Exceeding Clients’ Expectations

Exceeding Clients’ Expectations

Steve Layden, P.E., LEED AP-McCrone Inc.

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Gravel Run Apartments was conceived as a 16-acre housing project in the heart of Centreville, Md., an area sensitive to over-development. Among the many obstacles a civil engineer faces when beginning a new project, one that remains at the forefront is conceptualizing the site for client consideration. Visualization is a key component in developing a client’s recognition of the potential and positive impact of a project, and in many cases will make or break the engineer’s proposed design. Creation of an intricate and informative 3D model of a site can be used to enhance the design process, increase client satisfaction, and positively impact a firm’s ability to win business.

For many, the traditional design process can be both costly and time-consuming, without the additional task of gathering data to create a 3D model. However, SITEOPS Web-based site planning software, enables creation of multiple, conceptual site designs at a rapid pace, identifying layout, grading, and stormwater drainage options that are optimized for least cost.

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By utilizing advanced computing algorithms, SITEOPS can quickly consider thousands of possibilities and pinpoint design and grading plans with the lowest estimated cost of construction. This patented technology has been demonstrated to identify significant potential savings in site development costs – on average, $15,000 per acre – when tested against traditional CAD-based engineering methods.

Application of SITEOPS in the early stages of the land development process allows a user to arrive at the best cost-focused, preliminary site plan faster by streamlining the revision process and enabling same-day answers. Users can literally see the cost impact of moving a building, changing a parking lot slope, or adding an outparcel without manually re-grading and performing a separate estimate.

Creative solutions

SITEOPS allows users the freedom to explore creative solutions for site layouts and to present alternatives to their clients, including 3D views and preliminary cost estimates. When approaching any new project, Steve Layden, P.E., LEED AP, with McCrone Inc., harnesses this power to overcome time and budget constraints and unique obstacles, all while contributing to the financial success of his client.

In addition to the basic need for client visualization and understanding, engineers on Maryland’s Eastern shore, such as Layden, often face community concerns regarding density and over-development, which is considered a threat to the local quality of life. For McCrone Inc., SITEOPS plays an integral role in developing the 3D models necessary for appeasing local concerns.

Density concerns

In early 2011, Gravel Run Apartments was conceived as a 16-acre workforce housing project located in the heart of Centreville, Md., an area familiar with development sensitivity. During the initial conceptual planning stage for this new apartment complex, McCrone proactively presented to the town of Centreville Planning Commission and the residents an accurate, SITEOPS-created 3D representation of the proposed design. His tenacity paid off.

According to the underlying zoning for this particular site, density was limited to no more than eight units per acre. Taking this into consideration, McCrone used SITEOPS to re-evaluate the site, produce a cost estimate, and focus on a particular plan that addressed the needs of the developer and architect. With the representation created by the 3D models, the team helped ease the density concerns and fears of city-planning officials and, in turn, they allowed for a density increase at the site – moving from a by-right density of eight apartments per acre to more than nine.

“By using SITEOPS, we were able to provide our client with a detailed cost estimate along with visual models upfront – the essence of concept-level value engineering,” Layden said.

Continuing the approval process, the team’s next step will be to integrate the SITEOPS data with Revit’s architectural output to create a visual, tactile 3D model that conceptualizes the site, thus allowing for a better valuation of the scale, appearance, and density of the structures.

At the time of the Gravel Run project, the latest SITEOPS modules, Swept Path Analysis and Topo Import, were in beta testing and unavailable for general use by McCrone. However, Layden said that these tools would have been extremely beneficial to the project. For example, without the need to import data from third-party software, the Swept Path Analysis module would have demonstrated the site’s accessibility for the local fire department directly within SITEOPS.

“The Topo Import module would have provided a much-needed step in the conceptual phase of this project,” Layden said. “The ability to look up an address during an informal client meeting and show them what they can do with a property in 15 minutes – this type of marketing wasn’t even conceived of six months ago.”

Business development 

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McCrone’s potential to expand its business relationship with the client has increased because of SITEOPS’ capabilities, models, and cost effectiveness. The time and cost savings have proven to be a valuable advantage for both the engineer and the client, as projects that normally would take two weeks to plan now only require a few hours to produce at the same level of detail.

With existing communities in Maryland facing similar density concerns, McCrone, a SITEOPS Certified Provider, is equipped with the tools to provide the necessary 3D models, demonstrating the efficiency and aesthetics of possible future projects.

“Currently, McCrone is the only Maryland firm that can meet these expectations,” Layden said.