Robert Bittner, P.E., was recently elected to the position of president of the Deep Foundations Institute's Executive Committee. We spoke with Bittner about his plans for the group, and his views on the foundations industry.

Robert Bittner is the new president of the Deep Foundations Institute.

The Deep Foundations Institute (DFI) Board of Directors recently elected Robert Bittner, P.E., to the position of president of its Executive Committee. Bittner is the president of Bittner-Shen Consulting Engineers and brings more than 40 years of experience in the industry to his new role.  We recently caught up with him to find out about what he plans to do during his tenure.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about your vision for the organization?
A. My vision as I see it today is to continue doing the same good work DFI has been known for. I don’t have any plans to make any radical changes. I don’t want to restructure the organization or head in a totally new direction. [Previous DFI president] Jim Morrison had started working on a couple really important initiatives that I would like to continue.
The first initiative is to reach out to young members and bring them into the organization. This industry is growing so much and DFI has so much useful information available as a resource to help them, but they need to know that we’re out here.
The second initiative is to make DFI a truly international organization. I’ve been to international conferences recently in Europe, Asia and the Middle East; we’ve also recently branched out to Brazil and Mexico. I want DFI to build on that and move forward to establish ourselves in those markets.
We’ve really made tremendous improvements in our ability to disseminate information. My vision for DFI is based on what it is today: one of the only places where contractors, academia and the service industry can all come together to share information and our perspectives.
Q. What do you see as the big challenges to the foundations sector for the upcoming year?
A. One of the best things about the foundations sector, much of which is attributable to DFI, is that we’re open to seeking new methods of providing sound foundations, especially in comparison to the rest of the construction industry. Although maybe I’m not as aware of what other sectors are doing, I’m just really proud that our sector seems to be the most innovative. We’re always working to stay on the cutting edge.
The challenge is continuing to keep coming up with new innovations. We really have to stay on our toes. I am encouraged by the fact that I see a lot of innovations coming forward in response to increased demand, and that demand doesn’t seem to be diminishing any time soon.
Q. You were chair of the DFI Marine Foundation Committee. Can you talk about ideas you bring from that aspect of foundational work that you think would benefit professionals in other areas under the DFI umbrella?
A. My focus as chairman and during my entire career has always been on how to do more with less. I’ve always wanted to find more efficient means and methods, and I bring that same perspective to DFI in general. I do see that occurring in other aspects of DFI, but we can always do better. These kinds of innovations are safer and save money, which is always good for business.
Q. Describe a particularly challenging job, and how you made it a success.
A. When I was working for Ben C. Gerwick, we did a major project on the Braddock Dam with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. They were looking for new ways to build lock and dam structures. They had been building structures in the dry, which had certain risks, and they hadn’t changed methods in over 80 years. So we introduced them to in-the-wet construction.
Instead of de-watering large segments of the river, we prepared the bottom of the foundation in the water. Then we designed and built a shell of the dam about 20 miles away, and floated it down the river to put it in place on top of the prepared foundation.  This was challenging, but ultimately much more efficient.
Q. What advice would you have for drillers in other sectors, for example, water wells, who might like to branch out into foundations work?
A. There is tremendous opportunity in the foundations industry, especially for anyone who has inclination toward innovation. I think that drillers already have an understanding of some of the challenges we face, so they’re well suited to looking at it from a new perspective. For example, they might be able to help us figure out how to make larger diameter drilled shafts. There’s so much room for growth and we can really use their fresh ideas.
For more information about the Deep Foundations Institute, visit For more details about the group’s new president, visit