Seeing the finish line on a project is one of the secrets to its success, but the beginning is just as important. Nicholas N. Ybarra, PE, Associate and Project Manager for PSC’s Environmental Sector, explained some of the facets of creating a successful project in his PSCU presentation on “Regulators: Regulate the Construction on Your Project.”

“I work a lot with TCEQ (the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) and the City, and it seems that I could turn in the same set of plans to the same person and it would get a different set of comments,” Nick said. “So I want to show everything we can do up front so we get a consistent product.”

Square One

Every project should have a Square One kickoff meeting, he said. This is a meeting that provides information on what’s getting designed, the design manual, provides a budget, what the owner is looking for, the design hours, a schedule of the entire project and who the team members are.

“In the long run, the kickoff will help with the budget and make sure you finish everything in a timely manner and make the most profit on that project as possible,” he said. “Also, you’re following the design parameters as closely as possible.”

Location Restrictions/Easements

Make sure you have information about any buffer zones and easements in the plans.

To ensure that all excavators and operators of underground facilities know what lines are underground, One Call Systems International attempted to create marking guidelines in the early ’90s.  Here are what the colors signify:

  • White flag – proposed excavation
  • Pink marking – potential survey marking
  • Red flag – electrical
  • Yellow flag – petroleum, gas
  • Orange – fiber optic or communications lines are out there on site
  • Blue – potable water lines
  • Purple – irrigation or reclaimed water lines
  • Green – sewer and storm drains


Surveys are generally one of three types:

  • Boundary – simply determining the property lines and any related state/local regulations
  • Metes and bounds – when the area, like a landfill, is an unusual shape. The boundaries are identified by natural landmarks or by man-made structures or simple stakes.
  • Topographic – identifies the natural and manmade items on the surface.

“When I take a survey, I pull up a Google map to see if there are overhead lines or different things – maybe a pedestal – that you didn’t see in the plans. Make sure you get this on your set of plans,” he said.


When engineers are starting to design the site, they should be aware that drainage is specific to almost every city. Look at that city’s drainage manuals to determine if you’re getting your project designed the correct way. Engineers commonly use certain methods to simulate floods and show how rainfall infiltrates the soil. This prevents flooding as much as possible.

Flood maps provide a graphical representation of flood zones according to varying levels of flood risk.  Typical flood zones seen on maps are as follows:

Zones are designated A or AE. “A” signifies 1 foot of flooding and “AE” means there is a chance of 1 to 3 feet of flooding annually.

Zones B or Zone X signifies a chance of having a 500-year flood annually.

Zones C & X have a less-than-500-year chance of having a flood.

One may discover the nearest zone by searching on

Plan reviews

Once the plans are signed and sealed, a plan review with resident project representatives (RPRs) is beneficial. RPRs on site have a much better understanding of constructability, and RPRs are a good sounding board for your design.

Also, review your plans personally with your client. Talk to them about their IT Department plans for their site, their electrical services and water/sewer facilities, for example.

“Document, document, document. Every time you have a conversation, document it to make sure you’re clear,” Nick said.