Why public works engineering is so important in everyday life

June 1st, 2011

We work hard to improve how people live. Our engineering services are very important in a community like Washington or even an entire state like Virginia. The higher the concentration of residents in an area, the more important good and solid engineering becomes. It is a challenge to meet residents’ needs while working within the constraints of resource allocation and local infrastructure.

What we do

Our public works engineering services deal with the structure and infrastructure within communities that serve and are used by the general public. Mostly these are large scale projects that affect the day to day lives of many people.

We may well work on roadways, railways, sewage systems, dams, power plants, airports, water treatment systems, canals, tunnels, harbor areas, and ports – all key facilities to make modern societies work efficiently and effectively.

How we do it

Well, how do you get these projects done and what do you do as engineers?

You might design sanitation systems that keep a city clean and functioning. We design systems that collect and dispose of waste properly, and that promotes the health and wellbeing of the community.

You might design a water resource system. People need clean and sufficient water. You may direct a close source of water to a community or you may build a complete a new dam and an entire system of moving water from that dammed area.

Project management is important. For the project to proceed well, a public works engineer may oversee the entire project to make sure that everyone assigned is working together, staying on target, and working to meet the final goals of the project.

Highway design is an important part of public works engineering. Transportation systems must work and work well to move people to and from their work and everyplace they have to go. Highway and roadways systems connect people.

The process of permitting and zoning can be time consuming and demanding for public works projects. This is something that public works engineering must consider.

It often all begins with a good survey. You have to know boundaries, heights, grades, etc. – all to plan and execute large projects.

The Engineering Groupe is dedicated to helping citizens through excellent public works engineering.

A look at modern highway engineering technology

May 25th, 2011

Most people look at highway construction or maintenance as an inconvenience that simply delays how long it takes them to get from one place to another.  But have you ever stopped to think about the technology that goes into designing and creating a roadway?

Just like with computers and IPhones, advances have been made in road and engineering equipment over the past few decades. These advances often bring costs down and have had a tremendous impact on highway engineering.

Significant improvements in time tested processes

For example, paving machines spend a lot less time paving the same amount of roadway because laser technology has helped improve the process of road paving by providing more accurate measuring and guidance. Road surveyors can now use a laser beam to plot a perfectly straight line, which enhances the ability to set grade, height and depth of a planned route.

Step 1 – Laser measurements

Lasers also help machine operators guide their equipment, following a beam for accurate course settings. In fact, automatic laser measuring is now used in a variety of construction equipment and thus highway engineering.

Step 2 – Portal asphalt plants

You can find another example in compact asphalt batch plants, which can now be dismantled and moved along with the construction of a roadway. In the past, asphalt literally had to be trucked into sites one dump truck load at a time.

With these small, movable asphalt plants, a silo holds gravel which is added to a mixer oven with molten tar when the load is needed for the highway. The load is sufficiently heated, mixed, and dumped into a waiting truck. Savings are considerable, requiring fewer trucks and drivers for a job and lower materials costs.

Step 3 – Transportation

The transport truck then delivers the asphalt load to a large, paving machine. The asphalt paver replaces the old, hand delivered way of asphalt paving, which was one shovel full at a time. And now, the entire process is automated.

Step 4 – Paving

The paving machine does everything. It distributes, shapes, forms, and evenly compresses the product as it moves down its required path. Today, modern versions of these large paving machines are self-propelled, operated by a driver who sits in an air conditioned cab. In the past, these machines were towed by a large truck, capable of moving these heavy machines that are made of high grade steel.

Step 5 – Compacting

After the fresh load is laid down, it requires even more compacting. This is accomplished with a different number and sizes of compacting machines. These machines range from small units that work on driveways or drainage gates to very large machines for wide open roadways.

Highway construction and engineering technology will continue to improve as the country’s highway infrastructure is replaced.  And with all the recent improvements in the last few decades, just think what future highway construction projects will look like!

A look at the process of creating retail space

May 19th, 2011

Whether you are an avid shopper or just traveling around town, examples of retail engineering projects are everywhere you look!  Retail engineers help construct retail outlets, shopping centers, and other commercial space dedicated to the retail customer.

Retail engineering projects can range from a single, standalone store to an entire shopping center or even mixed developments that include both housing and retail.

How retail space is created

Retail engineering relies on a unique combination of engineering skills and competencies to successfully put a project together. Those include all of those used in a commercial project but more tightly focused on the retail environment.

Most projects begin with a detailed planning review which takes all of the clients’ considerations into account. Planning addresses the client’s goals, objectives and restrictions and coordinates those with land restrictions, zoning considerations and items like required parking. A detailed engineering plan is then developed.

After the engineering plan is developed, the next step usually involves surveying which is a necessary step for establishing boundaries, heights, grades and other important measurement information.

Other considerations

Depending on the type of projects there may be many different types of factors to consider.  For instance, on larger projects road design may be important as sometimes roads must be adjusted to accommodate traffic flow and to insure proper access and egress from the retail facility.  Changes in roadways almost always have to be approved and coordinated with local authorities.

In all cases attention must be paid to governmental requirements including zoning, permitting, and traffic concerns. In heavy traffic areas like Washington, DC or Northern Virginia, attending to all required paperwork, zoning, permitting and regulations can be difficult and demanding for retail facilities.

Firms like the Engineering Groupe have the experience and expertise to complete difficult retail engineering projects even around demanding area like Washington and urbanized Virginia. Hiring an experienced firm with the skill sets needed is the only sound option for retail engineering.

Modern Surveying Equipment

May 11th, 2011

Surveyors today cannot work effectively without modern surveying equipment. It is a necessity. There are several types of new equipment that have entered the profession in the past few years. Some are new items and some are upgraded. Surveyors and companies performing surveying services now use this new, modern, accurate and effective equipment.

The evolution of today’s equipment

Throughout history, surveying equipment has been continuously invented, reinvented and improved. It has generally kept up with technological advancement in society. Suppliers of such equipment understand that they need to design and provide top quality instruments to be competitive. Thus, there is no dearth of modern and useful equipment on the market. We can expect that surveying equipment will continue to stay pace with advances in technology.

Modern tools

Modern equipment includes EDMs, digital theodites, digital levels, GPS, data collectors, and total station equipment. Total stations measure the length and the angle between two points, an obvious important surveying function. It is mounted on a tripod. It then transmits an infrared signal to a prism. The signal is reflected back to the total station. The time required for the signal to get to the prism and back determines the distance from one point to the other. This provides all of the data necessary to calculate that distance.


We’re all familiar now with GPS. It is everywhere. It’s used in cell phones, personal trip mapping in a vehicle, vehicle location services, etc. It is also one of the most advanced and useful technologies for surveyors. Using satellite guidance, it allows surveying companies to find points on land. These are non-moving points. The surveyor’s device uses cable, a receiver and antenna. The antenna is placed on a land point. It searches for a GPS satellite. The receiver then accurately records data on the data collector from the GPS satellites.

Future advances

Worldwide, surveyors benefit daily from the use of modern equipment available today, and that equipment is likely to only improve and get better with time. This equipment provides very accurate data from the surveying service that you select. The job is easier and obviously much more accurate today than ever before. You won’t have any problems finding a company up to date on their use of new and modern surveying methods.

A closer look at infrastructure engineering

January 14th, 2011

What is infrastructure engineering?

Before you can understand what infrastructure engineering is, you need to understand what the term “infrastructure” means. This term refers to all of the systems in place that support a community of any size, whether it is an apartment building, a residential community, a city, or even a nation.

Infrastructure includes:

–          Networks of roads, highways, and railways for transportation into and out of a community

–          Water and sewage systems that ensure an adequate supply of clean water as well as the disposal of waste

–          Power and gas grids that can handle the needs of the entire community

Engineering considerations

Infrastructure engineering refers to the branch of engineering that coordinates all of these systems for a given engineering project, whether it is a single structure, an industrial complex, or even a whole neighborhood. The infrastructure needed for each of these types of projects is unique, and the challenges facing engineers as they work on this type of project are great.

In the metro Washington DC and Virginia area, engineers face complex geography including large bodies of water as well as a roadway and electrical infrastructure that is anywhere from decades to centuries old. Working with these old systems and adjusting them to address the needs of a modern engineering project requires not only technical skill and experience but a creativity to develop innovative solutions to “one of a kind” problems.

At The Engineering Groupe, our team has been rising to these challenges for over two decades, meeting and exceeding the needs of our clients with each project.

What we mean by commercial engineering

January 3rd, 2011

Getting a better understanding of this important area of practice

Commercial engineering is a somewhat broad area of practice that encompasses all projects related to commercial pursuits. This means that commercial engineering deals with any and all projects designed to result in monetary or other gain for the client, including industrial engineering, retail engineering, mixed use engineering, and even recreational engineering. As such, commercial engineers draw upon a broad skill set and perform a wide range of services.

Some of the services performed by The Engineering Groupe in our commercial engineering projects include:

–          Planning, including land planning and drawing plans

–          Zoning, including rezoning and applying for special exemptions and well as special use permits when necessary

–          Feasibility studies as well as environmental constraint studies to give clients an accurate picture of the project before they decide to commit to it

–          Construction management

–          Document preparation, including permit applications and construction document preparation

–          Surveying

–          Water resource planning as well as infrastructure engineering

–          Civil engineering

Wide range of experience required

Commercial engineers are required to have a working knowledge of many other areas of engineering to offer clients the answers they need as the project progresses. Not only does the commercial engineer need to help the client address today’s needs, but he or she also has to be able to forecast the changes that are likely to occur over the coming years and work with the client to develop plans for those needs as well.

At The Engineering Groupe, we are able to draw upon our decades of experience and broad knowledge base to serve our clients commercial engineering needs.

Civil engineers design your life

November 30th, 2010

Thank a civil engineer the next time you meet one

Everywhere you walk, drive or ride, the work of civil engineers guides your every move.  The complexity and far reach of civil engineering is more obvious in Washington DC and Virginia than many other places in the United States.  In this part of the country, you can see the applications of military engineering in buildings like the Pentagon and of civil engineering, specifically urban engineering, in the design of the roadways throughout the nation’s capital.

Evolution of civil engineering

Although a broad pursuit in the modern world, when civil engineering first emerged it was simply a name put on any engineering project that did not serve a military purpose. Today, it generally refers to large projects for use by the public that are funded by the government or by private entities such as airports, dams, canals, and highways.

Other disciplines within civil engineering include:

–          Environmental engineering

–          Structural engineering

–          Construction engineering

–          Coastal engineering

–          Earthquake engineering

–          Urban, or municipal, engineering

–          Transportation engineering

–          Water resources management

–          Geotechnical engineering

Civil engineers manage people and projects as they design and build the infrastructure of our lives which might include roads, buildings, bridges, airports or any of the other structures you see in your daily life.

What is Residential Engineering?

October 27th, 2010

Typical residential engineering services

Residential engineering is a pursuit that requires a broad and varied skill set, particularly in the Virginia/Washington, DC area where the housing is so diverse. So what does a residential engineering firm like The Engineering Groupe actually do?

In some ways, we do anything and everything to help our clients see their projects through to completion.

Some of the more specific tasks we take on include the following:

–          Initial planning: In the beginning stages of a new community, your residential engineer lays the groundwork by conducting research on various areas, selecting the best one for your purposes, creating a plan for that area, and working out cost estimates for the project.

–          Rezoning and permitting: It can be challenging to obtain the appropriate permits and/or rezone if necessary, but an experienced residential engineer can guide you through this process and make it as painless as possible.

–          Surveying: This can be part of the initial planning process or done separately. Surveying involves accurately and specifically locating boundaries and borders as well as measuring elevation throughout the site. This information is used in the design phase and can play a role in the rezoning/permitting process.

–          Management of storm water and water resources design. It is important to have a well-designed system in place when it rains; if not, all the residents will be left with standing water that can damage their homes and create problems throughout the development. Additionally, it is necessary to find a sufficient source of fresh water for the community and ascertain the quality of that water.

It may help you learn more to browse some sample residential engineering projects that we have been involved with.

Or, if you find yourself in need of a residential engineering firm, contact us today for a free initial consultation.

A look at efficiency and environmentalism in engineering

September 6th, 2010

2 Top Trends in Commercial Engineering

When discussing the broad and complex field of commercial engineering, it is hard to specify a single trend or a few trends that apply to the whole field. After all, when dealing with projects that include everything from cell phone towers to banks to office parks, the issues and concerns vary greatly.

However, certain trends have become more prevalent recently, including an emphasis on efficiency and a concern for the local environment.

Trend 1 – Better Efficiency

Efficiency can refer to any number of specific aspects of a project, but as a general trend, it refers to a greater desire on behalf of our clients to meet needs while minimizing the excess, or to prevent issues rather than create a system for cleaning them up later.

Commercial projects have historically run larger than necessary, reflecting a plan for greater expansion or perhaps the desire to create a certain image. Today, people are more concerned with getting the most use out of their design by designing smarter, considering their needs realistically, and reducing waste across the board.

Trend 2 – Environmentalism

Environmentalism can also mean a lot of things in today’s “green” world, but for commercial engineers, the trend is towards local environmental awareness. This means that when considering drainage issues, commercial engineers are aware of the effects of runoff water at a particular location for a specific project. They understand the land and the area well enough to design solutions that will meet the engineering standards but also avoid unnecessary or excessive environmental impact.

While humans will always have some effect on their environment, today’s commercial engineer is trying to help commercial clients make that impact as positive as possible.

A closer look at commercial engineering

August 30th, 2010

So exactly what is “commercial engineering?”

Commercial engineering sounds straightforward enough, but if you try to search this term, you will come up surprisingly empty handed. This is probably because commercial engineering is a broad area of practice for engineers and requires a diverse knowledge set, not only of the math and science necessary for all engineering but also of the needs and concerns of businesses and potential customers.

Commercial engineers apply the scientific knowledge they use in other engineering capacities to commercial or for-profit business, projects. The projects range in size and complexity, but they are different than those tackled by industrial engineers. In general, industrial engineers work primarily with manufacturing processes, designing and streamlining these processes.

Commercial engineers work on projects including hotels, office buildings, land development for commercial purposes, banks, shopping centers, and restaurants. Some of the tasks that comprise the work of these engineers include surveying, conducting feasibility assessments, designing road and parking layout, and addressing grading and drainage issues.

Careers in Commercial Engineering

For those who are considering a career in commercial engineering, it may come as a surprise that very few schools offer a degree specifically in commercial engineering while many offer degrees in specialties such as mechanical, chemical, automotive, or computer engineering.

Perhaps this is also related to the broadness of this type of engineering, as it goes beyond a single area of study. However, this can be a very rewarding and exciting area to work in as commercial engineers influence and shape communities nearly everywhere in the world!



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