When it comes to our business and the work we do throughout the industry, one of the main differentiators we like to focus on is the notion of the Catch Difference. This is the driving practice we embrace across the board that sets Catch apart in terms of quality of work, commitment to client service, and expertise in everything we do.

This heightened standard we hold ourselves to applies to every department and discipline here at Catch – including civil engineering, which is what we’ve enlisted the help of Scott Smith P.Eng (Catch Engineering’s expert civil engineer and 35-year industry veteran) to chat about today.

Five Key Considerations for Civil Engineering Success

1.Plan for Success

At the start of every well-executed project is a well-laid plan – and Scott Smith knows this better than most. “A solid kick-off helps,” Smith explained. “Knowing if there are existing facilities onsite, if a geotechnical program has already been performed, if there’s piling information available, or if the client has a preference for any particular sort of foundation or building materials – these are all details that set us up for success.”

2.Get the Lay of the Land with a Geotechnical Program

When you’re looking to build in new, uncharted territory, the first thing you’ll want to do is know precisely what sort of soil you’re building on – and that’s what a geotechnical survey accomplishes.

“The bigger the structure, the heavier the structure, or the taller the structure,” Smith began, “the more important it is to have good geotechnical information. For example, if you’re putting in a telecommunications tower that’s 75’ high, you’ll want to build knowing that the design you’ve put together has the lateral capacity to hold that up. You don’t want it to start leaning over because the soil happens to be soft in that area, and you just didn’t know about it.”

3.Know Your Piles

Once there’s an established understanding regarding what sort of soil a project will be built on, the next step is to consider the type of foundation that will be employed – the most common of which is the use of piles. There are different pile options and approaches, but the two main choices often come down to a discussion between steel-driven piles and screw piles.

“Think of the difference between the two like the difference between putting a nail or a screw into a piece of wood,” Smith clarified. “With steel-driven piles, you’ve got to hammer them in. With screw piles, you can just screw them in. Then when you’re done, you can just screw them out, too; you can reuse screw piles. Screw piles can also be installed in tight locations – plus, there’s no vibration associated with their installation, which is especially important when it comes to not disturbing machinery if you’re working in an operating plant.”

“That said, it comes down to soil conditions,” Smith continued. “If you’ve got cobbles or boulders down there, and a screw pile hits one, that’s it. On the other hand, if you’re dealing with unknown soil, you’d likely go with steel-driven piles, because you’ve got a better chance of getting the pile installed”

Like so many things in the engineering industry, preparation and success beget more of the same – and piles are no different. By doing the prep work and setting a project up for success with a preliminary geotechnical program, you can be sure to pick the best piles for the job.

4.Keep Costs Down with Prefabrication

With the volatile cost of labour and materials, it is important to keep budgets in mind for our clients. With modern-day prefabrication techniques, Catch can satisfy client needs and meet our high-level expectations, all at a fraction of the cost of traditional construction methods.

“As labour costs have gone way up, the less you do onsite, the better,” Smith confirmed. “A lot of these sites are getting more remote, too, so having personnel onsite can be costly. The more you can fabricate in the shop, the less work you’ve got to do in the field, the more cost-effective it’s going to be.”

5.Keep It Simple (Unless You Need to Get Innovative) 

We make it a point to keep things simple and effective – unless they need to get technical and innovative, which is a professional indulgence that exists well within our wheelhouse.

Smith had some recommendations on how best to choose which approach to take: “Standardization saves the project money,” he outlined. “In our industry, for example, there are certain sizes of wide-flanged steel beams that are fairly common. The more of these commonly sized steel beams you use, the more readily available they are, the cheaper the project becomes.”

“If, for some reason, weight is critical,” Smith went on, “for example, say if you’re having something shipped overseas. Then, you’re going to try to create a design that comes in a minimum weight – but that means you’re also going to have to use pieces of steel that are uncommon. Those uncommon pieces are going to up your initial costs, but it’ll lighten your load and save on shipping in the long run.”

Are you looking for a civil engineering partner that cares as much about your project’s success as you do? Discover the Catch Difference today – contact us directly to learn more about collaboration, partnership, and designing an engineered future across North America.


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