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How Does a Civil Engineer Provide Value-Added Service to Your Higher Education Project?

This is the fourth article in our series exploring civil engineering considerations for higher education clients. In the previous installments, we looked at the various issues associated with planning and design on campus and how addressing site and infrastructure issues in the early stages of your project can be significant in ensuring a successful outcome. Civil engineers can offer a different view of the project from concept to construction; they are often “in the neighborhood,” so to speak, and can offer valuable insight about local and regional requirements and standards, and frequently about the expectations of the educational institution itself. 

A university or college campus can resemble a miniature city. They can serve thousands of people, both students and faculty, and require complex infrastructure. Ideally, they fit organically with the surrounding community without causing disruption, and bring benefit to locals and facility users alike. From planning and designing higher education facilities to working onsite, civil engineers can provide a range of added value services to your project to boost efficiency and potentially cut costs.

Preventing Costly Issues

Campus designing for higher education clients often means working on sites with highly complex existing infrastructure. Utility lines may need to be relocated, extended, or avoided. Erecting one building could spoil the efforts of a previous designer – for instance, blocking a viewshed of an area of campus, or interfering with the natural light flow into an adjacent building. Even within the lifecycle of a single project, numerous changes can occur that can impact work at ground or subsurface elevation. A civil engineer with experience in campus engineering can avoid potential conflicts before construction starts, preventing costly delays or even drastic last-minute changes to designs.

This is why having your civil engineer in the communication loop from the outset is vital. For a civil engineer, higher education projects require careful assessment and planning from the design process and throughout construction. Accessing available survey and utility records, knowledge of previous campus construction, and careful subsurface investigation can ensure potential conflicts are considered before breaking ground. This can prevent a domino effect of continuous changes as issue after issue arises while trying to build without a complete understanding of the site and surrounding infrastructure.

Understanding Design Expectations Versus Site Realities

The ultimate goal is to combine the desired design with the realities of the existing site. Architects and designers for higher education facilities often create stunning 3D models that look like they'll fit perfectly with existing buildings. These are ideal for showing stakeholders what they can expect when the project is finished. However, after the site is assessed, those designs may have to shift and change to accommodate the physical limitations of the site.These limitations may include conflicts with existing utilities, underlying instabilities or unsuitable soil quality, property encumbrances such as easements or setbacks, or the ability to feasibly provide pedestrian accessible routes to a facility.

Changes can happen for numerous reasons throughout a project's timeline. Having an idea of the volume of storm runoff that will need to be detained onsite during concept planning might impact building location, or even whether a site is feasible for the intended use. Perhaps the design team receives new information that results in a loading dock height elevation being raised or lowered. In these cases, a civil engineer can help understand how this will affect site layout, access, and site drainage, etc. 

When a mechanical room location is proposed for a new building, have the existing utilities that will serve the facility been considered? The mechanical room is often where water and electric services come into a building, so consideration about where it should be located could avoid the cost of extending water distribution or electrical lines around the building. The same planning approach should be applied to sanitary sewer service and where storm/roof drain runoff finds a way off the property. Letting these be an afterthought in the design process versus a deliberate part of the planning process can avoid unnecessary cost and delay. Again, this is an area where engaging your civil engineering partner earlier can provide assessment and valuable insight

Building the Right Relationships

Civil engineers also understand the benefits of engaging local community leaders and authorities. They can help project leaders connect with the right people to move their projects forward faster.

In central Missouri, ES&S has strong relationships with design consultants and construction contractors who offer excellent skillsets to higher education projects. Long-lasting connections with universities and colleges in our region provide ES&S with a strong background of experience to draw upon to aid in new higher education design and construction projects.

Contact ES&S for more information about the specialist skills and added value that engaging with a civil engineer brings to your higher education clients. In our next article, we’ll explore the similarities and differences between planning and designing for higher education and K-12 facilities.

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