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Frequently Asked Questions

This a short list of our frequently asked questions. For more information about Coastal Engineering Co., or if you would like to discuss a project, please give us a call.

Engineers receive many years of highly specialized education in their respective areas of expertise and are trained to find practical, economical solutions to real world problems. Their education and training teaches them to look beyond just the problem at hand and identify other issues or considerations that might also affect a project. A professional engineer is licensed by the state to practice engineering.

Coastal Engineering listens to our clients so we can fully understand what they want, and then provide only the services that are appropriate to meeting their projects' needs. By offering land surveying, civil engineering, structural engineering, marine engineering, and environmental and land-use permitting services under one roof, we can provide our clients with coordinated design and construction phase services. Located in an environmentally sensitive region ourselves, we take pride in providing engineering solutions that are environmentally responsible and economically feasible.

Whether you are working with an architect or a builder, an important first step is to also talk with an engineer who can advise you of the necessary surveying, engineering, and permitting considerations. The particular services necessary for a project can vary widely depending on lot size and zoning district, proximity to wetlands or flood zones, size of an existing house and its setbacks from property lines, location and capacity of an existing septic system, and whether or not the proposed project will have structural implications. Costal Engineering's professional staff has many years of experience and can provide answers to all your questions.

A Title 5 septic system is the minimum onsite sewage disposal system allowed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Environmental Code, and typically consists of a septic tank, distribution box, and subsurface soil absorption system. It provides basic mechanical and biological sewage treatment, but only minimal reduction of nitrogen, phosphorus, and other nutrients that are of concern in environmentally sensitive areas. An Innovative/ Alternative, or I/ A, sewage treatment system is an additional treatment unit that is installed between the septic tank and soil absorption system of a conventional Title 5 septic system. An I/ A system provides enhanced biological, and sometimes mechanical, sewage treatment in areas where it is critical to reduce nitrogen or other nutrients of concern.

Being careful what you put down the drain is the most important thing you can do to protect your septic system. Fat, oil, grease, floor wax, and the like will ruin the soil absorption system quickly so minimizing their discharge is essential. Performing regular septic system maintenance can also extend your septic system's life. For most households with conventional Title 5 systems, having the septic tank pumped every three years is usually all the maintenance that is needed. Large households and certain business properties may need their septic tanks pumped more frequently. Restaurants' grease traps must be inspected monthly and pumped at least quarterly. Good housekeeping practices and regular maintenance are far less costly than replacing a failed soil absorption system.

There is no "one size fits all" solution to coastal erosion. Some solutions are more effective than others, but most require ongoing maintenance and upkeep. The most environmentally friendly approach to a stable beach profile is through beach nourishment and natural vegetation. "Soft" solutions, such as coconut fiber rolls, or "hard" solutions, such as a rock revetment, are possible options to protect a property against shoreline erosion but are often difficult to permit and require a long-term commitment to provide beach nourishment. Regardless of the approach, all options should be evaluated before committing to a method of shoreline stabilization.

Your engineer will represent your interests during project construction. On controlled construction projects, inspections by the engineer of record arc mandatory. The engineer will make periodic inspections to assure that the work is being performed in substantial compliance with the drawings and specifications, and will notify you and other appropriate parties if it isn't. Furthermore, you are paying for the project as designed and specified, and retaining an engineer throughout project construction is in your best interest to assure that you will get what you are paying for.

The first floor living space must be above the designated flood elevation, with actual height determined by the federal flood maps of the town you live in. The space below the lowest floor can only be used for building access or storage. However, there can be no basement or crawlspace below the lowest adjacent grade. The building code requires an engineer to design the structure to resist both hydrostatic loads from rising flood waters and lateral loads on the building from hurricane force winds.

No two projects are alike. For that reason we are reluctant to give "ballpark" fee estimates without first discussing the project with you to learn more about what you'd like to do and doing some preliminary background research of the property. Once that's done, one of our project managers will provide you with a written scope of services and fixed or budget fee estimate, as appropriate. Keep in mind that the engineering fees are a small percentage of the overall project cost. Money spent in good design can actually save money in construction, and is reflected in the overall performance and durability of the design.

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