Continuing CAD Education

Continuing CAD Education

The two most important aspects of Civil Engineering are accuracy and clarity.  Here at D.L. Howell, we pride ourselves in excelling at both.  So as our firm continues to expand, it has become even more imperative for our drawings to reflect this.  Which is why we have taken the proactive approach and have started conducting weekly meetings to ensure that everyone is working together for the common goal of making D.L. Howell a top Civil Engineering firm.

The primary objective of the meetings is to review and implement our AutoCAD standards into every single drawing that goes out the door.  Even though we have several different project managers, engineers, and designers that work on plans, it is crucial that every one of our plans show the same level of quality and care.  Something as miniscule as the text height on a drawing can make all the difference between a plan being clear or illegible.  Along with discussing all the intricacies of AutoCAD, we also discuss improving our efficiency when producing plans.  With AutoCAD, as in life, there are many ways to complete the same task.  Since AutoCAD has a seemingly endless parade of updates and improvements, it’s important that we adjust and adapt to use CAD to its fullest potential.  With the wealth of experience at D.L. Howell, it is important to have an open forum and discuss the most effective way to go about our jobs.  This saves us time and, more importantly, the client’s money.

So as the industry continues to evolve, so will we.  It is our commitment at D.L. Howell to bring our clients the best product possible, even if it means sacrificing our Wednesday lunch period every week.

Red Hill, The largest fuel depot in Hawaii.

Red Hill, The largest fuel depot in Hawaii.

This year my wife and I had the privilege of vacationing in Hawaii. There are many things to do in such a beautiful state, and one of our first adventures was to visit Pearl Harbor and experience the naval base and the memorials. During our trip to Pearl Harbor, we boarded a tour bus that took us from one site to another. Our tour guide gave us information about the base, the barracks, and the airfield. During the ride, she had mentioned one topic that peaked my interest.

She was describing the Red Hill fuel depot complex. This is an underground fuel depot that was built approximately three miles away from Pearl Harbor. Our tour guide had mentioned that this fuel depot won the award for civil engineering excellence in 1995. When I heard that, my ears perked up and inspired me to do more research on this facility that won this civil engineering award.

What is the Redhill Fuel storage facility?

In 1940 it was decided to build an underground fuel storage facility to protect America’s fuel from attack. At that time, all of the fuel for the Navy was stored in aboveground tanks, making them very vulnerable to air attacks. The construction of a subsurface fuel depot would protect the nation’s fuel during an attack. The development of this project was quite a massive and incredible undertaking.

Red Hill Construction.tif
By Leslie.nelsonOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

I recommend watching this 15-minute video of the Redhill Fuel storage facility if you would like to learn more about it.

Some of the engineering ideas they came up with to construct this facility were amazing. One such idea was to construct the tanks vertically with a center shaft so debris could be removed easily. This fuel storage facility is made up of 20 pill shaped steel lined underground storage tanks that are capable of holding up to 250 million gallons of fuel. That’s equivalent to about 379 Olympic size swimming pools! Each tank can hold approximately 12.5 Million gallons of fuel, and they are connected to the fueling piers at Pearl Harbor by three gravity fed lines that are 2 1/2 miles long.

The Redhill Fuel storage facility was constructed near Honolulu, Hawaii and in 1995 the American Society of Civil Engineers established it as a civil engineering landmark.

It’s incredible what civil engineers can accomplish when they put their minds to it. The Red Hill fuel storage facility is one of those fantastic accomplishments and worthy of this civil engineering landmark award.


How can a DLHowell Drone Services Help You and Your Project?

D.L. Howell & Associates’ Drone Services can benefit you with your project in many ways.
Here are some of the add-on drone services our certified drone pilots can provide to improve the development and marketing of your project.

High-Resolution Aerial Photography

Our UAS System uses a high-resolution 12-megapixel camera to capture photos of your site. Once the drone flight is scheduled, our pilots fly the drone in a stripe-like pattern, taking many pictures at different points of the property. These images are then pieced together into an orthomosaic high-resolution image of the entire site.
In the video below we show a simulated drone flight:

In the example video above, the flight of Villa Maria was taken from an altitude of 250 feet. Below is example imagery from the Villa Maria Academy:

Along with this orthomosaic image, upon request, we can take additional photos and produce a video of the site that can be used for the project or marketing purposes.
Take a look at our YouTube Channel to see project videos we’ve produced.

Click Here to visit the D.L.Howell YouTube Channel


Image Comparison

In the image below, we will compare our high-resolution drone orthographic image to the same image area from Google Earth. The top image shows the high-resolution drone image and the bottom image shows the lower resolution Google Earth image.

Having “same day” drone imagery of your site leads to more accurate measurements and better site planning. For reference, the most recent Google Earth satellite image for the West Chester area was taken on 05/24/2016. From the same parking lot, you can see the drone’s photography on top compared with the satellite image on the bottom.


Another feature of a drone flight is the ability to overlay your latest site plan on top of the drone high-resolution image.
See an example from plans below.:  Click on the image to see a larger view.

No Aerial Image, Google Earth only

Drone Aerial Image

Drone Aerial Image with Overlay



We can also use the drone to capture panoramic images. These panoramas can show you a 360° view of your property. Below, you can see seepage bed construction on 510 E. Barnard Street in West Chester Borough.

If you have a project or site that can benefit from our drone services, please contact D.L.Howell & Associates, and we would be happy to discuss how we can assist you.

Stormwater Management in Philadelphia (Why Combined Sewers are Bad)

Stormwater Management in Philadelphia (Why Combined Sewers are Bad)

The city of Philadelphia is over 300 years old. As old as it is, there is undoubtedly very old infrastructure including combined sewers. A combined sewer is a sewer that takes in both stormwater and sanitary (wastewater) flow. Three-quarters of the city is connected to a combined sewer. It may have been an easy solution at the time, but as more development occurs, it becomes harder to manage the sewers. When there is no rain or snow, the sewer systems and treatment plants can handle the wastewater inflow. But when heavy rainfall occurs, the system sometimes overflows, and the city deals with this by having the networks of pipes overflow into a nearby river (Delaware River, Schuylkill River, Cobbs Creek, etc.). This means during heavy rainstorms there is a mixture of stormwater and wastewater going straight into the rivers! Overflows into the rivers increase erosion and negatively impact a river’s health (plants and critters). This is where stormwater management comes in. The City of Philadelphia has been working hard to manage their stormwater runoff better to prevent these systems overflows from occurring. Strict stormwater guidelines are in place for private developments, and in 2011 the city implemented their Green City Clean Waters program. They plan to invest $2.4 billion over 25 years in public stormwater infrastructure. They have been reconstructing public areas throughout the city using green stormwater infrastructure (GSI). These GSI components include things like rain gardens, stormwater tree trenches, and porous pavement. So far over 1,100 stormwater tools have been installed; hopefully, they can keep up this trend and meet their goal of reducing stormwater runoff by 85%.

P.S. If you own property within the City of Philadelphia and are managing stormwater on it, you might be eligible for the Stormwater Credits Program! Visit  for more information.

How Do You Define Engineer?

The word engineer is defined in two ways. The first and most identifiable way is used as a noun which describes “a person who designs, builds, or maintains engines, machines, or public works.” This usually implies a person with a degree and/or license in engineering. The second usage is as a verb- “to design or build”. This is used in a sentence as “He’s engineered several big industrial projects.” Used in this way, the term “engineer” is a lot vaguer and does not necessarily have to refer to actual engineers.

This definition was put to the test in 2015 as the Mississippi Board of Licensure for Professional Engineers and Surveyors notified an Alabama-based automotive service provider company, Express Oil Change & Tire Engineers (EOC), that they did not have any “tire engineers” on staff. Therefore, violating the state’s licensing code. The Mississippi legislature does not allow any business to use the term engineer for commercial identification unless the said company is licensed to perform engineering services.

Unbudgingly, EOC filed a federal lawsuit, claiming the business name Tire Engineers was protected by the free speech clause of the 1st Amendment and that the board was misinterpreting its statute. This is where the definition of the word engineer fits in. The court claims that their name is misleading and could be taken by consumers to mean they perform engineering services and have licensed engineers (none of which they have).

In response, the court took a public opinion poll via telephone with 70 percent of respondents agreeing that the name “Tire Engineers” was misleading.” However, EOC rejected this evidence, stating that the question was “leading and suggestive.” The question asked was “By using the name ‘Tire Engineers’, the company is suggesting it has professional engineers on its staff. Do you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, strongly disagree, unsure?” In statistics, this is what’s known as response bias- where the survey, designed by the board’s attorneys, was worded in a way designed to evoke a certain response out of the telephone respondents. However, despite their complaints, the court held up that the results could be used as evidence.

The court found that the board did not misinterpret its statute and that the 1st Amendment did not apply to their commercial speech because it was suggestive and misleading. Since the case, the EOC has appealed the decision to the US Court of Appeals and will be met at a later date.

The term engineer can have different meanings depending on the circumstance. In my opinion, the term engineer gave credibility to a company where it was not deserved. If the company had licensed engineers on staff, then the credibility given to the name Express Oil Change & Tire Engineers is deserved and not misleading. This goes to show why obtaining a professional engineering license is extremely important here at DLHowell.

An Engineering Collapse

An Engineering Collapse

Have you ever experienced a situation where just because you work in a specific field that people think you know everything about it? After the pedestrian bridge in Florida collapsed back in March, I have received the question of what happened to it numerous times. Family, friends, and people I’m just meeting for the first time have asked why it collapsed and act like I should know what happened to it since I work in the Civil Engineering field but in reality, I don’t work with bridges at all and have no idea what happened to it, so I decided to do some digging.

One of the first issues was that the project was behind schedule and over budget (wait, aren’t all projects?). In addition, the engineers were asked to move the signature pylon of the bridge to accommodate for possible future road expansion, changing their design (below image shows a rendering of the final design). Videos that captured the incident show that part of a prefabricated segment of the bridge started crumbling on the same end where the pylon redesign was to be located. The pylon was to be installed later into the project with each prefabricated section being able to withstand all the forces they would experience before completion of the project. An engineer had reported cracks in the same location where the bridge failed two days prior and stress testing was being conducted the day of the collapse. There was even a meeting the same day in which engineers and state officials discussed whether the cracks in the structure presented a safety risk.

Some engineers involved in trying to find the reason behind this collapse have said that any slight modification to a bridge design is inviting possibilities for failures. The same care and attention that the original design had does not always continue once a change is proposed and designed for. The proposed design change put the engineering team further behind schedule and over budget. This project was being federally funded and the engineering team was worried that funding might run out before they could complete it causing them to further try to speed up their designs.
Engineers and other officials are still looking into the exact cause of the bridge’s collapse while FDOT and the engineering team responsible have been hush-hush for the most part. Although all projects are different, a valuable lesson can be learned from this. Time and money are always key driving factors for projects, but they should never be able to dictate the final design. It may take some more time and money, which leads to unhappy clients, but sometimes that is what is needed for a successful project.