; ; ; ; ; Civil Engineering Blog: October 2010


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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Building Collapse during Construction: Case Study

Currently, I am working on the site supervision for a construction of 20 stories building in a country in SE asia. Last week I did several researches on the technical papers relavant to the building collapse that might occur during the construction to be one of my top priorities in preventing the unsafe work processes and procedures in my site.

I found one of the paper that describes the building collapse during construction. The collapse is due to the soil and foundation unstability problem that was induced by the transported soil from the excavation work.

Friday, October 15, 2010

WTC Collapse : New Scrutiny After Crucial Explosive Dust Samples Found

WTC Collapse Under Fresh Scrutiny After Explosive Dust Samples Found pyroEvidence indicating that the collapse of the World Trade Center was a controlled demolition has been propelled back under the national spotlight following the University of Copenhagen’s announcement that dust obtained from the rubble of the twin towers contains evidence of highly explosive material.

The Earthquake-Proof Building That Is Built to Collapse

The Brilliant Idea: A replaceable, building-wide system to help hospitals, apartment buildings and office towers survive severe seismic shaking.

 Innovators: Gregory Deierlein, Stanford University; Jerome F. Hajjar, Northeastern University

"Elastic high-strength steel cables run down the center of the system’s frame. The cables control the rocking of the building and, when the earthquake is over, pull it back into proper alignment."

"A steel frame situated around a building’s core or along exterior walls offers structural support. The frame’s columns, however, are free to rock up and down within steel shoes secured at the base."

World’s longest tunnel “Gotthard Base Tunnel” : Hot Topic

After two decades’ construction, the Gotthard Base Tunnel in southern Switzerland broke through the final 1.8 meters Friday to create the world’s longest tunnel at 57 kilometers.

Civil Engineering Award for Delhi Metro

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation(DMRC) has won the Outstanding Civil Engineering Project Award for the year 2010 specially for completing various infrastructural projects in record time, an official said today. The award will be given by the international Asian Civil Engineering Coordinating
Council(ACECC). The council works for the promotion and advancement of the science and practice of civil engineering and related professions for sustainable development in the Asian region.

The award is given to agencies involved in infrastructural projects that have made exemplary contribution to the progress of civil engineering works.

The project taken up by the agency should contribute to the nation where the project is located and they should have impacted on or spread through other Asian nations or ACECC member economies.

Work on a 125-km stretch of the Delhi Metro is in progress in Phase II and will be completed before the Oct 3-14 Commonwealth Games. Large sections of this have already been opened for the public.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hoover dam bridge finally completed: Hot News

A soaring bridge that will let drivers bypass the Hoover Dam - and steer clear of its security checkpoints and tourists - will open after nearly eight years and £151 million worth of work.
The 1,900ft engineering wonder perched 890ft above the Colorado River is expected to slash travel time along the main route between Las Vegas, Nevada, and Phoenix, Arizona, as motorists will no longer have to make their way across the dam's winding two-lane road at a snail's pace.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Vote your most favorite Civil Engineering Branches!


I am planning to provide you more on the useful articles and free softwares on Civil Engineering Branches. To deliver these services to the right group of the audiences in this blog, I thus request you guys to vote for me. You can vote by using the poll located at the right side just at the beginning of my blog.

You could choose among the following branches.
Structural, Geotechnical, Transportation, Environmental, Construction Management, and Surveying.

The poll will live until the end of this month!
Thanks for my audiences and I will make my best to deliver all services to you guys constantly!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What is Underwater Antiwash Concrete?

PDF version here
Although underwater concreting has been in use for a long time, development of the technique has mainly proceeded in the areas of concrete placing method and improvements to the construction machinery. The prepacked concrete method, tremie method, concrete pump method, and others are now the representative underwater concreting methods. With all these concreting methods, the essential aim of technological development has been to improve how the concrete is placed and to minimize contact between the water and mortar so as to prevent the concrete from segregating under water.
On the other hand, antiwashout underwater concrete is quite different in concept from the methods mentioned above; the developmenta1aim in this case was improved performance of the fresh concrete. That is, the viscosity of the concrete was increased and its resistance to segregation under the washing action of water was enhanced by mixing an antiwashout admixture with the concrete. The effect of this is not only to greatly improve the reliability of Concrete placed underwater, but it also has remarkable effects on environmental preservation in the construction area. In addition, the earlier tremie and concrete pump placing methods can be adopted for construction.
The specific advantages of antiwashout underwater concrete include the following:
  • Compared with ordinary concrete, antiwashout underwater concrete is highly resistant to the washing action of water, and rarely separates even when dropped under water
  • Its yield value is small and viscosity high, so the concrete components never segregate and it displays high fluidity.
  • As a result of the high fluidity, filling property and self-leveling ability are improved.
  • Almost no bleeding occurs.
These qualities are taken full advantage of in work which would be difficult to handle using conventional underwater concrete. This includes work where high reliability is required, work in flowing water, work where water turbidity is restricted due to environmental considerations, and work where construction stretches over a considerable area and good flatness is necessary. On the other hand, however, handling is more difficult than with ordinary concrete, and in order to produce concrete of the required quality and a structure of the required performance, careful consideration of mix proportion, mixing, transport, and placing, etc. is necessary when antiwashout underwater concrete is used.
In particular, when producing the underwater antiwash concrete it is necessary to mix it for longer than ordinary concrete in a mixer large enough to uniformly disperse the antiwashout admixture. Also, when using concrete pumps for placement, it is necessary to design a pumping plan with care as regards pumping equipment, pumping distance, etc., because the pumping resistance is increased by the higher viscosity.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Era of Flexible Concrete?

 PDF version here
 Looks like the brittle concrete has been tamed at last!
A team of researchers at the University of Michigan has developed a concrete material that bends like rubber, cracks very little, heals itself with no manual intervention, and is almost as good as new concrete upon recovery, with its stiffness and strength intact.
The research team led by Professor Victor C. Li more here , Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering
at the University of Michigan, has achieved this by designing the new material with tiny crack widths. This ensures that any damage caused due to overloading and subsequent tensile strain manifests itself as small cracks that are autogenously healed.
Here’s how the self-healing mechanism works. The extra dry cement that is exposed on the surface of the crack reacts with water and carbon dioxide to form calcium carbonate, a strong and resilient compound that brings back the material to its original state. But this works only if the crack width is tiny, a factor that is taken care of by the nature of the material itself. The new material is an improvement over the bendable engineering cement composite (ECC) that Li and his team have been developing for the past decade and a half. The research team discovered that the brittleness of concrete could be altered by limiting the crack width to 150 microns, preferably 50 microns to enable full healing. The average crack width in the ECC was found to be 60 microns, half the width of human hair.
While traditional concrete is brittle and rigid, prone to failure and breakage under strain, the flexible ECC is held together with reinforcing fibers. So while traditional concrete fractures under a tensile strain of 0.1%, experiments revealed that the ECC is able to withstand a tensile strain of up to 5%. That makes it an astounding 500 times more durable than concrete.
The flexible ECC has several obvious advantages over traditional concrete as a construction material.
Stronger Structures
Presently, concrete structures are reinforced with steel reinforcement (aka “rebar”) to minimize concrete cracking, as well as provide tensile strength for bending moments for structural beams and columns. While ECC cannot replace rebar for structural tensile strength, it can reduce the need for rebar to limit concrete cracking. In addition, ECC has the added benefit of self-healing these cracks, thereby reducing the risk of water and de-icing salts penetrating into the structure, causing corrosion of reinforcement steel that might be present.
Decreased Costs
While ECC is three times as expensive as traditional concrete, these costs are outweighed in the long run since the structure would not require extensive repair and maintenance. Li claims that ECC could help do away with repair and rebuilding processes for about an additional five to ten years. It could also eliminate the need to monitor seismic stresses on structures.
Reduced Environmental Impacts
Use of the ECC is also expected to reduce the energy and carbon footprints of infrastructure, thereby reducing the detrimental effects of construction on the natural environment.
Quieter Structures
In 2006, a bridge over Interstate 94 in Michigan was built with a similar self-healing concrete, which was reinforced with toothed metal slats that allowed concrete to expand and contract without bending. However, this structure turned out to be a noisy affair as vehicles rattled over the metal slats. In contrast, ECC is a silent material.
The research certainly bodes well for the construction industry. In addition to the obvious applications in buildings and infrastructure, self-healing concrete could also very well be the solution to potholes and cracks on roads and bridges, and leaky walls. Flexible ECC is also being considered for use in irrigation channels in Montana.
However, the one crucial factor that could put a wrench in the works is that the self-healing process is almost entirely dependent on the availability of water. Under laboratory conditions, ECC was found to require about one to five cycles of wetting and drying in order to self-heal. Extrapolating this finding to large structures such as bridges, it can be concluded that the ability for the material to self-heal is likely to be seasonal in nature. This leads one to question whether the new material would be suitable for commercial use in dry arid lands, and under all climatic conditions. And, would the alternate freeze-thaw cycles during our cold winters, complicated by use of de-icing salts, affect ECC’s material properties? These are some of the questions that should be addressed.
All said and done, should ECC prove to be a success in terms of industrial and commercial use, we are likely to see safer, smarter and more durable structures being erected.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

How to Choose the Best Structural Engineering Colleges

Narrowing Down the Selection

For prospective structural engineering students, choosing an institution of higher learning can be a complex task. Many factors come into play, such as the reputation of the college, specialties offered, cost and availability of financial aid, location, career placement, and potential alumni support are just some of those factors. And while there are more than a few top engineering colleges with structural engineering degree programs worth mentioning, the following selection appears to figure fairly prominently in many ratings systems and discussion forums:

Pennsylvania State University

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA.
Diverse B.S., M.Eng., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees with emphasis in several technical disciplines such as: Civil Systems; Construction; Environmental & Water Resources; Geotechnical and Materials Engineering; Structures; and Transportation. One of the most comprehensive engineering programs in the world.
Web sites: Civil And Environmental Engineering-Structural Engineering: http://www.engr.psu.edu/CE/Divisions/structure/structure.htm

University of Illinois at Urbana

601 E. John Street Champaign, IL 61820-5711 USA.
Ranks in the top five U.S. engineering colleges and in the top three engineering programs in the world. Deep, well established programs and research centers.
Web site: Civil And Environmental Engineering-Structural Engineering: http://cee.illinois.edu/StrucEng

Western Michigan University

1903 W Michigan Ave, Kalamazoo MI 49008-5200 USA
Undergraduate degree program designed to prepare for work immediately in many civil engineering careers, including structural and geotechnical engineering. Also offers graduate course work leading to a M.S. degree in Civil Engineering including structural engineering specializations.
Web site: Civil and Construction Engineering: http://www.wmich.edu/cce/about.php

University of California- San Diego

Voigt Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093 USA
UCSD's Structural Engineering Department offers B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees. One of the consistently top-ranked public U.S. universities, diverse engineering and science programs including structural engineering.
Web site: UCSD Structural Engineering Department: http://structures.ucsd.edu/

The University of Sheffield

Sir Frederick Mappin Building, Mappin Street, Sheffield, S1 3JD UK
One of the most active civil engineering programs in the UK. Consistently top-ranked university world wide, diverse civil engineering and science programs including structural engineering.
Web site: Civil and Structural Engineering Department: http://www.euroeducation.net/euro/sheffield_university_stuctural_engineering.htm

University of Toronto

35 St. George Street, Toronto, ON M5S 1A4 CA
One of Canada's largest, top ranked universities, with a well established civil engineering program and structural engineering specialties.
Web site: Department of Civil and Mineral Engineering: http://www.civil.engineering.utoronto.ca/Page13.aspx

Central Michigan University

Mount Pleasant, MI 48859 USA
Good structural engineering programs, notable for the specialized B.S. degree in Vehicle Engineering Design Technology.
Web site: Department of Engineering and Technology: http://www.cmich.edu/Admissions/Academic_Programs/Science_and_Technology/Vehicle_Engineering_Design_Tech.htm

Making The Best Choice

There are no standard formulas to determine which institution suits an individual’s educational needs for pursuing an advanced civil engineering or structural engineering degree. While preferred lists and ranking systems can narrow down some choices, there is no substitute for asking questions, visiting websites, reviewing curriculum offerings, faculty, and staff. If an actual site visit cannot be arranged, the websites of many colleges offer virtual online tours of campus and housing facilities for critical review. Members of alumni associations are also typically available to answer email or telephone inquiries. When making a choice of this nature, it really pays to do the homework!

The Need of Low Cost Software for Structural Engineering Design

       Tedious hand calculations and slide rules for structural engineering design and analysis has given way to a plethora of low cost or even free structural engineering design software. A few example links are listed for convenience.

The Evolution of Structural Engineering Design Software

It wasn’t too long ago that structural engineering design calculations were performed on paper, with support from that ancient device called the slide rule. Static models ruled, and dynamic response models were limited at best. When mainframe computers were commercially available, software programming advances were developed primarily to speed up the computational processes. Electronic calculators arrived and also began to make significant contributions, and the writing was on the wall for the venerable slide rule. Then, in the early 1960’s, a newer modeling process called finite element analysis became encoded into NASTRAN software, and in the mid 1970’s started to become widely available on mainframe computers. This analysis complemented the more traditional static and dynamic models also being incorporated at the time into structural engineering software. Structural engineering students began to obtain access to unprecedented engineering design software, but only at the price of school tuition. Structural engineers could utilize these engineering programs if their employers had the resources to obtain the expensive computers, software, and technical expertise to install and maintain them.
The development of the personal computer drove another round of developmental structural engineering software, and as the pc became more and more capable the software evolved as well. Today, incredibly powerful (compared to the last century) engineering analysis software is available at little or no cost to the user. While not as capable as commercial versions, free structural engineering design software modules can take on formerly unprecedented analysis and design tasks using personal computers no larger than the “ancient” desk top electronic calculators of the 1960’s.

Sources of Low Cost or Free Structural Engineering Design Software

Following are a few of the many freely available programs that can be utilized for structural engineering design and analysis. By no means a comprehensive list, and no claims, representations, warranties, or guarantees for fitness of use are made here; the usual admonitions re viruses, personal information disclosure, etc. when downloading programs from the internet do apply. “Free” may apply for a limited time, or to trial and evaluation versions only:

Sunday, October 3, 2010

What is Porous Pavements?

What is Porous Pavements?

Porous pavements, both asphalt and concrete have been around for years.  In most areas they haven’t really caught on.  Now, with the large focus on environmental issues and green building, are they worth looking at again?
Pavement design
Traditional pavement design
Typically when pavement mixes are designed, they include different sizes of aggregate.  They use a wide range from fine sand to coarse stone.  The largest size depends on the expected use of the material.  Then it is all bound together with binder or cement.  With asphalt pavement that top layer will go on a water proof layer then a base.  Concrete pavement may go on a base or directly on the ground.
This results in an impenetrable surface that blocks rain water from getting into ground water systems and increases runoff.
Porous pavement design
Porous pavement or pervious pavement is designed using medium and large sized aggregate without any smaller fines such as sand.  It is then held together using with cement or binder.  The lack of fines in the mix creates relatively large pore space in the pavement.  This large pore space allows water to pass through.
The top layer is placed either directly on the ground or on other porous base layers to allow water to drain completely through the system into the ground.
Pros and Cons
Here are some pros and cons as well as a few notes on them.
Increased water quality – Oils, heavy metals and other contaminates on the pavements are not carried downstream and into stormwater drainage systems.  Also, water is filtered as it passes through the pavement.
Lower initial construction costs – Construction costs may be lower because porous pavements lower the amount of stormwater drainage facilities that a site will need.  Fewer and smaller inlets, detention ponds and storm drain pipes means lower construction costs.
Lower long term costs – less maintenance needed for storm drain and filtration systems.
Fewer fees – Storm water impact fees may be lower since porous pavements are proven to reduce runoff.
Less runoff – Less runoff means less potential flooding and lower peak flows.
Increased safety – Since water drains through the pavement there is a lower chance of hydroplaning and an increase in traction.
LEED Points – It can indirectly help gain LEED Points.  It can contribute in the areas of Stormwater Design, Heat Island Effect, Water Efficient Landscaping, Recycled Content, and Regional Materials.  There may be other ways that using it can help LEED certification.
Higher initial construction cost – Yes, I know I listed construction cost as a pro also.  The cost of constructing the pavement itself tends to be higher than regular pavement.
Soil restrictions – The soil below the pavement must drain at least as well as the pavement.
Clogging – The pores in the pavement may clog.  Suppliers and other proponents say that regular cleaning and maintenance will nearly eliminate clogging.
Pavement strength – Porous pavements are structurally weaker than standard pavements.   That generally results in them being used only for low traffic roads and parking lots.  Extra care must be taken when designing a pavement for high traffic or heavy traffic.
New/Untested technology – That’s not entirely accurate.  The technology has been tested since at least 1971.  However, most contractors don’t have experience with it.  Proper training, clear instructions, material testing, and site investigations should be done to ensure that the pavement meets all applicable standards during construction.
Contamination – Pavement surfaces usually have a lot of contaminates on them.  Porous pavements can filter contaminants, but no system is 100%.  Since water drains directly into ground soil it is possible that it will take the contaminants with it.
There is a lot of potential for porous pavements in future projects.  Each project would have to be investigated independently to determine any cost or environmental savings that might be gained by using porous pavements.  However, the potential positives do seem to outweigh the potential negatives.  It would certainly be worth your time to investigate it and present your findings to your client.
What are your thoughts on Porous and Pervious Pavements?

Tips on Interviewing

Tips on Interviewing

Whether you are interviewing for a full time job or an internship the basics are the same.  Here’s a few notes, tips and things to keep in mind for interviews.
Everybody Has The Internet
Clear off anything that you posted on the internet that you wouldn’t want the interviewer to see.  Many companies regularly do a Google search before an interview.
Dress The Way The Boss Would
Guys, you should wear a suit and tie.  If it’s a hot environment or in the summer you can probably get away without a coat, but wear the tie.  Ladies, dress equivalently.  The civil engineering world is fairly conservative.  Dress professionally and at least one level higher than you think the job would generally require.
Prepare Answers for Questions
I’m planning an entire post on interview questions.  But have answers to typical questions ready.  Know a few strengths, at least one weakness, some goals, how you’ve handled difficult work situations in the past, etc.
The interviewer knows that you are probably qualified or they wouldn’t take the time to interview you.  So during the interview, when they ask you about your qualifications, give them examples of specific things you have done in the past.
The Interview is Not About You.  It’s About How You Can Help the Company.
The interviewer wants to find out how you can help them.  The questions they ask will be geared toward this.  Tell them about your accomplishments and how you can use your accomplishments and skills to help them.
Part Of It Is A Personality Test
Whether or not they give you a written test interviewers will try to find out if you will fit in with the team.  The civil engineering field is very team oriented.  Engineers aren’t stereotypically know for there interpersonal skills.  Being able to work well with people is very important.  That is true for your coworkers as well as internal and external clients.
Ask When You’ll Here From Them
When the interview is winding down ask when you can expect to hear from them or when you should call them.  This will set your expectation.  Some places will take months to get back to you.  Some, just a few days.
Don’t Lie
Just like on your resume, don’t lie.  Tell the truth.  If you don’t know the answer then say so.  If the answers looks negative on you, then say what you’ve learned from the experience.
Say Thank You
Send a thank you note, or call the interviewer and thank them.   Not a text message or email.  Write the note by hand, or call them.  As old as this advice is it is amazing how few people do this and how effective it is.
Follow Up
If you say you’ll follow up with them at a certain time, then do it.
That’s a few key points.  What are some that you’ve run into that others should know?

Certifications and Licenses (LEED AP)

Certifications and Licenses (LEED AP)


What it is – LEED AP stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional. Basically, having the LEED AP credential shows that you have specific knowledge and experience using environmentally friendly designs, processes, etcetera.

Who governs it – The LEEP AP is run by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI).

Requirements – Professional experience working on a LEED project
- Pass the LEED AP exams

Who needs it – Anyone working in the construction industry from design all the way through maintenance. Especially if you are working in an area with a very strong environmental focus or environmental needs.

Why you should get it – The environment is a hot topic right now. Having the experience and knowledge to work on environmentally friendly projects is an asset. The LEED AP credential shows that you have both the experience and knowledge to build environmentally friendly constructions.

Why you should not get it – Like most certifications there is no real negative to having LEED AP. However, the credential is focused mainly on building design, construction and maintenance. Outside of buildings there isn’t the same demand for LEED AP. That is changing, though.

When you should get it – Once you start working on LEED projects you are eligible. If you plan on staying in the industry it adds one more proof of qualification to put on the resume.

Other notes – GBCI is in the process of changing from a general LEED AP credential to LEED AP with a specialization. Check out their website for more information on the new specializations.

What is Right of Way (ROW)?

What is Right of Way (ROW)?

Right of Way (ROW)is something that civil engineers work with a lot. It’s on virtually all of the surveys that we use. It’s a key point that must be known if you’re working on a project where private property meets public property. This is especially important when working on transportation projects for local governments. There are a lot of aspects to Right of Way and Right of Way Acquisition. I’m going to talk about it mainly from the transportation side.

What is Right of Way

Here’s an example of what Right of Way (ROW) is. A city owns a public street that goes through a residential neighborhood. They also own a few feet past the pavement on both sides of the street. If a residential street is 30-36 feet wide the city may own a total of 46-50+ feet wide area. So, yes they own part of your front yard. Virtually all public streets are like this, from local residential streets on up to interstate highways which may have ROWs that are hundreds of feet wide.

Why Right of Way

The government holds a right of way wider than the actual street for several reasons. They use the extra land for things like public sidewalks, utilities, or to widen the road in the future. Also, street lights, traffic signals and street parking are all in the ROW.

Right of Way is something that we have to know where is, but civil engineers don’t typically worry about why it’s where it is or how to get more. That sort of thing is typically handled by the government agency itself. Or was figured out when the property was first developed. Civil engineers don’t generally get more once an area is already developed.

However, I’ve had the privilege recently to work on a ROW acquisition project recently. That’s a service that our company offers, and my background in roadway design helped get me involved in a roadway ROW project.

The project

Here are the basics of the project. A two lane county road needed to be widened because of all of the development nearby. Plans were drawn up and the road was designed, but the county didn’t actually own enough land to make the road wider. That’s where we came in on the project. The county hired us to acquire the land for them.

What you have to do

There are several steps involved in ROW acquisition. I’m going to go over the broad steps. Perhaps at a later date I’ll write a more detailed article, or ask our resident expert to put one together for me.


It seems that everything in civil engineering begins with a survey. The same applies here. With the survey and the plans we can see exactly how much land is needed from each land owner. The surveyor provides documents showing exactly how much land is needed. They generally will also mark the area with flags or other markers.

Initial Letter

An initial letter is sent to the current land owner to let them know about the surveyors and appraisers coming onto their property. The letter also lets the owner know what’s going on with the project; the whys, the whos, etc.


Next the appraisers go to work. They appraise each plot of land that the government needs to buy. The appraisers generally will take into account mailboxes, fences, trees and anything else that may be in the proposed right of way area that current land owner would have to move or lose value if it’s removed.

Title Search

Just like when you buy any piece of property, you do a title search to find out who actually owns the land. This will also tell you about any liens on the property such as a mortgage, tax lien or unpaid debt. Any lien will affect the sale.

Offer Letters

Send the initial offer letter. Basically the offer is for what the appraiser valued the land at.


This can be real long or real short depending on what the land owner wants. I’ve seen some just sign the paperwork and send it back. Some think their land is worth more, some will want fences or custom mailboxes replaced, trees paid for, or many other things. Some just flat out refuse to sell. In most cases something can be worked out to the benefit of both the land owner and the municipality.

Partial Release of Lien

We do have to deal with any liens that are on the property. If there is a mortgage, for example, we have to get a partial release of lien. Basically the bank has to give up that part of the land on their deed. Lien holders may have the right to the money first. That varies some by location. Banks sometimes require a percentage of the money based on a percentage of the property sold.

Acceptance or Condemnation

Eventually, after the negotiations, the land owner accepts or they don’t. If they accept, then the paperwork is signed, they get their money and the government gets the land. If they are unwilling to sign, then it goes to condemnation. That means that it goes before a third party to decide the case. Generally when this happens the government gets the land and the land owner gets fair market value for their property. Because of the expense it really doesn’t do anybody any good to go to condemnation. As long as we follow the laws and our engineering ethics guidelines we are fine.

There is a lot more to it, but that covers the basic process. It is certainly a good thing to know, even if you never do ROW acquisition yourself. Having the knowledge gives you a better understanding of the process and what the municipality has to do on some projects. However, having the expertise can give your company another product to offer municipal clients.

When to start PE exam?: Civil Engineering

When? the answer is to Start Getting Ready For Your PE "As Soon As You Start Work"

Since I started my first internship I’ve gotten a lot of advice on how to get ready to apply for my Professional Engineer (PE) License. I’ve listed below a lot of the advice that I’ve gotten. It’s all from Engineers that are licensed in Texas, but will probably apply to most states.

Check Your State’s Professional Engineer Licensure Requirements
Find out the specific list of what is required. That way you know ahead of time what’s expected and you aren’t scrambling at the last minute. Your states board of professional engineers or other PE governing organization will have the list.

Create a Log
Log what you do each day or at least each week. Keep track of the projects that you worked on and what you were responsible for on that project. Most states will have you document the engineering work you’ve done since you graduated. That’s a lot easier to do if you have a log of all of your work.

Keep a Copy of Your Projects
You don’t have to keep every sheet. I was told to keep the following sheets from a plan set: project title sheet, quantity sheet, cost estimate.

In addition to those sheets, also keep a list of specific things you were responsible for on the project, the client name and contact info, design fee, dates you worked on the project and anything else that you think is important.

Go After Challenging Work
You generally will need to show an increase in responsibility and quality of your work between the time that you graduate and the time that you apply for your PE license. A great way to do that is to go after work that is increasingly more difficult. Don’t over extend yourself, but look for opportunities to learn more and take on more responsibility when you’re ready.

Try Out Several Fields Then Pick One
This is one I also hear contradicted sometimes. The afternoon PE exam is specific to one area of civil engineering. When you get your PE License you are probably working your way to becoming an expert in one of those fields. It’s good to specialize. The civil engineering industry is way too broad to become an expert in everything. However, when you become a project manager you will need to have at least a basic understanding of how the other fields of civil engineering work and interact.

This is some of the advice I’ve heard most often. Since I don’t have my PE yet I can’t add much of my own to the list. What sort of advice have you been given or what sort of advice to you have to offer?

How to register FE and PE exam?

FE Registration

If you’re planning to take the Fundamentals of Engineering exam in October the registration deadline is coming up. Check out www.ncees.org for information on registering.

Tips for PE preparation: Civil Enginering

Tips for PE exam preparation: Civil Engineering

The FE Exam is three months away. If you are taking the FE in October now is the best time to start getting ready. Start with practice problems. There is nothing better for preparing for the test than to work problems similar to what you will find on the exam.

There are a lot of sources for practice problems. Search any book store for sample exams. You can also find several website with practice tests and sample problems. My favorite is eitexam.com. I especially like their 10 minute quizzes. It’s easy to find time to do a quick 10 minute quiz. It’s not so easy to find the time to do a four hour practice exam. They also have full instructions on how to work the problems and explanations why the answers are right or wrong. And finally they have both general exam and civil specific questions. All for only 15 bucks for three months.

That’s enough free advertising for now. Whatever method you choose, find one that works for you. Also find regular time to practice and study. Remember to get a copy of the Supplied-Reference Handbook from the NCEES website. The pdf version is free. Or you can have a paper copy mailed to you. You can check out the study material that NCEES sells as well. It’s not cheap, but hey, they wrote the test, so they know what’s on it.

Registration deadline is September 4th. Don’t wait until the last minute. The date may be different in your area. I’ve known people that had to wait until the next exam because they waited until the last minute to register and ended up being late.

Any other tips or strategies that you can think of? How about things that have worked for you, or things that didn’t?

How to prepare yourself for incoming PE exam?

How to prepare yourself for incoming PE exam?

What you will need

Calculator – Make sure you have an approved calculator. NCEES has a very specific list of calculators that you can use. From their website:

Casio: All fx-115 models. Any Casio calculator must contain fx-115 in its model name.

Hewlett Packard: The HP 33s and HP 35s models, but no others.

Texas Instruments: All TI-30X and TI-36X models. Any Texas Instruments calculator must contain either TI-30X or TI-36X in its model name.

Get one early and use it for your homework. That way you will be familiar with it come test time.

Spare calculator or set of batteries – Just in case

Some snacks – Make sure they don’t make any noise. The proctors will ask you to pre open any snacks in plastic wrappers that may make noise.


Ear plugs

Packed lunch – We only had about 45 minutes for lunch, and there weren’t very many places nearby to eat. Packing your lunch can ease the stress a little and also give you more time to review for the next part of the test.

The test itself

The test is not easy. You can pass it, though.

The test is in two parts. The morning session has 120 questions and you have 4 hours to complete it. That gives you about 2 minutes per question. It covers general engineering knowledge. Here’s a list from the NCEES Supplied-Reference Handbook of the areas covered on the morning session and the approximate percentage of questions on that subject:

Mathematics – 15%
Engineering Probability and Statistics – 7%
Chemistry – 9%
Computers – 7%
Ethics and Business Practices – 7%
Engineering Economics – 8%
Engineering Mechanics (Statics and Dynamics) – 10%
Strength of Materials – 7%
Material Properties – 7%
Fluid Mechanics – 7%
Electricity and Magnetism – 9%
Thermodynamics – 7%

The questions are short and for the most part just cover the basics of the subject. The Supplied-Reference Handbook includes a breakdown of specific things in each section that you should be prepared for.

The afternoon session has 60 questions and is 4 hours long. Four minutes per question. You get to pick the afternoon test. I highly recommend that if you are a civil engineering major that you take the civil engineering exam in the afternoon. I found the questions very similar to what I saw in class. However the choice is up to you. If you don’t want to take the civil engineering exam then I would recommend the general engineering exam in the afternoon. You are given a thick book with all of the different tests in it. If you still haven’t decided by the time you get to the exam then quickly skim through the civil and general exams and see which one will be easier for you. Remember you can only pick one and you have to do all of the questions in the one you pick. No mixing and matching.

Below is a list of what is in the CE exam and the approximate percentages:

Surveying – 11%
Hydraulics and Hydrologic Systems – 12%
Soil Mechanics and Foundations – 15%
Environmental Engineering – 12%
Transportation – 12%
Structural Analysis – 10%
Structural Design – 10%
Construction Management – 10%
Materials – 8%

If you choose the general exam in the afternoon it will contain the same basic subjects as the morning exam just in much more detail.

Test Day

Get there early. You will not be allowed in if you are late. Follow all of the rules. Even the ones that you wouldn’t normally have to follow for a final exam in a class. The proctors take the exam very seriously and so should you. Several people get kicked out every time for breaking the rules.

Have your ID and your paperwork ready

If you think you might get cold then bring a jacket

Listen to what the proctors say

Work quickly

But use all of the available time

When you have about 5 minutes left guess on all of the rest – pick a letter and stick with it.

Read the questions and answers carefully – you thing that you will see a lot is “pick the one that most nearly matches” your answer. Sometimes that may mean that none of them are close but one of them is closer than the other. For example, say you do the calculation and the answer is 53. The answers to choose from are 0, 100, 200, and 300. None of them really seem to fit, but 100 is “most nearly” the same because it’s the closest to 53.

Make sure you do it their way – They may tell you to use a certain method. Then in the answers they will have the correct answer as well as the answers that you would get using other methods. So if you use the wrong method you will still find the answer on the list but will get the question wrong because you didn’t use their method.

Registration for the October exam is open already in some states and will be opening soon in others. The last day for registration is September 4th. Though, that may vary by state. Don’t wait until the last minute. Good luck for those getting ready to take it.

How to pass FE an PE exam in Civil Engineering?

How to pass FE and PE exam in Civil Engineering(Getting ready)

There are probably nearly as many strategies to passing the FE as there are people that have passed it. But here are some tips to help you along the way.

Way before you take the test

1) Pay attention in class
Most of the problems on the exam are similar to what you saw in your classes. The only difference is that they are broken down to only one segment of a larger problem. For example, instead of being asked to calculate all of the forces in a truss, you will be given some information and asked to calculate the force in only one member.
2) Get a copy of the NCEES FE Exam formula book.
You can get a copy of the formula book straight from the NCEES website. Click on Study Materials and find the FE Supplied-Reference Handbook. It has virtually every formula that you will need as a CE student. Get used to how it’s laid out so that when you get to the FE Exam you don’t have to search for the formulas that you need. It makes a great reference while doing home work. I also found that many professors will let you use it in place of formula sheets for tests and quizzes. Plus, I still use mine even after I graduated.
3) Actually read some of your text books
Some of the questions on the FE Exam check whether or not you understand a concept not if you can calculate a formula. So make sure you understand the science and reasoning behind the concepts and formulas that you learn in class.
4) Get a calculator that you can use on the test
NCEES has a very specific list of calculators that you can use on the test. Get one and learn how to use it. Sometimes knowing the special functions can save you valuable time when you’re in the exam.

The semester before

1) Pick up some study guides.
There are a lot of good study guides out there. One that I used and found helpful was the FE Review Manual written by Michael Lindeburg. You can buy it directly from PPI at the website ppi2pass.com. You can also get it from a lot of other book stores. They put out other books including subject specific books and sample exams.
2) Take a review course
I didn’t take a review course, but several of my friends did. They can be helpful because they review the material and give you a lot of practice questions.
3) Make sure you have the latest copy of the FE Supplied-Reference Handbook
They update it from time to time. Make sure you are studying from the one you will be using on the actual exam.
4) Do practice problems.
Do lots and lots of practice problems. Then do some more. This is the best possible way to get ready for the exam. I used eitexam.com. They are inexpensive and have a ton of practice problems. What I found most helpful were their ten minute quizzes. I never felt like I had the time to sit down and study a lot for the exam, but I did have time to do a ten minute quiz a few times a day. Plus the site will show you how to work each problem and tell you why the right answer is right and the other answers are wrong. You can also get FE Exam question books. Make sure they are up to date, though.
5) Make sure you register on time
I know several people that didn’t take the exam when they wanted to because they didn’t register on time. They waited until the last minute and then found out the last minute was really the day before. So register early when you know you are going to take it.

The days before

1) Do more practice problems
Continue to do more practice problems. Again, they are the best way to prepare. They help you review the material, and get your mind thinking the way the exam works.
2) Get your stuff ready
Get your calculator and other things ready to take to the exam. They will give you a list of what you can and can’t bring. Put together all of your stuff. Make sure you aren’t going to be scrambling for anything that morning.
3) Get a good night’s sleep
Just relax the day before. If you do study stop early and give your brain a chance to rest. Then get a full night’s sleep so that you are well rested and ready in the morning.

Those are just some quick tips on preparing for the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam. I’m sure a lot of people have other tips. Feel free to share them or ask any questions that you might have. I’ll talk more about test day strategies in a later post.

How to choose Master’s Degrees – MBA vs MSCE?

Master’s Degrees – MBA vs MSCE

This is a debate that has been going on for a long time. And you will find people that defend each side very well. This is also an important question that we, as young engineers, face. This decision will most likely influence our careers in the future.

Matt Barcus wrote a great article called MSCE vs. MBA – Lets Get Ready to Rumbllllle on this question for Civil Engineering Central. More than a dozen people shared their insights. The article covers many of the pros and cons to each degree program. The conclusion that he draws in the end is that even though both are great and can help your career “one should pursue their MSCE first, and then only consider pursuing an MBA after spending a decent amount of time in the trenches.” The basic reasoning behind that seems to come from two main ideas. First, most consulting firms were started and are run by PEs and the MSCE is what your employers will be looking for. Second, no matter what master’s degree you have, you will be expected to spend several years learning design before you are introduced to project management.

I agree with the conclusion and the reasoning when it comes to private consulting firms. Especially when considering small and medium sized firms. However, there a few other important points that I think should be considered when making a decision. I’ve talked with PEs and other engineers working in many types of environments including military, civil service, municipalities, engineering consulting firms, and private firms that employ CEs. I’ve come up with some other things that should be considered.

1) What type of career path do you want to follow?

There are three basic types of career paths that CEs can follow: become a technical expert, project management, and corporate leadership.

Obviously the technical expert will gain the most from the MSCE. Since they are hired to lead teams to solve difficult problems in their field, the more education they have the better.

Project managers have to have more general knowledge. They will oversee projects that cover several engineering disciplines. They will also have to plan, schedule, budget, etc… An MSCE will certainly help them understand the engineering better as well as help them teach and lead their teams better. Because of the management aspects of the job, a good understanding of basic management would greatly help them streamline their projects. An executive MBA or a few carefully chosen classes could help them round out their knowledge.

Corporate leadership is more of a business job than an engineering job, but in the engineering world even the corporate leaders need to understand the engineering side. This type of job works a lot with marketing, public relations, accounting and other business functions. An MBA would be very helpful, but an MSCE would not help as much.

2) Where do you want to work? What kind of engineering do you want to do? How do you want to get there?

When I graduated from college I joined a design firm to do design work, one classmate of mine went to work doing project management on the civilian side of the Air Force, another joined the Navy and another is managing at a quarry.

We all have very different career paths ahead of us. Our employers have different expectations and requirements. It doesn’t matter that we all have the same degree from the same school. Nor that we all consider ourselves civil engineers. So we are all leaning in different directions to meet our employers’ needs and to get us where we want to be.

Because of the employers needs, some employers will pay for one degree or the other. Most consulting firms will pay for an MSCE possibly not an MBA. Many other organizations only see the value of the MBA and will only pay for that.

3) Changes in the rules.

One other important thing to consider is that recently The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) changed its model laws to require 30 hours of engineering classes be taken after getting the BS to take the PE Exam. The goal is for that to take effect on January 1, 2015. The model laws are only guidelines for the states to follow. The state licensing board has the final say in what the requirements are. Currently no state that I know of has made that one of their requirements. But I am sure it is coming. If you are planning to take the PE exam make sure you check your state’s rules when you get close to your time.

It looks to me that the most important thing is to look at your career path, where you want to go and how you want to get there. Then make a decision about a master’s program. What do you think? Anything else that should be considered?

How to success in FE tests

FE Exam

Today I’m going to talk about something important to engineering students. I’m going to go over what the FE exam is and why you should take it as soon as you can. Another time I’ll going over what to expect at the test, study strategies and tips to help you pass.

First of all the FE or Fundamentals of Engineering Exam is a comprehensive engineering exam that you generally take your last semester before getting your bachelors degree. It pretty much sums up all of your science and engineering courses. It is generally recommended to take it your last semester so that you have already completed most of your engineering course. That way you will have the best chance of passing the exam. The exam is multiple choice, but the questions are designed to make it hard to just guess.

The exam is broken into two main parts, the morning part and the afternoon part. In the morning everybody takes the same general engineering exam. It covers physics, chemistry, and all of your other general science and engineering subjects. In the afternoon you can choose a specific engineering subject or take a more in depth general exam. Most people majoring in civil engineering will pick the civil engineering specific exam in the afternoon. That’s what I recommend since that’s what will be the freshest in your mind.

The test is a national test. It is administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). They grade your test then send your score to your states licensing board. They are very secretive about how they score the tests. All they will say is that they use a statistical method and a group of subject matter experts to determine how many questions must be correct to get a passing score. They say that they use this method to make sure that the tests are fair. That way a student wouldn’t be punished if the test is harder that time that usual. Once the scores are reported, though, you will need a 70 percent to pass. They have said for several years that they will stop telling students their score, but when I took it I was sent my score.

Passing the FE Exam and getting your degree is what earns you your Engineer in Training (EIT) title. The test is only offered twice per year, in April and October. So make sure you are ready when it comes.

Why you should take it soon

As I mentioned before, it is required to get your EIT. The test is commonly considered the first step to getting your license. That’s because it is required to get your EIT and because you will have to pass the FE Exam before your can take the Professional Engineering (PE) Exam.

The FE Exam covers the theory and general information that you learn in school. Taking it while you are still taking the classes will make it much easier to remember the information than if you wait until just before you take the PE.

Some other reasons to take it before you finish school
You’re still in test taking mode
One less thing to worry about when you graduate
It’s hard to find time to study when you’re working
It shows future employers that you know your stuff
Many employers pay more if you already have it done
Some employers require it

That is just some basic information about the test and a few bullet points as to why you should take it while in school. Next I’ll go into more about the exam and about strategies to study and strategies to use during the exam.

In the mean time you can find more information about it a NCEES’s website www.ncees.org.

Has anybody here already taken it? Or plan to take it soon? What are your thoughts or questions about it?

What we learn from the history in the design's mistake!

What we learn from the history in the design's mistake!

I’m going to make a couple of points today. First of all, when you are new to civil engineering and first learning to calculate things like concrete columns and roadway curves, it can seem like everything that is in the real world is over designed. There are many rules and regulations that must be followed in your designs. My second point is about engineering ethics. All of the rules can’t cover everything.
Tacoma Narrows Bridge

Every civil engineering student gets to see the one of the videos of the Tacoma Narrows bridge collapse. I was shown this video in three or four different classes in school. If you haven’t seen the video here’s one I found on YouTube. This one is in color and has some additional information.
As far as I’ve been able to find out, the engineers followed the standard rules of the day. By their calculations the bridge should have been fine. But it wasn’t. It collapsed four months after being finished. The engineers fail to account for wind. In a lot of ways, because of this bridge, we have to take into account aerodynamics when designing virtually any structure. Not just aerodynamics, though, we as engineers need to take into account every potential source of forces that may affect our structures.
I 35W Bridge

Here’s a video of the I 35W bridge collapse in Minnesota. This bridge had held well for many years. The initial design could handle the current expected loads. However, later engineers didn’t fully account for additional loads from improvements to the bridge. Specifically, it appears that the gusset plates didn’t have a large enough safety factor. More information on the cause can be found in this article about the University of Minnesota’s Independent Study. According to the study, in addition to the gussets and later improvements, temperature changes played a large role in the collapse. These kinds of things should be considered in an original design. They also need to be double checked when making improvements.
Cypress Street Viaduct
This third video has two parts. One is about the Cypress Street Viaduct and the other about a dam at a coal mine. The Cypress Street Viaduct is another bridge that collapsed due to greater than expected forces. In this case an earthquake. The bridge was designed to easily handle the vertical loads, however they didn’t account for the lateral loads caused by an earthquake. They really only considered enough lateral load to handle wind.
All three of these videos show reasons that we have some of the design standards that we do. We have to include all of the forces that will act on the structure. Not only the everyday forces, but also expected maximum forces. Then we add a safety factor on top of that to take into account anything we didn’t think of.
The second half of that last video adds something else to this. The dam collapsed even though engineers at the time knew how to construct a safe dam. At the time, however, there were no regulations on this type of dam. To save money no engineering was actually done, and no standard maintenance or construction standards were followed. This resulted in the dam collapsing. What this means to us as engineers is that even if there isn’t a law saying that we have to do something a certain way, we should still do it the right way.
Engineering ethics is extremely important to civil engineers. This is one of the few industries where people can get seriously hurt or killed if we don’t do things the right way. Because of that, follow the law and approved standards. If they don’t provide enough guidance then use your engineering judgment and the experience of experts to do the right thing.
Have you had any experience where the standards didn’t meet the needs of you project? What kinds of things have you seen?

Internships to value yourself

Internships to value yourself

With the new semester starting up soon it’s time to get into learning mode.  Most people remember to sign up for the right classes to get there degree, but a lot of people don’t know about, or don’t go after one of the most important learning tools you can get as a student; an internship.  Over the coming days I’m going to post some articles on how to find internships, how to prepare your resume, what to expect at an interview, first day on the job, and other things along those lines.  But today I’m going to talk about why an internship is important.  Here’s a list of why every civil engineering student should get an internship.  In no particular order.
You get paid
Most internships pay.  Civil engineering interns get paid pretty well compared to most jobs you can get while in college.
Learn how it works in the real world
You learn a lot of great theory and background in school.  But frequently you never really see how that works out in the real world.  In an internship you get to see first hand how the process works in your field.
You get to work on real projects
This is perhaps the best part.  You get to actually use what you’ve been learning and learn new stuff that can help you in school.  Sometimes the projects that you work on in your internship can go more in depth in a week than you will get in a semester in one of your classes.  Plus they are all things you can put on your resume for when you graduate.
Your bosses understand
If you have a civil engineering internship chances are you’ll be working for someone with a civil engineering degree.  They’ve been where you are.  They know what it takes to get and engineering degree.  They are willing to help out.
Credit at school
Many schools will give you credit for internships.  The school I went to would let you get up to three credits and could count it as one of your electives.  Get with your adviser before the semester starts to find out what your school can do.
You get paid more after you graduate
People with experience get paid more than people without experience.  Having an internship on your resume shows that you know what you are getting into and that you know how to do things.  That will make you instantly more marketable than people with no experience.  That could mean not only more money in a job offer, but also more job offers.
Easier to get a job after you graduate
An internship does two main things to help you get a job after you graduate.  It gets your foot in the door for any companies that you work for.  It also gives you specific experience and accomplishments that you can put on your resume.
Find out what you like and what you don’t
I had a friend in college that every summer he worked for a different firm that did a different kind of engineering.  He definitely had the chance to try it all out and find what he liked.
An internship is worth more than a 4.00
While I was in school, and since then, I’ve talked to a lot of engineers that hire for their companies.  It’s been pretty consistent.  They say they’d rather see an internship on a resume than a 4.00 GPA.
A side note on this.  If you look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics data for civil engineers http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos027.htm you’ll see that starting salaries for a bachelors degree is higher than a masters degree.  From what I’ve see, that’s pretty consistent for several different places that collect that data.  Based on the people I knew in college I think it’s because most of the people that have a bachelors degree also had an internship.  Most of the people that I know that went straight for their masters after getting a bachelors degree, did not get an internship.  Internships and the experience you get is very valuable.  I’m not telling you not to go after a masters degree, just make sure that you get some real world experience also.
Those are some of the main reasons that I came up with to get an internship.  What are some of your reasons?  What have you gained from your internship?  Any reasons why you think someone shouldn’t get an internship?

Simple Rules for the Best Civil Engineering Resume

Simple Rules for the Best Civil Engineering Resume

Your Resume

Friday, July 31st, 2009 For many jobs that you apply for, the first thing that a potential employer will see is your resume and cover letter.  Here are a few tips for your resume.  I’ve posted a layout that has worked well for me in the past. 
Keep it simple and easy to read
Hiring managers don’t have a lot of time to try and figure out what you’re saying.  Us an easy to read layout like the sample I posted.  1 inch margins, clear sections, bullet points in each section.
But not to simple
Make sure you don’t sell yourself short.  Include enough important facts about yourself to show the potential employer how great you are.
Be relevant
Look at the company’s website and at any job adds the company may have out.  Make sure you tailor your resume to show your skills that are important to that company.  Listing things about yourself that would appeal to that employer.
When I worked retail I got a resume from a kid.  On the resume he said that he could hold a hissing cockroach without flinching.  We thought that was great, but it didn’t help us any.  He didn’t get an interview.  We had limited time and other people talked about relevant skills.
Be specific
List specific accomplishments.  Being specific shows the potential employer what you have accomplished and what you might be able to do for them.  Specifics work much better than generic phrases like: I’m a go getter, or I’m responsible.  Say it with specifics.
Target your resume
Don’t use the same resume for every company that you apply to.  Make adjustments to your resume so that you highlight the things about you that are most important to that particular company.
Don’t lie
Integrity is very important in the engineering profession.  You will hear about engineering ethics a lot. When you get caught, and you will, it will be known.  It can hurt your career.
No work experience? Talk about school.
If you’re still in school, employers know that you won’t have a lot of experience.  List the engineering classes that you’ve taken.  Talk about any scholarships or awards that you’ve won.  List some projects that you’ve done.
Those are some of the tips I’ve followed when working on my resumes.  For those of you that have been down this road before, what are your recommendations?

Dangers of Using Online Tools to Design

Dangers of Using Online Tools to Design

As civil engineers, there is no way that we can have a perfect set of plans.  Our plans can’t include every possible thing.  We are limited to the information that we have.  Survey crews can only shoot a limited number of points, field conditions may have changed without as-built plans being updated, mathematical models are based on assumptions, or any thing else can cause errors in design.
Because of that I encourage civil engineers to use all available resources to limit as many errors as possible.  Some of the great new resources that have come out in the past few years are online resources like satellite maps, Google Street View and Microsoft Bird’s Eye View.  They work well as aerial overlays on plan maps.  They can also be used to get a quick look at where a river runs or where certain features are in relation to everything else.
However, be careful, they are not updated in real time.  In many cases they aren’t updated more than every few years.  Many things can change in that time.  Be sure to verify important features with a field visit before changing your plans.
I learned this early on.  During my internship days I was working on traffic model.  I compared my traffic model to Google’s Street View.  Google’s Street View and aerial map had a traffic signal that my model didn’t.  Well, I updated my model to include that signal and redid the calculations to include that signal.  Fortunately the engineer that I worked for was more skeptical and sent me on a field visit.  Sure enough, the traffic signal had been removed.  I had wasted some time rebuilding the model, but I learned that there is no substitute for a field visit.
Since then I’ve seen many other examples of the same thing: walls put up since the survey was done, driveways added and removed, intersection geometry changed, gas lines installed, just to list a few.
The bottom line, these tools are great and can help in your designs, but there is no substitution for a field visit.  You should visit your site during both the design and construction phases of your projects whenever practical.

Civil Engineering Web Directory: General/Engineering History/Pyramids

Learn how to build the Pyramids? The following websites are all you needed!

Mr. Pitonyak's Pyramid Puzzle
Contains vital information, recourses and some other stuffs related to pyramid.

The Egyptian Pyramid
Answer to the FAQ to the Egyptian Pyramid by the Smithsonian Institution.

The Pyramids: Design and Construction
Introduction of how the pyramids were built, and the evolution in design from the step pyramid to the true pyramid.

Technical Articles

Pyramids and Temples Menu
Introduction of Pyramids and Temples design and construction in Egypt.

Rediscover Ancient Egypt
A sampling of the most-often asked questions and their answers about Pyramid.

The Entrance to Cheops - Hidden in Plain Sight
An article on the entrance of the Egyptian Pyramid.

The Great Pyramid:The Pyramid of Khufu
Introduction of Pyramid.

The Step Pyramid Complex of Djoser
Introduction of the Precinct of Djoser and its Step Pyramid.

Civil Engineering Web Directory: General/Engineering History/Roman

If you like ancient Roman architecture and engineering technology, please visit the following links.

A Marvels of the Ancient World: the Roman Aqueduct of Metz
A tutorial material.

Ostia- Harbour of Ancient Rome
A tutorial material about Roman archaeology.

Roman Construction and Civil Engineering
A collection of Internet links related to ancient Roman architecture and structures.

Roman Waterworks
A tutorial material.

The Roman Bridge
Containing many useful links about the topic.

The Roman Pantheon: The Triumph of Concrete
Articles and research by David Moore, P. E.

Technical Articles

Roman Bridges
Introduction of Roman Bridge.

Rome: Engineering and Industry
An online book about how Roman built pipes, links, valves and fittings.

Civil Engineering Web Directory: General/Engineering History

Explore in-depth of the engineering history through following websites:

Bir Umm Fawakhir: Insights into Ancient Egyptian Mining
An archaeological survey at the site of Bir Umm Fawakhir.

Built in America
A collection of historic American buildings survey and historic American engineering record (1033 - present).

Construction History of the Hanford Site
Describing the construction of the world's first plutonium production facility.

Engineering Timelines
Knows the history of British building and construction via the map of British Isles.

Greek Waterworks
The doorway to many new and interesting facts about Greece and their inventions and advancements in water supply.

History of Plumbing
Babylonia, Egypt, Roman & English Legacy and Plumbing in America.

Leffert L. Buck Study Page
North Country and Civil Engineering Historical Interest.

Pioneers in Mechanics
Historical links to people in mechanics, Cauchy, Lagrange and so forth.

Secrets of Lost Empires
Companion Web site to "Secrets of Lost Empires," a special five-part NOVA. In the series, NOVA crews attempt to ferret out long-forgotten secrets of early architects and engineers. How did they design and erect the medieval war machines known as trebuchet

The Construction and History of Medieval Timber-Framed Houses in England and Wales
Their method of construction and the people who lived in them, starting with the 13 th Century and ending with the 19 th.

The Plumber
The site has many good articles on plumbing history and technology.

Technical Articles

Famous Engineers
A list of 50 famous engineers in many engineering disciplines including civil engineering.

Historical Timeline of Concrete
Concrete mortar work in ancient Egypt (1950 BC).

History of Technology in Australia -1788-1988
This online book covers water, irrigation, engineering construction, building, and transport.

The History of Concrete
This experiment is designed to introduce the student to the structural properties of concrete and their dependence on cement curing time, water-cement ratio, quality and fineness of aggregate, and temperature and moisture of curing.

Civil Engineering Web Directory: General/Basics/Engineering Ethics

If you are an engineer, here is you need to learn in addition to the technical knwledge. Yep it is about "Engineering Ethics".

APEGBC Professional Practice Guidelines
Full text articles (PDF format) from Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia.

Applied Ethics in Professional Practice
Case studies and guidelines of engineering ethics.

Engineering Ethics: The Professional Challenge
A few civil engineering ethics cases of geotechnics, wastewater treatment and HVAC for undergraduate education.

Design Failure Lessons
Some case studies.

Engineering Disasters: Learning from Failure
The role of the engineer is to respond to a need by building or creating something along a certain set of guidelines (or specifications) which performs a given function.

Engineering Ethics
Online Ethics Center for Engineering and Science.

Engineering Ethics
This class web page contains many online articles and case studies.

Engineering Ethics Homepage
A web site dedicated to the dissemination of engineering ethics case studies and supporting resources for students and faculty of the School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Virginia

Engineering Ethics Module
From Murdough Center for Engineering Professionalism.

Engineering Law and Ethics
Class web site of Mississippi State University.

Exponent's civil, structural, and architectural engineering
Investigates structural, geotechnical, geological, geomechanical, construction, and building issues.

List of Some Engineering Successes and Failures
Selected for Engineering courses.

NSPE Board of Ethical Review Cases
Contains hundreds of cases. Each of them includes facts, question, reference and discussion.

National Engineers Week
The goal of program is to increase public awareness and appreciation of the engineering profession. The site has extensive information on engineering education.

The Ethics Connection
The web site of Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University. Online magazine covers a variety of issues on engineerng and technology ethics.

Tomorrow's Professor Listserv
Discussion board on book "Tomorrow's Professor: Preparing for Academic Careers in Science and Engineering".

Technical Articles

A paper on a profession's code of ethics.

Beyond the Textbook
There's more to engineering than formulas.

CEE Designers and The Problem, The Other Problem and The Other Problem, a Polemic
Presentation by Ralph Gareth Gray at CEE New Millennium Colloquium.

Code of Ethics
From ASCE.

Complete Guide to Ethics Management: An Ethics Toolkit for Managers
A free online book on business ethics.

Conflicts of Interest in the Professions
One of issues of Perspectives of the Professions.

Engineering, Ethics and the New Millennium
An article written by John Katrakis J. T. Katrakis & Associates.

Establishing Your Absence
An article on time management for scientists and engineers.

How can I be more Ethical?
Article by Michael J. Rabins, Mark Holtzapple and Lee L. Lowery at Texas A&M University.

NSPE Engineering Ethics Page
Engineer's creed, code of ethics for engineers and reference guide.

On Being A Scientist: Responsible Conduct in Research
A guidance on research ethics.

Why care about Ethics?
Article by Michael J. Rabins, Mark Holtzapple and Lee L. Lowery at Texas A&M University.

Hot Deals from Civil Enginering Stores

In this post, I just recommend you to a new Civil Engineering Stores where you can shop lot of discounted items relating to Civil Engineering.

Please let me know what you like!    The link to the store is http://astore.amazon.com/civiengiblog-20

Civil Engineering Web Directory: General/Basics/ Career Development

Here this is an update for Web Directory in Career Development. All you need about the career is below:

Career Forecast Annual Salary Survey for Environmental Engineers
In the December 1998 issue, Safety & Health published its annual salary survey. Here is a more detailed report prepared by the National Safety Council's Research and Statistics Department.

Homepage for the provider of on-line continuing education for the international mining and geoscience communities.

Essential Competencies for the National Park Services Employees
Including information on civil engineering professions.

Also features women civil engineers.

Hazmat School
Provides online OSHA and DOT hazmat safety courses.

Job Prospects and Recruiter Expectations For Civil Engineering Grads Build Momentum
With the kind of employment picture being painted at top universities across the country, civil engineering graduates should be dancing in the streets.

Salary Site for Engineers
A list of WWW links.

The 2000 RICS and Macdonald & Company Salary & Benefits Survey: Research Findings
Over 4,000 UK and non-UK surveying professionals participated, making it the most comprehensive survey undertaken for the sector to date.

Online PDH courses for engineers
Online courses for engineers to earn professional development hours. Developed by Decatur Professional Development.

PDHonline.org is an approved online continuing education provider for engineers and architects. Courses offered by PDHonline.org feature the state-of-the-art in the field of engineering.

Technical Articles

Archibald Alexander: Design and Construction Engineer
An African American civil engineer.

Civil/Structural Engineering Qualifications Standard Competencies
A report prepared by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Technical Personnel.

Construction Management and Engineering Qualification Standard Competencies
A technical report prepared by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Technical Personnel.

Consumer Guide to Professional Engineering and Land Surveying
Does my project require a professional? How to hire him/her?

First Annual CE News Engineering Salary Survey
You asked for it and here it is! We randomly sent a questionnaire to 3,000 subscribers and the results provided were tallied from over 550 responses.

The Role of the Construction Career Fair in the Hiring of Graduates from Construction Education Programs – A Case Study
This paper examines the role construction career fairs play in the recruitment of graduates from construction programs.

Staying Ahead of Your Competition
An article on career improvement for scientists and engineers.

Step Forward and Be Heard
White paper by Richard Weingardt at CEE New Millennium Colloquium.

The Assistant Professor's Guide to the Galaxy
How to survive and succeed in academia.

The Changing Face of Engineering Employment in Industry
A white paper by NSPC, highlighting the major recent changes affecting the industrial employment environment for engineers.

The Need for Self-Promotion in Scientific Careers
An advice from Richard M. Reis.

Selecting The Construction Industry As A Career - An Analysis
This paper will analyze reasons that individuals would or would not be interested in a career in the construction industry.