Getting a major project off of the ground, no matter the scope, takes a lot of mechanisms operating in sync with each other. Though often drowned out by the intricacies that come with questions related to the PR element of the project, earthwork is, quite literally, the foundation on which any project rests. Without the proper attention given to the project’s physical site, all would-be structures are destined to fail.
The layperson’s understanding of what earthwork is surprisingly not to dissimilar from that of some construction personnel: dirt is moved around until it looks presentable, followed by a building being put on top of it.
Unfortunately, this oversimplification does a disservice to the dedicated earthwork firms whose job is to ensure the safety & well-being of those to inhabit the structures on these sites, now & in perpetuity (as applicable). The work itself goes through a number of stages before any construction on a structure begins:
Feasibility Study — The critical first step in any earthwork project is a feasibility study. The ins and outs of this kind of study will vary from project to project. This variation is key to an eventual project’s success. Every environment is different. The first thing that has to happen is there needs to be a breakdown of project viability. Can the proposed ‘job’ go through in the first place? What type of remediations may be needed? There needs to be significant hazard/risk assessments, as well as an EIA (environmental impact analysis). There may also be a need to change sites.
Water Management on Site — Simply put, this step is all about getting rid of any water on the site. The process by which this take place will vary depending on the amount of water to be evacuated from the site.
Demarcation of Site — As the name suggests, marking the site for work makes the eventual project start run smoother. Commonly referred to as picketing, demarcation of the site includes highlighting boundaries, depth of trench work, and location of the foundation.
Stripping — Once again, as the name suggests, stripping involves the physical cleaning of the site. This top layer of soil & vegetation is not to be disposed of as all attempts to be sure it is reused are made.
As one might imagine, a ‘final’ step in the earthwork process involves excavation. This is, in essence, the start of site prep work for the project’s foundation. Backfilling is then employed to level ground & make it solid. For many, the latter seems like such a rudimentary & unimportant part of a project. However, keep in mind that the displacement of dirt is should be seem more as a modification of the Earth. It could be argued that the significant attention paid to the initial feasibility study is due to the unquestionable mark the proposed project will have on the area.
It should be noted that the earthwork process is never actually over until the project is over. Earthwork firms are constantly evaluating any, and all, environmental considerations for every step of the work done. Environmental remediation personnel are a constant presence throughout the life of the project. They are actively involved in making sure that everything abides by local, state, and federal guidelines. As such, while this may provide a ‘step-by-step’ guide to earthwork, it serves more as a general guideline for what this kind of work entails. In short, every project provides its own set of unique circumstances. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach.
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