I like to think of grading plans as part engineering, part work of art. Not only do Civil Engineers design a grading plan based on local municipal codes, but Civil Engineers also design works of art.
The first part is getting the survey and the Architect’s siteplan. The architect has already had a good idea of how to design the property based on the survey’s shot elevations and contours of the site. This is an approximation of what is to come. Making a site work to what can be built in real life is important for very obvious reasons. I learned early on that there is an important to being able to see in three dimensions while looking at a plan in 2D. Why is this important? Because the site is designed from a plan view while adhering to the real life topography in 3D. Other aspects of Civil Engineering incorporate a more fundamental to designing to what is given and that’s it. Such as a retaining wall. We are given the specs to use by the soils report, and then calculate the wall to work in those parameters based on the soils report and a grading plan. There isn’t much more to this besides the options of different styles of retaining walls to try to reduce building costs. But if an architect says lets go design this building, the structural plans are going to in one way or another make that building work. That is the goal of the engineer, to solve a problem and create a solution. But sometimes there always isn’t a solution whether the problem is based on cost or other practicalities.
So this brings me to grading. I am a huge car guy. I can look at a car all day long, the curves, the stance, the engine. A car is part artwork and part engineering. What does that mean? A car’s basic idea is to get from point A to point B. So the engineers come up with something to make that car do that simple task. But no one wants to buy an ugly looking object to get from different points. In comes the art. The artists style that object to make something beautiful to drive around. Next in would come some engineering to make sure the task can be accomplished under this more beautiful object. Does this sound like I am about to do a proof? Yes. This all equals, that the car will sell when the car can be sold both as being great to look at while functioning for the intended purpose. So how does this relate to grading?
A grading plan needs to function. The function of directing water off of the site is the main idea. As well as the grading plan is intended to sculpt the land to make the property get that water off the site while allowing some type of structure to sit on that site. Whether the site is a parking lot, house, chain store, or dirt lot. Why art involved in this problem that needs a solution? Because no one wants to look at something ugly while they are parked, living, or shopping on that site.
So where does that leave me this week? I have been working a lot on a grading plan that I am trying to make as elegant as possible. The site is large and sits in the City of Los Angeles. A single family residence will be getting a huge renovation and additions. Now why is this difficult? The back lot has a large slope. The front of the lot sits under the street. On this particular project we must incorporate designs including hillside grading along with a pump for the entire project. Not only that but the Architect envisions trying to use as much of the lot as possible to create different areas. A nice new driveway that has two entrances compared to the original single entrance. A backyard instead of just a pool and a lot of trees and landscaping will be fully utilized with a new pool/spa and more lawn area for entertainment. Not to mention another problem. A wall that was built on their property that is failing by the neighbor.
An elegantly designed grading plan will incorporate as much of the Architect’s intentions as well as making sure the grading can be built. The grading will also be able to get that water off the site with in a few different scenarios in case one off the drain systems clog. The grading will also make sure that when someone is running around the pool that there are enough drains to make sure that no one slips and falls because water is pooling up everywhere. The elegance off this design is that the pipe system will also be as minimum as possible along with the grading of the hillside to have the least amount of changes to the existing hillside as possible. All this while maintaining as much of the existing backyard and earth. And of course to make sure that all of this coincides with the spirit of the Architect’s ideas.
The example above shows a new retaining wall proposed to hold up the existing failing retaining wall. The slope below the proposed retaining wall will be gentle to lead to the proposed lawn and pool areas. The scope of the project is complicated in making sure we tie everything together. This plan is as elegant as I have ever designed. Here at B+W Engineering we take pride in our work. Not only will you get as close as possible to what you are wanting, but the project will be buildable in real life. Every single project that comes out of our office is something that we are proud of whether we are the Civil Engineers or the home owners..