Mar 25, 2020

Microeconomics of a Jobsite

Exploring the impacts of single factors and the effects of individual erosion control installation decisions

Increasingly, the goal is to create Green Infrastructure (GI) in urban interfaces that prevents contamination, facilitates absorption and infiltration on every site as vegetation reclaims the disrupted soil.
Increasingly, the goal is to create Green Infrastructure (GI) in urban interfaces that prevents contamination, facilitates absorption and infiltration on every site as vegetation reclaims the disrupted soil.

It is no secret that mistakes on the jobsite can be costly, expenses mount quicker than many realize. 

Effective erosion control strategies are key to managing material costs, labor costs, and avoiding lost time on the jobsite to ensure a successful project. 

The key to developing an effective erosion control strategy is first recognizing it should be a consideration for every jobsite. The Clean Water Act and many regulatory agencies designate that an erosion control plan is required any time a certain amount of soil acreage is disrupted, or a time frame for a project exceeds as certain length. But the truth is that erosion control should be considered for every site and the strategy is as important as the work of any engineering plans or construction document.

The strategy may be very brief in nature or have a complexity that covers a wide variety of challenges. It is imperative that this strategy is a forethought rather than a reactionary measure or merely an act of compliance. A single decision can have substantial financial impact on your jobsite. The best erosion control strategies will be based on the intended land use, longevity of protection, and the site itself.

Whatever the land use, erosion control has a place. For example, oil exploration and drilling requires construction of temporary roadways that must maintain integrity under the heaviest of equipment. Solar sites are built out with substantial stationary equipment requiring vegetation to be reestablished over a wide area. Residential developments and transportation projects disrupt soil for a short amount of time, but present risk to the new structures in the long-term. 

Moreover, things like climate and foot traffic will also impact the length of time that protection must be in place. Increasingly, the goal is to create Green Infrastructure (GI) in urban interfaces that prevents contamination, facilitates absorption and infiltration on every site as vegetation reclaims the disrupted soil.

In some cases, a DOT or Army Corps of Engineers specify the needs of the project making compliance more of a formality. In other cases, your engineers will be responsible for specifying the erosion control strategy. Luckily, college curriculums are better preparing tomorrow’s lead engineers to consider erosion control as a core of civil engineering practices, and the workforce is full of engineers with real-world experience. 

We’re also in the digital information age. Tools are abundant to assist young and seasoned engineers and site managers alike. East Coast Erosion Control and other erosion control device manufacturers have developed an array of apps to assist everyone specifiers analyze site needs. From soil types to using a phone’s camera to analyze slope, the apps output recommendations for countering gravitational forces and determining appropriate erosion mitigation.

Once the correct erosion control and sediment management devices are identified, your considerations should also account for how to source the materials. The strategy is ineffective if it cannot be completed economically and on the timeline the project requires. Who manufactures the right types of products? Are they distributed in the area? And when applicable, has the product been third-party tested and granted approvals by authorities in the state your project resides?

The most significant economic impacts of erosion control are also some of the easiest factors to mitigate risk via a “field strategy.” The installation process of erosion control is arguably the most important of all the factors. A field strategy is how you approach things in the field – staffing, training, equipment acquisition, etc.

This isn’t the time to get sloppy. Training the labor force to properly install the devices in-hand are the make-or-break of the project – and your pocketbook. Missteps due to training failures can allow natural forces to act upon the site, generating thousands of dollars in added material and labor costs. And potential loss of future contracts as a result of damaged reputations. Training your team for proper installation procedures will allow you to work the site with a smaller, more efficient project team. 

 

Sample drawing available at www.ECTC.org. Courtesy of Erosion Control Technology Council
Sample drawing available at www.ECTC.org. Courtesy of Erosion Control Technology Council

Training does not need to be a daunting task. Organizations like the Erosion Control Technology Council  have recognized this potential pitfall and developed free installation videos (www.ECTC.org/installation-videos), as well as slope and channel drawings to assist you in training your project teams. Additionally, respected manufacturers make it common practice to include installation instructions and offer engineers’ drawings to use as needed for the specifying process. [include high-resolution of channel, etc. drawings and link to website].

It is important to note that the slope of the terrain may impact the staple patterns and or need for earth anchors. The degree of slope and the flow rates will determine the appropriate staple pattern.

In addition to the mid-slope staple and anchor needs, installation begins and ends with the workers in the trenches, so to speak.

Courtesy of East Coast Erosion Control

Erosion blankets, whether single net straw intended to last 90 days or more permanent solutions intended to have a functional longevity of several years, the trench anchoring at the top and bottom of the slope or channel are the most important element.

Proper installation is not solely a way to reduce the risk of having to re-do an installation after failure, it also reduces the total amount of material used and the required labor hours required per square foot or yard of a project at the onset.

Specifiers can also indirectly assist in the management of costs of an installation. Erosion control device product developers design products to provide varied benefit. Some products are developed with wider standard sizes to cover more square footage per roll but suffer when it comes to “man-handling” the material into place. There is often a need to specify a ten-foot-wide roll that can be installed with less muscling of material up and down the slope. 

In the economics of a jobsite, labor is likely of the greatest expense you will face. An efficiently trained labor force and labor-friendly material specifying will pay dividends in the field by reducing turnover and labor hours. 

Utilizing the right tools for the task also pays dividends over the course of a project. Consider for a moment the project manager that is trying to avoid the costs of new equipment and as such requires the installation team to set pins or staples by hand with a hammer or sledge. Or worse yet, requires the installation of earth anchors via sledge and a length of rebar as the driver. These decisions immediately begin to reflect in the added time and labor expense. Erosion control blanket manufacturers offer devices to assist in setting pins for as little as $75 dollars. With installations becoming more efficient, it does not take long to recoup the costs of investment in these tools. Purchase a “staple stick.” Invest in a gas-powered post driver to install earth anchors. The cost will be recovered in fewer yards than you think.

 

 

 

About the author

Ross Bruno is business development specialist for East Coast Erosion Control. He can be reached at [email protected].

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