Proper Safe Sight Distance Calculations Can Save Lives

Proper Safe Sight Distance Calculations Can Save Lives

We’ve all been there. You’re in the car trying to pull out of someone’s driveway, and it is next to impossible to see vehicles traveling down the street. The sweat starts to bead on your brow and visions of an impending accident race through your mind. Inevitably, most of us just floor it and hope for the best. But nonetheless, this is a very dangerous circumstance that can be avoided in the future by designing safer intersections and driveway access points using some good old sight distance calculations.

There are several types of sight distance calculations used in road design, but we’ll only focus on two, sight line distance and safe sight stopping distance. The first is the sight line (visibility) calculation. Basically, this is the viewpoint of the person pulling out onto a road looking in both directions. This calculation determines how much distance is needed for someone to identify an oncoming vehicle and safely pull out onto a roadway. The Department of Transportation has guidelines on this calculation based on design speed limit, the slope of the road, and reaction time. The general rule of thumb is for every 1 mph, the motorist should be able to have an unobstructed view of 10ft. For example: on a 35 mph road, the motorist should be able to see approximately 350 ft. in both directions.

The second calculation is safe sight stopping distance. This is from the viewpoint of someone driving along the road. Based off of two phases (driver perception/reaction time and braking distance of an average vehicle) this calculation is used to determine how much distance a motorist traveling down a roadway needs to identify an obstruction in the road and be able to stop completely. So if someone pulls out in front of a car driving down the road, the car can safely avoid a collision by coming to a complete stop. While also taking into account the design speed limit and slope of the road, this calculation will allow plenty of space for even the most inexperienced of drivers (Denny Howell).

So if you are proposing to build a new driveway, modify an old one, or even constructing a street, call D.L. Howell & Associates first to check if you will have proper safe sight distance and we’ll see (pun!) what we can do.

Site Lighting

Site Lighting

An aspect often overlooked when doing Land Development is outdoor site lighting. It can be an afterthought when thinking about all the other permits and approvals required to develop a piece of land. But site lighting plays a pivotal part in the safety, security, and character of the property long after construction has ended.

Townships apply various regulations and standards to a lighting design for a property. First and foremost, the goal of outdoor lighting is to protect the health, safety, and welfare of current and future residents. Lighting requirements will vary per the use of the property. For example, an industrial use such as a warehouse will not be lit at the same intensity as a rural residential street. To regulate this, townships measure light intensity using footcandles. Footcandle is a unit of illuminance stated in lumens per square foot. So, an industrial complex may require an average maintained footcandle requirement of 4, while a local street may only need an average footcandle of 0.8.

Additional regulations are often put on mounting heights of lights. For a residential use, maximum mounting heights of lights are usually around 20′. However, for a shopping center, the mounting height may be much higher. This permits fewer lights to be needed in a large parking lot to achieve the average footcandle requirement. It would be quite a burden to have one hundred 20′ high lights scattered throughout a Walmart parking lot.

To limit glare and light pollution, lights may also need backlight shields and fixtures that utilize the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA) “full-cutoff” criteria. “Full-cutoff” means that no light output will be emitted above 90 degrees at the top of the light fixture. This helps prevent the “skyglow” that is often noticed in industrial areas. Backlight shields can regulate where a certain fixture is focusing its light output and protect neighboring properties from receiving unwanted light glare.

Every township’s lighting standards are different, please contact D.L. Howell with any questions pertaining to your local municipalities regulations.

Executive Order Impacts Civil Engineering Industry

Executive Order Impacts Civil Engineering Industry

 

After being inaugurated last week, President Trump has issued a flurry of executive orders. It’s important in the first 100 days for a president to show action. Executive orders are a way of getting off to a fast start and showing a sense of direction. Even though some may seem controversial, it is worth noting which ones will have an impact on the Civil Engineering industry.

Click the Link Below to Read the Executive Order

Executive Order Expediting Environmental Reviews and Approvals For High-Priority Infrastructure Projects

 

One executive order worth paying attention to is the “Expedited environmental review for high-priority infrastructure projects.” It was written in an attempt to reduce regulatory burdens associated with developing and commercializing infrastructure so that investment capital can be deployed efficiently. Under Trump’s order, any governor or Cabinet secretary can ask for a project to be designated as high-priority. The Chairman of the Council of Environmental Quality shall make this determination based on the project’s “importance to the general welfare, value to the nation, environmental benefits, and other factors.” If the Chairman approves, the project will go to the front of the line for any agency required to review and approve the project. Trump said, “We can’t be in an environmental process for 15 years when a bridge is falling down. If it’s a no, we’ll give them a quick no, and if it’s a yes, Let’s start building.”

 

It’s evident that the nation needs infrastructure upgrades and repairs across the board. Just last week the Delaware River Bridge had to be closed (and will remain closed) due to a severe fracture discovered in the bridge’s steel framework. In its most recent report card on America’s infrastructure, the American Society of Civil Engineers said the country needed $3.6 trillion in public investment by 2020. So even if Americans don’t agree on all Trump’s politics, streamlining the review process for significant infrastructure upgrades is a step in the right direction.

Elections and the Housing Market

Elections and the Housing Market

​Once again a presidential election year is upon us. With the uncertainty of who will be running the country for the next four years, what kind of effect does all of this have on the housing market. It doesn’t matter who will be in charge come November. Change is definitely on the horizon.

Election years have historically affected house prices with a slightly lower percentage increase in value. House prices typically rise 1.5% less during an election year than in the year before the election, and 0.8% less than in the year following the election. To put that in perspective, the average sales price of an existing home in 2011 was $166,000. Typically a house would expect to gain $9,462 in price, but because of the election, it only would increase $7,462. That’s $2,000 you effectively lost because of the election. On top of that, the decline is even greater in close elections where there is, even more, uncertainty. So why does this happen? Typically, when people are stressed or uncertain of the future, they are less likely to take chances. They are also likely to avoid making large purchases. Different presidents and their parties have different housing and mortgage policies that may affect buyers. These risks are concerning to potential home buyers, and many may choose to wait until the dust has settled, and the political landscape is more stable. In addition to home purchases, vehicle sales, vacations, and recreational spending also see a slight decrease during election years for the same reasons.

So this November, exercise your right as an American and get out there and vote! But maybe hold off on buying a house until 2017.

Regulatory Cost of Homes

Regulatory Cost of Homes

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) recently released a 2016 survey that showed that current regulations imposed by government at all levels accounts for 24.3% of the final price of a new single-family home.On average, 14.6% of the final house price is from regulations imposed during the lot’s development.The remaining 9.7% of a house …

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) recently released a 2016 survey that showed that current regulations imposed by government at all levels accounts for 24.3% of the final price of a new single-family home.On average, 14.6% of the final house price is from regulations imposed during the lot’s development.The remaining 9.7% of a house price is from the cost incurred by the builder during construction of the lot.

To acquire this data, NAHB’s Economics and Housing Policy Group asked a series of special questions on the topic in the survey for the March 2016 NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI).The HMI then goes to a panel of single-family builders from all over the country.The questionnaire is structured around the leading case of a lot that is developed by a developer, and then sold to a builder, who builds a home on the lot and sells it to the ultimate buyer.Then to generate the average costs estimates, the survey responses are combined with other information—terms on construction loans, how long it takes to build a home, profit margins, etc.

The regulatory costs imposed during the lot’s development phase include costs applying for zoning/subdivision approval, waiting for approval, costs incurred after approval/before construction, value of land dedicated, and impact of various changes in development standards.The regulatory costs incurred by the builder during construction phase include permit, hook-up, impact, and various other fees paid by the builder.

NAHB’s previous estimates of regulatory costs were published in a 2011 Special Study. The estimated share of a new home’s price attributable in that study was similar—25.0 percent, compared to the current 24.3 percent. However, the price of homes increased substantially in the interim. According to the Census Bureau’s series on New Residential Sales, the average price of a new home sold went from $260,800 to $348,900 over that span-a 33.7 percent increase.Applying the average percentages from NAHB’s studies to these home prices produces an estimate that average regulatory costs in a home built for sale went from $65,224 to $84,671 in the roughly five-year period from April 2011 to March 2016—a 29.8 percent increase.

Now that sounds all well and good that the home price and regulatory costs are increasing at a uniform rate.However, the “gross domestic product per capita” and “disposable personal income per capita” are hovering at about a 14-15 percent increase during the same five-year period.So it seems that the rates of new homes and regulatory costs are outpacing the amount of money that home buyers have to pay for a house.