The Cut (and Fill) of Our Jib

Have you ever looked at a pile of soil, stone, or mulch and thought, “That’s probably like X wheel barrels full.” Or “That’s probably about 10 yards.” Well, guess what!? Your guessing is OVER! So, Howell’s drone program gets mentioned ad nauseam in our Newsletters, but there’s one service we offer that doesn’t get mentioned all that much, and that’s our Cut and Fill Analysis. We can do it on mounds of material such as soil, stone, or mulch. After a simple drone flight, we can analyze the volume of features on your map that have relevant 3D dimensionality. We can provide a rough estimate for the area, cut, fill, and net volume of the pile. Below are some examples of the work we at Howell can do for you!

Pile 1

Area: 0.82 acres
Material Volume: 21796.57 y³

Pile 2

Area: 4918.25 ft²
Material Volume: 1463.68 y³

Happy Father’s Day!

Happy Father’s Day!

For all the Dad’s, Step-Dad’s, Granddads, Pop-pops, Paw-Paws, or whatever you like to call them, we here at DL Howell and Associates would like to wish you a Happy Father’s day!

My Dad has a lot of claims to fame, a great golfer, an even better carpenter, and, as he puts it, “smartest mf-er in the world.” He loves breaking out that line whenever he still proves me wrong to this day when I ask him, “how did you know/do that?” to which he always replies with a smile and a simple “because I’m Dave Keehn…..smartest mf-er in the world.” As I approach my own path into fatherhood, I look back at all the things my Dad did for me by encouraging me, guiding me, and telling me to keep my head down for the 1000th time during a round of golf. I just hope I can be half the Dad he was to me for my daughter.

PS: Mom, if you’re reading this, I love and respect you very much as well!

Below we have some pictures of some of our DL Howell staff along with their Dad’s, kids, and grandkids!

Denny Howell III, McKenzie Howell, and Denny Howell II

Denny Howell III and Denny Howell II

Dave Keehn Sr and Joe Keehn

Ed Warner III and his dad Ed Warner II

Ed Warner III and his sons Eathan and Nolan Warner

Joe Russella with his Grandpop Sam and Joe Russella Sr.

Mike Shaw and his son Dylan

Tom Phillip’s dad

  • Rev. Robert A. Phillips, Sr.
  • Dad to Tom, his sister Cathie & brother Rob
  • Born in Bloomfield, NJ 8/6/1934.
  • Graduated Bloomfield HS 1952.
  • Graduated Upsala College 1956.
  • Served in US Army 1956-1958
  • Attended Princeton Seminary.
  • Presbyterian minister 1961 – 3/6/1984. (deceased)


Truss the Process

Truss the Process

A good foundation is key, but having a roof over your head is equally as important. The top methods in roof construction are rafters and trusses. Trusses have become the most common and relied upon method for framing a roof in recent years. Having a construction background, I always thought rafters would be the preferred option, but after doing some research, it turns out trusses are the cheaper, more convenient, and more versatile option.

For those that don’t know, roof trusses and rafters determine the shape of the roof and ceiling while supporting it. Trusses are made in a factory using lightweight materials, like 2x4s, and are shipped directly to a construction site. On the other hand, rafters are made from larger pieces of lumber, like 2x8s or 2x10s. As opposed to being pre-built in a factory, they require the skill of an expert carpenter to be custom-built and installed directly on the job site.

Trusses can be produced and purchased in large quantities, which drives down their price. The labor cost for the installation of trusses is also lower as they don’t require the skilled labor of an expert carpenter. Often, they are labeled on plans for the carpenter to be laid out correctly. Once all of this is taken into account, trusses are about 30% cheaper than rafters.

Cost isn’t the only factor, though. Trusses also distribute the weight of the roof onto exterior walls as opposed to the interior walls and come in a variety of designs. With fewer interior load-bearing walls, developers and homeowners can create and utilize an open floor concept if they wish to do so. With countless designs such as King, Queen, Fink, Attic, and Scissor, there is a truss that will meet your needs.

In the end, it seems that trusses are easier to install, cheaper, and much more versatile than rafters. Working with a trusted architect or structural engineer (and Civil Engineer for land development!) is the best way to guarantee to meet your county’s building code requirements.

Nailing It!

Nailing It!

Have you ever passed by something like the picture above and thought, “What is that for?”

It is a top-to-bottom retaining system called soil nailing and is used to prevent landslides and the earth from collapsing or shifting. Creating a soil nail wall is ideally used in situations where vertical excavation needs to take place. This process is used to construct tunnels, bridges, roadways, and areas where retention walls have failed or are beginning to fail. The process starts with a downward angled hole being bored out of the existing slope. Then a long, steel reinforcement tendon (or rebar) is inserted into the bored or angled soil. The steel tendons are then cemented into place with a grout mixture to stabilize the soil and prevent it from moving or falling. After all the nails are cemented into place, then a permanent concrete facing can be built.    

Soil nailing has multiple advantages over just stand-alone ground anchors and other top-down construction techniques. Here are just a few of the benefits described below:

  • They are less obstructive in traffic situations since there is no need for braced excavations.
  • Installation is relatively quick and requires fewer construction materials than using ground anchors.
  • The nails’ placement, inclination, and lengths can be altered easily when heavy rock or utility lines are in the way.
  • The soil nailing system offers excellent flexibility in the ground and generally performs well during earthquakes.
  • Using a soil nail system is oftentimes more cost-effective than concrete gravity walls and ground anchor walls

If there’s one thing working here at D.L Howell & Associates has taught me, it’s that there’s always more to learn!

It Could Happen in a Flash

It Could Happen in a Flash

Hurricane season is in full effect right now, which means it could affect some of your summer plans. While we here in Chester and the surrounding counties don’t need to worry about hurricanes as much as coastal areas, we do need to worry about the amount of rainwater coming from them and how to handle it. Or, simply put, flash flooding.

Flash flooding can happen for multiple reasons: ice melting, heavy rain, or a failing dam. A common reason for flash floods being so destructive and the water moving so quickly is due to the soil. Soil only has a maximum amount of water it can hold before it becomes over-saturated and can’t take anymore. Strangely enough, though, the soil being TOO dry can cause flash flooding. This is the case right now with Arizona and the drought they were having. The soil had been dried for an extended period and became compacted. Add in a large and fast-moving amount of water, and the water will glide right over the soil resulting in the water running to the lowest point.

Here are Several Other Facts on Flash Floods:

  • Six inches of rushing floodwater can sweep a grown adult off their feet.
  • It only takes two feet of floodwater moving at 9 feet per second to move vehicles, push 100-pound rocks, or even pull up trees.
  • Two-thirds of casualties from flash floods are caused by motorists trying to pass through floodwaters.
  • Cities are affected more by flash floods due to impervious surfaces like asphalt, concrete, and little natural draining.

While it’s impossible to ever know the full effect of a storm and how much damage it will do, we here at D.L. Howell & Associates make sure all of our plans and proposed stormwater systems follow a 100-year storm plan. This means that the system or plan is prepared to handle a storm’s rainfall that has a 1% chance of occurring once every year. Because sometimes Mother Nature doesn’t just give us a one, two punch, but a one, two, three punch.

What Lurks Down Below?

What Lurks Down Below?

Did you know that more than 1.6 million miles of pipe make up our water and sewer infrastructure in the United States? And that in 2021 the average age of water and sewer pipes is around 45 years old? It is no surprise to most that a lot of this aging pipe infrastructure needs to be replaced. Old cast iron pipes in most metropolitan areas are as old as 150 years. Highly aged pipes mean that the probability of their failure or leaking chemicals into drinking water increases each year. It is estimated that it will cost roughly $300 billion to replace all aging pipes. However, the main question is, should all this pipe be replaced with old school cast iron or new-aged polyvinyl chloride (PVC)?

Often people overlook traditional cast iron pipes for the new aged PVC pipes and think of the horrors cast iron pipes caused in Flint, Michigan. Cast iron has several benefits though over PVC, such as durability. Cast iron can last significantly longer than PVC piping for drainage systems in houses, hospitals, and offices. Since it has a higher stress rating, cast iron can be put under more pressure, has a higher temperature limit, and a lower expansion rate than PVC pipe. If treated properly and installed correctly, cast-iron piping can last several decades with no issues.

One of the main upsides of PVC piping for use in infrastructure, though, is cost. The cost for installing PVC pipes is considerably less compared to cast iron in construction. PVC is also easier to work with due to weight and flexibility. One gripe or issue brought up with PVC pipes being used for water and sewer is that it has not been around long enough to be tested for how well it will hold up over decades of use. German in the 1940s was one of the early adopters of using PVC pipes for water and sewer lines. Some of these lines are still in use today without any significant failures or issues.

The type of pipe to use is not as simple as just option A or B when it comes down to it. Both options should be weighed for the situation they will be used in, and the decision on which to use should come down to what the engineer or developer would deem the best for the circumstance. So whether you need help designing piping for a stormwater bed, inspecting a sanitary/stormwater bed, or need a land survey performed, feel free to reach out!

Where No Human Can or Wants to Go!

Where No Human Can or Wants to Go!

Dark, cold, dirty, and possibly filled with dangerous gases, it sounds like a fun place to be, right? Crawling into pipe structures, whether for water, stormwater, or sewer, sounds like a nightmare. Thankfully pipe inspection crawlers have significantly reduced and in some cases eliminated the need for people to enter these areas. Additional safety is not the only benefit of pipe inspection crawlers, though. They can identify and analyze structural flaws or collapses, examine post-construction pipe installation, find blockages, locate buried structures like manholes that are not visible above ground, and even be used to catalog the health of pipe infrastructure over the years.

Determining pipe health is crucial for being reactive to issues and proactive in avoiding problems in the future. Sending a pipe inspection crawler through a pipe can provide a wealth of knowledge and data for water, stormwater, or sewer system. Instead of digging up the entire pipe to find exactly where it is compromised, a pipe crawler can help identify the specific pipe segment that needs replacing without the need for any extra digging. On the flip side of it, though, if the pipe crawler does not find any issues requiring an immediate fix, it is still collecting valuable data, such as pipe incline/decline, length, depth, water levels, amount of sediment in the pipe, and the pipe’s current condition. This info can be used to verify if the pipe was properly installed, if it requires a jetting to remove any sediment or roots in the pipe, and how well the pipe has held up over the years. Finding out the current condition can provide you with a possible expected lifetime for the pipe as well, letting you know when you could expect to need to replace it.

Recently D.L. Howell & Associates has been using our pipe crawler to check on conditions of pipes to help determine the possible cause of sinkholes, locate the compromised pipe, note the health of an existing pipe infrastructure to tie into, and help find out the slope of a pipe for the controlling factor of flow. Though this the just the tip of the iceberg of its capabilities, if you or anyone you know needs help identifying issues with a current pipe system, performing a routine check of a pipe’s health, or maybe even some Civil Engineering or Land Surveying work, please feel free to reach out. We would be glad to assist! We can perform CCTV pipe inspection of pipes 6” to 96” and provide a cost-friendly quote ASAP to our customers!

Need a Pipe Inspection or Drone Quote? – Click Here!


Lights, Camera, Action! DLH is Now Doing Pipe Inspections!

Lights, Camera, Action! DLH is Now Doing Pipe Inspections!

D.L. Howell & Associates is proud to announce that, beginning in 2021, we will be offering video inspection for sanitary and stormwater pipes (4″ to 60″ and up diameter) with a sewer inspection crawler! You might be asking, what is a sewer inspection crawler? Well, this safe, easy, and advanced robotic system allows DL Howell to view and record digital video, log observations, and generate reports of stormwater sanitary pipes integrity and ensure that they were correctly installed. We at DL Howell then take these findings and send them to our clients directly from the field for instant results and feedback.

Our top-of-the-line crawler is equipped with:

  • Rear and front-facing high-definition cameras
  • Led lights for illuminating focal points
  • An adjustable camera that raises in the pipe to fit 4″ to 60″ and up diameter
  • 360-degree rotation of cameras
  • 1000 foot of cable for long-range inspections
  • Pipe grade inclinometer
  • On-board laser to measure defects and ovality

Meeting Our Customers Needs

As Denny has stated, “Nothing is better than now.” All of our inspections will be done from within a field ready vehicle that can be mobilized at any moment for our clients. This will ensure that all deliverables to our clients can be processed, reviewed, and sent in the shortest possible time frame to keep our clients on track and informed of any abnormalities or reasons for concern found in the pipe. We want to provide the best service for our clients and be the ones they can trust to get them their deliverables in a timely, well presented, and easily understandable manner.

Why Pipe Inspection is Important

Unfortunately, stormwater and sanitary pipes are not meant to last forever. A number of different occurrences and instances can cause a pipe to need some sort of maintenance. Construction work can cause pipe joints to be disturbed, collapse, or shift the engineer’s proposed incline or decline of a pipe. If pipe joints are not thoroughly sealed, roots can also become an issue and hurt the pipe’s integrity. The only way to know any of this information or to know what is causing a pipe to lose flow is to send a crawler such as ours down there to inspect the area. Once inside, the crawler will be able to document, identify, and compile all the relevant data needed for the client to see what is happening inside the pipe.

If you need to have a stormwater and sanitary pipe inspected, reach out to us by filling out THIS FORM, and we will be sure to get you on the schedule ASAP! If not, reach out to us at any time, and we will be more than happy to assist you with any of your Civil Engineering, Land Surveying, Drone Photo/Cinematography, and NOW Pipe Inspection needs!

Pool Permits! – Do you have an update?

Pool Permits! – Do you have an update?

Do you have a pool permit with us? We know that the design and permitting process can be long and arduous, so we here at DL Howell are here to help! That is why we have created a Project Pipeline.
What does this mean for our clients? More updates! It will allow our clients real-time updates on when different aspects of their project are complete.

How does it work? Well, your project engineer or survey manager marks which aspect of your project is complete, and we will automatically send you an email letting you know what part of your project is complete! Do you need a pool permit done? If so, feel free to contact us, and we will be more than happy to help!

Happy Memorial Day!

Happy Memorial Day!

While it is nice to have an additional day off over the weekend, let us not forget the real meaning behind this holiday. To remember the brave service people who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom of others. Let us not forget them and take a moment on Monday to remember loved ones, neighbors, and relatives to honor their memory and their selfless act of service.

We here at D.L. Howell would like to say thank you to all active, retired, and fallen military personnel who have served in the United States Armed Forces to protect our freedom and make this country great!

All is Fair in Cyber Love and Cyber War

All is Fair in Cyber Love and Cyber War

Ah! Spring is in the air! Birds are chirping, deer are frolicking, dolphins are in Italy again, and people are… well, hidden and working in their houses for the most part. So I guess you could say cyber love is in the…internet…air, or whatever the new norm is for now? Well, with fewer people on the street, at least less crime must be going on. WRONG! Cyber crime has gone up more than 400% in the past months. Old scam emails used to be as easy to identify as your “boss” asking for your company credit card info, or a Persian prince wanting to send you his vast riches. The truth is that internet scammers have got a lot smarter in recent years, and the current pandemic has only increased the number of cyber attacks.

Internet scammers and hackers are hitting harder now than ever because they know you’re not behind the firewall your company has specifically built for such attacks. Don’t worry, I won’t get into any tech jargon on you, but the gist of it is if any website, hyperlink, or email seems odd, DON’T CLICK ON IT! Think of it like stranger danger, but for your internet access. Hackers are currently making it look like they’re just your local bank, boss, or fellow coworker emailing you, but in all reality THEY’RE NOT! It’s like the internet version of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” or one of my favorites, “They Live!” When in doubt, reach out to your helpful IT team! As one of the two IT experts (me, less of an expert) here at DL Howell, we have been working tirelessly to make sure our ship is running as efficiently as possible for our engineers and surveyors so that they can meet our clients’ expectations!

The Assets of Asset Mapping!

The Assets of Asset Mapping!

What if there was a freely available map that could show construction workers, field engineers, and drafters exactly where HVAC, utility lines, security systems, and other operational equipment was located? Not only that, but all the data about serial numbers, firmware versions, and even relevant engineering notes about installation. Asset Mapping isn’t the newest development/method in the construction and engineering field, but with the incorporation of newer and newer technologies in the field look for Asset Mapping to be more readily available.

I know what you’re thinking “But how is all that info going to be gathered? And even if it was, how would we know that anyone would use it!? Isn’t this JUST like PA One Call!?” No, you’re wrong on all three things. London used this platform for the 2012 Olympics, and it allowed for construction/development that was on time and under budget. The locations of different assets were gathered from CAD software, approved plans, and design sketches from all parties involved. The information that was gathered was then used for scheduling purposes, task management, budget tracking, and several other aspects to assist with the construction process.

Because assets or operational equipment is always changing/getting updated asset mapping is an always scaling database. It brings the newest compiled data from multiple devices, systems, and reports into one single and easy to use map. This can show engineers in real time where equipment can be installed. Then once the assets (utility lines, security systems, and other operational equipment) are connected or their whereabouts are logged and uploaded through the internet, they can be monitored using a mobile or desktop application. Real time information allows for installation teams, engineers, and managers to have less headaches when planning or budgeting for projects.

Asset mapping can also be used to help build databases of a client’s assets performance/health. This data helps with preemptive maintenance of the asset. The mapping process can help with procuring a building process and reduce insurance costs. Speaking of reducing costs, all of the collected and localized data and real-time information will help reduce operational costs for both construction and engineering companies.

But, in the meantime, if you need a Land Survey or Civil Engineering Quote from probably the best companies around, feel free to reach out to us!

Civil Engineering and Surveying – OF THE FUTURE!

Civil Engineering and Surveying – OF THE FUTURE!

Lately here at DL Howell our newsletters have been taking a look at the Civil Engineering /Surveying field from the past (A Look Back), the present (A Quick and Abrupt Lesson in Civil and Environmental Engineering), and today we’ll be providing some insight on what the future might have to offer. In the upcoming years expect to see the rise in use of 3D printers, Augmented/Virtual Reality, Material Physics, Drones, and Smart Roads in the industry. While some of these advancements are already in place, they have limitless potential to grow and become part of everyday life for a civil engineer and surveyor.

3D Printers

3D printers allow for the creation of a physical object from a digital model. They can create objects by laying down a series of thin layers (plastic, metal, or ceramic) in succession over a period of time to build objects layer by layer. 3D printing is often applied to create models for early designs of projects so that engineers and clients can get a rough idea of what a proposed land development might look like. Engineers are starting to use 3D printed models now to help bridge gaps between proposed visual designs/concepts and planning/drafting that might need to be done. This will allow our engineers to bring scaled-down proposed 3D models to clients or township meetings to get a better idea of the proposed project. A Chinese construction company has already started building houses made from concrete with a large 3D printer and can build up to 10 in one day.

Augmented and Virtual Reality

Augmented Reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are now starting to be utilized in the engineering field for multiple reasons. AR and VR are being used to analyze proposed structures before construction begins on a project. AR is being used to envision how a building will look on a site, even before the site is starting to be developed. Civil engineering technicians are starting to use VR to analyze the placement of utilities, roadways, and sewage for a project. These technologies will aid in the visualization of how a project will or won’t work for structural, architectural, and civil engineers.

Material Physics

In the future look to see and hear more about Material physics and the use of metamaterials. Metamaterials are materials which are designed to have specific properties for specific situations or occurrences. The versatility of materials that civil engineers have allows them to design and create more innovative projects than ever before. One of the more well-known examples of these types of materials is graphene. Graphene is about 100 times stronger than the strongest steel. It conducts heat and electricity extremely efficiently and is nearly transparent. Who knows what other metamaterials will be created in the near future with limitless capabilities and properties!


I know, I know we talk a lot about drones, but while drones aren’t the newest thing ever to Civil Engineering and Surveying in the upcoming years, they really are going to make leaps and bounds in both fields processes. For surveying, drones will be able to provide land-related services to surveyors such as subdividing land, finding property boundaries, and surveying sites for possible placement of buildings. Drones can also produce topographic maps, volumetric calculations for stockpiles, and assist with flood insurance maps with the right equipment. Right now, drone technology isn’t quite as accurate as the current method for proper surveying, but it does allow our surveying team to get a rough estimate of an area.

Smart Roads

With more and more people buying electric cars, it’s only a matter of time before we get rid of the dumb roads and upgrade them to smart roads. While it’s still an idea that needs to be fully tested and figured out a New Zealand company has started on a concept of a road that could possibly wirelessly charge your electric car while you drive. The road would work as a bunch of solar panels that would then charge your car as it was driving. Who knows if this will ever happen, or what headaches it might cause if it happens for civil engineers when designing a road, but it would be interesting if it becomes possible!

In the meantime, if you need some present-day land surveying, or civil engineering work done contact us and we’ll be more than happy to assist!