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What Is a Land Development Engineer?

Land Development Engineer

A land development engineer is just one of the many types of engineers that exist. You might already know that engineers design things and deal a lot with numbers and measurements. If you are interested in constructing anything new on a piece of property, there is a particular kind of engineer that specializes in land development that would help with that.

A land development engineer is a civil engineer whose responsibility is to design or review construction plans that would be used to construct new buildings with associated driveways, parking areas, utilities, and other elements required for the new building to be accessible and functional. You may hear a land development engineer also be referred to as a site engineer or even a grading engineer.

A civil engineer in general is an engineer that is involved with the construction of things that are used by people. These things could include buildings, bridges, waterways, and earth retaining walls.

The field of land development engineering is kind of a general area of civil engineering in that it involves the creation of a designed plan for how to build a construction project. This kind of engineer would lay out how the new construction should look with regards to the layout of buildings, driveways, sidewalks, and stormwater management systems. This engineer would also design the grading for the site as well as the sizing and location of stormwater collection systems.

If a project involves the construction of a retaining wall, a land development engineer would be the one to properly show on the plans the location and height of the wall. However, it would be a different engineer (either a structural engineer or a geotechnical engineer) that would most likely have to be hired to design the wall itself and create a separate set of plans for a contractor to use to construct the wall. The contractor would first use the site plans from the land development engineer to locate where the wall should go and then use the construction plans from the structural or geotechnical engineer to build the actual wall.

If a new project has an existing creek running through the site and construction is proposed close to this creek, a hydraulic engineer may have to be hired to do a floodplain analysis to help the land development engineer with determining where construction can occur while meeting regulatory requirements related to waterways and floodplains. The hydraulic engineer would generate a floodplain boundary that the land development engineer would then show on the land development plans.

The Deliverables Created by This Type of Engineer

In order to create a plan that is buildable, a land development engineer has the goal of generating the following two main deliverables.

1) The Land Development Plans – These are the plans used for the construction of the project that are drawn with computer aided drafting software. They are designed and drawn in the computer and then hard copies are plotted out for actual use by the contractors who would be doing the construction.

2) Engineering Reports – These reports contain the design calculations required for review and approval by the municipality where the project is located. These documents contain the computations or the results of engineering computer models that are eventually used in support of certain elements of the land development plans.

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The Design Engineer Versus the Review Engineer

There are two sides to land development engineering. There is the design side and there is the review side. The design engineer, who is usually hired by a private land owner or a land developer, will first create the plans and supporting design calculations that have to meet certain requirements of the local municipality. The review engineer, who is hired by the municipality, will then review the plans and engineering reports submitted to the municipality for compliance with the various regulatory requirements.

After possibly a couple of rounds of this process of submission and review of plans, the review engineer will normally at some point present an approval of the plan for construction. However, there still may be other steps involved before construction can actually begin. For example, the plans may still have other construction permit applications to be approved or they may have to officially be approved by a local governing group such a board of supervisors.

A Typical Day for a Land Development Design Engineer

With the final goal of a typical project for a land development engineer being to design and have approved a set of site plans, there are many different things for which a design engineer would be responsible.

The following are some of tasks that a design land development engineer could be involved with in a typical day.

1) Creating the first set of plans for a new land development project.
2) Preparing design calculations and corresponding engineering reports for a new project.
3) Preparing a land development application package for submission to a municipality or other regulatory agency for a first review.
4) Addressing review comments sent to the engineer from various review agencies sent to the design engineer in the form of a letter or email.
5) Preparing a new submission package for an existing project to be sent to a municipality or other regulatory agency for another review.
6) Preparing proposals for new potential projects.
7) Responding to emails and phone calls from clients, review agencies, and construction contractors.

A design engineer may also need to prepare for and attend meetings some of which may be at other offices or at a project site. Another responsibility of a design engineer could also be having to be present during parts of the construction of an approved project to ensure that certain elements of a plan are being constructed properly.

Related: How to Create a Land Development Design (In 12 Steps)

A Typical Day for a Land Development Review Engineer

In reviewing land development projects for compliance with municipal requirements, the following are some of the tasks for which a review engineer may be responsible throughout a typical day.

1) Reviewing a new land development application with associated plans and engineering reports for compliance with municipal requirements.
2) Reviewing a resubmission package for an existing project.
3) Creating a review letter for submitted plans or reports for a project that lists deficiencies or sections of an ordinance that still have to be complied with.
4) Creating an approval letter for a land development project.
5) Responding to emails and phone calls from municipalities, engineers, and construction contractors.

As with a design engineer, a review engineer may also have to attend meetings at other offices or at a project site.

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When to Look for Help From a Land Development Engineer

A land development engineer is the professional to go to when you have in interest in developing your property in any way. Even if you are wanting to build only a single new building off of your existing driveway, you would most likely still want to hire a land development engineer from a civil engineering consulting company. This person could let you know what your different options are and whether or not what you want to do is even possible with regards to meeting regulatory requirements.

Related: 8 Times When You Should Hire a Civil Engineer

An Important Part of Your Land Development Team

The goal of a land development project is to have a set of construction plans that is approved by a municipality and that is buildable by a contractor. This requires the expertise of a right professional with access to the right equipment and tools that a land development engineer would have. A land development engineer would be an important part of the land development process and of your land development team since this person will help you to get the plan required for the construction of your project.

Posted in Land Development

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