Major Clients and Case Studies

Major Clients


Alachua County, Brevard County, Collier County, Lee County, Marion County, Orange County, Osceola County, Palm Beach County, Putman County, Volusia County, City of Belle Isle, City of Casselberry, City of Cocoa, City of Daytona Beach, City of Fort Myers, City of Gainesville, City of Leesburg, City of Orlando, City of Miami Beach, City of Palm Beach, City of Port Orange, City of Rockledge, City of Sanford, City of Sarasota, Dept. of Veterans Affairs, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers


Canaveral Port Authority, Carrol County Schools, Flagler County Schools, Lake County Schools, Orlando International Airport, Osceola County Schools, Palm Beach County Schools, Palm Beach International Airport, Sarasota County Schools, Seminole County Schools, Seminole State College, South Florida

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Water Management District, FDOT, FDEP, FDMS, St. Johns River Water Management, University of Florida, University of Central Florida, Volusia County Schools, MARTA


Alltel Mobile, Allstate Insurance, Archer Western Construction, Arvida Realty, AT&T Communications, Atkins North America, Austin Commercial, Avatar Properties, Barnard Construction Company, Brassfield & Gorrie, Briar Team, Burger King Corporation, Citizens Property Insurance, DCL Island Development, Dragados USA, D.R. Horton Homes, Ebsco Gulf Coast Development, Florida Hospital, Florida Power & Light Company, GAI Consultants, Inc., HNTB Corporation, Jacobs Facilities, Inc., Jr. Davis Construction Company, Inc., Lane Construction Corporation, KC Constructors JV, Lennar Homes, Florida Power & Light, Forbes Company, Hancock Holding Co., Hawkins Construction, Hubbard Construction Company, K. Hovnanian Homes, Kiewit Infrastructure, KIMCO Realty Corporation, Lowes Companies, Mattamy Homes, Marathon Oil Company, McDonalds, Meritage Homes of Florida, Nationwide Insurance Co., Odebrecht Construction, Inc., Orlando Sports Holdings, Picerne Development Corporation of Florida, Publix Stores, Pulte Home Corporation, Racetrac Petroleum, Inc., RD Harbour Island Tampa, Reynolds, RIDA Development Corp., Roger B Kennedy Construction, Russell Engineering, Sea World of Florida, Skanska, Smith & Hills, Inc., Standard Pacific Homes, Suffolk Construction Company, SunTrust Bank, Superior Construction Company, State Farm Insurance, Target Stores, Inc., Taylor Morrison Fla., Teramore Development, Tierra, Inc., Universal Creative, Universal Studios of Florida, URS Corporation, Viera Company, Walmart, Walsh Group, Walt Disney World, WCI Communities, Inc., Westgate Resorts

Case Studies

Port of Miami Tunnel Case Study

There are approximately 16,000 vehicles that travel to or

from the Port of Miami every single day of the week. The previous routes were full of safety hazards and restricted the port’s ability to grow. The goals of the new tunnel were to provide a direct connection to Watson Island, reduce downtown congestion and increase competitiveness of the Port of Miami.

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Located between Miami’s downtown and the famous Miami Beach area, the $1 billion project sits between the MacArthur Causeway and two man-made islands. The Port of Miami Tunnel project consists of two tunnels, each containing two traffic lanes, connecting Watson Island with the Port of Miami, beneath Government Cut, the main shipping channel in Biscayne Bay.

port-of-miami-case-study2   port-of-miami-case-study

The geology at the site included strata of loose sand and limestone that presented significant design challenges. The tunnels are 42 feet in diameter and dip to 120 feet below sea level, with the eastbound tunnel at 3,693 feet in length and the westbound tunnel at 3,980 feet in length. The bottoms of the tunnels are approximately 100 feet below the surface of Government Cut at their deepest point.

Universal provided Contract Drilling, Quality Control, Plate Load Bearing Test, Materials Testing and Structural Inspections services.

Universal marshaled support from all over the state, including offices in West Palm, Miami, Tampa, Panama City and Orlando, with the West Palm office leading the project. Scott Rowe, PE, geotechnical department manager, served as project manager for Universal’s services under this contract. Universal’s Tampa office is supplied a drill crew and rig with wire-line coring.

Port of MiamiUniversal provided a complementary geotechnical exploration (drilling) program required by the Miami Access Tunnel Concessionaire’s design/build contractor Bouygues Civil Works Florida. Field geotechnical exploration services included: standard penetration test soil borings; cone penetrometer testing; pavement cores; and field exfiltration tests. Laboratory test services included: sieve analysis; Atterberg limits; organic content; pH; chloride; sulfate; resistivity; LBR, and rock characteristic tests such as compressive and split tensile tests. Universal’s scope of services included subsurface and laboratory classification services for soil and rock conditions for portions of the tunnel alignment, including 125 feet deep SPT borings and rock coring for bridge widening and roadway alignment. Subsequent phases of the project and Universal’s scope included materials testing and structural inspections on Port of Miami Tunnel support buildings. Universal completed Phase One (Watson Island/Dodge Island) in 2010 and subsequent phases in April 2014.

Dr. Phillips Center Construction

Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts

The design and construction of a world class opera house and performing arts center with acoustic perfection has been the dream of Orlando philanthropists, performing arts benefactors, and numerous supporters for many years. This $408 million Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts construction project, when totally completed, will contain numerous venues in more than 330,000sf of space, including two grand performance halls, a community theater, outdoor plaza and performance space, rehearsal rooms, administrative offices and an educational programming space. The project is located in downtown Orlando, Florida, at the heart of a nine-acre urban mixed-use development, which includes a variety of culture, commerce, retail, hospitality and residential facilities. Features include an amplified hall with over 2,800 seats, an acoustic hall with over 1,700 seats, a community hall with 300+ seats, rehearsal halls, and an outdoor public plaza. The center also houses 10,000sf of educational space including classrooms and performance areas.

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The project is being constructed in two phases, with Phase 1 incorporating the southern theater, Broadway Hall and the Community Theater. The deepest basement for Stage 1 was 13 to 22-feet to the bottom of the basement level foundation slab, and the later Stage 2 (the Community Theater and Music Hall) will have a 30-foot deep basement, and will be constructed so there is access between the two stage constructions at basement levels. The overall Performing Arts Center structure will be built eight stories above street level, with the top of the roof some 84-feet above the street).

Universal began working on the project in March of 2008 to support the initial design of Phase 1, with seven updated reports to achieve final report delivery for all issues in September 2010. Geotechnical exploration techniques used included rotary wash borings with Standard Penetration Testing (SPT) and Cone Penetration Testing (CPT) using our digital CPT. Soil shear wave velocity measurements were taken during CPT sounding using a seismic cone on the CPT in order to assist in determining soil stiffness and provide shear wave velocity of in situ soil for noise and vibration isolation design on this world-class facility.

Project Characteristics

Universal was challenged with providing assessment and testing of proposed foundations to be used to support the performing arts facility. Phase 1 of the Dr. P. Phillips Performing Arts Center project was unique in the sense that, during the construction and operational cycle, loading conditions change due to dewatering and then rebound creating uplift on the structure during operation of the facility. When under construction, settlement of loads in compression dictated design. During operation when the water table rebounded, uplift control was needed and portions of the structure were in uplift. Phase 2 is embedded so deep into the water table that augercast piling are planned to be placed on a grid to control both uplift and compression loads.

Unique Foundation Design

The decision was made by the design team to mix the foundation types (deep and shallow) for the Dr. P. Phillips Performing Arts Center project, a unique arrangement driven by project economics.

It was imperative for the success of mixed foundations on this project that they settle close to move the same amount within the definitive amount chosen by the project architect and structural engineer in order to limit differential settlement which can cause cracking. Differential settlement not to exceed ¼ inch in 30 feet was chosen as the critical settlement criteria for this project. Universal’ goal was to match settlement performance of mixed foundations to be as close as possible for the loads provided by the structural engineer throughout the facility.

Universal performed load testing of piles and Geopier improved soil was performed prior to construction to measure settlement under load and adjust piling lengths to match settlement. All Geopier supported foundations were designed for 8,000 psf allowable bearing capacity, and move 1/3 inch; piles were subject to achieving their design capacity and move the same. This unique foundation design resulted in over $1,000,000 in savings.

Other supplemental geotechnical scope also included design of helical piles for shoring of the cantilevered roof while the foundations were being constructed and underground stormwater vault recovery design.

Construction Testing & Threshold Inspection

Universal provided vibration monitoring, dewatering operation consumptive use permit assistance, and threshold inspection for the Phase 1 construction. Additionally, we provided materials testing to underground utilities site work. Universal provided materials testing, foundation installation inspection and vibration monitoring of sheet pile installation services (to Balfour Beatty Construction, LLC), and auger cast pile monitoring, sheet pile monitoring, pile load testing on foundations, and structural steel inspections as a sub consultant.

Universal has vast experience in performing complete professional geotechnical engineering design services, geotechnical field testing and instrumentation, threshold inspection, and construction materials testing services for a large-scale construction projects. Our experience performing such services for a municipality (City of Orlando) demonstrates our experience working with, mentoring, and managing a team of minority firm subcontractors (30% participation) to the successful completion of challenging projects.

Orlando City Soccer Stadium Aerial

Orlando Major League Soccer Stadium Design and Testing Services

Through a public/private partnership, a new Major League Soccer stadium is being constructed in Downtown Orlando – it will be the future home of Orlando City Soccer Club and host to other major national events throughout the year. The stadium will have an initial capacity of approximately 19,500, aims to be LEED-certified, and will reflect the character and culture of the community, especially the surrounding Parramore neighborhood, to provide an unparalleled and truly unique fan experience.

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Plans feature a 360-degree lower bowl, full roof canopies covering all seats, natural grass playing surface, fan plaza areas and multiple VIP hospitality areas including a Club Lounge, up to 38 luxury suites and an elevated 360-degree balcony style bar within the scoreboard structure. The supporters section features standing rails and an exclusive open-air ‘pub-style’ area on an elevated concourse. A larger-than-life lion statue will face Church Street and turn ceremoniously to face the stadium during matches.

The stadium broke ground in October 2014 and is being developed by Orlando City Soccer. Barton Malow is the Construction Manager, with Universal performing the site improvement testing and inspection, and Threshold (Special) Inspection as required pursuant to Florida Statues Section 553.79.

Universal tested acres of soil below the stadium foundations and playing field to ensure the site soil compaction was in accordance with project specifications top preclude soil settlement after construction and when under use. The specially designed field requires it to be unyielding under the foot traffic, but sufficiently permeable to allow drainage during and after storm events. The stone and soil medium was a graded system which Universal tested to confirm it met job requirements for the task at hand. The subsurface drainage system has perforated collector pipes installed in the graded aggregate field base. The pipes convey storm water collected into a series of underground concrete vaults, some 20 feet below the playing field. This water can be pumped to the irrigation system and recycled to provide a LEED “green” solution to stadium grass maintenance. When tank installation problems occurred due to inadequate soil stability and threatened to project schedule significantly, Universal Geotechnical Engineers had a drilling rig in the excavation, some 20 feet into the ground, to assess the soil and groundwater conditions, and rapidly provided solutions to the problem to fast-track the construction schedule.

The stadium foundations and steel structure required Threshold (Special) Inspection as required pursuant to Florida Statues Section 553.79 under the qualifications set forth in Chapter 61G15-35.003, F.A.C. All foundations supporting subgrade soils are inspected to ensure soil density under walls and column foundations are in accordance with specifications, and that all structural steel reinforcing bars and connectors for the structural steel columns are properly sized and installed in the footers prior to pouring concrete. The plastic concrete is sampled and tested to ensure it meets project slump, air, and strength requirements. The bolted and welded steel connections were inspected and tested to ensure safe construction compliant with the approved plans. Universal’s team works hand-in-hand with the general contractor’s subcontractors to ensure a safe, quality facility is constructed.

One completed, it will be operated by the City of Orlando and owned by the Central Florida community. Community funding partnerships include the City of Orlando, Orlando City Soccer Club and Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties. With Universal on the job, all OA/QC testing and inspection will be handled with the highest level of professionalism and excellence to ensure a safe, quality, MLS stadium is constructed that will serve the public for years to come.