The Importance of a Well-Constructed Civil Engineering Design - Urban

The Importance of a Well-Constructed Civil Engineering Design - Urban
17/11/22
Article by Reece Stichter

The importance of providing a well-considered civil engineering design cannot be underestimated however, a design that fails to consider any important aspect of the development can lead to increased risk and significant time and financial implications, which may ultimately be passed onto the end user.

The civil engineering profession is well known for the design and construction of any infrastructure that serves the public. While civil engineering has been an aspect of life since the beginning of human existence, it is becoming increasingly important that civil engineers, and the designs that are produced, consider and address the complexities that exist in the current environment.

Civil engineers must possess knowledge on various professions such as project management, surveying, town planning, servicing, landscape architecture, construction and accounting. The ability for a civil engineer to communicate with these professions will help to provide a design that is well-considered, coordinated and produced efficiently.

Development Challenges (Regional Infrastructure example)

Many of the large greenfield sites within the Sydney basin (and zoned) have now been developed, which means the development of much smaller, fragmented land holdings is becoming increasingly more common.

When these fragmented land holdings exist within recently rezoned areas, it is usual for the construction of regional stormwater basins to be delayed until councils have the funds generated from developer contributions. This gap in critical regional infrastructure delivery leads to the design and construction of temporary on-site detention and water quality basins, which are costly, inefficient and often temporarily sterilise land and a significant portion of development profit.

The design of temporary on-site detention and water quality basins must consider several key constraints:

  • Balancing land take with the need to minimise earthworks and basin infrastructure. A large basin with flatter earth batters may be cheaper to construct but often comes with a significant financial burden to developers due to the land take required. It is often more economical to construct smaller deeper basins with costly walls than burden more land
  • Safety and access to the basins
  • Hydraulic performance and flood risk
  • Removal and remediation of the basin, often years in the future, when the development surrounding the basin is completed and part of an active community.

Civil engineers and the designs produced can often be caught up between several developers with different objectives and timeframes. While developers often engage civil engineers to deliver the infrastructure for new developments, engineers ultimately deliver the infrastructure that serves the public. The design should always be in the end-user’s and the environment’s interest and meet legal requirements and engineering standards. The engineer is also responsible for producing an economic outcome that supports continued and sustaintable investment.

Legislative & Regulatory Requirements and Engineering Standards

Engineers must understand the legislative and regulatory framework that they practise in. While civil engineers are ultimately guided and legislated by the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, a range of other engineering standards and guidelines exist that include, but are not limited to:

  • Australian Standards
  • Council specifications
  • Development Control Plans
  • Austroads
  • Transport for NSW
  • Australian Rainfall and Runoff
  • Regional design guidelines e.g. Western Sydney Street Design Guidelines
  • Environmental constraints and legislation
  • Connection to Country considerations
  • Numerous industry publications and technical memo’s

This large range of standards informs largely governs our designs and at the very least heavily influences the final product. With such a volume of information and data to consider, the end result is often a contradictory outcome that must be assessed by each civil engineer on a project-by-project basis and hierarchy of law, controls, standards and guides.

Sustainable Engineering

With many developers looking to achieve Green Star ratings and net zero carbon emissions for their developments, a well-considered civil engineering design is crucial. It will help:

  • Reduce the development costs through the minimisation of earthworks, road pavement and stormwater construction.
  • Assist in reducing the carbon footprint imposed by construction activities and the manufacturing process.

Civil engineers need to be at the forefront of new technologies and embrace new engineering solutions to address climate change. To achieve this, governments must develop clear policy frameworks and employers need to ensure all civil engineers are educated and upskilled as new industries evolve. A thorough understanding of the implication of inefficiencies in the water, energy and transport sectors will assist in the development of a well-considered engineering design.

Utility Co-ordination

A well-considered civil engineering design will also need to consider the utility servicing requirements for each development. For example, many of the smaller and fragmented land holdings will often need to provide a utility lead in infrastructure, which can significantly impact cash flow given the need for them to be in place before the adjoining developments have been completed. In these examples, civil engineers need to understand the future planning of adjoining developments to ensure the servicing lead-ins are correctly located to avoid costly rework when the adjoining developments are developed.

Reducing Lot Sizes

With the density of Torrens title developments increasing and more commonly approaching 20-25 dwellings per hectare, civil engineers are finding it more challenging to accommodate each lot’s needs. This is particularly true when lot frontages are reducing to become regularly below 9m wide frontages.

The need to consider stormwater drainage, water sensitive urban design, on-street car parking, servicing, landscaping, footpaths and driveways are all becoming even more challenging with reduced lot frontages.

The ability for civil engineers to consider such a multitude of constraints is becoming more complex, and the risks associated with these constraints are becoming more prevalent. A well-considered modern engineering design will need to address and resolve various challenges that have traditionally not formed a critical component of civil engineering design. Without experience or oversight from qualified personnel the risk to developers and the end users is amplified.

Orion’s team of engineers and designers have a well-rounded knowledge of the land development and design process. Through our experience, we understand that design is not simply meeting a discrete set of standards and codes but also extends to how the infrastructure is to be used and it’s form. This requires engagement with stakeholders outside purely technical considerations, and we know from experience that collaboration on any project is paramount.

Orion’s engineers and designers have access to a full suite of inhouse services, from Planners to WSC’s, Surveyors to Superintendents. This wealth of knowledge can be applied to every project, providing added depth and a 360-degree view of our designs’ constructibility and environmental impacts.

Reach out if you want to elevate your Urban Development projects with an Orion design.

Reece Stichter | Technical Director | Orion Group reece.stichter@theoriongroup.au

The Importance of a Well-Constructed Civil Engineering Design - Urban
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