What is the difference between urban planning and urban design?

Urban PlanningHere at McNeil Engineering, we are proud of all of our projects that focus on urban planning and design. We often work with state municipalities on projects and developers working on designs that must be approved by cities or counties. We create concepts involving pedestrian, car, and public transportation needs. These mockups and designs are created to help get things approved quickly by a city. That’s what we’re good at.

A Closer Look at the Differences Between Urban Planning and Design

Still, there are big differences between urban planning and urban design. It is important for companies like us to understand these differences. This is how we deliver excellent service to our engineering clients. Let’s first examine the basic definitions.

  • Urban Design: The design and creation of certain city features, from green spaces to infrastructure, public transportation, landscape architecture, and community-use facilities.
  • Urban Planning: The planning of a city or municipality and the use of its structures, as well as policies, procedures, zoning, neighborhood planning, infrastructure, and overall standards and building codes.

Urban design is used to focus solely on designing individual city features. This could be a transportation system, city park, or wastewater treatment facility. Urban design is for those who want to do creative work. People who want to work on quality of life, population resilience, and sustainability will find a rewarding career as urban designers. Today’s urban planners often work within neighborhoods to create designs that benefit and inspire the community

Urban planners are more strategists. They need to evaluate factors that may not necessarily be in their control. From the technical endpoint to political considerations, urban planners need to have a real “big picture” view of what a neighborhood needs. One area where both urban designers and urban planners overlap is in the area of sustainability, long term resilience, and individual quality of life for residential and commercial land tenants

Core Skills Required for Urban Designers and Planners in Salt Lake City

Core skills necessary to work as an urban planner or designer are similar but also have distinct differences. Both designers and planners work on projects with similar outcomes, but their roles are quite different. Urban planners require great communication and negotiation skills. Urban designers need to have strong technical skills, but they also must be good communicators so that they can fully understand the end user’s experience.

Urban planners are generally passionate about the cities they live in. In general, planners will have a high degree of passion for what works and what doesn’t in their city. Urban planners have a good idea of what needs to be improved and what doesn’t. This could pertain to everything from green spaces to bike paths or affordable housing. But the passion displayed by urban planers goes beyond the urban landscape they reside in. Just like other residents of their town or city, they want to share in the growth and well-being of their neighborhood and enjoy utilizing their skills to meet that end.

Urban planners also generally have a strong sense of connectedness. They share a strong sense of collective values with those they live and work around. But even more, they take a look at the broader community as a whole. Urban planners generally want to live in a society that offers sustainable development, plenty of public transport options, and a stable housing market for buyers and sellers.

Urban designers, by contrast, are more technical in nature. You will find designers to be an interesting mix of individuals who are both people-centric and technologically-inclined. Excellent urban designers are very good at meeting the technical outcomes and requirements in a plans, while also also responding to the shifting needs of the contractors and neighborhood-dwellers.

Which Career is Right for You?

If you love improving society and making a positive impact on individual lives, then urban planning is for you. Urban planners also require skills obtained in many other professions, from teachers to project managers and environmental scientists. Urban planners are great communicators, effectively use evidence to support their arguments, are self-reflective and have great analytical skills.

Conversely, if you are passionate about upgrading the user experience and building on your technical skills, urban design is or you. Urban designers are very good at thinking organically and utilizing architectural and environmental design skills. They are driven by a strong set of core values, can imagine and visualize a plan, and are adept at translating abstract data into a vision.

Here at McNeil Engineering, we work with urban planners and designers day-in and day-out to ensure their jobs are completed quickly and by the numbers. Want to learn more about job opportunities here at McNeil? Simply follow this link, and thanks for reading!


What is the condition of your building’s roof?

McNeil RoofingIs the roof protecting your commercial building safe, in good condition and able to keep out the elements? Or does it need to be repaired or replaced?

At McNeil Engineering, we have answers to those important questions. We have a full-service roofing consulting team that specializes in Existing Roof Condition Analysis, New Roof System Designs and Construction Oversight, Design and Construction Oversight for Replacement of Existing Roof Systems, Roof Overbuild Design, Project Scoping and Opinion of Probable Costs and Humidity/Condensation Analysis. We can provide an objective third-party review of this critical aspect of your building’s structure and safety. We also can provide information and recommendations for the maintenance of your entire roofing system.

With spring officially here, it’s time to start making sure your commercial building is ready for the summer months ahead. A roofing consulting inspection can provide you with key insights that can help you avoid future damage, maintain a safe building and save money on maintenance and repair costs down the line. It’s especially important in areas of the country with four seasons.

Winter weather is hard on your roof

Cold winters — and the accompanying ice, snow and freezing temperatures — can be especially hard on roofs, both at home and at your business. Here’s how winter weather does its damage:

Snow. Wet snow is heavy and can put a significant amount of pressure and stress on your commercial building’s roof. If your roof isn’t in good condition, snow can cause a multitude of damage to the exterior and interior of your building. Wet snow that accumulates over doorways and windows can also cause the mortar or drywall to crack.

Wind. Winter winds are hard on shingles and other roofing materials. They can cause your roofing to erode, exposing insulation and allowing water and ice to seep into the cracks and into your building. If you have tall trees near your commercial building, wind can damage them, causing significant damage to nearby buildings. That’s why it’s such a great idea to regularly trim back trees near any types of buildings.

Ice. Ice is particularly problematic for roofs. When water gets into cracks and crevices in roofing, it may then re-freeze. When the water reaches its freezing point, it expands. That significant growth has the power to damage roofs, shatter pipes, harm HVAC equipment, weaken support beams, and even damage walls. However, damage can occur over time and this process often takes a period of months or years. That’s why it’s so important to have your commercial building’s roof and attic area inspected by a certified roofing consultant regularly.

The benefits of roofing consulting services from McNeil Engineering

Since 1984, McNeil Engineering has provided roof consulting services to a wide range of State and Local Municipalities, Property Management organizations, Hospitals, Religious Organizations, and School Districts. We’ve provided consulting, design, repair, and maintenance needs. We help educate our clients on preventive measures that can protect and fortify commercial roofs and buildings. Roofing consulting can help your business:

  • Protect employees
  • Catch problems early on
  • Understand which areas of your building need work
  • Lower your energy costs
  • Lower your emissions
  • Improve office air quality
  • And more.

Roofing consulting can help prepare your building for summer… and next winter

Taking action now to have your roof evaluated can help make sure your roof is in good condition, or if necessary, it can be repaired or replaced in a timely manner. Roofing consulting services are a common-sense way to improve not only safety and better manage future costs but to boost energy efficiency and your bottom line. The roofing consulting team at McNeil Engineering can help you do this via an existing roof condition analysis.

We’ll send one of our qualified, and knowledgeable roofing professionals out to your place of business. Using cutting-edge tools and technology, they will inspect the integrity of your roof from all aspects, making a thorough list of any and all issues that they find. Next, they will meet with you and explain their findings in detail. Once your meeting is over, you will have a number of common sense, applicable recommendations and instructions for adequately maintaining your commercial roofing system.

Schedule your roofing consulting appointment today

The sooner you have your commercial roof inspected this spring, the better. Your roof may be in great shape and need no repairs. If it does need some work, we’ll help guide you through the process of repairing or replacing it and maintaining it for the seasons and years ahead.

At McNeil Engineering, we provide comprehensive design services, including civil engineering, structural engineering, land surveying, high-definition scanning (HDS), landscape architecture and consulting to both the private and public sectors. We’re committed to being the premier engineering and surveying firm in the Salt Lake City area.


Some of our proudest civil engineering projects

McNeil EngineeringThere are many different types of engineers and engineering projects. At McNeil Engineering, we employ engineers of different specialties to make sure projects we work on get best specialized assistance and care possible. Today, we want to highlight our civil engineering staff. We are proud to employ top-notch civil engineers. It’s easy to confuse different kinds of engineering, so we’ll give you a quick run-down regarding the specifics of what a civil engineer does.

A civil engineer is an engineer in charge of planning how a structure will fit into the world around itself. Civil engineers will analyze plans and account for everything from parking to traffic, annual weather patterns, and historical problems in the area. The goal is to see how they can mitigate those problems. The civil engineer must understand how the structure will interact with the surrounding area. We are proud to have engineers on our team who are equipped to make these determinations. Let’s talk about some civil engineering projects we are proud to have completed!

1. Enos Wall Mansion

Enos Wall Mansion is a project we are proud to have been a part of. It means so much to be entrusted with the re-development of such an old and historic building. The Enos Wall Mansion was built in 1905 and is on the National Registry of Historic Places. Civil engineers work on the re-development and restoration of a building like this because they can analyze problems the building has dealt with in the past and make plans to mitigate those problems in the future. When working on an older building, civil engineers get the opportunity to work on aspects of the building that didn’t even exist when the building was first built, which is pretty exciting. New methodologies and technologies keep civil engineering exciting.

For example, our team of civil engineers, when working on the Enos Wall Mansion re-worked the paving plan so that the paving around the building would be better suited for its current and future use. Our teams also redesigned the storm drainage and gutter system, as weather patterns have changed massively in the hundred years Enos Wall Mansion has been standing. If you are interested in learning more about our work on the Enos Wall Mansion, don’t hesitate to visit our website!

2. Abravanel Hall

It was such an honor for our team to be part of the remodeling of such an iconic and important building. Built in the late 70′s, Abravanel Hall has made a name for itself as an important staple of Salt Lake City culture. Abravanel Hall is home to the Utah City Orchestra, and their performances in the great concert hall are an absolute joy to witness. Behind the scenes of every cool building like this is a lot of, you guessed it, civil engineering work.

Our team of expert civil engineers had the opportunity to re-design the entire storm management system at Abravanel Hall. They designed a retaining wall, a storm water collection system, and a long-term erosion control plan for the building. This is so important for a building like Abravanel Hall, which contains a concert hall constructed of wood. The concert hall was built in an incredibly specific way to optimize acoustics, and storm damage can render all that complex architecture pretty much useless by warping the wood and ruining the sound.

3. The Sugarhouse Monument

This was another project we were incredibly excited to be a part of. We got the opportunity to take an iconic part of Salt Lake City, the Sugarhouse Monument in the Sugarhouse Business district, and return it to its former glory, and adding some fun new touches along the way. It’s so exciting for our team to be part of a project that we know will bring so much joy to the people who experience it. McNeil’s civil engineering team has designed a plan to completely turn the Sugarhouse Monument Plaza into more than just an area between buildings, it will be an event center for all Salt-Lake natives and their families to enjoy.

There will be nearly an acre of open public land, perfect for picnics or walks with friends. The civil engineers at McNeil will also redesign the entire water management system, restore the iconic fountain that is the Sugarhouse Monument, and add an interactive water feature that will be a fun place for families. There is also an area for art exhibit in the design plans. The Sugarhouse Monument is a truly incredible example of how civil engineering is important to the development of not only transportation or more efficient erosion management, but it is also essential in the development of thriving, happy communities.

We hope you have enjoyed this look through some of our proudest civil engineering projects!


You’d never guess these products were invented by engineers!

greatest inventionsSo many of humanity’s greatest inventions are the work of well-known historical engineers. Some of our most primitive inventions like tools, the wheel and even fire were works of the top engineering minds of their respective times of development.

Of course, some modern luxuries are also clearly fetes of engineering, like running water, skyscrapers and our cars that seem to get more unbelievably futuristic every day! Usually when we imagine inventions that are prime examples of engineering genius, we do tend to think exactly like this, we think primarily of inventions and new state of the art craftsmanship. Today, we’re interested in exploring some everyday products invented by engineers that you might not have ever imagined were complex engineering masterpieces. These items represent how most of our daily-use items are so much more complex and interesting than we ever could have imagined.

Far too often, people are categorized by whether they are an artistic person or a scientific person. This is unfortunate, because so often, scientific discoveries lead to new ways to express creativity. Just as we wouldn’t have paint without scientists mixing different pigments and different suspensions from nature, we wouldn’t have sewing as we know it today without a few wonderful structural engineers from the late 18th and 19th Century. Before the sewing machine, wearable garments took hours of time and significant effort to produce. The process was limited by the amount of free time someone had in a day, how practiced they were, the quality of their materials and also just by human error in general.

We often think of the “old days” as a time when everyone made their own clothes, but this is a common misconception. Most of the 18th and 19th century, the early Victorian Era especially, people only made their own clothes if it was absolutely necessary due of lack of funds. This is because hand-sewing the garments of the day was such a time consuming and daunting task that most people did not have time to sew their own clothes, and often opted to hire a tailor or dressmaker instead. Home sewing didn’t become a viable option for most people until the first commercially successful sewing machine in the 1850′s. Invented by Elias Howe and produced by Isaac Singer, the first iteration of the modern lockstitch machine we know today hit the market in 1860. This machine was completely mechanical, using a series of what are known as simple machines in engineering, like pulleys.
This machine consisted of dozens of complex parts that had to work together structurally, and couldn’t have been developed without an engineers mind

Like we discussed with the sewing machine, fashion and wearable garments don’t often come to mind when we think of engineering inventions. However, in order to make wearable garments that are effective, it takes someone like an engineer to understand what the item must be able to withstand. The next engineering invention is a prime example of this necessity, the athletic shoe. Throughout most of the 18th and 19th century, most shoes people wore were a variation on the boot. Most shoes consisted of leather uppers and wooden soles, which worked well for what they were made for. Activities like walking long miles on cobblestone or working in harsh conditions were perfect for shoes such as these.

However, in the mid 1800s, a new trend was starting to grow, the trend of health and fitness. At this time the tuberculosis epidemic had been ravaging Europe for a generation, and people wanted to start focusing on taking care of themselves and being healthy, and so from that, the athletic shoe was born. This shoe was produced by engineers at the Liverpool Rubber Company, who had tested various different prototypes for how they would withstand different types of fitness. They tested structurally how much force they could take, and how they would act in different weather environments outside. These are all factors of structural engineering, and the sneaker is a feat of structural engineering

One of the earlier inventions that is such a cool example of engineering at its best is the pendulum clock, which technically has many inventors, all strong examples of historical engineering masterminds. Some of these minds include Galileo and Christiaan Huygens. The pendulum clock works on the basis of continuous oscillation in a fixed cycle, or in laymen’s terms, the fact that if a pendulum swings back and forth continuously each swing will last the same amount of time. This invention changed the way that humans tell time by being able to measure smaller and smaller increments of time

The sewing machine, the athletic shoe, and the pendulum clock are all great examples of the fact that most inventions require a good engineering eye to develop, and at McNeil Engineering we are so excited to have even a small part in engineering history. We look forward to continuing to learn and grow, furthering technology and discovery forever.


3 buildings preserved in time by laser scanning

Laser ScanLaser scanning is a process that is becoming more widespread every day. Eventually, it will be used for so many aspects of our lives it will be like the camera, and we’ll wonder what we ever did without it. As laser scanning becomes more accessible, more uses for it are being discovered. Of course, laser scanning is an incredible tool for land and building surveying, but it has so many more amazing uses.

One of our favorite uses for laser surveying is historical preservation. So much artistic and creative expression goes into the architecture of buildings. So often, every aspect of a building tells a story, and each day that passes that story changes. The structure of a building speaks to the time it was built and the people who worked on it, and every crack, erosion, or vine of ivy that nestles into the building tells the story of the people who have been there, and the way the world has changed around it. Not only are these details interesting, they’re also important to notice so that we can understand our history better. That’s where laser scanning comes in. Laser scanning creates a three dimensional digital replica of a building in detail as it is in a precise moment in time, so that we can know what it looked like at that point for years to come. Lots of historical buildings are going through the process of being laser scanned, and we’d like to share a couple today!

1. Belsay Castle

This Medieval Greek revival castle in England was built in 1370 to serve as a home for a wealthy English family at the time, but has since served as a home to many different families and facilities. There have been many changes made to this building in its nearly 700 years of existence including quite a few add-ons and demolitions. Amazingly, most of what still stands of Belsay is its original three story story structure.

When it comes to understanding how people in history lived, it can be difficult to truly imagine them as real people until you step into their world, and stepping in to where they would have truly lived out their every day lives is one of the best ways to do that. Belsay castle is an incredible look into what everyday medieval life might have been like for the non-royal wealthy. Belsay castle has been laser scanned recently so that in another 700 no matter what’s left of Belsay, we can still learn from what it looks like now.

2. Canterbury Cathedral

Another amazing historical addition to the buildings that have been laser scanned is Canterbury Cathedral. Canterbury Cathedral serves as a breathtaking example of why it’s important to learn from what buildings look like right as they are in this time period, to the accuracy of laser scanning, because of its incredibly unique erosion. In case any of you were asleep in high school English during the reading of Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales,” the Canterbury Cathedral was a wildly popular destination for religious pilgrimages during the 14th century.

People from all over Europe would journey to the cathedral to pray next to the tomb of St. Thomas Beckett. For most modern people (Americans, especially, because our country is still quite young) to imagine this as anything other than a story until they see Canterbury Cathedral. Next to the famous tomb of St. Thomas Becket, there are two distinct, deep pockets of erosion in the stone floor where millions of knees have knelt in prayer. a Photo doesn’t quite do them justice, but recently, the building has been laser scanned, and a 3D model created. Because of laser scanning, even if someone never gets to make the pilgrimage to see Canterbury Cathedral, they can still understand its historical magnitude.

3. The Barrister Building

The last building we’ll talk about is one that is far more modern, and quite meaningful to us at McNeil, the Barrister Building in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. The Barrister Building, formerly the Jefferson Hotel, was built in 1915, and if you’re a fan of classic films, you’ll probably recognize it. Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 masterpiece, “Psycho,” contains some of the most famous and highly regarded sequences in film history. This, of course, includes the shower sequence that made strings the permanent instrument of choice when it comes to striking fear. This also includes the opening sequence, where an aerial shot of Phoenix brings the viewer right up close and personal to the Jefferson Hotel and in through a window, bringing the viewer into the intimate personal lives of the characters. Here at McNeil, we were lucky enough to have been commissioned to do the historical laser scan of the historic Barrister Building before its renovation after it was purchased in 2016. You can learn more about our work on the Barrister building here.


What is BIM?

BIMMost of what an engineer does is done in the mind, or on good old pencil and paper. When an engineer plans a structure, they must envision the structure in their mind and plan a two-dimensional version on paper.

Or, if an engineer is surveying a structure, they must look at the structure and use their mind’s eye, but also be able to decode it on a plan. Obviously, this way of doing things has worked for the most part, fantastically, for many years. The problem is there hasn’t been a lot of innovation in engineering, until now. What happens when brilliant minds are given advanced technology to work with instead of legacy tools. We’ll give you a hint… magic happens!

The technology we’re referring to is BIM, or business information modeling. This process is, in short, the process of creating 3D digital renderings of really, anything you want. BIM has been an absolute game-changer in the field of engineering. An engineer can use BIM to make models of pre-existing structures that need to be changed or added to, landscapes, and even projects that are still only in the planning stages. BIM helps engineers take their ideas from their brain straight to three dimensions before construction even starts. This saves everyone involved an immense amount of stress, time, and money. At McNeil Engineering we are so proud to offer the latest technology in BIM for our engineers, which can help them to be better for our clients! If this seems interesting, here are three ways that BIM has upgraded modern engineering.

1. Planning

Like we mentioned, it can be incredibly difficult to take a plan for a structure, or an idea of a structure’s function and bring it from your brain to real life. BIM is an outlet to plan a project in three dimensions and get all the kinks worked out before ground is even broken. It helps projects can come to life as efficiently as possible. If an engineer designs a 15-story staircase without an elevator, that’s a problem. When planning with BIM, an engineer is much more likely to notice problems like that in the planning stage and be able to fix the problem with a little replanning and a few clicks, rather than having to knock down newly built walls in order to add a last-minute elevator!

2. Execution

BIM ensures a project is executed properly. When a commercial construction project happens, it takes a whole team of people to bring the idea to fruition, and it is inevitable that somewhere along the line of communication there will be a misunderstanding of some form or another.

Let’s say a dentist has contracted a new office to be built and e-mails how he would like it to look like structurally. This hypothetical dentist plans to be the only dentist in this building and only plans to hire a small staff. He pictures a luxurious lobby and several rooms for dental surgery. However, somewhere along the way, the plans get changed and suddenly there are way more rooms than the dentist envisioned. Engineers using BIM plan the building digitally before ordering any building materials, so the dentist would have many more chances to see a 3D digital representation of his building before construction begins.

3. Communication

One of the most difficult jobs of a construction worker, an architect and an engineer is understanding a client’s vision for their building. On the other side, it can be incredibly difficult for most people who aren’t construction workers, architects or engineers to understand what their building will look like or feel like just from seeing the plan on paper. BIM improves communication. How? Because everyone involved gets to see and agree upon a three-dimensional visual representation of a building in all of its aspects.

Here at McNeil Engineering, we are BIM experts. For more information on what BIM is, visit our website here.


Three unexpected uses for laser scanning

Laser ScanningAt McNeil Engineering, we offer a wide selection of services, including laser scanning and building information modeling. This is a process by which our experts use lasers to capture accurate data from buildings, structures, masses of land and all other sorts of things and create an exact digital 3D model. This model can then be used to help plan projects, investigate structures, or just to preserve the image of whatever was scanned for future reference. We offer laser scanning services for any project one could think of that would benefit from it, some of which might be unexpected to those uninformed. If that’s the case for you, and you’re interested in learning more, here are 3 unexpected uses for laser scanning.

1. Forensic/insurance investigation

When an incident happens, sometimes it can be difficult for even the most skilled crime-scene photographer or police officer to accurately depict what the scene looks like. There’s an incredible amount of human error involved in crime scene data collection, especially when the scene is chaotic. This is understandable, but also unacceptable as it can often lead to mixed information given to the public or a jury if a jury is involved.

Let’s use a house fire as an example. If a house is burning down, after firefighters gain control and put out the flames, the scene can be incredibly dangerous for everyone involved. Generally, at some point, firefighters, police officers and/or insurance investigators have to re-enter the wreckage of the house and try to figure out how the fire was started to know how to accurately handle the situation. If this investigation happens even one day after the fire, environmental factors can severely change the scene. However, with laser scanning involved, after the fire is controlled, a laser scanning team can come in and scan the building from a safe distance and create an accurate 3D model of the building directly after the incident, which can then be studied by experts without worry that it will be changed by environmental factors or vandalized.

Laser scanning can be helpful in all sorts of investigations whether it be a car crash or a traditional crime scene. Having an accurate scan of the environment exactly as it was during or after an incident that you are then able to look back on and study is incredibly useful.

2. Historic documentation and preservation

In the previous example, we mentioned how 3D scans of a burnt building can help investigate the fire, but it’s also important to note that a pre-existing laser scan of a building can be an incredible asset in historical documentation of buildings, landmasses and other structures. Even the most famous and seemingly untouchable historical sites are still vulnerable to catastrophe. One of the best examples of this was the fire that broke out at Notre Dame in Paris, France on April 15th, 2019. As devastating as this fire was for Paris, and for the world watching, it was also just strange to experience what is sure to be a famous historical event in real-time. Notre Dame was hundreds of years old when its roof burnt and collapsed in 2019, so of course, losing it was tremendously sad, and of course, there are thousands of photos, drawings, and paintings of it, but those types of documentation are also incredibly vulnerable to catastrophe.

Luckily, in 2010 an art and architecture historian named Andrew Tallon took laser scans of the building, meaning we will forever have an exact imprint of what Notre Dame looked like less than a decade before the fire. If Notre Dame is rebuilt, these laser scans can also be used to rebuild it as accurately as possible. But even if Notre Dame is never rebuilt, it’s incredibly special that we have a 3D model of that roof that had been up since the 1200s. McNeil has taken on quite a few laser scanning projects for the sole purpose of historic preservation, one of them being the Masonic Temple in Salt Lake City!

3. Project planning

So far, we’ve talked about using laser scanning technology on existing buildings, but laser scanning can also be incredibly useful in the planning of a structure. Laser scanning can be used on the area where a structure is to be built and the project planners can then have an exact 3D model of the topography of the land. This model can then be used as a base to plan construction on before any ground is broken.

Laser scanning is an incredibly useful service that we at McNeil are so proud to be able to provide our clients. Our experts are equipped to handle any situation where laser scanning can be beneficial, including situations we’ve listed here and many more. If you or your business are interested in learning more about McNeil’s laser scanning services, please visit our website.

If you have a laser scanning project in mind that doesn’t fit in the categories on the webpage listed above, please don’t hesitate to contact us at info@mcneileng.com or by phone at 888.303.7700.


A Primer on Landscaping vs Landscape Architecture

Landscape ArchitectureAt McNeil Engineering, we offer a wide array of helpful services for many unique products. Because of this fact, sometimes it can be a little bit difficult to explain what we do and what services we can offer! We employ engineers of all kinds including civil engineers, structural engineers, and landscape engineers. We work on surveying projects whether that be land surveying or surveying buildings. Additionally, we can serve as an excellent resource to construction projects at any point, and we also can be a resource to any project on a building or area of land that already exists but might need a little bit of sprucing up!

Today, we’d like to talk about landscape architecture, which is one of the many amazing services we offer. “Landscape Architecture” is not a term that is as commonly used as just “landscaping,” so, sometimes people can get confused and think that they are the same thing! Landscaping and landscape architecture are vastly different services. In this post, we’ll walk you through 3 of the key differences between the two, and why we provide landscape architecture.

One of the first key differences between traditional landscaping or landscape design and landscape architecture is, most obviously, the size of the area or project and the different considerations that go into the project. For example, a project that involves a large group of buildings that are connected by streets would require a landscape architect, while just a yard or driveway would be a project for a landscape designer.

Landscape architects are trained to think of many different factors about a project at once, one of those of course being how to make areas look their best and be inviting, but also the weather of the area, how much traffic the area gets, whether that be car traffic, bike traffic or foot traffic. Landscape architects must think of the factors of each structure involved and how to use their resources to bring them together aesthetically. Landscape architects must also think about how the area that they are working on connects to the surrounding area. A landscape designer is given a small area of land and given the task to design the flora in that area to be attractive and inviting, or useful if their client wants!

That brings us to our second key difference, which is the type of clients each normally services. There aren’t many residential projects one might need a landscape architect for, because usually most of those aforementioned factors are not points of concern for privately owned land. The types of clients that usually benefit most from landscape architects are businesses, organizations, governmental systems or cities themselves, property owners of multi-residence buildings (like apartments or dorms) and schools.

There are others, but this list will help to explain one of the most important differences between landscape design and landscape architecture. We are a landscape architecture company, so those are the types of clients who would benefit the most from our help! For example, one of our long-term clients is Weber State University. We were hired by Weber state to rework their landscape architecture and irrigation system to help pull all the buildings on campus together and make a comfortable and welcoming environment to potential students, and we re-worked the irrigation system so that the school could focus more on the students and worry less about the landscape!

The final and arguably the main difference between landscape design and landscape architecture, aside from size and magnitude of projects, is about the purpose of the end goal. Often landscape design is focused on aesthetics only. How can we take an area and make it as beautiful as possible, which is a wonderful thing! However, landscape architects must focus on how to make their area as beautiful as possible, while also making it as useful as possible! Landscape architects, since they usually work on commercial projects have to think about the type of people who will benefit from their project, what types of people they might be, and design according to the majority’s needs, which can be very difficult but VERY rewarding. Every corner of a landscape architecture project must be optimized for success and usefulness.

Landscape design is a wonderful thing, and it can be incredibly important to making residential homes look and feel their best, however we thought that it was important to clear up that landscaping and landscape architecture are NOT the same thing! At McNeil, we hire incredible landscape architects who are ready to take on these large-scale projects with a smile. If you or someone you know is involved in a project that you think might benefit from these services, consider McNeil Engineering. If you’d like to learn more about landscape architecture, or you’d like to read about more of our landscape architecture projects, visit our website!

Landscape Architecture Projects | McNeil Engineering Salt Lake City, UT


A brief history of land surveying tools

land surveying toolsSurveying has been an essential service to mankind for all of recorded human history. Before one can start any project, buy a plot of land, or even see a plot of land on a map, it must first be surveyed. Because of this, land surveying is believed to be one of the oldest and most important professions in the world. At McNeil, we’re proud to employ the latest in land surveying technology, specializing in 3D laser scanning, which uses a laser to collect tremendous amounts of accurate, dependable data in a short period of time.

This technology has revolutionized the surveying business and is rapidly becoming the standard practice in surveying, making it a viable and cost-effective choice for more and more projects every day. However, as previously mentioned, land surveying is one of the oldest professions in the world, meaning we didn’t always have lasers to collect our data for us. To be able to appreciate the speed and dependability of laser scanning technology, we thought we’d take you through a very brief history of a couple of other tools used historically in land surveying that led the technology to develop to its current level.

1. The Diopter

Far, far before lasers, early Greeks were using a land surveying tool called the diopter. This one is nearly as old as geometry itself, and one of geometry’s first uses was the precise division of land. Dating back to the 1st century C.E., the diopter is a classical tool used to measure angles and altitudes. The diopter was constructed rather simply for how we picture surveying tools today, a disk and a pivot are fixed to a stand and can be adjusted with a screw and a cogwheel to move freely or stay still.

Then, depending on what the device was being used for, it was fitted with either a sighting device or a water level. If the diopter was being used to measure an angle, say to divide the land up accurately, the user would fit a sighting device onto the diopter then adjust the screw so that the disk could move freely. The user would then pick points in the distance to represent the angular separation that needed to be measured (this could be a structure or a tree or a rock, anything they could find.) Then, the user would aim the sighting device at each point, readjust the device so that it remains still again and measure the angle stated on the device! The water level was fitted to determine altitudes, and basically, the user would look at the line of the water, to determine whether objects in the distance were at the same land level as that which the user was standing. The diopter was an incredibly important invention to surveying because it was the first surveying tool that didn’t require the surveyor to physically walk from point to point to measure them, and also didn’t require any extra equipment like chains or ropes.

2. Gunter’s Chain

Speaking of chains, they are one of the most important tools in the history of surveying, so it’s important that we mention them, Gunter’s chain especially. Gunter’s chain was a mathematical tool of measurement invented in 1620 by Edmund Gunter. Gunter’s chain consisted of 100 chain links that were 200 millimeters long, resulting in the full chain being 20.1 millimeters or 66 feet. This tool was incredibly important because it was easily understood by both Americans and English people. There was a way to divide or multiply Gunter’s chain to calculate most pre-existing units of land measurement, for example, ten square Gunter’s chains are equal to an acre of land. This was incredibly helpful because it means that it was the only tool really required to measure land. The physical use of Gunter’s chain was incredibly simple, aside from it being a bit physically taxing. To use it, one simply pins one end of the chain into the ground they want to start measuring and then walks to where they want to stop measuring and places another pin. pins can be placed anywhere along Gunter’s chain and distance can be calculated from there.

We think the history of land surveying is incredibly interesting and we’re so glad to offer our clients simple, fast, and accurate surveying possible at this time in history. We’ve only discussed land surveying, but it’s incredibly important to note that laser scanning can perform surveying of all kinds. Laser scanning surveys an area and everything in it. We use high-definition laser scanners, total stations, and modeling and point cloud software to provide comprehensive, record surveys, 3D CAD models and detailed 2D isometric drawings. This makes laser scanning an incredibly important tool not just for land surveying, but also for building information modeling.

At McNeil, we’re so excited to continue to grow as surveying technology continues to grow. If you’re interested in our surveying, laser scanning, or building information modeling services, please visit our website.


Iconic green spaces to inspire your next project

Green SpaceGreen spaces have tons of positive effects. They’re known to improve mental health and stress to bring communities together and even increase consumer buying. Whether it’s a community center to college to an apartment complex, green spaces are critical for successful businesses. Our landscape architecture can help you create, design and install the best green space for your business.

But first, let’s take a look at all the benefits of green spaces and what defines them.

What are green spaces?

When we’re talking about green spaces, we mean more than just an unused plot of land or grassy knoll. Green spaces are deliberately designed and manicured spots that are open and free to the public. Think of things like local parks, gardens, playgrounds and fields.

These spots are meant to integrate the natural world with our urban environment. Since the first civilization, urban planners have inspired nature and incorporated natural elements into their designs. And since we developed modern cities, green spaces have become even more essential.

Why are green spaces so important?

Studies have shown that green spaces have numerous positive effects on mental well-being, physical health and even commerce.

Green spaces provide an opportunity for outdoor recreation and exercise. Some studies show that people who live near green spaces even live longer. A recent study from the World Health Organization found that 3.3{ffa1fb9a833dbe70b91c2563ca2a54067368c324c18ffac54b9412388222efff} of global deaths resulted from lack of physical activity due to poor walkability and limited access to recreation areas.

These spaces spur better mental well-being and a sense of peace and even increase employee productivity or help hospital patients recover faster.

These spaces are essential to businesses, too. Studies have found that greenery and flowers attract shoppers and residents. Further, customers associate well-landscaped businesses with quality goods. Studies show they are willing to pay a 12 percent premium for goods purchased in retail establishments that are accompanied by quality landscaping.

So, now that you know their importance, it’s time to start thinking about cultivating your own green space. But if you need a bit of inspiration to get you started, check out these iconic green spaces that changed the way we do things. Even if you have a small space to work with, we think these projects will inspire you.

Atlanta BeltLine

Built on an old railroad track, the Atlanta Beltline is a 33-mile, multi-use trail that winds through Atlanta. It connects nearly 45 neighborhoods across the city.

The Beltline is an excellent spot for people looking to get back to nature, take a walk or go for a bike ride. But it also provides several other perks, like free exercise classes, parades, affordable housing and an arboretum. You can also view murals and other local art along the way.

Railroad Park, Birmingham, Al

Similarly, Birmingham has transformed its downtown into a 19-acre park. Previously, the land was used for a cross of old railroad tracks that went out of use. The land was transported into a downtown oasis (which can be especially essential in the humid Southern summers) that showcases the city’s history.

The park features more than 600 trees, multiple skate parks, and a history wall and sculptures, highlighting civil rights struggles and victories. It also features several sustainable elements, like a bio-filtration wetlands area.

The High Line, New York City
You may see a reoccurring theme of turning old industrial things into modern green spaces. The high line is no exception here. This above-street park is also formed along the lines of an old railway.

Previously, the space was home to elevated train tracks. But after a transportation freeze in 1980, the spot became abandoned. Decades later, neighborhood locals banded together to transform the track into a public space.

It features an array of native plants that function as a green roof with both plants and porous pathways absorbing water and limiting stormwater runoff. It also uses drip irrigation, composting and integrated pest management. It too features art, sculpture and vendors. This 395-acre space reopened as a park in 2009.

Chicago’s Lake Front

Chicago’s lakefront is unique to most cities for one straightforward reason. Written in the plans for the city is the idea that the lake will be forever “free and open” to the public. This means that no skyscraper, condo, or private business can build to the beach. Instead, the space from the major road to the water will forever be a public beach.

This is a relatively simple but revolutionary idea: keep public spaces public.

Another bonus is Chicago’s Millennium Park, situated between the beach and downtown. The land used to develop the park was initially deemed an “urban wasteland” and housed a winding spiral of train tracks. Now, it’s home to native plants, sculptures, walkways and water features. What’s even more remarkable is that some of it cover an underground parking garage.

So, are you ready to get started on a landscaping project?

Our landscape architects have decades of experience in both public and private realms. We can provide design and technical direction all the way from concept to construction phase services. We also work on a broad range of projects including everything from small roof gardens to university campuses, residential and commercial/retail developments and everything in between.

Visit our Landscape Architecture section for more details.