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February 8, 2014 / Brandon

The Concept of Grading a Hillside in Highland Park – B+W Engineering and Design Blog

The Concept of Grading a Hillside in Highland Park #CivilEngineer

As easily buildable vacant lots around Los Angeles become harder to come by we are starting to see some very interesting grading projects pop up. The latest grading plan that we are working on is for a single family residence in Highland Park.

What better way to update the blog than by talking about this particular project. First the design is stepped from the front to back. There is a garage at the front of the property line. Then you walk up some stairs to the entrance level. From there you can go up to the backyard level either up some more stairs on the sideyard or through the house. This is a pretty typical layout for the houses in Northeast LA or NELA. NELA is the trendiest part of Los Angeles and it seems like you can build anything here and people will flock to purchase. I am pretty familiar with this area as we were looking to buy a house here as prices started to go back up a few years ago. This piece of property will have an amazing view to top off living in an up and coming neighborhood. So these tiered levels have more purpose than just fitting onto the lot.

Once we received the overall siteplan from the Architect we went to work grading out the site. I started from my typical front yard elevations to see what is happening. Then work to the next level and last put the majority of work into the back yard. This method seems to allow me to reach the constraints of the grading as fast as possible when laying a site out in the computer. I can tell how to setup the drainage from the beginning of the run, which is normally the back of the property. And also I can get a good idea of how to tie everything in together with some basic grades thrown around. As I worked to the back I had to check retaining wall heights. The retaining wall heights is where the problem starts out. We start hitting walls that are over the two 10′ max or one 12′ max walls as we reach the rear sideyard.

After a few conference calls with the client and Architect we were able to come up with a solution. The Architect ended up raising the finished floor slightly and we would use the house wall as a partial retaining wall. So how does this work? We will take the existing grade against the property line drop down 10′ to hit our finished grade. This idea will wrap the problem sideyard area and force an elevation against the house. From there we wrap around the property with a 10′ max retaining wall until we get to the backyard. From there we will step the backyard with planter walls. To minimize the stepped planter walls we will use a max 10′ wall on top. After a few times fiddling around with this we were able to come up with a concept that we can start to work into the overall siteplan. The grading plan will be a huge mess of numbers. But now we have something to work with and finalize the details.

The next step will be figuring out how to have access around this part of the sideyard. Stairs leading up from the front yard and back down as we reach the backyard makes the most sense to me. Throw in a few landings and we have a workable grading plan. The large change to the initial siteplan is that the sideyard can no longer have windows as that wall will be holding the existing ground. Not such a big loss to make the site buildable. But also this is not as nice as what I think was envisioned from the start. I am glad we got this design early enough to work out the kinks before the Architect went to town on his plans. Once again this is a very good reason to hire a Civil Engineer early on to make sure the grading plans will work.

The post The Concept of Grading a Hillside in Highland Park appeared first on B+W Engineering and Design Blog.
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