Local Experience
Global Reach

Welcome to SYNGEN Consulting Services home page.  We're glad you stopped in.

SYNGEN Consulting Services offers guidance in the areas of building site investigation services and foundation planning and design for residents of the Golden Heart City and beyond to the global circumpolar north.  Our broad experience base spans the high arctic to the tropics on both sides of the International Date Line.

What's in a name?

The name "SYNGEN" (pronounced "sin-JEN") is a shortened version of the word "syngenetic," which is a term used by permafrost enthusiasts (who probably should get out more), to describe a very special kind of permafrost notorious for its unusually high frozen water content and for the large deposits of clear ground ice it can conceal.      


Syngenetic permafrost is also infamous to many Interior Alaskan homeowners for the hazards it poses to building construction.  It is also famous to many University of Alaska Fairbanks Museum-goers for the frozen remains of now-extinct Ice Age animals it sometimes preserves (think 40,000-year-old step bison stew (credit to Dale Guthrie for an adventurous spirit!).

To paraquote a famous permafrost engineering pioneer (thanks again Eb, your memory lives on):


". . . when it comes to permafrost, there's bad permafrost and then there's really bad permafrost."


With regard to construction, syngenetic permafrost is usually really bad permafrost and if present at a building site, especially at shallow depth, it is critical to identify it before a foundation system for a given building is selected.  

Heat introduced to the ground by construction activities (e.g. simply by ground clearing) and heat introduced into the ground by transfer from a warm building foundation will promote thaw of permafrost.  If the permafrost is sufficiently rich in ground ice (syngenetic permafrost usually is), when it thaws the ground subsides.  The subsidence results from the volume change (loss) as melting ice changes to water and drains away.  The excess meltwater may also saturate the surrounding soil and reduce its strength, as water cannot resist shear forces imposed by a load (save for one or two instances reported in the New Testament). Such thawing permafrost is dubbed "non-thaw stable." 


To cope with non-thaw stable frozen soils, specialized construction practices and foundation systems are required. 

The purpose of this website is to advance the current state of practice of arctic geotechnical engineering by promoting public awareness of the frozen ground related hazards associated with foundation construction in cold regions, and to enhance public understanding of the practical solutions that are available to mitigate these hazards.

The information contained on this site is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon in lieu of a site-specific professional consultation.