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How Layout Technology Controls the Weather… Almost

If you could wave a magic wand and ensure that your construction site saw nothing but sunny days with a slight breeze and a temperature hovering around 72℉, you’d do it, right? It’s not just because working on a construction site in the cold rain or snow is a miserable experience. Adverse weather can also be a safety hazard and can impact the quality of the structure you’re working on. 

Unfortunately, there’s no magic wand available. But, there are ways that onsite workers can help prevent the damage and inconvenience caused by bad weather. Or, in lieu of that, there are at least ways for contractors to mitigate the legal and financial risks that can come from unexpected weather-related problems. Here are two interesting examples to consider, specific to the work of layout professionals


Slopes to drains and culverts

Laying out an effective drainage system is a potentially complex process, and it’s different for every plot of land and set of circumstances. There are often zoning and other legal considerations involved, and the possibility of extreme weather should be considered too. This excerpt from a report entitled, “Failing Culverts – Structural Problems & Economic Considerations” helps illustrate how potential storms factor into drainage failure:

“If the pipe is too small, then the time it takes for the area to drain is simply extended. This causes flooding issues when there is a heavy rain... The time considered is a combination of the duration of the rain event and that resulting from the speed at which the stormwater travels over the land and in channels to get to the culvert. The volume does not really change. The time does change as manmade features accelerate the speed that the volume moves across a drainage area… has some far-reaching effects both in flooding upstream of the culvert and on the structural integrity of the culvert.”

Using highly accurate scanning and positioning solutions, layout professionals handling the concrete, steel, paving, and related trades involved in drainage system construction can better visualize the site’s unique geography and manmade impact. Modeling software can also apply powerful computer simulations to the 3D designs being developed, helping inform the best possible placement of each component. Finally, point cloud software and a 3D laser scanner can help verify the appropriate slope and channel width is maintained even as the concrete is poured and dries.

In all these ways, layout professionals and the workers that install drainage components based on their layout can rest easy knowing the system is designed and crafted with an optimal chance of long-term success. And, in the case of a weather event down the road that simply could not have been foreseen, all the necessary documentation is maintained digitally within the 3D model and related documents to clearly prove what the drainage system was designed to handle and that any failure was not due to negligence.  


Slabs on grade (SOG) and slabs on deck (SOD)

Before, during, and after the pouring of a concrete slab, weather is an important factor: moisture, temperature, and any movement of the ground beneath the slab can all impact how quickly and completely the concrete dries. If they’re not effectively managed, these factors can even result in permanent warping or structural damage to the slab which could end up requiring a complete demolition and reinstallation of the slab. Or, it could create a snowball of other issues down the road, if left unresolved. 

Some potential problems caused by SOG and SOD that succumb to adverse weather include: 

  • Pooling (aka “birdbaths”), where an uneven surface collects water
  • Curling, where edges of the slab curl up or down relative to the ground because of uneven drying on the top or bottom of the slab
  • Buckling and cracking due to insufficient steel reinforcement or inadequate control joints to account for normal expansion and contraction due to temperature fluctuation
  • Heaving caused by the movement of freezing and thawing soil beneath the slab

Once again, the use of effective scanning and layout solutions will allow field techs to effectively map the existing surface, formwork, and rebar setup to confirm it’s optimized for the particular slab being poured. Then, the same equipment can be used during the pour and throughout the curing process to keep an eye on how the slab is progressing. This gives concrete contractors the best chance of success in laying a slab that’s perfectly flat and primed to weather no matter what.

While these efforts can’t completely eliminate the risk of future damage being done by extreme weather, flooding issues, or other unpredictable events, they can provide extensive documentation to prove, if necessary, that the slab was originally designed and built to the highest standards. 

If you’d like to explore the field tech solutions that make these results possible, download our latest free guide The Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Layout for Steel and Concrete.


About the Author

Bryan Williams, Segment Manager, Field Technology Group, Trimble Buildings. Bryan has nearly 30 years of international experience working in the construction industry as a site engineer, construction surveyor, project supervisor and consultant. He has spent the last 15 years developing and marketing intelligent positioning solutions for the construction industry as part of Trimble Buildings.

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