Malcolm Drilling goes all in to deliver peerless results every time.
Who doesn’t love to play in the dirt? When your idea of “play” is placing foundations to hold the worlds’ heaviest bridges and buildings, that’s a very high stakes question, indeed.
Those are the stakes that Malcolm Drilling is known for. The San Francisco firm is on the leading edge of equipment, processes, and systems for deep foundation drilling and additional technologies, leading the industry in quality, safety, and innovation.
Since its founding in 1962, Malcolm Drilling has evolved from working with a single truck mounted drilling rig to owning a $400 million fleet of rigs that span the scope of earth retention and foundation work, from excavating narrow spaces to drilling holes up to 18 feet in diameter and over 300 feet deep.
“We are blessed to have an owner that loves to dabble with new technologies, and these technologies in many cases are designed to be better for the environment, better for the public, while still keeping schedule requirements on a project in mind. As a result of the technologies and techniques that we have enable projects to be completed faster, which is also beneficial,” reported company president Al Rasband.
Company founder John Malcolm made it his mission early on to find and design the most game-changing equipment in the industry, studying European and Asian advancements in the field and incorporating them into an impressive array of technologies. From rotators, oscillators, and top drive drill rigs to jet grouting, deep soil mixing, and Omega displacement pile rigs, Malcolm Drilling has it all.
Said Rasband, “our fleet of equipment is the most modern and significant in size of any contractor in the United States. We have the ability to throw muscle on any project that’s required.”
That muscle is fierce. Last year, Malcolm Drilling received the Award of Excellence from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat for Best Tall Building (200-299 meters), Structural Engineering, MEP Engineering, Geotechnical Engineering, and Fire and Risk Engineering for their work on the 181 Fremont project in San Francisco. “The caissons at 181 Fremont, the deepest of any condo tower in San Francisco, burrow 260 feet below ground and are anchored into the bedrock. The building rests on forty-two 5- to 6-foot diameter concrete piles socketed into bedrock,” according to the 181 Fremont team.
The third tallest structure in the City by the Bay, the 800-plus foot high luxury tower is reshaping the iconic skyline, which is built in a densely congested urban environment — that also happens to be on the water and home to a cavalcade of seismic concerns.
“When you’re looking at what we do, which is all about support and stabilization of structures for their existence in some cases, for their longevity in other cases, rarely are there structures in this world where you can go out and say, ‘There’s a piece of ground, let’s build on that,’ and everything’s wonderful. Everything is more challenging now, whether it’s contamination of soils, soft ground, or other challenges that go along with it,” Rasband said.
“Our list of products is what allows for those structures, whether it’s a building, a bridge, a water treatment facility, a power plant, and everything in between,” he continued. “Our products allow those structures to be found on good foundations, and in some cases the combination of deep foundations, ground improvement or other technologies. Sometimes we are holding up hillsides or mountains in order to have a freeway cut through there, or an excavation to put a brand new building in. Typically, if there’s a very difficult, challenging job to be done, usually Malcolm Drilling is expected to get it done in the timeframe and at the level of quality that’s expected.”
Embedded in Safety
Malcolm Drilling’s stated mission is to be the largest and most innovative specialty foundation contractor in North America. The repeat ADSC-IAFD Safety Award winner is meeting that mission as rapid growth propels them to new heights. The plan: Find the best of the best employees, and keep them. It’s working in a spectacular fashion, because Malcolm retains employees at twice the national average for construction workers.
“We call it the Malcolm culture,” Rasband said. “In construction, especially as it’s getting more difficult all the time, finding people that want to work in our world is becoming more and more challenging. Everybody wants to work for a tech company.”
He credits the company’s proactivity when it comes to cultivating the cream of the crop. “We are constantly training our people from the inside, in what we call Malcolm University,” he revealed. “We do a significant amount of planning and organization for the purposes of making sure that if we are highly organized and plan to execute the work the net result is that we are safe. We have planning, organization, and safety meetings every single morning on every single job we work on.
“Our goal, which was the goal when I came into the company 25 years ago, is that every single one of our employees goes home to their families every single night. That is job one, and the most critical part of who we are.”
Despite its size and importance, Malcolm stays grounded. “We are a family business, not a corporate business. We consider our employees family, and we understand that if something affects their family it affects the Malcolm family as well. Our safety program is based upon performing the work in a very controlled, highly planned manner.
“If I was to say, ‘When you go to work tomorrow, I want you to be safe.’ What does that mean? It doesn’t mean anything, and it won’t affect the net results at the end of the day. If we meet in the morning, and say we are doing a new work activity, and we cover the risks associated with that work, and this is what we’re going to do to mitigate those concerns. As we go out and perform the work as planned, we have now taken performing that work in a safe manner because we have planned away the ability to perform it in an unsafe manner.
“Our safety record has always been good, but since we implemented that program five years ago our safety record has been second to none. It is excellent. With some of the biggest, most amazing equipment doing some of the most challenging work that can possibly be done, and to be able to do that in a safe manner takes a lot of serious organization and planning.”
He added, “at Malcolm Drilling you are buying into the culture, to the quality, and ultimately providing for families. In many cases we have sons and daughters working for Malcolm Drilling now who had parents working for us in the past. That says a lot about Malcolm Drilling.”
Playing in the dirt? Better have amazing toys.
In addition to top drive rotary rigs, ground improvement equipment, anchor tie back and tie downs, restricted access machines and cranes, Malcolm operates the largest fleet of oscillator rotator equipment in the world. Their collection of high performance, German-engineered casing machinery is truly impressive.
“The oscillator rotator equipment allows us to create a drill hole by casing it at the same time we are excavating it,” Rasband explained. “That eliminates any risk of caving, or impacting surrounding utilities or bridges. We’ve been able to perform large diameter drill shafts up to 12 feet in diameter within just a few feet of some very risky utilities.
“That creates a perfect environment for a foundation element to be constructed, so that is quite unique for us. We do more of that than any other contractor in the United States.”
The company’s ground improvement work includes cutter soil mixing, multi-axis soil mixing, deep soil mixing, vibro-flotation systems (using vibrators to densify and reinforce soils in situ) and jet grouting.
“We do a lot of ground improvement work. Ground has different capabilities, values, and issues specific to its overall capacity to hold whatever you’re going to put on it,” Rasband noted. “We have an entire division that has the ability to go in and mix cement with the in situ soil for the purpose of having higher capacity grounds that you can build on.
“In some cases you have contamination that’s traveling from one section of land to another, so we have the ability to go in and create different types of cutoff walls to stop that from happening. We’ve got various soil mixing capabilities. If there’s bad stuff in the ground, whether it’s hydrocarbons or different types of hazardous chemicals, by mixing that in with cement and something that looks like a very large cake beater, we’re able to freeze the mix in place. That allows it not to be able to move into our ground water. That’s exciting stuff to play with.
“We have a tremendous amount of experience from being in business for almost 60 years, we have made holes in the ground in a good portion of this country, so we’ve learned a lot, and with the combination of sophisticated equipment that we have, we’ve been able to take something that used to be very scary and turn it into something that is very controlled and produces the best quality control that’s ever been done in the history of deep foundations.”
An Open Door to Success
As advancements in design-build approaches continue to move forward, Malcolm is known for keeping all of their stakeholders well connected. “We like to have an open door policy for architects, engineering forms, contractors, and governmental agencies,” Rasband said. “In many cases they have questions or projects and they are looking for solutions. We are involved in those types of efforts on a daily basis. Maybe that’s value engineering, where we take an initial concept that they had, and transform it in a more favorable or cost effective manner.
“I direct all our people to allow others to come in to our facilities and sometimes we go into theirs. We spend a long time describing what we can do for them, and how our products can perform. The technology in the world is moving so fast, whether it’s in communications or smart phones or computers, those same kinds of growth and speed are happening in our world as well, and it’s difficult for contractors and engineers to keep up with how fast things are changing. Sometimes they may feel they have a solution, when in reality we have another solution that they weren’t even aware of.”
Environmental safety is always top of mind, and Malcolm goes the distance to ensure they leave their work zone better than they found it. “We work in the ground in an environmentally safe way so that we are, in the worst case, improving the existing ground that’s there, creating an environment that does not adversely affect the surrounding buildings, people sleeping in hotels, or traffic on freeways. That’s something we consider very important throughout Malcolm Drilling as a whole,” Rasband stressed.
“When my dad asked me what I do I explained we drill holes and fill them with concrete and with different kinds of reinforcing steel. Of course it is much more complicated than that, including that in many cases that reinforcing steel is made with recycled materials. Taking old junk cars, melting them down, putting them back into steel, and reusing them. That’s also very important to us. We never want to get into a tough situation where we’ve left our workspace anything other than in a better state than it was in when we got there.”
When asked if the experts at Malcolm have ever come up against a substance too tough to bore through, Rasband said, “Every job that Malcolm has done in almost 60 years, we have completed. That’s saying a lot. I get to work with a bunch of great people, fun equipment, and it’s a pleasure to come to work every day.
“We’re very proud of who we are, and that we’ve grown to the size company that we have become, and the different types of technologies and the goals we have. Most importantly, all the amazing people that have worked for us in the past and who work for us now, and hopefully will be working for us in the future.”
Malcolm has for over five decades been an innovator and leader in the deep foundation industry. Its list of core services includes drilled shafts, auger cast, displacement and micro piles, excavation support systems, diaphragm, soil mix and secant pile walls, slope stabilization, underpinning, various ground improvement techniques, and dewatering.
Malcolm’s experience facilitates a Design/Build approach to projects and allows for timely collaboration with owners and contractors. It provides these services nationwide through its regional offices. Malcolm’s large equipment fleet and highly skilled personnel affords the company the unique ability to comply with the most rigorous schedule compression, while delivering a high-quality product or service.
Whether the project is large or small, public or private, hard bid or design/build, with or without schedule compression, an extensive list of projects will demonstrate Malcolm’s experience and expertise to help guide your project to a successful completion. Malcolm welcomes the opportunity to work with you in developing the most efficient and cost-effective solution to your next project.