ARTICLES: Choosing a Civil Engineer

A civil engineer is an integral part of a professional team composed of surveyors, attorneys, architects, planners and landscape architects. Choose an engineer in whose skill and judgment you can place your trust. Ask for references and opinions from other clients prior to hiring the engineer. Competency is important. Your selection of an engineer should be made when you are sure that the professional you have chosen has all the facts, and is aware of your requirements and the requirements of the governmental agency under which your property has jurisdiction.

Engineers vary in knowledge and ability. The experiences expressed by clients have shown the majority of engineers provide competent work for a reasonable fee.

Typical Civil Engineering Tasks

Typical civil engineering tasks related to the development of a parcel include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Boundary and topography: The boundaries of your parcel(s) are set up by your chosen surveyor. From the information provided by the surveyor, the civil engineer can compile a topographic map detailing the layout of the land.
  • Subdivision Design: Subdivision design, whether by dividing one parcel of land into two or dividing acres into a new community, is a large portion of many civil engineering practices. The civil engineer will suggest a potential layout for the subdivision and proceed from there to produce drawings that ultimately define the layout of roads and utilities, and how they will be constructed. The engineer can also assist with governmental meetings, review and final approval.
  • Boundary lot line adjustments: At times, property owners wish to readjust the boundaries of existing parcels. There can be a variety of reasons for such adjustments, including an argument between contiguous parcel owners, or to achieve a better layout for a proposed development. Your civil engineer, along with the assistance of your surveyor, can propose the boundary lot line adjustment to the regulating agency for approval.
  • Design of access roads into the property
  • Design of water and sewer facilities, whether to connect to public supplies or provide engineering for individual wells and/or septic tanks
  • Design of storm facilities for proper drainage: This is typically the most difficult portion of engineering design, especially as it relates to sensitive areas and endangered species.

How much will a Civil Engineer cost?

The cost of most civil engineering work is determined upon the following variables:

  • Type of engineering: You may only need civil engineering for access into the property. Other engineering services include design of water and sewer connections to public supplies, well or septic tank design, and storm water conveyance and retention/detention. Costs may increase as the required precision and scope of the engineering increases.
  • Size and scope of property: The design of your access road(s) and utilities are usually directly related to the size of your property and the number of parcels involved. An irregularly shaped parcel may require additional utility infrastructure than a square parcel.
  • Terrain: It is easier to design access roads and utilities for a level parcel of land than it is for a parcel with major slopes.
  • Phases of design and construction: Costs will vary depending upon how large the development is, and whether or not phasing is implemented.
  • Jurisdictional Requirements: Federal, state and local governmental requirements are constantly changing, as well as becoming more difficult to meet by a developer's perspective. Depending upon the location of your property, design of storm infrastructure can entail both water quality and storm retention/detention facilities. In specifically sensitive areas, i.e. near lakes and salmon bearing streams, the agency reviewing the proposal can require property owners to provide additional studies on, for instance, wildlife habitat, biological, storm and water levels. Additional water quality infrastructure may also be required as a condition of approval for a development.
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