Sarah Thompson has been with our ES&S family for 2 years now! As one of our skilled and dedicated civil engineers, we have truly enjoyed having her on the team. We hope you enjoy getting to know Sarah!

Sarah Thompson, Civil Engineer for ES&S

Why ES&S?  

ES&S spoke volumes of their family atmosphere which helped me adapt to life after college. Its not often you find coworkers willing to go camping, biking, adventure racing with you and have as much of a passion for the outdoors. 

Which of our core values resonates with you the most, and why? Core Values are: Trust, Professionalism, Family & Community, Excellent Service, Flexibility  

When asked about my job I always put emphasis on the family and community as well as flexibility. One of my favorite parts of the day is talking with my coworkers every day. I enjoy hearing about what they do outside of work as well as the different projects we are all working on around the office. This also provides a good opportunity for learning about what the company provides for customers as well as who I can ask for help. The flexibility aspect has been very important to me as well. I love to travel- even going home to Memphis for a weekend trip. The ability to make up a few hours earlier in the week so I can leave at noon and be home for dinner has allowed me to take adventures all over the country! 

What is your favorite thing about your job?  

My favorite part of my job (other than coworkers/ flexibility) is designing landscape plans. I am very interested in choosing native plants and creating visually interesting layers of plants. 

What's the most challenging obstacle you've encountered in a project, and how did you overcome it?  

It has been a challenge to learn as much info as I need for all the design projects. I constantly have to work to ask questions, receive feedback, and continually advance my knowledge to improve my work for the next time. 

What motivates you to excel in this field?  

My grandmother lives in a senior living facility very similar to the ones we design. She loves the opportunity have an easily accessible space while maintaining close relationships with her neighbors. This motivates me to provide spaces similar for others to have the same community around the country. 

If you could design a landmark or iconic structure, what would it be and why?  

I would love to help design the infrastructure/ trails for a new National Park (or add on of an existing). I love how much joy parks bring to people and provide access to unique portions of the outdoors. 

What's the funniest or most memorable moment you've experienced at work?  

I don't have a specific funniest moment although I think I end up laughing every day for something or another. I do appreciate all the Bistros Bill and I have planned where we all get to hang out together. 

What's your go-to karaoke song?  

Hmmm probably Something in the Orange by Zach Bryan 

If you were stranded on a deserted island and could only bring three items, what would they be?  

A knife for hunting/ building, water purification for obvious reasons, a pot for boiling water (first answer would have been my family but didn't think they would fit into the item category) 

If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?  

Teleportation- think how many more places you could explore in a shorter amount of time! 

You just won a million dollars. What are you doing next?  

Buying a sprinter van and going camping. 

If you could leave tomorrow and go anywhere in the world, where would you go?  

Europe- from Norway/ Iceland/ Germany- the hiking and history would be amazing! 

What is a fun fact about you that most people wouldn’t expect?  

I have been to 47/50 states and 44/63 National Parks. 

Meet the one, the only, Mr. Chris Yarnell! As our long standing Branch Manager/Sales Manager for more than 10 years, he's someone you have surely seen and gotten to know over the years. If not though, here are some fun facts about Chris that we hope you enjoy!

Chris Yarnell, Branch Manager for ES&S.

Why ES&S?  

My personality fits working with expensive A..H...s! 

Which of our core values resonates with you the most, and why?Core Values are: Trust, Professionalism, Family & Community, Excellent Service, Flexibility  

All of the core values resonate with me! If I have to chose just one, it would be Family and Community - If everyone is treated as family and cared for as such, a solid team is built. That team moves out into the community and is supported and in turn, the community supports the business. As one of the younger team members said the other day "I'm here 5/7ths of my life, I might as well enjoy it" This is profound. 

What is your favorite thing about your job?  

The challenges we face on a regular basis. I truly enjoy solving problems that benefit others. 

What's the most challenging obstacle you've encountered in a project, and how did you overcome it?  

On occasion we must help clients understand what they want is truly not in their best interest, sometimes in the short term and other times in the long run. This can be very challenging and require a different approach than used on typical projects. 

What motivates you to excel in this field?  

I truly enjoy hearing the public comment on projects I have had the opportunity to participate in, projects that make a difference.  

If you could design a landmark or iconic structure, what would it be and why?  

I would love to design a project that had a multi-generational impact on a community 

What's the funniest or most memorable moment you've experienced at work?  

Respondent skipped this question  

What's your go-to karaoke song?  

Anything by Roger Miller. There are many great college memories that involve good friends, an adult beverage and Mr. Millers songs.

If you were stranded on a deserted island and could only bring three items, what would they be?  

A Bible, a good knife and a ferrocerium rod

If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?  

Respondent skipped this question  

You just won a million dollars. What are you doing next?  

Throw a retirement party (for me) and we would be singing karaoke. 

If you could leave tomorrow and go anywhere in the world, where would you go?  

My travel would depend on the time of year. Spring and early summer would consist of an extended trip to Western Europe. Fall would be the West Central part of the US, from Mexico to Canada visiting the National Parks. 

What is a fun fact about you that most people wouldn’t expect?  

I was responsible for the planning, funding and implementation of a Transportation Development District that constructed the 179 Highway extension in Jefferson City and in doing so, we laid the ground work for the extension to loop Jefferson City to the East. 

Meet one of our many talented civil engineers at ES&S, Kelly Lohsandt! She has been with us for over 5 years now. We hope you enjoy getting to know her!

Why ES&S?  

It provides the type of general civil engineering work I'm interested in while being conveniently located close to family in mid-Missouri. I am exposed to a variety of civil engineering design elements rather than a single type, which is something I've always wanted. 

Which of our core values resonates with you the most, and why?
Core Values are: Trust, Professionalism, Family & Community, Excellent Service, Flexibility  

Trust and flexibility. ES&S does a great job at trusting their employees to do their work without micromanaging them or constantly looking over their employee's shoulder. When a company trusts their employees and provides them the flexibility to work when and how works best with their schedule, it is a great benefit for the employees.

Without ES&S allowing flexible work schedules and locations, I would not have been able to successfully do my job the past 9 months while living in Alabama and taking care of my daughter before we move back to Sedalia in July. 

What is your favorite thing about your job?  

Seeing a project transform from an idea or simple sketch on a piece of paper to a completed construction project. 

What's the most challenging obstacle you've encountered in a project, and how did you overcome it?  

When a city/owner/contractor does not review your preliminary plans and then you continue to finalize your plans assuming everything is acceptable. Then you get to the final product, and all of a sudden, they have all kinds of comments.

This is an on-going battle, and probably will be for the rest of my career; but the way I'm trying to overcome this vicious cycle is to follow up with the city/owner/contractor more consistently asking for comments during the early stages of the design, or confirming they've actually looked at our plans. 

What motivates you to excel in this field?  

Finding solutions to problems and figuring out the best way to optimize a design for a client. 

If you could design a landmark or iconic structure, what would it be and why?  

I would design an awesome looking stadium for either the St. Louis Cardinals or Kansas City Chiefs. I love both those teams and it seems to be the big competition nowadays between professional sport franchises is who has the coolest stadium.

The architects would get all the credit anyway, and that is well beyond my design capabilities...but one can dream! 

What's the funniest or most memorable moment you've experienced at work?  

When I accidentally lit the microwave on fire in the Columbia office a few years ago. The fire department even came! Still not my fault, I cooked the frozen dinner just how the directions said to! 

What's your go-to karaoke song?  

Shania Twain - "Man I Feel Like a Woman

If you were stranded on a deserted island and could only bring three items, what would they be?  

I would probably have to answer with lame practical things such as: a lighter, tent, and a knife. I've watched too many episodes of Survivor to know life is hard on an island without those things. 

If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?  

Controlling things with my mind. It would be so handy to make objects move or come to you with just thinking about it! 

You just won a million dollars. What are you doing next?  

Probably pay off the house loan I'm about to sign for, then go on a big vacation. With whatever is left I would probably be responsible with and save or invest. 

If you could leave tomorrow and go anywhere in the world, where would you go?  

I would go on a long vacation all over Europe; there are too many places I want to see to list them all here. I've never been, and it's definitely on my bucket list. 

What is a fun fact about you that most people wouldn’t expect?  

I can swim for hours, but for the life of me cannot float. Makes no sense. 

Meet our incredible CAD Designer, Mike Scheulen! Mike has worked for ES&S for the last 10 years, and we are so thrilled to have him on our team. We hope you enjoy getting to know him a little better.

Why ES&S?  

I chose to work with ES&S because of the variety of projects I get to be a part of and the endless opportunities to learn something new. 

Which of our core values resonates with you the most, and why?
Core Values are: Trust, Professionalism, Family & Community, Excellent Service, Flexibility  

Family and Community, I love being able to have friends in the workplace who are just people like everyone else.

What is your favorite thing about your job?  

I love learning new things about the civil engineering aspects of new projects, from seeing a site design start at a topo, work through a site plan, and seeing the finished product either in person or on google maps. 

What's the most challenging obstacle you've encountered in a project, and how did you overcome it?  

The most challenging obstacle I can think of are the Georgia Erosion and sediment control requirements, they require a ton more information than your standard erosion control plan and it takes a few repetitions of doing them to fully understand what they are wanting to see on a plan and approve for permits. 

What motivates you to excel in this field?  

Just doing the best job I can do and learn new things that can help productivity in our office.  

If you could design a landmark or iconic structure, what would it be and why?  

I would have to go with designing a Long Range Rifle Range, I am an avid Long Range Precision shooter and being able to design a range with backstops, shooting shelters and everything else needed to have a great/safe range would be a really fun project.

What's the funniest or most memorable moment you've experienced at work?  

I have to many funny experiences to even try to pick one! 

What's your go-to karaoke song?  

I would have to go with Lady by Little River Band. 

If you were stranded on a deserted island and could only bring three items, what would they be?  

Lighter, Knife, Rifle 

If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?  

Super Strength 

You just won a million dollars. What are you doing next?  

Paying off our new house build and invest the rest! (after a few new guns were purchased).

If you could leave tomorrow and go anywhere in the world, where would you go?  


What is a fun fact about you that most people wouldn’t expect?  

I really enjoy building gaming PC's and playing Call of Duty, I've always been a huge gamer.

Core Values and Vision at ES&S

Our mission at ES&S is to responsively deliver innovative community solutions. Five years ago, we all worked together to identify our core values as a company. As we start 2024, we took a moment to reflect on those core values.

We believe they are more than just words on the wall, but are our key differentiators that make the ES&S team stand out. We focus on and encourage the application of these values in all our decisions and actions. 


We believe the most important factor in all relationships, whether personal or business, is trust. We actively work to foster relationships with our clients by being a consistent trusted advisor, a source of truth and accuracy. We encourage authentic and candid communication throughout our team. 


To us, professionalism doesn’t mean we all wear suits to work every day, although there may be times when that may be appropriate. Professionalism at ES&S is being committed to getting the job done, as well as we can, the first time. We believe in erring on the side of doing the right thing, even if it could create conflict with the client.  

Excellent Service 

We enjoy helping people. We provide quality and value rather than focusing on being the cheapest. If there is a deadline, we do our best to meet it or communicate with the client what we can reasonably do to achieve the desired outcomes. Through responsiveness, patience, clear communication, and quality products, we provide a level of service that builds trust and establishes lasting relationships.  

Family & Community 

Our ES&S team cares about each other, as well as the communities we live and work in. We believe in working hard but also having fun. We take a vested interest in the lives and development of others and believe work should be enjoyable, something we can take pride in. 


Flexibility empowers us to work when, where, and how we thrive. Being flexible and innovative in how we approach projects means finding the best solutions to meet our clients’ specific project needs. Our team's flexibility creates room for important personal time with our families and encourages improvement and embracing change when needed.  

These core values all work together to makes ES&S a great place to work and a great resource to our clients. Encouraging focus and development in these areas creates a team that works together to achieve common goals for the betterment of our lives and our communities.

Surveying land has always been a critical part of any construction project. The technology used for surveying areas, however, has continued to evolve. Engineering Surveys & Services (ES&S) has been performing survey work for clients in Missouri and throughout the country for nearly seven decades. Over that time, surveying technologies like the use of drones and LiDAR (light detection and ranging) have provided new ways to quickly and accurately capture data. 

InnoSurv evolved from the realization of several at ES&S who were interested in finding innovative ways of incorporating drone and LiDAR into their surveying methods. The results give ES&S clients the ability to see their projects in new ways.

What Is InnoSurv?

InnoSurv is centered around the idea of having industry leading tools and resources available to be able to select the best tool for each dynamic project or situation.

The Benefits of InnoSurv Surveying

Experts at ES&S identify four major advantages that their clients get from InnoSurv surveying. They include:

The benefits get more specific when you look at how ES&S applies InnoSurv to specific types of projects.

Drone Photogrammetry

Drone photogrammetry can be utilized to create a three-dimensional, data-dense models of any site. 

3D mapping also provides a close look at an area’s topography. Surveyors do not need to spend a lot of time and energy covering the land. Drone photogrammetry provides a scaled version that includes every dip and rise in the landscape. Before so much as putting a shovel into the dirt, developers can identify potential challenges in the land.


As with Drone photogrammetry, LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) provides another method to capture millions of data points very rapidly. This data can be used to create an accurate 3D model and collect any needed measurements. The models can be used to extract detailed measurements or to overlay with plans to identify any potential conflicts.

Aerial Photographs & Videos

ES&S InnoServ can provide static images or videos. Aerial photographs work well for projects that involve mapping and planning, site condition documentation, pavement evaluations, or building inspections.

For example, a developer might want to evaluate the current state of a property. Aerial photographs can provide clear views of the building’s roof and parking lot. No one needs to go on top of the building to inspect the roof or scan the lot for signs of damage. The drone does this work to provide accurate imaging while lowering any risk to workers.

InnoSurv can provide videos of buildings or proposed sites for development, which carries multiple benefits for owners and developers.

Drone videos can also provide quick, useful site observations that help developers understand the lay of the land and how they can use the property. They might inspect the area before deciding to buy it. They can also use aerial videos to determine the best ways to use land they currently own.

Developers who want to find investors or sell properties to buyers can even use videos for marketing purposes. In-depth videos give potential stakeholders an easy way to view opportunities closely without visiting sites.

Learn More About The Future Of Surveying

As with drones and LiDAR, ES&S InnoSurv is always looking to find and utilize the best tools for every job. As those tools continue to evolve, it is ES&S’s goal to evolve with them. Whether you have a difficult-to-reach area that you need to be surveyed, a construction site that requires careful planning, or a building that you want to inspect, ES&S InnoSurv will always provide the most advanced and customized option to help you succeed.

Learn more about InnoSurv by scheduling a consultation with Engineering Surveys & Services. Whether you want to start a project soon or you just want to get more information about InnoSurv services, it only takes one message to get the process started.

Feel free to contact any of our three Missouri offices for help.

Image Credits: Unsplash

For both construction professionals and workers, it’s sometimes challenging to keep an analytical eye on all the ongoing affairs of the active construction site. The aggregation of multiple trades, professions, and regulatory bodies that overlap these activities and occupations is continually innovating to capture the values emerging from new techniques, materials, and strategies. With so many systems in almost continuous evolution, staying abreast of changes while also achieving best practices and contractual requirements can be an arduous task. 

Maintaining a constant vigil on all site elements is critical for every building project, however, to ensure quality and safety and avoid costly rework, especially as engineering and construction industry dynamics continue to advance.

New Capacities. New Tools.

According to Deloitte, technology and digital innovation are impacting the engineering and construction sectors, as they are in every other industry. To remain competitive, tradespeople, architects, engineers, and other building professionals are expanding their current capacities to accommodate new consumer demands. Fortunately, support service tools and technology are also evolving, and newly introduced options frequently enhance the performance of tried-and-true traditional methods. That expanded tool base is now optimizing building activities to meet the requirements of each specific project. 

The augmented tooling and technology capacities of support services also hone and fine-tune their consulting (design, diligence, and compliance, as examples) and servicing (resource management, cost estimations, surveying, etc.) activities:   

All of these factors are already impacting the execution of every project, and that impact will continue to grow. Having an extra, well-trained set of eyes on-site throughout the build process, especially during and after transition into new ways of working, offers on-site management and project owners peace of mind that all the legacy, emerging, and new exigencies are accomplished.   

New Partners. New Opportunities.

Engineering Surveys & Services (ES&S) designed its engineering, surveying, and construction-support services to ensure that its clients have all the professional construction and engineering oversight needed to safely and accurately bring each project to completion. The company offers research, analysis, and construction consultation services for large and public works projects throughout the mid-Missouri region (including Columbia, Jefferson City, Sedalia, and Wildwood), focusing on all aspects of the design-construction process. Whether its clients are seeking quality control (QC) or quality assurance (QA), the industry experts at ES&S can provide the service and support they need to complete a high-quality, regulatorily compliant construction product.

ES&S's design-support services and construction-support services provide a variety of inputs and consultation opportunities for clients throughout the public works construction industry:

Available to All

All project professionals will appreciate the company's extensive construction QA credentials, which include a broad scope of industrial, architectural, and engineering capacities and competencies. During the build, ES&S professionals track all processes from the bidding stage to the final certification stage.

Their presence alleviates client concerns about the copious demands for instant on-site communication and decision-making. They frequently facilitate contractor clarifications, evaluate critical construction elements, and assess material and methodology qualities, which helps to mitigate any risks of errors or omissions.   

ES&S also provides wage rate assessments and interviews and monitors the daily construction diary to confirm its accuracy regarding the project's adherence to budget, regulatory compliance status, and timeliness terms. 

And ES&S's clientele emerges from numerous stakeholder entities within the construction industry: 

Public works construction can be lucrative and rewarding but is also becoming more complex every day. ES&S maintains the highest standard of civil engineering and construction-support consultation services, so its public works construction clients have the expert project oversight needed on-site to avoid missing any critical building, regulatory, or contract details.

Their deep experience and professional expertise assure all stakeholders that the building and construction project meets the contractual and regulatory standards (existing and emerging) demanded by its contractors, municipalities, and the general public. 

Are you concerned about the possible expenses and costs incurred when your project does not have the benefit of a construction-support services expert? You can read about that in our next post or contact Engineering Surveys & Services to schedule a consultation to answer all your project questions.

When you consider all of the details involved across the various sectors of a major build, it's easy to see the extraordinary level of expertise and oversight required to bring projects in on time, on budget, and in full compliance with all relevant regulatory standards.

To achieve those goals, the primary contractor must certify that every subcontractor, materials supplier, and tradesperson on the job provides high-quality, timely, and fiscally responsible services. Verifying that assertion, however, is a project in and of itself -- one that all contractors must complete, but that many wish to delegate if they have an available, trustworthy party they can rely on for impeccable construction-support.

The team of construction and civil engineering experts managed by Josh Lehmen, Director of Construction-Support and Geotechnology Services at Engineering Survey & Services (ES&S), is available to perform and guarantee those verification services. In addition, their presence on the job site may reduce liability risks for owners and contractors if something goes awry during construction or after the project's completion. 

Code Compliance Assures Construction Integrity

The International Building Code (IBC) governs the construction metrics of virtually every building and facility in the country. If your construction projects involve the installation of fuel gas, "green" or environmentally sensitive products, sewer lines, or mechanical processes (among many other construction elements), your architecture must comply with IBC rules.

According to Lehmen, the ES&S Construction-Support Services (CSS) platform of technical, trade, code, and protocol resources provide Missouri's public sector entities, private owners, and construction industry clients with a supplementary pool of capabilities that enhance their on-the-job performance: 

In addition to its skills and competencies with IBC regulations, ES&S is also certified by the Missouri Department of Transportation, and the US Corps of Engineers validates the accuracy of its lab results on a biennial basis. 

Missouri Relies on ES&S 

In Missouri, the specific construction-focused services offered by ES&S are particularly valuable when evaluating the sufficiency of the state's tornado protections. Missouri ranks 10th in the country for the number of annual tornadoes, averaging 32 per year since 1950 (the year that official record-keeping began). In 2006, the state experienced a national record of 102 such storms. Five of the country's deadliest tornadoes occurred there, including three of the top 10 most damaging tornado events.

The worst Missouri tornado occurred on May 22, 2011, when a massive twister hit the small city of Joplin. Rated the highest danger level of 5 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale for tornado intensity, the storm injured more than a thousand people and killed 161. Economic losses rose to almost $3 billion, including damage to or total losses of 553 businesses and 7,500 homes.

The subsequent investigative report about the disaster issued by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) addressed the building and construction failures that contributed to those high loss values. It recommended significant improvements in the state's tornado shelter construction standards to prevent future losses and recommended comparable enhancements to national construction standards.

In addition to suggesting advanced technological and geographical tools for predicting and measuring tornado activity, NIST encouraged:

Missouri used the report's information to mandate enhanced tornado protections in all school-based tornado shelters. ES&S is one of the contractors hired to inspect existing refuges and inform the design of new ones. Their work entails testing current and new systems to ensure they operate smoothly during crisis events.

Accurate, concise evaluations of the functioning of electrical, ventilation, water, and other systems let the government, schools, and parents know children can evacuate to a safe, secure shelter when the next tornado roars into town. Further, ES&S's extensive knowledge of Missouri's geography provides an extra layer of confidence that each safety zone is specifically designed and suited for its location.

Learning From Loss

The Missouri event was a wake-up call for all of that state's building and construction community. The volume and expense of losses due to construction failures revealed why using a construction-support team can save a contractor's business:

In light of these potential risks, it's no wonder that ES&S clients embrace their services as a form of "insurance" to confirm that the project is well-executed -- and has the proper documentation to back it up. 

Your organization may benefit from ES&S consulting services if it's embarking on a new project or wants an analysis of ongoing work. Contact them directly to speak with Josh Lehmen or another ES&S professional about your project. 

If your enterprise is involved (or plans to be involved) with a public works construction project, you'll want to check out our upcoming post about how ES&S services help government entities maximize their publicly funded investments.  ​

Welcome to our final article in this six-part series exploring the intricacies of engineering and designing for education industry clients. In our last article, we shifted focus from higher education clients like colleges and universities to the K-12 educational arena, looking at the differences in these facilities regarding site selection and what developers might need from their partner civil engineers. 

This time, we're continuing with K-12 facility engineering, considering some of the unique challenges of school building development, renovation, and expansion — and the solutions a civil engineer can provide. Many school districts endure for decades, meaning that K-12 educational facilities must be able to adapt to various changes and evolving expectations. These adjustments include regularly updated building codes, changing expectations for school buildings, and advancing accessibility for a broader range of students.

In this article, ES&S explores the issues surrounding compliance and expectations for both new and existing K-12 developments.

Compliance Concerns


Planning and designing educational facilities requires compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) so that all people can access public school facilities regardless of the nature of their physical challenges. The original ADA guidelines were established in the 1990s, and the federal law has been amended several times to accommodate evolutions in both educational trends and "disability" definitions.

Also, because many K-12 school facilities are often used for public purposes other than education (as voting centers, public meeting spaces, etc.) any structural changes must accommodate adults and children. For schools built after the passage of these laws, K-12 facility engineering must now comply with their mandates. Schools constructed prior to their enactment will require retrofitting to bring them into compliance.

Retrofitting aging public school facilities will, in most cases, require restructuring some parts of the school's physical buildings with ramps or alternative access points to accommodate wheelchair access. Re-engineering access to bathrooms and office spaces may also be necessary to accommodate similar access availability. Civil engineers who plan and design K-12 educational facilities must also consider and incorporate both usage factors and adjoining structures and systems into those strategies.

Environmental and Infrastructure Concerns

Other rules and regulations have evolved over time and now govern activities undertaken for the construction and reconstruction of K-12 education facilities. 

Environmental concerns that were overlooked at the time of original construction may now pose significant challenges to both school users and the physical plant itself. Civil engineering projects frequently resolve water management concerns when water quality issues related to underlying environmental hazards are detected. In Missouri, weather-related incidents such as tornadoes pose potentially lethal threats to state residents; schools must now have appropriate and compliant tornado shelters to provide safety for young learners when those storms engulf their community.   

A "quadrennial report card" issued in 2017 by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave a D+ to almost 100,000 K-12 public school buildings, which were ranked as being in only fair or poor condition. Years, sometimes decades, of neglect of maintenance issues have resulted in failing foundations, crumbling infrastructures, and toxin exposures. In many cases, the only option for repair is a complete re-engineering of the entire structure because the physical and environmental problems present barriers not just to the student's physical health but also to the quality of their education.   

Choosing a civil engineer with experience in K-12 facility planning and design means you gain the benefits of their comprehensive knowledge of ADA and environmental regulations, whether overseeing a new development for accessibility or retrofitting an older building for compliance.

Evolving Expectations

Other drivers influencing either the redesign or full development of a K-12 educational facility are the community's evolving expectations for the use of that site. In addition to its use for general civic purposes, as noted above, educational trends are also mandating expanded capacity across the physical plant to facilitate an ever-broadening scale of teaching opportunities:

Special Spaces

Most schools are required to provide educational inputs beyond traditional academic pursuits. 

Emerging Technologies

The COVID-19 pandemic cemented technology in all facets of society, including K-12 schools. Almost all of America's elementary, middle, and high school students recently completed up to two years of school online; they are now fully acclimated to that learning venue. Schools were compelled to accommodate the transition and now have at least a minimal capacity to continue providing online learning resources. New and retrofitted school construction projects will need to have that digital infrastructure engineered into their foundational systems to remain competent for today's class corps and prepare for those classes.  

Many developers will want to incorporate Low Impact Development (LID) design practices to help echo a school district's mission, vision, and values. These design practices also reflect a societal change of perspective regarding the natural world and how individuals interact with it. Incorporating environmentally friendly design features into K-12 facility engineering can make the school a more valuable presence within the community. 

ES&S has worked with multiple educational facilities, from the design process and site selection to subsurface investigation to project completion. We can help you create safer, more welcoming environments that are compliant, community-focused, and provide all students with equal access to unique places to learn and grow. 

For more information on how ES&S can help you advance your development and renovation initiatives in the education sector, contact Engineering Surveys & Services.

Welcome to the fifth article in this six-part series exploring the complexities of design and engineering for educational facilities. We’ve already reviewed the benefits of having a civil engineer involved early in the planning process, and common design considerations unique to higher education institutions. In brief, an experienced civil engineering partner can address and anticipate issues before they cause delays and excessive costs to educational development and renovation projects.

The same applies to many K-12 facility engineering projects, but there are also key differences that designers and contractors should take into consideration, and below we provide a brief discussion of some of those factors.

Designing for Education: K-12 and Higher Education Campus Similarities

Building cycles for educational institutions at any level, from kindergarten to college, should involve thoughtful, long-term planning. New buildings need to be evaluated for adequate service from existing infrastructure. Renovations must avoid conflicts with existing utility services.. Environmental impacts such as water demand, storm water management of both runoff quantity and quality, degradation or loss of wetlands or sensitive habitat, etc….these should to be considered. ES&S provides infrastructure planning to support educational clients in a cost-efficient way. They work as a strategic partner alongside project team members, including architects, contractors, and urban planners, to ensure successful project within required timeframes and budgets.

Similar Building Types

Most educational institutions, regardless of level, share a common mission. This leads to a requirement for many similar building and facility types. While institutions may differ in the magnitude of the total building program, each will generally include classrooms, laboratories, performance and art spaces, lecture or assembly halls, music facilities, kitchens and dining rooms, and indoor and outdoor athletic facilities. They also require sufficient vehicle, bike, and pedestrian access, plus parking facilities. Civil engineers play a critical part in both higher education and K-12 facility engineering and design, ensuring site selection and preparation are sufficient to support all aspects of facility usage.

Accessibility and Inclusivity Requirements

Accessibility is vital in all educational facilities. It impacts students, faculty, other staff members, and visitors like family members. Designers must consider that everyone is entitled to equal access to engage in educational and extracurricular activities regardless of their individual abilities.

The 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design provide a range of expectations for developers. These include compliant accessible routes for pedestrian traffic, curb height limitations for wheelchair users, adequate volume and location for parking, to name just a few. Civil engineers help planners and architects go beyond the basic expectations to create educational facilities for everyone, with accessible outdoor spaces as well as internal facilities.

Considering accessibility and inclusivity during the planning and design process can prevent the need for costly retrofits to a site once a project is already under construction or complete.

The Differences in Planning and Designing Educational Facilities

There are many ways K-12 schools and college campuses differ that affect the planning and design of educational facilities and the support needed from a civil engineering partner.

Campuses Expand in Differing Ways

K-12 institutions are typically more sensitive to population growth, whereas colleges and universities have to continuously focus on recruiting students. K-12 attendance is also often dictated by district boundaries. However, the sheer growth of the general population can lead to sudden requirements for expansion or additional flexibility in the development of facilities. The needs of a district can shift and change much more often and unpredictably than those of higher education communities.

Deeper Community Engagement Required for K-12 Facility Engineering

In the K-12 arena, there is a greater need to focus on where facilities will be located, whereas buildings for higher education are typically added to an existing campus. This requires thoughtful and thorough site screening. ES&S provides detailed site screening and selection services for K-12 schools. Site selection requires expertise, diplomacy, discretion, and a deep understanding of the community, as well as engineering skills and knowledge.

Public opinion about the location of K-12 schools can be widely varied, and site choices may be controversial. This is where engaging a team with existing community relationships and a track-record of maintaining confidentiality proves particularly valuable.

Site Screening Complications and Competition

Desirable sites for developing a K-12 facility generally have to be of a particular size. For example, a new middle or high school might require a 50-60-acre parcel of land, and sometimes larger, that ideally already has excellent access to transportation and utility networks. If a large tract of land with good roads and utilities hasn't yet been developed, this could be for a good reason. Explore potential underlying issues such as the presence of a high volume of rock, a significant difference in elevation across the property, or karst features that need to be addressed. Environmental constraints could also be present, such as jurisdictional waterways, presence of wetlands or habitat for threatened and endangered species, or are located in sensitive watersheds with downstream constraints such as water quality-impaired streams.

The factors that make sites and properties attractive to educational developers tend to also appeal to other interests, so schools are often competing with commercial and residential developers for the same land. Competition can drive prices up, so maintaining confidentiality during site screening and selection is critical and should always be a primary expectation of an educational institution.

Working with a civil engineer who has experience with education clients can make your projects more efficient and cost-effective and help you build the right relationships that could bring you more project opportunities in the future. Contact Engineering Surveys & Services for more information about development and site engineering for K-12 and higher education clients.

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