Category: Issues

November 11, 2016

Honoring Our Veterans

South Carolina Army National Guard clearing sand from Edisto Island's Palmetto Boulevard following Hurricane Matthew

South Carolina Army National Guard clearing sand from Edisto Island’s Palmetto Boulevard following Hurricane Matthew

At Davis & Floyd, we see our work as a civic service and honor those who give the utmost in service to our country – our veterans. As we spend today thanking our veterans for their service, 28 of which are Davis & Floyd employees, we wanted to share the story of one of them who exemplifies community and professional service.

When Hurricane Matthew rolled through South Carolina, we were on alert for infrastructure damage and flooding that would warrant a Davis & Floyd response. At the same time, certain South Carolinians were watching in a more official capacity once Governor Nikki Haley gave her State of Emergency declaration. One such respondent was US Army National Guard Capt. Chris Huber, PE and 1221st engineer clearance company commander.

Chris is based in our Columbia office and trains yearly for situations like this as part of the South Carolina Army National Guard.

“We have pre-set areas with a set mission tasking that we are to support in the event that they need help, however if another area is in need we can move to support other missions. As soon as a State of Emergency is declared we begin officially alerting the unit to possible activation, however during Hurricane season we pretty much just stay on alert,” Chris explains.

His unit was sent to Edisto Beach and assigned lead command, allowing him to request equipment to assist his team’s mission to clear roadways. The company’s wartime mission is to conduct route reconnaissance, minesweeping, minefield-clearing operations, and more. After the storm, the team used similar skills to clear the way using dump trucks, skid steers, and chain saws to make room for larger equipment to come in and continue recovery efforts.

Before Hurricane Matthew, Chris’s company was integral in October 2015’s flood response. They helped restore the City of Columbia’s drinking water supply.

“Being a company commander is like being a project manager on a bigger scale, you are responsible for everything that happens and fails to happen in your unit,” said Chris. “I also believe that being an engineer requires a great deal of attention to detail and that’s one thing the military is very big on.”

For Chris, Veterans Day is a day for reflection on experiences (good and bad) and friends made along the way.

“It is also a day to remember those who are no longer with us to celebrate how far our country has come and reminder that we are still at war and the fight continues every day. “

To Chris and our other veterans, we thank you for your service. We’re so grateful to have you working on behalf of not only Davis & Floyd, but South Carolina and the United States of America.

October 28, 2016

(Re)Building for Hurricanes and Other Natural Disasters: Part 2

Market Street drainage

Market Street drainage

Last week, we wrote about how proper preparation and rehabilitation of structures go a long way to preventing loss of life and property in a natural disaster. In our half-century of work, we’ve engineered safe solutions for historic structures, large industrial-purpose buildings, towns and neighborhoods, and transportation needs. Yet each of these projects comes with different requirements and sets of best practices.

In particular, transportation planning and project execution are highly affected by weather events.

For example, when we work on bridges, we design for resiliency, accounting for the extreme conditions that are brought about by natural disasters such as flooding, impacts from debris, high winds, and earthquakes.

Transportation infrastructure and its ability to perform at its best is as much a need before and after as during natural disasters. As we saw during Hurricane Matthew’s evacuation of the South Carolina coast, the sudden increase in travel needs and potential for dangerous weather can be an instant game-changer after the call is made by the governor.

On our construction projects, we are in close contact with local and SCDOT representatives and in the event of incoming bad weather, all barrels, cones, and temporary signs that can be removed from the project are removed to avoid the risk of becoming projectiles in high winds. For projects on evacuation routes, we always are prepared to meet protocols, which include stabilizing sites and staging the project to allow for no lane reductions as well as seeing that all possible lanes of traffic are opened.

We also maintain 24-hour monitoring of all projects for the duration of the storm. After the storm, we assess the damage and make any emergency repairs that are needed to keep the roadway open. Once the evacuation is complete, permanent repairs are undertaken to the roadway.

In Charleston, low-lying areas frequently are prone to flooding, but our work on the city’s drainage system improved much of the recovery. The City Market area notoriously has been waterlogged in previous storms, but thanks to our work in progress, installation of drop shafts and a new tunnel 120 feet underground, many businesses avoided incoming water and were able to open the day after Hurricane Matthew passed – an improvement over years past. The next phase of the project being designed includes completing the drainage project and improvements to the streetscape.

Steve Kirk, the city’s senior engineering project manager, said the pump station ran for hours and pumped over 50 million gallons of stormwater in total. The project is still yet to be completed, but we’re so pleased at the early successes of the project and grateful that the City of Charleston had a quick and safe recovery.

October 21, 2016

(Re)Building for Hurricanes and Other Natural Disasters: Part 1

Photo of micropiles at Rivers Education Center

627 micropiles (over 10 miles in total length) were installed to strengthen Rivers Education Center’s existing building foundation.

As our state continues work to clean up and rebuild after Hurricane Matthew, we’ve breathed a collective sigh of relief that the damage wasn’t worse. Much of the forecasting focused on high winds paired with the Lowcountry’s notorious flooding.

What Davis & Floyd has found in over a half-century of working across South Carolina is that proper preparation and rehabilitation of structures go a long way to preventing loss of life and property in a natural disaster. Two projects that illustrate this are our work on the Rivers Education Center and barracks at The Citadel.

We’ve written before about the Rivers Education Center’s stability for earthquakes. Those same precautions and more protect the building and our students from hurricane-related dangers.

The original 2-story unreinforced brick masonry school building was built in 1938 and considered unsafe for continued use in 2009. Davis & Floyd designed the restoration to meet all current codes for hurricane and seismic resistance as a school facility, meaning that the wood roof structure was strengthened and properly attached with over 3,000 hurricane/seismic ties and anchors. Floors were braced into the supporting walls and walls were reinforced with shotcrete on the interior faces. Stairwells also were reinforced. The whole building foundation was supported with micropiles for added stability. The building’s restored windows are energy-efficient and hurricane impact resistant. The school is now being utilized by two groups – the Charter School for Math and Science and the Lowcountry Tech Academy.

Across town, we also worked on replacement dormitories for The Citadel campus over a period of several years. The unique shape and style of the barracks buildings with central open quadrangles and covered walkways made the hurricane and seismic/earthquake designs more challenging. Davis & Floyd performed a detailed initial architectural and engineering study of the existing 4-story unreinforced masonry buildings to determine the renovations required to bring them up to code. The study revealed that it was more economical and safer to replace the four barracks with new structures, designed for full code compliance.

The new buildings are constructed entirely of concrete, making them some of the strongest structures in the Lowcountry in the face of hurricane or seismic threats. The new windows are impact resistant, while maintaining the original unique appearance.

With improvements like these and foresight on new projects, proper engineering can help South Carolina citizens stay safe in the face of a storm. We’re glad to be a part of the solution.

Part 2 will deal with best practices and more on flooding and drainage systems.

July 26, 2016

Research in Our Ranks: Porous Pavement Bike Lanes

Photo of bike tire

Transportation has always been one of Davis & Floyd’s strongest sectors and because of that we recognize that the challenges of public transportation are often about integrating options beyond automotive.

That is why we wanted to take a minute to highlight research done by one of our own – Tripp West, PE. An engineer in the Charleston office, Tripp works on project teams for water resources, transportation, and land development projects for both public and private clients. Through design, preparation of plans and specifications, permitting, and cost estimating, he has been essential on multiple plans, analyses, and developments.

Tripp always has been passionate about helping others meet their basic needs, from clean water to safe living spaces, access to work, and a means to move people and goods. While working on his engineering degree, he was a founding member of a group called Clemson Engineers for Developing Countries. His focus on sustainability is one reason he believes that engineers can make great strides as we tackle future problems like climate change and rising sea levels.

With that in mind, we wanted to share some of Tripp’s thesis research on porous pavement bike lanes adjacent to impervious traffic lanes. He was able to analyze the distance required for water running onto a porous pavement to fully infiltrate into the pavement – proving that it is linearly proportional to the width of the adjacent impervious traffic lanes and the rainfall intensity. It is also inversely proportional to the sum of the rainfall intensity and pavement hydraulic conductivity.

Why are his findings on porous pavements so important? We will let Tripp explain:

The inclusion of bicycle lanes or pathways is increasing in urban areas where local governments are looking for ways to increase alternative modes of transportation and provide safe routes for the increasing number of cyclists choosing to ride their bicycles around town rather than drive a vehicle. Even from a site design perspective, we are now required to include in our plans how pedestrian and bicycle access will be accommodated within our developments and how those pathways will connect to existing routes. One of the leading causes of increased flooding is the conversion of pervious areas (forests, farmland, and other open spaces) to impervious areas (buildings and pavement), which increases the volume of downstream runoff leading to potential flooding issues. The addition of paved bicycle lanes and pathways in a road corridor further increases the total amount of impervious area required for that facility.

Pervious pavements, which allow water to drain through the surface, are already being used in other applications where traditional pavement is required to reduce the overall volume of runoff leaving a site. The goal of this project was to investigate the feasibility of using pervious pavements for the bicycle lane application and then identify which components of the system would need to be further investigated in hopes of creating a design guideline for using this application in practice.

The pervious bicycle lane concept could potentially be implemented within new road corridors, alongside existing roadways, or incorporated into maintenance and retrofits of existing streets.

Today, Tripp and his Davis & Floyd colleague Mike Horton are serving in an industry advisor role with his former professor on a new research project. The project, entitled “Performance Based Design of Low Impact Development Technologies in Response to Climate Change Induced Changes In Rainfall Patterns,” is funded through the SC Sea Grant Consortium.

March 24, 2016

The Heart of Thoughtful Design: Landscape Architecture in an Engineering Firm

Photo of a bioswale in Oak Terrace Preserve

Good design is not only aesthetically pleasing but also must function to best fit the end users’ needs while serving the site’s landscape. Davis & Floyd’s landscape architecture team knows more than anyone how the ideas of form and function interact on a project. Our landscape architecture team is trained to identify and address constraints early in the process. This is why including a cross-disciplined team’s insight is one of the most advantageous things a developer can do. Initial objectives by our landscape architecture team include research, site analysis, and problem solving before anyone gets into a hard-hat zone.

Constraints as Design Needs
On finished sites, many aesthetic features actually began as functional choices at the start of the project. For example, to the unknowing observer of a bioswale, it is just a ditch with attractive native plants within and around it. In reality, a bioswale’s function is to treat stormwater with specifically chosen plants, slow water flow and let it percolate into the soil, and provide native fauna food and shelter.

During the final stages of a recent project, the developer informed the design team that SCE&G was locating a series of electrical equipment on the site and these elements would significantly impose upon the views of the building and the users’ experiences. Additionally, this change required that the controversial project go back before the municipality’s design review committee – a potential hurdle to project permitting and construction. Our landscape architecture team provided a planting design to accommodate the SCE&G requirements while also screening the equipment with vegetation so that it did not detract from users’ interaction with the proposed development. To illustrate their solution, our designers also created a series of photorealistic renderings of the pedestrian experience to gather consensus among SCE&G, the developer, and the municipality’s design review board resulting in a favorable approval and subsequent building permit acquisition.

Considering a Site’s Uses
Whether environmental or municipal, constraints require additional investigation in order to decide how to proceed with site design. Our landscape architects balance the needs of the developer with the requirements of the municipality while also taking into consideration the environment and the experience of the individual interacting with the site. An important aspect of the design process is forethought of experience, which can vary from someone in a car driving through the site, to the experience on foot, to the view from a window in a building.

How a person feels in a space can be manipulated based on choices made during the design process. Paving materials can be used to regulate speed and features like the fragrance of blooming plants and various sidewalk materials all invoke different responses from the users of the space. Trees often are placed to frame chosen views from a building’s window.

From big picture to small details, our landscape architecture team excels at finding solutions that are engineering-minded while using the site and thoughtful design to solve problems and evoke experiences.