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July 1, 2013 / Brandon

Saving Money, Grading in Sherman Oaks

Saving Money, Grading in Sherman Oaks

B+W Engineering is in the process of designing the grading plans for this lot in Sherman Oaks to what I thought the client wanted. Cover a neighbor’s failing retaining wall and try to make space for as much flat lawn as possible. Turns out the owner had a different idea.

I met with the owner at the site to discuss what he wanted to do instead of the current grading design. Turns out they didn’t mind looking at the ugly falling down wall. That changes things then. As I thought they wanted us to design a new wall in front to help hold up the bad wall and to basically cover the ugliness completely with a 2:1 slope behind the new wall. Another issue added into the mix was that the soils engineer was calling out for a pile supported wall, not a conventional retaining wall. I started to think what we could do to cut costs down and to give the owner what they wanted. I mentioned how about instead of building an expensive pile supported wall we grade a slope up to a point on the falling down wall. The owner liked this idea and gave me a target elevation to hit. Our crude measurement was him standing against the wall and using his body as the guide of the elevation we would grade to. That actually worked very well when looking at the survey.

I wasn’t sure while standing on the site, but I thought we would be able to grade a 3:1 slope to that target elevation and daylight almost right into the proposed lawn. I was excited to get back to work on this as I think if we can get away from designing a wall its better for everyone. Mostly the owner’s bank account in this case. It took me a few tries to get the slope just right to tie into the proposed slope for some new pads going up on the hillside. And I also wanted to make sure to stay as far away as possible from an Oak Tree on site. I love Oak Trees, we even have a beautiful one at our house, but an Oak Tree is the enemy when designing a grading plan. They are so protected that I sometimes joke that people care more about that tree than a human. Whatever we do, we must stay as far away as possible from the canopy and root system. And look at that, I was able to hit the target elevation and daylight right into the proposed lawn all while missing the tree.

I work in order of who has paid us when and their planned deadline. So I am going back and forth on this project daily as the design is difficult. Difficult is an understatement. Not only is there a steep hillside that they want to add a few pads to, but the house footprint sits below the street grade. This makes the drainage complicated. The options are connecting directly into the storm drain or pumping the almost 1 acres into the street’s flowline. After looking over the design connecting into the storm drain seemed better. But then there is an issue that this lot sits on a major street. I have heard stories of putting a new sewer lateral on this street costing over $100,000. I don’t think anyone wants to touch the street. So now we are left with a pump system. We have to use a duplex pump system in case of failure. But now the question is does it make sense to use one or two pump systems? That is something that I am struggling with right now. More mechanical systems means more chance of failure. But the amount of water that would come out of one pump in a 50 year storm would be quite obscene for a single family lot.

Thankfully the owner has been patient. I am sending him so many drafts of plans that he knows we are on top of this project. He also knows we are considering a lot of variables on this site, especially the cost to construct. B+W Engineering and Design can’t wait to get this Civil Engineering project approved and get onto seeing the construction as this house is going to be awesome when finished.

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