Clearly the Coronavirus has had a devastating effect on the health and lives of hundreds of thousands of people in not only our country but also the entire world.  It changed the lives of everyone in America almost immediately and unfortunately will likely take the lives of hundreds of thousands before it is done. While we have all TRIED to adjust to life with Corona, it certainly has not been easy and proves to likely become more difficult. Not that endless videos from celebrities in their mansions and hot tubs telling us how we all need to stay home hasn’t helped. I, for one, can’t get enough of them telling us what to do and stay calm or the 24-hour death clock the news has been fascinated with showing us. But after all this settles…and it will… How will we be different? Will we be better? I believe so, and here are some reasons why…

  1. Handshaking will be gone. I have never liked handshaking, but I do it, why, because everyone does. But every time a hand is extended out towards me I can’t help but think….did they just go to the bathroom, pick their nose, etc?  Or… I just sat in a meeting and watched this person pick their nose and now at the end of the meeting they want to shake hands. No worries about that anymore.
  2. Unnecessary Meetings – There are many reasons to get together for a meeting, but many of us would agree that there are many more reasons not to meet.  Most of what we really need to accomplish can easily be done with a phone call or a virtual meeting.  This will save time, save gas and cut down on traffic. I can’t tell you how many days I spend running from one meeting to another and afterward feel as though I really didn’t accomplish much of anything. It will be good to find ways to accomplish work without driving an extra 300 miles a week. To bring back an old slogan – Is this trip really necessary?
  3. We will now be much more careful to NOT come in to the office sick. This is a very good thing. Too often people don’t want to “burn” a sick day and they come in and get us all sick. This is a personal pet peeve.  I for one would rather pay you to be home sick or work from home sick than you come IN to the office sick.
  4. Readiness – It is a shame to say it, but we will be much more prepared for the future.  This pandemic not only has shined a light on our medical preparedness but also our business preparedness. We have been lucky as we have been preparing for this day for one reason or another (terror attack, recession, etc) for many years, but many businesses and government agencies have not. Shutting down for many has literally meant SHUTTING DOWN.  For some business this cannot be avoided, but for others, it has been important, actually critical to be able to transition your workforce to home.
  5. Buffets will be gone – They have a “sneeze shield”.  Need I say more? This is good… humans should not feed on an assembly line.
  6. Lastly…  the look back on this pandemic will be difficult. Many will feel we didn’t do enough and many will feel that we went too far and over reacted.  No one will know for sure what the right answer was, but what we will know is that things will be different in our lives.

A month ago if you asked me how things were going, I would likely have said “same old same old”.  Funny how you can miss the same old same old… but we are learning that we very easily can.

Huoshenshan Hospital Construction

Huoshenshan Hospital Construction

Everyone is now familiar with the coronavirus and the harm it has been causing. If you have followed this outbreak from the beginning, then you are also most likely familiar with Huoshenshan Hospital, the hospital that was built in 10 days in Wuhan, China specifically made to help relieve the other hospitals that are being flooded with patients. This amazing feat was accomplished with the use of prefabricated units. This allowed for a project of such a large scale to be completed in such a short amount of time, along with the thousands of workers operating 24/7 to complete the job. The designers took some inspiration from a similar job that was completed in 2003 for a hospital that was built in just seven days during the SARS outbreak. Designers said that due to terrain and design conditions, they had to start from scratch with their designs. Another main design difference was the way the hospital itself is laid out. Due to the way the virus spreads, they took special consideration to the floorplan of this hospital compared to a traditional one. The layout has different wings where people with varying levels of contagiousness can be kept in order to prevent cross-infection. Special corridors run down the center of the hospital for medical personnel to use and have been designed with the sole purpose of preventing this specific virus from being able to further spread from the wings that they are quarantined too.

The project manager on the job was quoted as saying that a project of that scale usually takes at least two years. Although this job was completed very quickly, some officials are worried about the overall functionality and safety of the buildings. It truly is a remarkable feat that something of that scale could be designed and built in such a short amount of time. As civil engineers, we are often restricted by a number of factors that affect how quickly something can go from an idea to being built. Not only does it take time to accurately do a preliminary design for a project, but then there are often multiple government agencies that have to review the project, and that alone can add months to a project’s timeline. Once redesigning the project and going through multiple rounds of reviews is complete and the project is approved, then and only then can you finally start construction, which is often another time-consuming process, and that is if everything goes right.

Reviewing projects is a necessary evil in order to ensure that everything is up to code and safe for everyone to use in the long run. It is impressive how fast a project like the Huoshenshan Hospital was able to be built and it shows just how fast projects of that magnitude can actually take when there is a proper motive. At the same time, projects need to be monitored in order to make sure that they are safe and no issues will arise from such a fast process that normally takes years.

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!

Going to A.C. with the Boys

Going to A.C. with the Boys

It’s not often you go to a casino with the boys and return home without a headache or empty pockets.
Atlantic City is best known for its casinos, clubs, and wild parties, which can be fun. But do you know what’s a better time? Attending the 2020 New Jersey Society of Professional Land Surveyors Conference!

Earlier this month, three of my co-workers and I had the opportunity to spend two days at Bally’s Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City. I know what you’re thinking, “A bunch of surveyors in Atlantic city. That sounds like a recipe for disaster.” However, I can assure you, everyone was well behaved.

The conference was a good opportunity to meet other people in our field, see new technology, network, and share our experiences with one another. It’s always nice to see familiar faces, and I had the pleasure of speaking with someone I admire, John Cooke, from Civil Training, LLC.

John has been an AutoCAD instructor for over twenty years and was teaching the “Modern Survey Packages, Workflows and Applications with Civil 3D” class. As a draftsman, I had the privilege of attending his seminar at the Pennsylvania Society of Land Surveyors’ conference in 2018 and saw his ability and knowledge of survey applications in AutoCAD. We had a brief discussion about upcoming improvements and events, such as the completion of the horizontal and vertical datum change coming in 2022– but that can wait for another newsletter.

This was the very first year that SurvCon (as the cool kids would call it), offered the chance to take the Certified Survey Technician (CST) Review Class and Exam (Levels 1, 2 & 3). Our employers here at Howell Kline Surveying recognized this as an opportunity and encouraged us to invest in our futures and become certified using the CST program.

The CST program was created in 1986 and implemented in 1988 with the partnership of the NSPS (National Society of Professional Surveyors), as a means to gauge the technical capabilities and general knowledge of a survey technician. The program has four levels of certification (I through IV). Each level is based on years of experience and followed by an examination. At level II the program separates into two main tracks, Field and Office. Each level is intended to test one’s knowledge of the past and present fundamentals of surveying, principles of the profession, field equipment & instruments, first aid, and survey computations. The NJSPLS believes that building a career track for technicians is critical to the future of the surveying profession.

Our team completed the exam consisting of the above skill areas, but we are still awaiting the results of our pen and paper tests. Pass or fail, we are all inspired to continue our education in the surveying field.

It’s human nature to become comfortable with one’s position in the workplace, but a simple nudge can help motivate us to strive for more. Our employers here at Howell Kline Surveying see the value of certified technicians in the surveying and mapping profession, and they have invested in our team to contribute the highest quality work to our field.


Erosion & Sediment Control

Erosion & Sediment Control

Have you ever wondered what role environmental agencies such as the Chester County Conservation District or Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection play in construction projects? One of their major roles is to review and approve the Erosion & Sediment Control Plan.

When you decide that you want to build something, it is easy to forget about the stormwater management and erosion control that will be required to get the project approved through the municipality, conservation district, and PADEP, if necessary.

So, what is erosion control, and what purpose does it serve in the civil engineering industry? Well, for starters, during the engineering portion of a project, we will determine an area called the limit of disturbance, which is exactly what it sounds like, the edge of where the grass will be dug up and the earth disturbed. In this area, the soil is exposed, and has a much higher CN, or curve number value, creating more runoff than if there was still grass there.

Disturbed Area with Bare Soil

This runoff, which not only now has a greater volume, will typically also carry more solids suspended in solution from the disturbed soil (sediment). For smaller projects, erosion controls such as silt fence and compost filter sock will be placed downslope of the disturbed area to decrease the rate at which the runoff flows and capture the sediment. For larger projects, erosion controls such as sediment basins with baffles are used to hold the runoff and encourage the suspended solids to come out of solution before exiting the basin through the skimmer.

Sediment Basin with Baffles and Skimmer

Compost Filter Sock Detail

Prior to the start of construction, a survey crew will mark the limits of disturbance for a project and the contractor will place the Erosion & Sediment Control BMPs (Best Management Practices). This includes things such as the silt fence, compost filter sock, or a sediment basin, as discussed in the above paragraph. When a sediment basin is constructed, it will often be used as an infiltration basin once the site is stabilized. In this case, the sediment that has accumulated at the bottom of the basin will be removed and amended soils will replace them to help encourage infiltration.

Infiltration Basin with Amended Soils

Just like stormwater management, erosion control measures can be expensive, so why is it such a big deal if a little bit of sediment washes into the creek downslope of a construction project? Well, if everyone just let their sediment flow into the creek, it would, and already does, have serious impacts. In terms of environmental concerns, increased sediment deposition has been shown to cause algae blooms and reduce water depth, causing increases in temperature in the aquatic environment. In terms of economic impacts, there is a constant battle in our navigable waters to keep them safe for ships to pass, requiring extensive and costly dredging.

If any of this information sounds interesting to you, below is a link to the PADEP Erosion and Sediment Pollution Control Manual which goes into much further detail:

Click Here for More Information on Erosion & Sediment Control!

Rising Tides

Rising Tides

Many hear the term Global Warming but do not fully realize the impact that accompanies it. Besides the obvious of temperature changes and melting ice caps, there is also the loss of what was once prime waterfront real estate. Think of places such as Miami (or any part of Florida’s Southern tip), the Jersey shore, the coast of the Carolinas, & New York City to name a few. A 10ft rise in the sea level would see these areas underwater, and the sea would inundate once-bustling streets, homes, stadiums, beaches, & boardwalks.

Due to these concerns, many countries, companies, and individuals are taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint to slow the rate of global temperature increase. Global warming is a naturally occurring event where gasses such as CO2 collect in the atmosphere and absorb the sunlight/solar radiation from the sun, stopping it from leaving the atmosphere. Since the industrial revolution, the annual CO2 emissions have exponentially increased the more developed we have become.

This rapid change in emissions is speeding up the Global Warming Cycle and can be seen in the increase of melting ice caps and extreme weather events around the globe, such as the hurricanes and flooding in recent years. There are some steps that everyday individuals can take to help reduce their carbon footprint without spending thousands on renovations and lifestyle changes. One such thing would be to adjust the temperature on the thermostat for when you are not home or asleep. Another would be to replace old halogen light bulbs that are frequently on all the time with an LED equivalent. These bulbs use a fraction of the energy that their halogen counterparts use and are becoming less expensive as more and more manufacturers get into the market. Just these two changes can have a positive impact on not only your carbon footprint but your utility bill as well.

For those able to spend more, solar panels, energy efficiency improvements for the home, and electric vehicles will significantly reduce your footprint. Speaking of electric vehicles, while they do reduce your dependency on gasoline, you still need to charge them up when not in use, and the power service to most homes is generated from coal or natural gas. So, unless you have a fancy solar charger for your new electric car, your carbon footprint doesn’t change too drastically.

We here at D.L. Howell are doing our part by participating in energy-saving programs during the warmer months and just recently switching over to LED lighting.