A Day in the Life of a Civil Engineer – Day 1

So many people seem to have no idea what civil engineers do each day. Is this because civil engineers typically avoid promoting their work and profession? Or is this just something that people are not taught in school? Or does anyone, other than engineers, really care? Or is it a little of all of that? In an effort to help contribute to removal of the first reason, I decided to try out documenting each work day with a short summary of what I did that day working as a city engineer at a municipality with a population of approximately 23,000. I will try to avoid specific names because they should not be relevant, and because the people involved might not want this information publicly posted on a blog. Feel free to post in the comment area any questions or ideas related to the post for that day. If something is posted that reminds you of a similar experience, I’d love to hear it!

Day 1

My normal work day starts at 7 am and officially ends at 4 pm. Usually I hang around after 4 and leave between 4:30 and 5 pm unless I have another obligation. Today, I started my day as I normally do checking my calendar and my email. Our division had received an offer from a contractor to inspect a product that we had not yet used in our city. The inspection trip was scheduled for today, so we finalized the time and who was going to go during the early morning. While waiting for the contractor to show up, I worked on the following items:

  • Finalizing the property research our interns had completed to determine property ownership in a block where the city is designing a new parking lot. We need to know the property owners because the city attorney must use this information to prepare related agreements and easements.
  • I also worked with our interns to explain how to perform and document research to determine a chain of title of property for a detention pond in one of our subdivisions.
  • I reviewed a development plan scheduled to be discussed later that day.
  • And of course, I read through and answered and organized the day’s email.

CAM Product Road TreatmentDuring the last half of the morning, some of our staff went with a contractor to inspect the performance of his product. We were also able to witness the company in the process of placing the product along a county road. Many of the products we use have been around for a long time and have a long track record. In order for us to incorporate newer products into our designs, we need to spend the time to make sure they are worth the money and will perform. In this case, we thought the product greatly improved and enhanced the performance of the pavement to which it was applied. So we agreed the product does seem to provide value at a reasonable cost. (You can see how the product looks right after its application in the photo to the left. The pavement at the top of the photo shows how it looks after it has dried.)

We ended up only stopping for a short lunch then returning to attend a staff review meeting for a proposed development. These meetings include members from all departments in the city who are part of the development review team. The purpose of the meeting is to talk about the submittal and identify any concerns or areas requiring changes or clarification. So, we discussed the proposed plan and developed comments to send to the developer.

After the meeting, another engineer and I left the office to inspect a drainage inquiry. Questions about drainage are the most common call our division receives from residents. In this case, the person was asking about their backyard flooding. After looking up the original subdivision plans, we realized the back yard of this residence is part of a detention basin. The area is designed to flood, or detain water, during a storm. After the storm, the water will eventually. The last time it rained was a few days ago, so today, the area was dry.

I also ended the day touching base again with our interns about their property research. They had discovered the basin was owned by an association affiliated with the subdivision. So I showed them how to verify the corporation and ensure it had not been dissolved and explained how to look up articles of incorporation.

There were many miscellaneous items I addressed over the day through email although I’m not sure how detailed I should be about these. For now, I’ll try a short listing of some of the items, but if this seems to be too much to include in a summary, let me know:

  • Reviewed a request to hold an event in our community to ensure there were no engineering-related issues with the event request
  • Worked on getting access for our staff to the ACE11 Virtual event
  • With the help of the county staff, resolved a question about who maintains cattails in the right of way of the county road in our community
  • Passed along striping requests to one of our staff members who is managing the striping operations for this year


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