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!



No, but seriously is this site safe to dig at? Whether it’s digging holes for soil test, septic testing, foundations, footers, or for an infiltration test excavation can be difficult and tricky work. It doesn’t help when you throw in the ever changing and unpredictable nature, of well nature. Wet, muddy, or steep conditions can cause a bunch of issues for excavation operators. These conditions can cause safety issues, delays, or additional costs that were never anticipated in the first place. Have no fear though, D.L. Howell & Associates is here to help so you have minimal delays and can learn a thing or two about excavation for your intended projects!

Alright, so let’s talk (or read rather) about some basic points/tips for digging safety, these are for providing advice on following standards in excavation and keeping workers safe. These tips will allow you to get a better idea of what is involved in any future projects that you might have.

  • What is the difference between Excavation and Trenching? Excavation is any man-made dug out area and a trench is a narrow spot longer than it is wide and must measure more than 15 feet deep.
  • Planning Out the Dig and Current Conditions: Excavation or trenching projects are rarely ever the same. Employers must approach each new job with proper care and preparation. Before digging is done a thorough inspection of the site should be completed. If a site is to be excavated the following conditions should be considered before anything else happens. Conditions to consider are when was the last rain/snow storm, is the ground dry/frozen, is the dig location on a slope or high elevation? Proper preparation can not only protect workers (the most important goal), it can reduce costs associated with the project.
  • Different Soil Types: Understanding and knowing the difference in compressive strength and stability of the different rock and soil types in the known area. This would include the soils texture, density, porosity, and water-holding capacity.
  • Competent Operators: A competent operator is one who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surrounding site. It is also one who can take prompt corrective measures to be as safe as possible for the job.
  • Dangers for Operators: In addition to the danger of a cave-in, workers need to look out for falling debris, slippery or muddy conditions, and the general hazards from the equipment. This being tipping or uneven load balance on the machine. A good tip for avoiding cave-ins is to have all excavated soil and your chosen digging equipment at least 2 feet from the edge of all dug out edges.
  • Accurate Bidding/Cost Analysis: Before all the planning, digging, surveying, or whatever else you might need employers need to look at a variety of factors before making an accurate and competent bid. Such as, local traffic for the dig location, soil classification, surface/groundwater, proximity of nearby structures to the dig spot, weather conditions for the day of digging, fall protection, ladders, and more. By conducting proper surveys,studies, and cost analysis before making a bid, employers can understand the equipment, personnel, and any planning needs they might have.
  • Protective Systems for Operators and Individuals in Excavation: In order to protect workers from cave-ins, and other hazards of digging OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) requires employers to do the following.
    • Support the sides of the excavation site to avoid cave ins.
    • Place a shield between the side of the excavation and the work area.
    • Slope and bench the sides of any dig locations.
  • Working around Utilities: Call “One Call” before digging to ensure that the area is marked off and that you do not come across underground utilities, wires, or piping while digging. Ensure that while excavating, that all underground utilities are protected, supported, and not in any danger of being damaged or removed in order to protect workers and any individuals who might be in the surrounding area.

Here at D.L. Howell & Associates we take all precautions to assure that all of our intended digs are as safe and as low budget for customers as possible. So, if you need some holes dug for soil, infiltration tests, or septic testing, contact us and we’ll be more than happy to help!