power so I don’t see myself as a salesman in the traditional sense. I like to give customers enough information to enable them to make their own informed decision about what to do. In my role, I strive for professionalism and that means being transparent about what can and can’t be done. This is important because when someone contacts Mainmark they’re doing so because they believe there’s something wrong with their home and they are looking for a solution. I give them the tools they need to make an informed choice.
What does a typical day look like for you?
As the Area Manager for Victoria and Tasmania, I service a wide region that requires me to work closely with a team of six territory managers. When I’m not out and about meeting customers, undertaking site inspections and checking jobs, I’m working at home doing paperwork and administrative tasks.
By nature, I’m a perfectionist and am naturally driven to be very thorough in what I do. My internal compass always tells me to get the job done and strive to get it done well.
I enjoy the autonomy and flexible working conditions that allows me to structure my own schedule. Some people may find this challenging but I’m very disciplined, as are most people who’ve completed a PhD. You need to be continually motivated and push yourself.
What is the most interesting project you’ve worked on and why?
The projects I deal with are primarily residential and some commercial, which includes general businesses, factories, warehouses, schools and local government projects. I foster relationships with my own network of engineers and councils to act as an advisor to them on potential projects.
While most jobs I attend have similar issues, which is looking for a solution to address ground subsidence, what I’m most passionate about is the investigative work behind what we do. What’s particularly interesting is how Mainmark’s new ground engineering technologies can help address unusual geotechnical problems.
For instance, one project that is currently in a planning phase involves the remediation of a 100 year old heritage listed sea wall that juts out of the ocean – similar to a wharf. Over time, the concrete between the wall’s blocks has been slowly eroding due to weather and environmental conditions. Physical abrasion at the block seams has created channels that are becoming increasingly worse.
Before recommending a solution, Mainmark investigated what was happening deep within the breakwater. We used a diamond drill to core through the body of the wall to obtain a cross section of its condition and determine the level of voiding that had developed. This involved drilling 12 metres through to the basement to gain samples for analysis and quantify the voids. From this we could extrapolate the extent of concrete loss and devise a multi-product solution utilising Mainmark’s Teretek resin together with other resin and grout-based applications that can be used to effectively remediate the wall.
Being a geologist, it is this exploratory approach to ground engineering that fascinates me most. I prefer to know exactly what the ground condition is, rather than making assumptions. Taking a Dynamic Cone Penetration (DCP) test to determine the strength and cohesion of the soil and identify weak zones is something that Mainmark is well placed to do. Finding the underlying causes of a problem adds value to virtually any Mainmark project, whether it be undertaking moisture analysis, soil testing or a range of other site specific assessments.
It’s great to be part of an organisation that is both proactive in its ground investigation work and offers solutions to help resolve a wide range of complex issues.
By Dr Phil Irwin
Dr Phil Irwin is Mainmark’s Area Manager, servicing Victoria and Tasmania. Phil has a PhD in earth sciences and has extensive experience in geotechnical investigations, soil testing, drill rig operations, and site surveying.