I get so many car related emails from a certain friend. I would like to call him Rocket Scientist since he is actually a Rocket Scientist. You don’t really meet many of them. He is a true gearhead.
So many emails in fact that he sent a picture accidentally upside down and first I thought can that Porsche 918 drive on the ceiling? The next thing in my head was maybe it can. And then I thought about the Mclaren F1 and the aerodynamics could take the car upside down at a certain speed. Or maybe that was the Saleen Supercar or one of a other handful of exotic cars. Either way this got my thinking as I drive around. These amazing cars and the awful roads around Los Angeles County. And yet we have the amazing cars littering the streets, like popcorn at a movie theater. Something in there is an understatement and its not the cars.
So here we are designing streets and I think that’s not possible that most of these newer streets are designed on paper. In fact I think that’s impossible. We have to go through so many strict guidelines that we are looking for a street designer to handle this side of things for us. Expansion is good no matter what. In my mind if we can keep a similar design to the existing street that has been there for 40+ years and is pretty smooth, lets go for it. But nope, we have to design the street out. I am not saying this is a bad thing. But the street works and is smooth by any form of standards. Why mess with a good thing?
To make this simple I would take my Porsche through certain streets with a racing suspension and hit very weird bumps in the road. I doubt these were meant to be bumps in the road, but the street was newer, though in an older part of town. And here we have it bumps. Bumps that could bottom out the car. Bumps probably because the original design was monkeyed around with enough to make everything else screwed up over time. I am not talking about concrete or asphalt rot. So after that car was stolen from me I have my even smaller car. Now instead of bottoming out on these bumps, I can scrape my front bumper on these things. I don’t know what else to call this stuff. Maybe the contractors had a huge bust based on their survey or design? I don’t know, but I am sure the designer had to go through all of the issues we do. Make the grade breaks this way or we will chew you out. Design this street like this or you won’t get a permit.
This makes less sense as I type this. I am not speaking for all cities, just maybe one in particular, I won’t even cough out the letters as we will surely be blacklisted. Where I have a really good example, would be all over LA. And I am not talking about newly built rotted out streets. I know this would be a great place to post a picture, but I am sure I will get a ticket the second I stop my car on one of these streets showing the clearance issues for anything but an SUV.
So what is a Civil Engineer to do who is also a car fan? I am not sure. This may fall completely on the contractor building the street, and ultimately on who approves this mess.
I like to write on this blog when I get a chance. I try to write when I can on here. One thing that I have noticed is that I like to write about anything related to Civil Engineering. Most of the blogs have been about analyzing projects that we are working on. Lately I have been going a little more into the about myself mode. I really don’t see other Civil Engineering companies doing this. The owners are a mystery as far as I am concerned. Some of these owners are known in the circle and others aren’t. I am more for putting myself out there, as I will keep saying when you talk to me about this stuff you will know where my passion is. Besides cars. But lets not get off track yet.
Here I am checking any emails that I may have missed, way past normal business hours. Also I am looking through some of the Civil Engineering projects that are still not finished, wanting to hit myself over the head because they aren’t approved yet. I love music, and since the beginning of my Civil Engineering career, I have always listened to music while working. Whether I go into speaker mode and play something low or put my headphones on and blast the music, I like to listen to music. It’s almost like I can be in my own little world designing with no cares except making the design work in the allotted time. To give an overview of the style of music I listen to, I started with a rap mixtape by Fabolous in anticipation of his upcoming mixtape due on December 25. I love rap music in case you can’t tell. And then I switched over to James Blake. I can’t get enough of Digital Lion, the way the synthesizers go in and out is hypnotic. And now while I write this I am listening to David Bowie, Lady Grinning Soul. I called this particular playlist, Inspiration. The last song I heard during the ending credits of the movie about Diana Vreeland. As a nod to influences I really like to watch people make things and Project Runway is an interesting show of people doing just that, making things. Tim Gunn is a mentor on there that seems to hold a large influence over the fashion industry. And in an interview he said watch this movie about Diana Vreeland. I watched the movie in awe, and the ending credits had this David Bowie song. Instantly I was hit with something. Here was a woman who did things her own way during a time when women weren’t quite looked upon the same way as today. Awesome stuff.
I feel connected in that mentality that here I am an owner of a Civil Engineering firm in Los Angeles after five years and still going strong. Do people recognize me as the owner? Not always. Well the clients know as I am the one taking the phone calls and visiting the job site. But others I specifically work with don’t always know that. I do try to keep a lot of that to myself. But the point is that I am younger than the typical engineering owner, along with my partner Wilson. We don’t come across at know-it-alls, though that sometimes changes when the circumstances call for it. But how could I get from listening to rap music to Vreeland? Well one thing we have tried to do is have this company work on our own terms. I am generally looked at crazy as I will put in major hours to turn a project around. What we charge still makes sense, but the time we turn something around normally is insanely fast. I will also say what I feel. One thing about owning the company is that we need that future business. So I should be watching what I say, but I won’t. We still have our huge stake in the company, and I think that honesty in the long run will pay off.
This is probably why I am a bit more open on our very public blog. I am surprised by how many people contact us about different postings I have made. One day I will get Wilson to finally post something on here. He isn’t a made up person, he does exist. And there it is again, most Civil Engineers keep to themselves. I asked him does he mind me posting more opinionated blogs, or calling out things and he said no. But there has to be a reason more Civils aren’t posting their opinions or thoughts about anything. There really are very few blogs dealing with Civil Engineers. I like for people to get to know what we are about and where we are coming from. Things to let a client or fellow consultant know what makes us tick.
I am one of two owners of B+W Engineering and Design. I wouldn’t give that up for anything. I try to post on this blog as much as I can. Finding a topic to talk about isn’t that easy, and I don’t know if I want to start really commenting about general technology on here just yet. Though that would be the easy route to go, I guess. I will have more to say on this topic and some other topics I wrote about earlier, like my early Civil Engineering career. And why is it that once again we upgraded web servers and the site is slowing down? Almost like we should downgrade a few times and the server speed will quadruple! My Engineering technical writing professor would have a field day with this particular blog post.
So here we are catching up with our Civil Engineering projects. B+W Engineering and Design is just about caught up until the next round of submittals.
One of the projects that I have mentioned that I am really excited about has hit a little setback. The original design done by a prominant Architect may no longer be valid. I sat down with the new Architect quickly to discuss the project and the problem is that the old design won’t meet the new Los Angeles Hillside Ordinance. Bummer. Well sort of. The original design was pretty amazing. The original architect is known for that type of work and is published in some of those Architect books people may see on coffee tables. As the project was in limbo as some background things needed to be taken care of the new ordinance happened. So what are we to do? Scaling the project back somewhat to try to hit the ordinance on the dot is what we will do. Thankfully the Architect that is coming on board knows his stuff. Another shout outs to Kazanchyan Design, Armen is busy for a reason. And it looks like we are about to work on a lot more projects together in the future. The big question is how can we stay under the earthwork 1000 c.u. limit per property? This is going to take some back and forth between us. We have the software to quickly check earthwork numbers, and he will have that final design in his head while we run the scenarios. This is never easy. But this is why the client hired us. If the Civil Engineering can be done, we will figure it out. I have worked on enough nearly impossible projects in the past with our company and past companies, to be able to come up with something if the project is possible.
Another project is about to go back out for what I hope is the final submittal. This one involves Caltrans. Once again the goal was to figure out a way to touch as little as possible regarding the Caltrans State Highway and we finally figured out how to accomplish just that. This took me some time to redesign, but the end result should save a lot of money in construction costs and get around some other issues we were having. Don’t read this plan checker, but I now see that our hydrology should purely be based on the survey and nothing else. And I will leave it at that, and the revised report will reflect exactly that. Its a win win for everyone in the end.
I will probably be excited if I go out to another project next week and see it break ground. I think they have to at this point. But I won’t believe it until I see someone with at least a shovel digging a hole. In fact I think I want to be out there the day they are saying the ground will be broken. The end result is going to be very nice. This particular architect has come up with a pretty nice plan and is hard to picture in real life. Especially since the site has a couple of temporary trailers on it and the main building is going on a large piece of grass.
I try to post pictures when I can, but something is going funny with trying to convert PDF’s to an image file. And I have nothing interesting to show otherwise from any of our cameras. Though we did get a nice new wide angle lens to take pictures of the overall projects as they get built. And I am very excited to go out and take some high quality pictures of the entire site, instead of using my normal camera phone or one of the other cameras that I have handy.
As the year is coming to a fast end, we are still here. We are not going anywhere. I know we got majorly backlogged over the last few months which wasn’t good for anyone, mainly us. Since we did still hit just about everyones’ deadlines. In the future we are trying to say that we can’t hit the unrealistic deadlines anymore. I saw the light and realized its just not worth taking on projects that want us to turn around something overnight. I am positive that no one else can do that, but we will still deliver faster than anyone else. We are a hungry young company afterall. And I, myself, am not old enough to say no. I just realize I sometimes should say no or I am going to get a full head of grey hair much too fast.
On the ending note, I know next time someone says to trim a slope, that means only cut that slope no matter where the daylight line, or limits of grading, goes. For a future client this is important where that line is in relation to your building because there is nothing we can do about it. So goes the way of the Civil Engineer.
The post Los Angeles City Hillside Ordinance and Other Civil Engineering Items appeared first on B+W Engineering and Design Blog.”
I learned I like to write. Not sure exactly when and where that happened. But that has to go back to somewhere in College. University of California, Irvine, thank you for ingraining in my head that writing is important. This could have started before or after college though. I had a stack of magazines and books always at my side. Car magazines, computer magazines, sci-fi books, non-fiction books, a bunch of like minded friends surrounding me. The friends all went off to do their own thing. Programmers, investment bankers, medical industry, Architects, and here I am the only one of my close-knit friends before college, who got my engineering degree and stayed in the field. A couple of those above got their engineering degrees but left the field shortly after, I don’t blame them. Its funny how I don’t mention Wilson in the above, because actually he was a friend back then and stuck it through and obviously now we are business partners.
So here I was in middle school, and for some reason I took a test through UCLA that came to our school. I scored the highest they had ever seen in some visual skill thing and they said I would make a good Architect or Engineer. I am positive my love of legos at such an early age played a part in this. I floated through school and eventually was dropped down a math level because I saw how to get around doing homework and always got A’s, but that didn’t work quite so well once the tests came around. A somewhat strange thing I had to learn at an early age. Never fake it. At the end of high school I was in a geometry class and finally saw the light. Wow this was easy. Matt, big boat shoes, showed me how to do a proof and it all connected. As I went to math analysis in High School the tests were easy and I stopped studying again, but still was getting the highest grades on test this time around. Somewhere at this point I could read something and memorize the jist of it. So it was smooth sailing until I hit UCI.
UCI was a great experience. I was now surrounded by all like minded individuals. Before going full on engineering courses, it was easy to tell who I was around. It wasn’t easy and never was. The Chemistry was awful. The physics were sometimes hard. The math, the math, the math. I still have nightmares of the math. I have asked other engineers over the years if they have nightmares about this and they say yes. So I know I wasn’t alone. The calculus was one thing. There is higher level math mixed in with all the Calculus we had to take. But everyone has heard of Calculus at least. Engineers have to take the same Chemistry, Physics, and Math courses that each of those majors take. Its not a walk in the park no matter what anyone says, they just want to sound cool. To top this off you are also taking engineering courses. To sum this up, its just a bunch of math. Ungodly amounts of math being taught in such a short period of time. Math, math, math, almost to the point of seeing letters as numbers. To the point I was talking to a friend and saying that I see sentences as math. And you have to take it all in. This is why if another engineer talks to another engineer, both parties know exactly what they went through. There is a huge level of respect between engineers, and I know I got this when I didn’t know how to do something early in my career. In fact its very easy to tell who knows what based on how they treat another engineer. The smartest one are the most helpful. We have all been through the pains of learning something new on the fly. In this industry everything is on the fly and you have to adjust now or bite the dust.
While in school I worked at the library. I loved the library. I worked a certain amount of hours and if I could finish faster than I had free time, then I could sneak away. On that free time I learned even more. I would go down into the basement and pull out the old magazines (Time from the 60′s was a favorite decade) and just read and read and read until it was time to go home. At some point in there I memorized the entire main library numbering system. I am thankful to say that this is now out of my head somewhat. But a student was looking for a certain thing and I could tell them the stack and shelf almost instantly. Fun times.
And then the best part happened. After an interview and 2nd in line, I took my first real internship at Caltrans. I don’t know how much I really learned in the engineering world, but I learned a lot about the engineering office world. This was a great time that I will always remember. My boss, Majid Movahed (awesome, awesome, awesome), was really nice and was in charge of the maintenance for the highways in Orange County. They had to decide when and how to fix the roads. Do they shut the freeway down completely and finish in one night or close off a few lanes and take a few days to complete the repairs. I eventually found the intranet site that had all the Caltrans vehicles that drove every stretch of highway to show the condition of every inch of the road. I was hooked for hours watching this stuff. Kiss me I’m an Engineer. I was in charge of making the spreadsheets for them. My actual job was creating a database of these spreadsheets that anyone could find on the intranet. Queue my first job making money working on a database and a website.
After this became the real stepping stone to the interviews after interviews after interviews and building relationships with everyone I still know from those early days. That will be for the next installment, as maybe some younger Civil Engineers will be interested in how I went about from starting at a small family run Civil Engineering business to my own Civil Engineering business.
The post A Little More about my early Civil Engineering Background appeared first on B+W Engineering and Design Blog.”
We are about to start a couple of new projects. I am very excited about projects two specifically. One is in Santa Clarita for a rental car company that is about to expand more than I realized based off of past proposals. Thank you Armen, for bringing us on board as it seems like you are taking over everything car related in Southern California. How cool is that said me the Civil Engineer to myself the Car enthusiast? Did I mention he was our connection to Ferrari on a past job? Great stuff. The other project is coming back out of limbo and going full force. I took some pictures but realized we should keep this more private until it gets built and is in all the major Architecture magazines. I do have a good feeling if this owner allows it, that will happen, the project will be that good. For us this will be a great stepping stone.
So the Santa Clarita project is more or less some undeveloped land that needs a business on it. Simple sort of. The idea is that eventually maybe, and it seems more like a maybe, that a road will cut right through the property. What in the world? So we have to design this site to accept either lot configuration. Either you can enter from the main road, Magic Mountain Parkway or a possible future road. The trick to this job is that the elevations don’t quite work. That’s the big challenge. How do we make the property work for an either, or, situation. Anyone reading this blog knows we are up for a good challenge, or two, or many at once. And I think this will be interesting to work the kinks out. The great thing is that this Architect is good. Really good. The type of good that you should email if you are looking for an Architect. And yes we have a short list of who we refer out depending on the area. Enough with the gushing over this. I can’t wait to go over this with Armen and get the ball rolling.
Then we have what is going to be my favorite project ever. So favorite that this project is probably not even feasible. But we take a client who actually knows what they are getting themselves into and we are onto the right start. The challenge on this particular job is the Civil Engineering portion. This is a hillside. This is a mountain. This is an area where someone looks at the site and says what the f*** are you guys thinking. Impossible! Believe it or not I was able to make a road work to get the grading to make sense. So much in fact that this project is coming out of limbo after the owner went through his motions to show this can actually be built. The best part is that this project will be similar to the Getty Center. Sort of hidden, but just enough peaking out to see. This is a very cool project to be a part of. And once its built, I think this will be a well known residential project in the greater Los Angeles area if not further out. The best part is that we have preliminary grading plans to make this work on paper. Working these things out on paper means it is possible. Our criteria was a young hungry company willing to go the distance. I am exaggerating, but the client knows it will take a certain type of team to make the dream come true. B+W Engineering and Design should make the impossible a reality. That’s what I would expect in a Civil Engineering firm. And if it is sort of possible, we are going to make the project possible.
Those are a couple of newer projects that we are looking at with an assortment of others that are ongoing. I don’t talk about most as they are pretty dry even to me. I try to keep things to myself in a small circle but I love Civil Engineering too much to keep it all to myself. I know there are others out there that really pay attention to the Architecture side of things. In fact I have sat down with one of the bigger influential around LA, people, Brigham Yen, and love to entice him about this stuff. We still need to get coffee again and talk shop if you are reading this. I hate that Civil Engineers get no notoriety whatsoever yet play such a big part in what goes on with a project. Civil Engineers sculpt land like pure art.
The post Now Getting Back to Civil Engineering and the Design Part appeared first on B+W Engineering and Design Blog.”
A parkway drain. A parkway drain! We find ourselves in this really weird dilemma regarding a damn parkway drain! Parkway drain you haven’t seen the last of B+W Engineering and Design!
In case you missed it, this parkway drain phenomena is catching me really off guard the last month. We have ******* City saying use a parkway drain. We have Glendale City saying use a parkway drain. But why? We have the same standard being called APWA or SPPWC and both details being called 151-2. Fine parkway drain it is. But again I ask why mister or misses Civil Engineer?
I take in everything from my past, old school, Civil Engineer mentors, and haven’t seen these discrepancy in designs before. Specifically how we can manipulate the standards based on the City. Typically we design the outlet for the stormwater to finally hit a catch basin that goes through either a circle or rectangular pipe under the sidewalk and through the curb face, eventually leading into the street which goes to the storm drain. Simple enough right? Wrong. A couple of plan checkers are forcing us to use parkway drains. For what reason, I still don’t know. Now onto the strange part. One city seems okay with us calling out the parkway drain which is a catch basin and using rectangular pipes. And the other City is forcing us to use the actual complete parkway drain design.
I feel like pulling my newly formed grey hairs out with this. To put this really simple, the contractor can install a catch basin, and outlet that basin using a circle or rectangular pipe and outlet through the curb face. But now we have to abide by the parkway drain spec. That’s fine. No big deal. But it makes more sense in my mind to use a generic catch basin box and an already formed pipe. Not to mention every contractor knows how to core out under the sidewalk. These drains seem more like pour a new catch basin, rip up the sidewalk and create the parkway drain.
Where this is really odd, is that in the one City that says do the design just like the spec, that makes sense. No problem. At least Glendale City is very clear on what they want. We designed the outlet to handle the water. Project is now approved for those wondering. But the other city that lets us do a mishmash, that doesn’t make any sense. And I think we are about to get some type of weird plan correction about this. Even though I spoke to the plan checker over the phone before we submitted what would be okay to do. I am positive that installing a catch basin and coring out under the sidewalk for a rectangular pipe is the cheaper method. But I will say that word I don’t want to say, I digress.
I have been working on these types of plans and haven’t seen this before in over 12 years of working on these types of plans. I almost feel like this is a milestone, my cherry is being popped, my tie is being cut, whatever else says welcome to the club of Civil Engineers. This is that point where we try to save a few thousand dollars in construction costs and are shot down even after speaking about this on the phone and agree on something different. Once again I thank Glendale City for being clear and precise, the other City not so much. The difference on these two jobs. Wait for it. No, wait for it really. The project causing a problem is a residential site that is being treated like a commercial site. I hate and I mean loathe that a residential site is being treated like a commercial site. Parkway Drain you are my new arch nemesis and I made a new spreadsheet on my phone to calculate you away.
I was thinking back on the last blog post about hillside grading and thought why aren’t we using more automated software?
And then I started to think about one of the last demos we had through a webcast on a new software that is supposed to grade a site for you. The literature and phone calls made me very interested to see what this new software could do. I won’t name it since these guys and some of the users think you can just input a few parameters and like a unicorn appearing next to me out of thin air a site will be graded and ready to go. I do take these things with a grain of salt because from my past experience most of this software is targeted to something very specific. Meaning nothing in the greater Los Angeles area related to Civil Engineering.
At a past Civil Engineering job I was in charge of trying to find a software to help with some earthwork needs. After going through a few companies one looked very promising. This particular software was very good and touted as automated. As you might be able to tell there is no such thing yet. For that specific project which was worth purchasing any useful thing to help make the job finish faster at any cost they got a license. I was able to manipulate the program to do what I wanted, but nothing even close to automated. But it did help. The idea was grading a huge property and figuring out how to lower or raise the land to reduce the amount of earthwork. This was for 500 houses on .5 acre lots on a steep mountain with miles of road. I was able to do the previous work which took about 2 weeks after a major change, and blow out the new design and number within a day. Quite amazing. But very difficult to use. I even tried to write as simple of a manual as I could, so others in the office could use it. I learned writing that manual is no easy task. I took screen shots and wrote out how to use each command. The problem with this is that every job is different and you have to also know what you are doing before the software even comes into play.
I think my experience fooling around on the computer trying to make myself a more productive asset to a company is a good introduction. So we have that Mount Washington Hillside Grading job where we need to trim the slope to a 1:1 cut. And I started to think earlier today could that latest software we got a demo of work? One specific question I had during the webcast was how do I force the site to be graded with only cut or fill? As the software was setup to only grade based on the cost of cut and fill and balance out the cost. But the problem is, that there are many projects where balancing out the cost of earthwork isn’t the solution. So already this automated grading software doesn’t work. They couldn’t explain to me how to force the program to only cut or only fill. Already that expensive piece of software doesn’t work. Not to say it wouldn’t be useful for past or future projects. But the automation isn’t written smart enough to tell it what I want to do in a specific situation.
There is the main program for Civil Engineers that is put out. From a quick glance this thing looks like it can do everything. In fact it probably can do everything we need. The first problem is you need a fast computer. Okay well we have that. But then the next problem is using the software. I went for a go on a pilot project at my old workplace and you need to be many different fields to use that thing. You need to be a drafter. You need be an engineer. And you also have to be a basic programmer. Who this is written for is odd in my mind. I guess combining all of the disciplines into one is an interesting thought. So we get rid of drafters. I can sort of see that happening. But now you need an engineer who can draft and can do simple programming. When I say simple, its not really that simple.
I haven’t met many if anyone who falls into this category. Not to mention the fact that there are not that many people who can properly grade a hillside in general.
Obviously the software is headed in the right direction for Civil Engineers as automation should be possible. The most basic software can grade a 1:1 slope from wherever you choose and daylight. But everything else really comes down to the human being and their brain that can say is this good or bad, let me go fix that. There is also the knowledge needed to understand the underlying survey work to know what is going on. The computer just takes data you give it and cross your fingers, hope for the best it understands what’s going on. A human can interpret what’s going on and can judge a bust in the survey shots or if something looks a bit funky.
I also know there are some people using the software like they are hand drafting a plan. But I only encountered this outside of the country when going to the discussion groups. And what big companies want to spill the beans on how to use this stuff more efficiently or share their custom built libraries?
My background is heavy into computers since the early 90′s. I have setup a Windows Exchange Server for a past company. I know how to use linux. I have our house fully networked and sort of automated by tablets, and yet here I am thinking grading is way too difficult using more modern software. Give me a scale, pencil and calculator and I can grade a huge site in no time. Give me a simple drafting software and I can do the same thing. I bet I can do it faster and have a cleaner drawing in the end.
So why do I wonder where the future is headed for Civil Engineers? My main thing is when there is a design change. I picture that new software making changes on the fly adjusting notes and everything else. That is where a pencil gets destroyed. And also my design in a simple drafting program will be inefficient. I know that’s the idea of the major software maker. Their goal sounded like get rid of drafters and let the software do the drafting for the engineer. I will get back to this topic again as this really piques my interest. I have also asked a few programmer friends in the past to help me write something elegant for a Civil Engineer and their grading plans.
I tried my best to take a break from the blog to get work done, and other important things like taking a little vacation. No matter how hard I tried I still saw the emails. I told myself stop looking, but the emails were like picking at a scab. I just couldn’t stop. I decided to take a few extra days to concentrate on a few of the projects that need to get out now. Not the everyone needs this done right this moment type of now, but there are deadlines to hit before someone loses their loan or other obstacles. I don’t think anyone was happy that I turned all the phones off to concentrate our resources on pure designing, but in the end this was the right thing to do. We even had some new Civil Engineer jobs to propose on, and they are sitting for tomorrow when I can give them a proper once over. The newer stuff coming in from previous clients know we are slammed and we are giving out deadlines accordingly. So what was I saying? Oh yeah when it rains it pours.
I turned the phones back on and started to really sift through the email. Never do this until you have a few hours to go through everything. I still am dreading going through my voicemails. In the end what needed to be sent out did, faster than I said it would. An example is a larger job with major changes that should not have been possible to turn around in the time we did. But here we are yet again, this job should get the grading permit in the morning.
So we are working on some Civil Engineering jobs that are going through the plan check process. Nothing too special except two jobs. One is going through Caltrans. That magic word that brings delight to everyone in the construction industry. I don’t know what to say about this. Its like trying to sprint through molasses. I drive the freeways every day and think why are private developers going through this? And then I think, I even interned at Caltrans, shame on me. The bureaucracy that is Caltrans is something amazing. Yes I can watch the plan checker who is doing a good job nitpick things, but then I think how do we get around this? And tonight I figured out how to get our plans to bypass the big questions they keep asking, even after sending in calcs which may or may not say otherwise. In order to not drain stormwater onto a Caltrans street, we are going to slightly alter the grading plan to drain everything onto the City street. This isn’t a very big deal. In fact its sort of silly. The original flow pattern shows one thing. The plan checker is calling us out on this. And no matter how I try to say it, they won’t agree. So we will drain the whole site back onto the City street. The funny part of this is that the street stormwater eventually flows to guess where? No biggie, but its interesting how to bypass things.
The other project is that pesky hillside grading project we are working on in Mount Washington. After the first submittal, Public Works wanted a one foot offset from where we start the grading off of the right of way. Its not simple, but we got it approved. Only to have the Soils Engineer say no no no. Somewhere in the generic report from a now defunct soils engineer they said trim the slope to 1:1. I took that as grade the slope to 1:1 and be done with it. The current soils engineer called me today to tell me they want the toe of slope to start at bedrock and trim with no fills. The request makes sense but makes the slope so much worse than anticipated. So after a few tries we now have a 1:1 cut only slope. Once again no big deal, but a slight miscalc on my part. Thank you Geosystems. It is nice to work with other consultants that are clear and precise about what they want along with being friendly while doing so. I need a thumbsup emoticon for this big thanks.
I am sure I have more to say about what’s going on in the Civil Engineering world, but that can be for another day. Okay fine I do know I have a lot more to say, but I try to keep these under 1000 words when possible. Can you tell I had a great rejuvenating thanksgiving? Time to get back onto capturing this pouring rain that is coming our way! And we don’t want it any other way.
I am here once again. I don’t want to be here. We do not promise anything that isn’t possible to accomplish. When I hear a client say we need this now, I have to think is this actually possible to do? And then I think if I could hire anyone worth their salt in large numbers would this be possible to do? And then my basic math skills say no. Not so much as a no, but something more like we pride ourselves on buildable plans, and well the answer would be a less than a no. I will never over promise a project.
So why do I say that in a heading2 for this blog? We don’t promise the impossible. I am still a sucker for this business and most of the time we knock our projects out of the park. But there are other projects that aren’t so easy. That sounds so simple right? Its not. Projects have to go through certain cities that are easy or very difficult. I will or will not call out those cities in the future depending on what their comments are in the future. I know a specific South Bay City might be requiring a lot more info to get a plan approved. So much extra work, in fact that at this point we may not take anymore work there. Because no one will believe us for what they want us to submit. I can”t even believe it and it is ridiculous. With our last plan going into the 2nd submittal we will see where that goes. I will call everyone out though on this one, as if it continues the plan checks are completely awful, and too many degrees over the top. We have a few jobs hanging around there, so we have a really good idea of what they are asking.
Another City we are working in has been amazing. Thank you. When this project starts to get built shortly I will talk more about it. I have heard other Civil Engineers or other consultants say this particular City is very hard to get plans approved in. I don’t see it. This particular plan checker is fair. He takes a scale to your plans with a calculator. Sounds good to me. And what do you know we were about to get approved. And then the trouble started happening. This has nothing to do with anything. Its one of those these guys might have missed it, but now they see it types of things. I can’t blame them for what is being caught. And yet we still have our plan checker going to great lengths, along with the City Engineer, to help us out. Its really not that bad.
And that”s the issue. We have a City who is known to be very difficult to approve Civil Engineering plans in. And they are going through great lengths to have the plans approved. I am calling out cities and agreeing with what’s going on here. I like that our plan checker brings out the scale and calculator to verify our plans. That’s what should be happening. A few paragraphs up, I think that plan checker wants us to have multiple documents verifying what is on one single plan sheet. There is a difference for verifying a plan and just having us prove something multiple times through multiple reports and calculations that could be summed up in everything already shown on the plans. As I type that out, word are at a loss. How can I explain this to anyone else? Completely terrible.
So how are we knocking anything out of the park after I type any of that story? One of our clients who knows his project is going through some weird ordeal with LA City is about to finally get their grading plans approved. We have a lot of projects in plan check right now as well in many different cities. At least I can say that El Segundo has some strict plan checks but they are fair. Want to guess where one of our apartment projects is located, and is sitting in the queue? LA City is the best city to get any plans through. If you want to build in LA City proper, go for it. They are still strict but extremely reasonable. And LA City is exactly why we had one year of projects getting approved in one go around.
With a few of our Civil Engineering projects still hanging around, I am still awake right now stressing out. What other company has their owner posting at about 4AM about their feelings on the matter? And yes we were about to get a large project approved and there were some major changes. The funny thing is how that normally works, tying majors changes into an existing design is harder than starting from scratch. Which is something I saw earlier. I deleted a large chunk of the project and started over. That helps when designing, so you don’t get stuck. Blow it all out and start over.
B+W Engineering is going through some interesting times. Most of our clients are timing the market. Other clients have some oddball goals that they must hit. If that is all wrapped together you have me posting, with no sleep. And its almost time to wake up.
I am trying very hard to keep the blog up to date and like I have been saying lately, there hasn’t been much time as we are still chugging along with our Civil Engineering and Structural Engineering work.
I have been put into some strange place where I burn the coffee into the late night, wake up a few hours later and drink some more burned coffee. As you can see I am here writing this at 2AM, and then will be waking up around 6AM to start all over. I got into this terrible habit working at a past job. Not really terrible as I got to work on some really cool jobs and learned a lot in the process. In fact I owe most of my hillside grading skills to that company. What I also learned running our current company is that I love my job. I have had recruiters trying to bring me in left and right. And yet here we are. I doubt we are going anywhere but up.
So why the positive outlook? Besides me still awake, working, catching up, going over what needs to be done? Well we are slowly but surely making a good name for B+W Engineering and Design. In turn we are getting some very awesome clients. The repeat business is where we thrive. And that repeat business also means a few different consultants can see the value in hiring us. No, this isn’t us patting ourselves on the back. The sentence(s) is(are) more about me being excited for some upcoming projects we are about to work on. My love for this industry along with seeing the creations that are built and used, is good enough for me. So yes we treat these jobs like an Architect, just no one has ever heard of us. I can walk onto a site and no one knows we designed what they are building. Even as I show my business card next to our plans they are holding, But that doesn’t phase me one bit.
After all is said and done, our projects work and are buildable, which is probably why I stress myself out so much until a grading plan is approved. So we come up to a few jobs. No pictures for this post. No time to walk the sites and take updated pictures this week. But our project in Glendale is getting to the final stages. There is always some type of monkey being thrown into the gears with a huge wrench. And this job is having many monkeys going for broke. Not much else to say, but the team is working the kinks out as fast as we can. I can’t wait until this one gets the permit and starts building asap.
So I am taking calls and emails throughout the day on that job, and get another call about another project that we are designing. Hillside grading in Mount Washington is an interesting venture. This job has a requirement based off of a generic template from a now out of business soils engineer. You know something may be off, with how I worded that. The frontage of the property needs a 1:1 minimum slope to daylight to get the final approval even though the grading permit has been issued. Confused? So is everyone involved on this project with how backwards plans were approved. I got the slope graded and the plan is just so elegant. Clean, smooth contours, I could go on and on, but will stop.
As I am in the middle of this project another client calls and asks about their resubmittal. This project is a bit easier, but the City we are dealing with has been vague over the last few months with what they want. I redesigned some issues and added more details, and that set of plans is ready to go. Moving a driveway which this plan called for, isn’t the easiest thing to do when on a time crunch. But all of our projects are on a time crunch. Our clients want them yesterday!
And yet I am working on some other projects all while this is happening. Believe it or not, we can handle more work. We aren’t doing are usual turn around times for the month of November though. But once we get a few more projects wrapped up, we are ready to go again for December. And December of all months will be great. Probably better with wrapping jobs up and getting the permits. But also with bringing in some very cool new jobs.
So where does that leave us for the New Year? We still even have some other great jobs starting up in the following months. If anyone wants to keep track of an up and coming Civil Engineering firm in the Los Angeles area, I invite you to read our blog. Believe it or not I do not talk about all of our work. I also do not have the time to analyze everything, like I really like to do on here. I think we are coming to grips with being busy enough to bring some more people on board. If that isn’t a good sign I don’t know what is. I thought some good things would be coming to B+W Engineering and I wasn’t let down this past year. I have a feeling we are finally seeing the fruits of our labor pan out for this Civil Engineering firm.