Why engineering consultation is important for your project

Engineering ConsultationWe are all familiar with what engineering is, but what do engineering consultants do? Essentially, engineering consultation is the practice of planning and designing a client’s engineering needs. The consultation portion of the business is critical because the client or builder must achieve a proper balance based on what is practical for the project. What you want and what is achievable may be two different things.

A Primer on Engineering Consultation Services for Utah-based Companies

We focus on Utah-based companies because we are a Utah-based company, but we certainly do work outside of Utah and offer engineering consulting services to any business that needs them. But how do these services generally work?

As with any business partnership, the consultation generally begins with a sit-down conversation. The client and the firm will have an in-depth conversation about the specific needs of the project. Both will require a clear definition and understanding of what needs to be done in order to complete the project and provide the required services. If a client wants their project to stand out, to be a project of distinction and excellent character, it will be critical they form a strong working relationship with the engineers advising them.

Similarly, engineering companies must know and understand the wishes, needs and expectations of their client. They need to have a proper understanding of the goals, design ideas, budget, timeline and quality expectations. These are critical aspects of any large engineering or build project, and the company you partner with needs to have a strong understanding of these aspects.

There are also vital considerations to be made from the client to the engineering consultants. It is important that both adequately explore different opportunities, design ideas, budget constraints and so on. Clients need to ensure they have a full and proper understanding of timelines, details and any special features they want or need.

What are the Specific Functions of Civil or Structural Engineering Consultants

No matter the type of engineering being discussed, there are specific functions engineering consultants must consider as they work with their clients. It is incumbent on them to carefully study project reports. They need to properly understand cost estimates and the financial viability of a project. Civil engineering consultants in Utah and beyond must closely interact with the client and obtain a full understanding of their requirements and needs. They should be able to adequately analyze and identify problems that may arise in the project.

Depending on their findings, engineering consultants should not be afraid to advise their clients on repair, alteration or maintenance requirements of the existing project and plan. And they shouldn’t be afraid to clearly and tactfully explain if some of the client’s requirements fall outside of either budget or timeline. They need to create design process flows and plans based on client requirements that fall within budget and timeline and stick to it.

In the end, engineering consultants play a very important role in making sure their clients achieve their core objectives and do so within the parameters both have set. In the end, it is the firm’s job to meet the client’s expectations and implement the project according to what was agreed upon.

Understanding the Benefits of a Local Engineering Consultant

Using a Utah-based engineering firm for your Utah-based project is important for several reasons. First, local engineers will have an in-depth knowledge of local building codes, which could save you time and money when it comes to future inspections. Local engineers and licensed professionals from a local company provide a level of local competency and legitimacy for your project. Local firms also have access to data that might be useful for the completion of your project.

You must also consider costs. Hiring a local firm generally costs less because they come with a wealth of experience and know-how related to your local area. They won’t have to travel or bring equipment from afar when they operate in your local area. It’s not a bad idea to plan ahead and include a local engineer in your engagement process early on.

We also want to take a moment to talk about the risks associated with not using an engineering consultant. Without a civil or structural engineer guiding your project, you’ll be flying blind. Build mistakes will cost you a lot more down the road than if they are addressed with a consultant before the build even begins. Nothing is guaranteed, of course, but hiring an engineering consultant mitigates a substantial amount of risk.

Finally, consider fee structures and rate breakdowns. From a job cost standpoint, a fixed fee is preferable to an hourly rate, but it all depends on the job. At McNeil Engineering, we provide consulting services to fit just about any civil or structural engineering job. We invite you to stop by and learn more about how our top-notch roofing, paving, civil, structural and BIM consultants can ensure your job completes on time, on budget and without a hitch.

The construction process from start to finish

Construction ProcessThe building construction process from start to finish involves a lot of effort and investment. Consider that Utah is growing at a huge rate. At 1.64%, Utah currently enjoys the 4th highest growth rate in the country. As such, there are a lot of people coming to Utah and a lot of buildings are being built. But what exactly does “buildings being built” mean? Obviously, putting up a structure requires a lot of time and hard work, but what kind of hard work? Also, consider that constructing residential and commercial structures are both entirely different things.

Careful planning must go into each aspect of building a structure. The planning has to start by asking: What is the structure’s purpose, utility and demand? Once those questions are answered, the construction process enters its first critical phase: the planning phase.

1. Planning

Planning might very well be one of the most important steps in building construction. The first step in construction planning involves acquiring a plot of land. Search for a location that is best suited for the building. Be careful selecting land which has all the desired facilities nearby but is riddled with land issues, whether it be zoning, soil or other problems you don’t want to suddenly have to deal with.

Consider a proper data collection regime as you plan your structure. Whether you do your own research online or hire someone, it is important that you have all the relevant information regarding the land you are about to purchase.

2. Get Technical Help

Hiring the right people to help you with construction is going to be an important part of the process. After selecting your land, you need to hire an architect to help with the building designs. Hiring an architect will also usually involve hiring an engineering firm to help you with the details. Whether it be structural engineering, civil engineering, land surveying or more, you need to hire true professionals like those here at McNeil Engineering.

It is usually after your work with the architect that you will hire a structural engineer. The structural engineer will handle the details from reinforcements to how deep your foundation will be to the size and type of gravel used, the width of your pillars and so on. Your structural engineer will play a critical role in ensuring your building doesn’t someday end up like this one.

3. Estimate and Budget

Consider the amount of material and money that goes into building a structure of any type. With the costs of materials going up by the day, how you budget and pay for your structure will be critically important. Many builders will work with a building estimator to figure out the material quantity required and where they can give or take on quality.

Once the building estimator has prepared an abstract sheet that shows the cost of construction, it will be time to line up the financial resources required for the project. If the financial resources aren’t there, the builder will need to seek pre-approval for loans in advance. The last thing you want is to find yourself in a cash crunch on your project.

4. Municipal, Licensing and Permitting Agreements

Obviously, you will need proper zoning permissions and permits to complete the job. Once the project is ready to be executed, then it will be time to get permission from any state or local authorities that govern the location of your land. Generally, these are the documents you will need as you take your construction application to the appropriate authorities:

  • Land Survey
  • Soil Test
  • Land Documents
  • Architecture
  • Structural Report
  • Architect Certificate

These may not be the only documents or permits you will be required to show once you are ready to execute construction. It might not be a bad idea to have a lawyer or accountant handy to double-check your due diligence.

5. Find Your Builder

Your fifth and final step before construction actually begins will be to approach your builder or contractor. Choose your builder carefully as your choice will be a major factor in securing building construction quality and quantity in a timely manner. In the contract document, all work-related details must be clearly stated.

Your contract document should cover the property layout as well as details regarding payment methods, timelines and final costs. Finally, the condition of the contract should be checked over by a licensed attorney to make sure a final deal can be signed.

Are you considering a commercial project but are not sure who to turn to? Here at McNeil Engineering, we are happy to point you in the right direction. We are experts at all things engineering, but we can also help put you in touch with the people you need to talk to in order to get your project off the ground. Ready to get started? Contact us today or send us an email at info@mcneileng.com. We’ll be waiting to help you get started!

Why the world needs (more) engineers

EngineersThere are several professions that parents very often encourage their children to consider. They’re either going to be a doctor, lawyer or engineer. There’s a very good reason why these professions are the cream of the crop when it comes to career choices. But these professions are about a lot more than making money or building an amazing career your peers will envy.

The World Needs Engineers

Engineering systems are, in many ways, the backbone of societies all over the world. Every single product or device you rely on is generally made using engineering systems. Whether it’s your home, office, or the road or highway you drive on as you commute to work, an engineer played a part in its construction and design. Not to be hyperbolic, but nearly everything you see and use in your everyday life was engineered at some level. Here at McNeil Engineering, we’re proud to have been a part of more than a few such buildings here in the Utah area.

Also consider that the world needs engineers not just for the big jobs, but for the small jobs, too. Engineering disciplines span orders of magnitude in scale and size. Engineers are not only working on some of the most massive, impressive, and aesthetically beautiful bridges and structures in the world, but they’re also working on amazing structures at the nanoscale. Engineering students at universities all over the world are working on real-time seismic testing of large-scale structures, composition and testing of nanoscale and quantum structures and exploring and exploiting their engineering know-how to create next-generation composites and alloys.

Universities are leading the way when it comes to advancing the cause of engineering and developing cutting-edge technologies. Just look at what’s happening at the University of Utah School of Mechanical Engineering. They’re working on everything from flying cars to virtual reality amusement parks. This is really cutting-edge stuff. The fact is engineers claim their primacy as problem solvers. While problem-solving is a critical engineering skill, there is more to the trade than simply solving problems.

How Engineering Has Evolved Over the Years

Engineering careers have undergone some major evolutions over the past 50 years. No longer is engineering simply about structures large and small. Engineers are now at the forefront of complex social issues. The work they do has a direct result on poverty, inequality, disaster recovery and climate change. From cities large and small to remote and rural communities across the country, engineers work on projects that directly impact both high- and low-income students and countries.

Still, the engineering field has a long way to go. For instance, there is a serious gender gap in the engineering field. Among the STEM engineering professions, the percentage of women in engineering is the lowest, at around 15%. The numbers are not much more encouraging in Canada, Australia and other countries around the world. Engineering still seems to be a male-dominated field. But why is that?

While there will always be genetic differences between men and women, a lot of what we believe and how we proceed through life is driven by social beliefs and norms. A study in France showed that even when girls are as good at boys in mathematics, they feel anxious whenever they are given a mathematical problem to solve. Conversely, boys are not judged make enough and feel anxiety when exposed to reading and writing problems, due to the idea that boys cannot express emotions.

Some say the solution is to separate boys and girls in school according to their studies. Their courses would then be in accordance with the social ideals of each gender. Although this may increase each cohort’s scores, the individual tastes of each would be discouraged. It’s important to write, act, and talk against stereotypes. Why can’t boys like pink and why shouldn’t girls be mechanical and chemical engineers?

We Need More Engineers Than Ever Before

Trust us when we say the world needs more engineers. Whether you are a mechanical, civil, chemical, or electrical engineer, all sub-disciplines are looking for competent people who can fill their need for qualified labor. And considering engineers are the sole reason for the growth of our entire civilization, it is not hyperbole to say we need to constantly replenish their ranks.

The world needs engineers because they are not just theoretical thinkers, but also practical achievers. Not only do engineers come up with mind-blowing ideas, but they put their ideas into action by creating prototypes and testing their concepts. They help creatives come up with easy and practical applications for their creative designs.

Here at McNeil Engineering, we’re proud to employ some of the best engineers on this side of the Mississippi. It’s why we’ve been called up for jobs all over the country and leave a trail of satisfied clients in our wake. Contact us today at 888-303-7700 to learn more about how we can engineer your dream into reality.

A primer on the evolution of 3D laser scanning

3D Laser ScanningWhen you evaluate 3D laser scanning from a historical perspective, it very much is a study of tech development in fast-forward. A lot of the development underpinning laser scanning seemed like magic; outrageous ideas and the ingenuity to make those ideas a reality. It’s also about the race between imagination and technology, each constantly leap-frogging the other. It’s the story of a powerful set of hardware and software tools that have finally reached that optimal balance between potential and practicality. This is where we are today in the world of 3D laser scanning. And it’s about a lot more than just construction, civil engineering, or structural engineering in Utah and beyond.

But, before we talk about how 3D laser scanning in modern applications is changing the construction sector, let’s go back in time to see how we got where we are and what we can learn about where we’re going.

Nascent Technologies That Would Lead to 3D Laser Scanning

It should be no surprise to anyone that the history of 3D laser scanning starts with the United States military. Most advanced technologies used in consumer or commercial applications began in a military lab (see: The Internet). In 1953, the United States military began experimenting with an optical measuring device using light and high-speed shutters. They assigned the project (and the device) the name LIDAR before lasers were even invented.

Yet, they were not the only ones hard at work on this novel new technology. While they worked on the early version of laser technology, across the pond the Ferranti Company of Scotland released an electronic probing machine for a precise measurement called a Coordinate Measuring Machine (CMM). The first to be released was a 2-axis version.

Together, these two projects would form the foundation for what we today call 3D laser scanning. Yet, the innovation did not stop there. The 1960s would see even more laser technological innovation. Building off the invention of the laser, the U.S. military upgraded the LIDAR system to integrate lasers for precise distance measurement in topographical and investigative scenarios, including portable and airborne devices. In 1963, they would develop the XM-23, which was a portable laser-measuring device that would wind up declassified and become popular in civilian and commercial production and manufacturing applications.

Interesting how at the same time we once again go across the pond, but this time to Italy, where a new 3-axis CMM had been designed. The 3-axis model offered a far more robust and reliable measuring system for physical objects.

3D Laser Scanning in the Modern Era

By the 1970s, the Italian 3-axis CMM had a remote computer control integrated into its functionality. And while the system was still too slow for highly detailed applications, the breakthrough had occurred and now others would run with it.

Time to fly back across the pond again to the University of Utah’s Computer Science Department, where they would spend a massive amount of time and effort developing computer algorithms that allowed computers to directly translate 3D models based on real-world information. In 1972, they would map the points and lines across the surface of a 1968 Volkswagen Beetle. This innovation would end up being the first digitized 3D model of a real-world object. Interestingly enough, and also in 1972, the people who would go on to found Pixar Animation Studios (Coincidence? We think not.) would use 3D computer animation to create a short film called “The Human Hand.”

The next big leap in 3D laser scanning came in the 1980s. It was called the “stripe” method. This method was far more efficient than using the “point” or “area” methods of laser scanning. It was in 1984 that Cyberware Laboratories of Los Angeles, California, released their “Head Scanner,” a stripe-based laser scanner designed to create a 3D computer image of the human head to be used for animation purposes in the entertainment industry. This same technology eventually evolved into a full-body scanner design, which is still in use today. It seems fitting that much of the world’s laser scanning technology innovation has come out of Hollywood.

The 21st-Century 3D Laser Scanning Environment

Today, the construction industry uses 3D laser scanning technologies to such a degree that they are almost taken advantage of. It’s like a carpenter with a hammer. These are things we have just become accustomed to in our industry. From BIM-related modeling and design to laser scanning software aids, 3D laser scanning technology has come a long way.

Here at McNeil Engineering, we are proud to offer 3D laser scanning and BIM modeling technologies as part of the suite of tools we use to complete some truly incredible work. Whether you have a project in Utah or beyond, let us utilize the tools of the past and the future to engineer the works of the future!

What are the most common commercial roofing materials?

Roofing MaterialsSince the dawn of humanity, people have required something to cover their heads and protect them from inclement weather, falling rocks, branches and so on. In fact, finding or building a shelter was one of the first skills gained by the first humans, and the most important component of any shelter is the roof, the part that protects the inhabitants from the elements. As humans advanced and their shelters became as much an art form as a necessity, both houses and their roofs began to change as well.

The evolution of roofing construction and design can be traced as far back as 3000 B.C. when the Chinese employed the use of clay roof tiles. On the other side of the world, the Egyptians were also utilizing similar materials in their roofing and design. The Greeks and Romans would go on to use slate and tile roofing in their construction methods. Over time, practical and aesthetic needs would shape how roofs were designed and built. Let’s look at the most common commercial roofing types in use today.

What to Look for in Commercial Roofing

Ask any roofer, engineering firm or construction company what the most important factors are in a commercial roof, and they will tell you durability, energy efficiency and cost. If properly installed and maintained, a quality commercial roof should provide 10 years of life at the very minimum and up to 50 at the maximum. The reason why there is such a big disparity is because climate and sub-roof conditions will impact durability. The typical climate in Utah, for instance, will vary greatly from the climate in the upper Midwest. Location will certainly play a part in the aesthetic appeal and staying power in a commercial rooftop.

In the 21st-century, the big buzzword in rooftop design and installation has been “efficiency.” In fact, many cities and municipalities, including those here in Utah, have added energy efficiency parameters to their permitting process. Obviously, efficiency should be a factor for business owners as well since a more energy-efficient roof will result in a lower utility bill in the long run.

And then your final consideration will likely be cost. This is a factor that will largely depend on the type of roof you want. While some systems cost less to install, you may wind up sacrificing durability or efficiency for the sake of saving a few dollars. Just make sure your application is appropriate for the type of roof you choose.

There are quite a few different roofing types. We will list them all here and then spend a bit going into greater detail on each variety:

  • Metal roofing
  • BUR membrane
  • EPDM membrane
  • Thermoplastic PVC and TPO membrane
  • Silicon (spray-on)

Let’s dive into each type and have a look at the pros and cons of each kind.

1. Metal Roofing

This is probably the most common type of commercial roofing because it is highly durable and relatively inexpensive. Metal roofs are generally composed of galvanized steel, aluminum, tile sheets, copper or stainless steel (coated). Not only are metal roofs highly durable but they look good and have great fire ratings. They are more susceptible to corrosion, however.

2. BUR Membrane

Built-up roofing (BUR) membranes have a lifespan of around 20 years and are composed of alternating layers of tar and gravel. They are inexpensive and relatively easy to repair. As BUR rooftops age, however, they can be susceptible to leakage and breakdown.

3. EDPM Membrane

Ethylene Propylene Diene Terpolymer (EPDM) is a roll-based synthetic rubber. This type of roofing offers great weather resistance, is long-lasting, versatile and easy to install. On the downside, it is not the most aesthetically pleasing rooftop option and can easily be punctured.

4. Thermoplastic PVC and TPO Roof Membranes

TPO and PVC rooftops are very resistant to weather, UV rays and other adverse conditions. They are also lightweight, heat resistant and reflective. On the flip side, because of all these desirable properties, they can be more expensive. If you find options that seem too cheap to be true, they probably are.

5. Silicon (Spray-On)

Spray Polyurethane Foam (SPF) is a material that begins as a liquid spray that instantly expands into a foam, which hardens into a solid layer. This type of roofing is generally applied as a second layer and is more eco-friendly than other varieties. It is also long-lasting but has a limited installation window and must be regularly inspected.

There are also a couple of other varieties, such as shingles and green roofing. Shingles are most used on residential buildings because they don’t have a long lifespan. Green roof systems consist of a waterproof membrane covered by plants. Green roofs are definitely “on trend” right now, as they look good, can be installed with local incentives and give your business sustainability cred. They do require quite a bit of maintenance and upkeep, however.

Are you getting ready for new construction and evaluating your roofing options? Or perhaps you are an existing business ready to upgrade? You know where to go. The roofing experts here at McNeil Engineering have got you – pun intended – covered.

What has McNeil Engineering been up to so far this year? Part II

Project HighlightsWelcome back to Part II in our blog series looking at what we’ve been up to this year. We recently came out with our spring 2022 newsletter and we wanted to highlight some of our proudest projects to illustrate the scope and scale of our work.

1. North Union Landscape Architecture

Our overall objective for the North Union apartments was to create a unique, urban environment for residents and the public that plays off the design of the building but also fits the area. The intersection of 900 East and 7220 South is very heavily trafficked and loud. However, it’s also a major crossing point for students from the nearby high school.

After visiting the site and analyzing the area, we wanted to create a design that allows us to buffer the plaza area and creates small, more intimate gathering spaces and seating areas to be enjoyed by residents and the public. With this in mind, we designed custom black powder-coated steel planters in distinctive shapes that will be planted with our water-wise plant palette.

We designed the complex’s roof deck to be functional for a variety of uses. Black steel planters and cast-in-place concert planters and seat walls, create private seating areas and social gathering spaces with BBQs and inviting spaces to hang out. Native plant material was used for low water usage and for a natural vibe that will be able to sustainable during the heat of summer.

Our design team worked with the developer and architect to include many amenities as possible in the project such as walking paths, interesting seating areas, a zen rooftop pool, and a dog park. Huge shoutout to Scott Schoonover, landscape architect manager on this project.

2. Post Malone Home

As more information is publicly released, we’re happy to share that we had the opportunity to work in-depth on Post Malone’s new home. It was an incredible project, read more below!

The original home was constructed in 1986. The existing construction was primarily of timber framing on a concrete foundation. The new owner wanted to convert the existing living space into a sound studio. The first task was to take out one elevation of the original seismic resisting exterior walls and extend the rear of the home by approximately 30 feet. The new exterior consisted of all glass with no walls so special seismic-resistant moment frames were used to resist the seismic forces. The original design of the structure’s interior had gravity resisting bearing walls. These walls were taken out and replaced with steel beams and steel posts.

The house was constructed on a hillside lot. On the uphill side of the lot, a new cast-in-place underground concrete basement area was designed with a concrete tunnel connecting the main existing house with the new basement. Several tall cantilever concrete walls were constructed on the site to extend the flat areas of the lot for the new construction of a pool house with a new pool. Also on the site is a two-story partially buried 12-car garage with a recreational deck as a roof. Being partially buried, the garage walls were as much as 2’-6” at the base.

McNeil Engineering performed the structural design for the approximately 3000 sq. ft pool house. Constructed of timber framing members and concrete walls, the structure was built on a mat slab foundation to help minimize differential settlement. The pool house has rooms for sleeping and entertaining, including a “man-cave,” which also stores the pool equipment. Some of the most interesting features of this structure are walls that rotate upward so as to give full, open-end access to the pool deck.

McNeil Engineering also performed the structural design for a two-story concrete garage. The rear wall of the garage retains the uphill soil and boulders to carve out a portion of the mountainside for storage and display of the client’s vehicles. A steel-framed second-story open rail mezzanine allows full views of the cars below (or at eye level) thanks to a multi-car lift in the garage. We have to give a shout-out to Matt Roblez, our structural engineer on the project!

We hope you have enjoyed this look back at some of our important and notable projects this year. We would like to end this series of blog posts with a note from our president:

As we approach the 40-year mark of being in business in Utah and the Intermountain Region, I know I speak for our entire team at McNeil Engineering when I say thank you! Reflecting on experiences over my 27 years at McNeil Engineering, it has been truly enriching. From a small team of engineers and a survey crew to the full-service firm that we have become today. We do not take that growth for granted and it wouldn’t be possible without our friends and colleagues. Please enjoy this Spring issue of our quarterly newsletter and know that we appreciate your business and your friendship. Here’s to many more years of working together to help make Utah great!

Mike Hoffman

What has McNeil Engineering been up to so far this year? Part I

McNeil Recent WorkWelcome to a look at some of our big jobs from the former part of 2022. We wanted to take a moment to highlight our recent work so you can get a better idea of our capabilities.

1. Larkin Cemetery

For more than 20 years our team has had a great relationship with the Larkin family and their incredible team at Larkin Mortuary. The scope of our work includes civil engineering projects, helping lay the foundation for their current headquarters as well as surveying their properties to prepare for future growth.

Led by Surveying Department Manager Mike Hoffman, our team has been involved in surveying and mapping both Larkin Cemetery locations using state-of-the-art technology to help them transition to a new cemetery management software system.

Through the use of drones and ultra-high-resolution cameras, our team was able to provide them with sophisticated imagery including a complete point cloud image of both locations. We sent both to Dan Cable and the team at EDA Land Planning, a firm acting as their go-to landscape architect overseeing our cemetery development.

This information allows their team to ensure accuracy and precision when taking inventory of their current land assets. Plus, it helps them plan for the future with confidence. We look forward to continuing to work with the team at Larkin Mortuary, it’s always a pleasure. Big thanks to Michael D. Hoffman for acting as survey manager on this important project!

2. Draper Innovation

No matter how many roofing or paving projects we manage, it’s never lost on our team how different each project is, and how important it is to keep a keen eye for small details to ensure that each project is successful and that their roofs and parking lots are built to last!

The Draper Innovation Center is no exception to that rule. Across a large lot, this multi-structure complex is an exciting new addition to the area that is nearing completion with one building finished and the other expected to be complete this summer.

As part of our responsibilities as the consultant and project manager our team reviewed plans and specifications for the owner and commented on what details needed to be revised and issues that could be avoided before construction started. We also reviewed material submittals and shop drawings to make sure they lined up with the plans and specifications and took our findings to preconstruction meetings for both buildings to review with the contractor while verifying his material submittals, shop drawings, and construction schedule. Throughout this process, our team worked closely with the general contractor to ensure that there were no conflicts with other trades.

For the duration of the project, our team observes the roofing production twice a week to make sure that the roof is being installed as per the plans and specifications and sends a report with photos to the owner. We also work with the roofing contractor on any field changes that need to be made. Once the project is finished our team will perform the final inspection with the manufacturer and send out a punch list to the roofing contractor with any final adjustments. As part of this process, we verify that owner receives the final warranty documentation. Big thanks to Carl Greene, consulting manager on the project.

3. North Union

In coordination with our very own Structural Engineering, Landscape Architecture, and Surveying departments, our Civil Engineering team had the pleasure of working on the exciting new North Union Apartments project! It really was a blast working in-house across so many departments and disciplines to bring this awesome complex to life which is now entering the final stages of construction.

The key responsibilities of our Civil Engineering team were fairly standard for this type of project as we coordinated with the architects to locate the building on-site and designed all new utility services.

The project was designed to meet city ordinances which are always changing, as well as the new state stormwater codes to recharge our aquifers during an increasingly difficult period of drought for our state! As part of the parking structure, surface improvements were designed to access two separate levels of parking to alleviate congestion at the parking garage entries which is an awesome and welcome change for future residents and helps avoid the traditional hang-up of trying to find somewhere to park at your apartment!

As we see the Draper area and really the entire Salt Lake Valley continues to grow, we’re excited to have a part in preparing the structures and laying the groundwork for future communities! Thank you to Robert Poirier, civil engineering manager on this project!

We hope you have enjoyed this look back at some of our big projects of the year (so far). Join us in our next blog post as we finish out our look at a couple more projects and feature an employee spotlight!

From then to now: A brief history of civil engineering

Engineering HistoryTo be honest, it’s difficult to exactly pinpoint in history when civil engineering became an acknowledged discipline. However, even when there was no name put to it, civil engineering was most certainly used to construct primitive structures. Early humans built basic structures and canoes to cross rivers, which was certainly done using early civil engineering methods. Once humans abandoned a nomadic existence and began to build, civil engineering was right there providing them with the skills and tools to do it. They just did not know at the time that thousands of years later, these very skills would one day be called “civil engineering.”

Civil engineering has been a fact of life since the dawn of the human era. You can go back over 4,000 years to see clear examples of civil engineering at work. Just look at what the ancient Egyptians were able to accomplish long before there were cranes and drones. In fact, one of the first documented engineers of the ancient era was Imhotep, who built the famous stepped pyramid for King Djoser. To this day, the stepped pyramid still stands.

Yet, the line was a bit blurred between architecture and civil engineering. It could be said that Imhotep was both architect and engineer. It was not until modern times that a clear distinction was made between architects and civil engineers. Throughout ancient history, most structural design and engineering were done by stonemasons and carpenters. The knowledge underpinning their methods was passed down through the generations and retained in guilds. Still, these early methods were not without problems. Ancient infrastructure was often quite repetitive and did not innovate quickly.

Civil Engineering During the 18th and 19th Centuries

It was not until the 18th century that the term “civil engineering” was coined. The first civil engineering school was opened in 1747 in France. It was called The National School of Bridges and Highways. The first self-proclaimed civil engineer was a man named John Smeaton. Smeaton would eventually form the Smeatonian Society of Civil Engineers, who acted as leaders in the profession. And although this was more a social society than a technical group, the networking, and conversation that took place there influenced the design and construction of more than a few buildings of the 18th century.

It was not until 1818 in London that the world’s first engineering society was set up as the Institution of Civil Engineers. It was in 1828 that the Institution of Civil Engineers received a Royal Charter and formally recognized civil engineering as a profession. Here is what the charter said:

Civil engineering is the application of physical and scientific principles, and its history is intricately linked to advances in understanding of physics and mathematics throughout history. Because civil engineering is a wide ranging profession, including several separate specialized sub-disciplines, its history is linked to knowledge of structures, material science, geography, geology, soil, hydrology, environment, mechanics and other fields.

Civil Engineering in the Modern Era

Civil engineering involves the design, construction, and maintenance of roads, bridges and structures. The science of civil engineering includes everything from soil science to geology and other applied fields. As such, the history of civil engineering is closely intertwined with the advancement in associated sciences and disciplines.

In the United States, it wasn’t until 1819 that civil engineering was first taught as a discipline. It was at Norwich University that students could enroll in courses on applied civil engineering techniques, methodologies and designs.

The American Society of Civil Engineers was the first national engineering society in the United States. It was founded in 1852 with members related to the civil engineering profession located all over the world. Anyone could join and exists to this day as a great resource for civil engineers and associated workers.

Now, in the modern era, the number of universities in the world that include civil engineering as a discipline has increased tremendously during the 19th and the 20th centuries, indicating the importance of this discipline.

New Technologies in Civil Engineering

A number of new technologies have again transformed civil engineering in the modern era. From high-tech machinery and novel new materials to testing equipment, drones, and other sciences, the civil engineering of today looks quite different than it did even 50 years ago.

Yet, some technologies have had outsized impacts. Take computer-aided design as one example (CAD). CAD technologies allowed engineers to use technology to design better buildings, streamline processes and save time and money. From manufacturing to fabrication and erection, CAD and even CAM (computer-aided manufacturing) have transformed the way projects are designed and completed. Three-dimensional software, BIM technologies, and laser-scanning tools have also provided new ways for civil engineers to do their jobs. From efficient building designs to bridges and other huge, complex structures, modern technology allows construction to be done faster and with fewer errors.

And here at McNeil Engineering, we take pride in looking to these ancient designs for inspiration. While we rely on modern methods, we pay our respects to those who came before us! Thanks for joining us on this historical look back!

Top innovations in structural engineering

Structural EngineeringStructural engineers working today have access to some pretty incredible tools. Innovation in structural engineering is changing the way the practice gets done. From computer science to robotics and smart materials, structural engineering is changing. Recent innovations in the field are solving some big challenges facing the discipline. Some of these innovations are in the fields of safety, sustainability, and intricate structural design techniques. Let’s take a look at some of the top advances in structural engineering.

1. Modular Engineering

We are moving away from the days when building a home or commercial building required lots of manpower and traditional methodologies. Why? Because prefabricated building materials provide a number of advantages over traditional structures. Not only do prefab structures create less waste, but they also go up quicker and require far less manpower and complexity.

Generally, prefab modules are constructed off-site and then transported to the job site. Once there, they are unloaded and then assembled into a finished structure. This happens in a fraction of the amount of time it would take to assemble a structure the traditional way.

Modular engineering can also allow for better build quality. This may seem counterintuitive, but prefab OEMs are building each piece in a controlled environment with advanced tools and technologies. This allows them to harness the power of advanced materials and technologies to build better buildings.

2. Advanced Safety Technologies

The construction sector remains one of the most dangerous employment sectors in the United States. Whether it be due to heights, high-voltage cable, heavy machinery, or otherwise – these all represent safety risks for engineers and construction workers. Fortunately, new safety technologies are changing this paradigm.

One example is in the area of wearable devices, which can track workers and deliver real-time health and safety information. Smart backup systems and RFID tags can be used to detect workers who may be in the path of construction machinery. And virtual and augmented reality training programs provide new ways for engineers and construction workers to do their jobs.

Advanced safety technologies are also interoperable with more traditional safety systems and designs. From fences to body harnesses, helmets, gloves, and more – new safety technologies are designed to work seamlessly with legacy systems and materials.

3. Drone Technologies

It’s no secret that drones are being used to change the way a lot of industries work. And the construction sector is no exception. A growing number of construction and engineering firms now use drones to survey construction sites. But they use them for more than just surveying before, during, and after the building process.

Drone mapping services allow a highly detailed and accurate view of a job site. Drones can gather all types of information, from elevation levels to earthworks and building foundations. Drones can also be used to conduct structural inspections during and after the construction process is completed. Structural engineers can use drones for tasks that might be difficult for a human crew to perform.

Drones also free up workers for other tasks. Inspectors can use them to spot dangerous aspects of the job site, from the risk of exposure to toxic elements or instability in structures. Drones are no longer a surprise to construction professionals and engineers.

4. Digital Simulation Technologies

Digital engineering provides engineers with new ways to simulate job sites and structural designs. Digital engineering technology is more effective and allows for advanced prototyping of structures. Digital simulation tools allow structural engineers to simulate the structural integrity of a building before the first shovel hits the dirt.

Digital simulation tools of this type also allow engineers to keep aesthetics in mind even as they pay close attention to the structure’s potential structural integrity. The use of design software helps engineers identify the main structural members. In turn, they can use more detailed digital processing to assess the building’s final look and structural performance.

Simulation tools like these are becoming ever more important as buildings become more complex. Intricate structures built with novel new materials can be planned out digitally and evaluated with advanced simulation methods.

5. 3D Printing

If there is one technology that has upended the way many different industries build products and structures, it is 3D printing. Additive manufacturing, as it is called, can be used to build entire structures. Using 3D printing significantly reduces the amount of labor required on a project.

Additive manufacturing is also great for creating components that otherwise would be difficult to manufacture with traditional methods. Advanced 3D printing machines can build structures using all sorts of materials, from steel to composite materials. This kind of flexibility gives designers and engineers more flexibility in their designs.

Here at McNeil Engineering, we stand at the forefront of engineering technology and design. For more information on how we can help you with your next big project, get in touch with us today!

A comprehensive look at what we do at McNeil Engineering

McNeil Engineering BusinessHere at McNeil Engineering, we’re proud to have more than 30 years of experience doing what we do. But what exactly is it that we do? Sure, we are engineers, but we also offer a wide array of services to clients of many different types and sizes. From large companies to municipalities, we’re a trusted partner in Utah and beyond.

In short, we provide comprehensive design services including civil engineering, structural engineering, land surveying, high-definition scanning (HDS), landscape architecture and consulting services to the private and public sectors. Today, we’re going to dig deeper into each of those services to properly explain exactly what it is we do and how we do it. Let’s start with our bread and butter: civil engineering.

1. Civil Engineering

Civil engineering represents the design and construction of public works projects. These could include dams, bridges, roadways, tunnels, and other large infrastructure projects. Civil engineering is one of the oldest branches of engineering. Civil engineers were there back when the Roman Coliseum was created, even if they weren’t called that at the time.

Civil engineers are involved in every process of making permanent settlements livable. Whether it be for waste disposal, irrigation ditches, clean water, or otherwise — civil engineers have a hand in all of it. Civil engineers have been involved in some of the greatest projects of the modern era, from the Panama Canal to Hoover Dam.

2. Structural Engineering

Structural engineering is related to civil engineering in that it is a specialty that deals in various aspects of structure building and demolition. Structural engineers focus on:

  • Research
  • Planning
  • Analysis
  • Design
  • Construction
  • Inspection
  • Evaluation
  • Monitoring
  • Maintenance

Structural engineers also evaluate the various technical, environmental, and aesthetic aspects of the projects they work on. Structural engineers are responsible for ensuring whatever is being constructed doesn’t collapse or sustain damage in the event of a natural disaster. They specialize in evaluating structural loads, materials, components, and connections involved in a structure. In the end, it’s their job to properly plan the construction sequence the rest of the team carries out. They also prepare plans and drawings to ensure specifications are up to code.

3. Land Surveying

Do you ever notice people on the road looking through those strange tripod-type devices. We’ll give you a hint— those aren’t telescopes. These individuals are land surveyors. A land surveyor’s job is to determine the terrestrial and three-dimensional positions of points and distances and the angles between them. This process is mainly used to establish maps and boundaries for a construction project.

Land surveyors use physics, mathematics, engineering, and local laws to establish boundaries on a construction project. They also use various types of equipment to do their job, much like the aforementioned tripod-like device. These types of equipment include robotic total stations, prisms, GPS receivers, radios, 3D scanners, and other types of surveying software used on handheld tablets and computers. Land surveying is a critical aspect of any development process as a construction project is being planned.

5. High-Definition Scanning

High-definition surveying or HDS laser scanning is a method of mapping positional data on a job site. Laser scanning represents one of the most efficient and accurate ways to survey a project. Not only does it provide a lot more data than older survey methods, but it requires a lot less manpower to complete.

The HDS laser scanning process uses a rotating laser to measure millions of points around a job site. Advanced software and — in some cases — machine learning, is used to produce a highly accurate 3D representation of the conditions and measurements of a project site. The HDS operator will place the laser at a series of locations around the site and then let the device do its job. Laser scanning also provides accurate positional data regarding existing topography and structures.

6. Landscape Architecture

As we have discussed before, landscaping and landscape architecture are two totally different things. Landscape architecture is essentially the science and art of design, planning, management and stewardship of land or a particular project. Successful landscape architecture utilizes scientific knowledge, environmental know-how, and a concern for resource conservation.

Landscape architecture covers projects both large and small. But it’s also used in the design and management of public spaces. Landscape architects play a specific role in designing the landscape around a particular project. They play a complementary role to the landscape contractor and others involved in project installation.

7. Consulting Services

Are you a large company, contractor, or construction firm planning a big project? We have been proudly serving the Salt Lake City area and beyond for many decades. We are available to consult on your construction project and provide comprehensive advice and planning in all the services listed above. Learn more about the projects we have completed in the past and then give us a call. Let’s work together!