Civil Engineering Research is a fundamental task performed during the first phase of the project; research will improve design options, and potentially avoid conflicts during the construction of any project. Utility Research is useful for civil plans to show lines such as water, storm drain, fire, sewer, etc. The challenge with this task is obtaining the records needed and coordinating with specific agencies involved. Most utilities are underground and therefore can be difficult to identify unless accurate records or as-builts are provided.

Survey Research is also performed for surveying to analyze previously recorded data for vertical or horizontal control near the property in question. Some of the items obtained during survey research are record of survey maps, corner record maps, street centerline ties, etc. for the use of realigning field measurements to record information. For the purpose of elevations, city or county benchmarks will give the assigned – measured above sea elevation.

Conceptual Studies, reports, and plans are prepared for project feasibility in order to determine the basic requirements of the governing agency (local agency in charge of reviewing & approving projects, i.e. cities, counties, state, federal). This provides a chance to show the agency a preliminary engineering plan and/or reports of what the property owner wants developed and communicate to the client any constraints, fees, proposals, and requirements prior to a final design or significant decision making.

Site layout plans are engineered to comply with regulations regarding number and size of parking stalls, building area, pervious areas, building ratios, green area rations, and ADA requirements. Area distribution, area coverage, fire review, having an engineered site plan could potentially decrease any anticipated constraints sometimes not seen by the architect or lead designer, if developed during the preliminary planning phase. Typically, a survey assures a specific site plan will work with the actual dimensions of the property. These plans called horizontal control plans show planimetric lines of the site’s layout, stripping, dimensions, signs, areas, and other useful information for the contractor during construction. These plans could serve as a check of civil vs. architectural floor plans or site plans to identify any typical miscoordination of dimensions between the civil engineer and the architect.

Grading plans are prepared to establish a structure’s finished floor elevations & to grade the surrounding site to avoid flooding using drainage slopes and/or devices. Grading plans must comply with several specific state regulations (codes) and several reviewing departments and agencies. They must also comply also with the American Disabilities Act (ADA), a federal law to accommodate the use of public facilities by disabled people. Grading plans are typically designed over topographic surveys (existing conditions). Grading plans are designed having considered water quality requirements, WQMP, SUSMP & LID reports for appropriate treating, mitigation, and infiltration of storm water before discharging into the receiving waters which ultimately discharge into the sea. Our grading plans are coordinated to the best extent with the project’s architect, the structural engineer, & the geotechnical engineer.
Larger Projects require the preparation of rough grading plans prior to the final grading design to accelerate grading permits, and grading operations in a dual phase project.

RETAINING WALL DESIGN Retaining Wall design is often required for walls retaining more than 3 feet of dirt, as a separate approval, and submittal to the agency reviewing the plans. The structural design of retaining walls sets the reinforcement (steel), the footing size, and specifications for the wall to be built per code. Seismic Forces and lateral support are considered for the sizing of the structure.

Storm Drain plans are prepared for the installation of storm drainpipes to carry storm water into the municipal drainage system. A hydrology / hydraulic design is required to quantify the amount of stormwater per event and then to size the sections of the pipes used in the project. Most storm drain designs are gravity based, which makes it a challenge when trying to avoid crossing other utilities such as water, sewer, gas and any other underground utilities. Sometimes Sump Pumps are needed to assure water will enter the municipal drainage system.

A hydrology/hydraulics report deals with quantifying the storm water received during a designed storm. The design storm is selected by probability, using storm events of 10 years, 25 years, 50 years, or 100 years. These numbers will quantify the amount of stormwater received, the flow Q, for each of the above rain events. The hydraulics portion of the report consists of the sizing of the drainage pipes and or devices to carry stormwater at an adequate flow rate to prevent flooding and ponding.

Waterline improvements are designed using city or water district details and standards. It is of most importance to identify the existing water connections and avoid crossing with other utilities like sewer, storm drain, gas, and others. During the design of water lines, it is necessary to show the vertical profile of the main water line to anticipate any other utility crossings. For the purpose of quantifying water needs engineering water tables or formulas are used.
It is also understood by the industry and all other utility professionals that no existing underground lines can be completely or certainly be identified without opening, and fully surveying them. Therefore, caution shall be taken when trenching for newly designed utilities and having underground marking agencies roughly locate said existing old underground utilities.

UNDERGROUND FIRE LINE PLANS Fire plans refer to fire protection systems to be constructed in any commercial sites where fire hydrants, and/or fire sprinkler systems are to be installed inside the building. Most of the times, it requires a separate set of plans and separate submittals to obtain approval. These plans are reviewed by the local agency in charge of the project, and the local fire authority for the project site. For industrial or new commercial buildings, water lines are designed as a loop system that connects and returns to the main fire waterline on the street. If the line is required to be public, an easement legal description may be required.

These plans are designed to show an overall scope of work of the wet utilities on the site, showing all major crossing elevations for utilities and basic information about its design. The intent of these plans is to resolve issues that are not seen on the construction plans for water, sewer, storm drain, and other wet utilities.
If the agency requires dry utilities to be shown, special coordination shall take place with other agencies to obtain their respective design for lines such as cable, electrical, gas, internet, etc. The client shall request and provide the record plans for said underground dry utilities.

Street improvement Plans are designed when working in a state, county or city public right of way the street. These plans are designed to incorporate public agency standards and specifications, from Traffic Engineering, APWA, and ADA standards in a city format. Plans are prepared for the construction of street driveways, curbs, sidewalks, ADA ramps, paving, canals, water, sewer, and storm drains located in street right of way and shall be prepared as a separate set of plans and different standards specific to the reviewing agency.

Erosion control plans are prepared to contain erosion and sedimentation of the project and are required by federal law by the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to avoid any stormwater debris & dust exiting the site during construction. As these plans are enforced by the state, counties and cities, property owners shall take plans seriously since non-compliant property owners could get very steep fines from any of the mentioned agencies. See also SWPPP report.

Engineering cost estimates are usually required by the public agencies from the design professional to provide a probable estimate of construction for “permitting purposes”. Cost estimates are based on tables provided by the city, or county and engineering quantities gathered from the grading and drainage plans. These Cost Estimates are the civil engineer’s perspective (probable) cost of certain items to be built within the scope of grading, drainage, and erosion control plans. Bids from licensed contractors shall be required by the client using the approved plans for real labor, product, and installation – construction cost.