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Earthwork Construction Learning Resources

Ongoing education and technical training offer important opportunities for professional growth, personal satisfaction, and career success in most any industry, and earthwork construction is certainly no exception.  Estimators, project managers, project engineers and other AGTEK earthwork software users can access a wide range of training options.  The following learning resources are provided as a convenience (not as individual endorsements) and they represent a good sample of what's available:

[If you have a learning resource recommendation for this page, please email us.]

New to the Industry (Beginners' Resources)

Bright, ambitious individuals with no related construction education or prior industry experience may find themselves working as an earthwork takeoff technician/estimator "trainee."  It's a great opportunity but beginners in this situation can have difficulty understanding what is being represented on a site grading plan and its associated detail sheets, let alone understanding all the terminology used on the plans and in the corresponding specifications and geotechnical report.  Individuals in this situation will hopefully have a mentor that is willing to spend time helping them with plan "reading" and understanding the fundamentals of earthwork construction.  Beyond having a personal mentor, the following links may be helpful ...
Plan Reading Resources (Free):
Honestly, the best way to learn plan reading is to just dig in and start looking at plan sets for different projects--the more plan sets you study, the better you will get at interpreting them.  Lines, points, abbreviations, symbols, and other plan entities can represent different things from one project to the next, so always locate and review a plan's "Legend" which will define a specific plan's entities (the legend may be located on the cover sheet of a plan set or it may be located on individual plan sheets within the plan set; a list defining plan abbreviations should be included somewhere as well).  Using the resource links in this section will help get you started with plan reading (we recommend that you work through them in the sequence presented below).
Basic Site Grading Plan Interpretation (Video: Accessible by AGTEK Support subscribers only)
Reading and Interpreting Site Plans (PDF: Slides providing an overview of what's in a typical set of site plans)
Basic Elements of Reading Plans (PDF: Slides providing a more detailed treatment of what's in a typical set of site plans)
How to Read and Interpret Topographic Maps (Brief introduction to USGS contour maps; also see the legend of USGS topographic map entities)
Reading and Interpreting Construction Drawings (PDF: Covers multiple trades but see pages 1-35)
Grading and Earthwork and Types of Drawings Used in Land Development (PDF: These two chapters from McGraw-Hill's Land Development Handbook provide technical discussions helpful to the interpretation of site grading plans)
Basic Highway Plan Reading with Sample Plan Sheets (CDOT course covering highway plans)
Plan Reading - Road Course (Multimedia: Highway plan reading course from Perdue University)
Earthwork Construction Reading List (Free):
Along with learning to read and interpret grading plans (see above), the beginner needs to develop an understanding of the concepts and terminology of earthwork construction operations.  Although you can watch videos of earthwork operations, nothing will replace actual on-the-ground experience.  Ideally, the beginner will have opportunities to visit project sites during various stages of earthwork construction and have the work explained to them by more experienced personnel (lean on your mentor to make it happen; and you may want to watch a short safety video before actually making your first site visit).  Supplementing your site visits by reading through the resources linked in this section will provide you with an excellent conceptual understanding of earthwork construction (we recommend that you work through these references in the sequence presented below; you will encounter some overlap and duplication in these readings but, as the saying goes, "repetition is the mother of learning").
Earthmoving Operations (Army FM 5-434) (PDF: A 204-page introduction to earthwork construction presented in 14 chapters of short, easy-to-read commentary: basic excavated material classifications and their properties, including shrink/swell; generic descriptions of equipment used in earthwork operations [dozers, scrapers, graders, loaders, excavators, haul trucks, etc.] with corresponding considerations of equipment selection/operation and production estimating; and soil processing and compaction.  Reading Chapters 1-5, 8, and 10-11 would provide a good conceptual foundation for those new to earthwork construction.)
Excavation & Embankment Manual (PDF: A brief 23-page introduction to highway earthwork, intended for CDOT inspectors but a useful read for anyone new to earthwork construction.)
Guide to Earthwork Construction (PDF: TRB's 119-page treatment of earthwork construction presented in 10 chapters; beginners would do well by reading Ch. 3 [introduces the concepts and terminology encountered in other chapters of this document (and in geotechnical reports generally--see later readings below)], Ch. 4 [covers common earthwork procedures], Ch. 5 [covers drainage of surface/sub-surface water]; reading Ch. 6 [Embankment Foundations] and Ch. 9 [Special Soil Deposits and Embankment Materials] will provide beginners with a basic understanding of existing conditions and materials that may involve special preparation, handling, or remediation.)
Understanding the Geotechnical Report (A short, basic introduction to what's in a geotechnical report.)
Geotechnical Properties of Geologic Materials (Good, short introductory "quick reference" when reviewing geotechnical reports; it provides an overview of the soil and rock materials classification and terminology used in geotechnical reports, including useful individual material definitions and various tables of material properties.)
Soil Properties and the Unified Soil Classification System (PDF: A more comprehensive and technical 60-page treatment of the soil and rock materials classification and terminology used in geotechnical reports along with useful discussions on the characteristics and engineering properties of excavated materials; this document is actually extracted from a section of the much longer and even more comprehensive U. S. Bureau of Reclamation's 348-page Earth Manual.)
Geotechnical Construction Lecture Slides (A bit overwhelming for beginners, but this resource includes wonderful PDF slide sets for lectures presented at the Missouri University of Science and Technology by an Engineering Geologist and former General Engineering contractor.  These slide sets include some really great annotated photos and diagrams depicting various earthwork construction issues.  Take a look at this sample set of PDF slides and it will leave you wanting to view all the slides from all the lectures.)
Caterpillar Performance Handbook (PDF: This 2,378-page handbook is not intended to be read cover-to-cover, but it provides a wealth of useful reference information for those working as earthwork estimators/managers.  Although the detailed specifications and performance characteristics included in this handbook apply specifically to Caterpillar's own equipment, its accompanying discussion of equipment uses can be generically applied to similar types of equipment from other manufacturers; Section 28 [Mining and Earthmoving] provides useful discussions and formulas for shrink/swell conversions and production estimating; Section 30 [Tables] includes a range of various factors and conversions, as well as a list of average bank and loose densities for some common excavated materials.)
Earthwork Construction Books (Purchased):
Estimating Excavation Revised, 2nd Edition (2013) ($21.75 as PDF eBook download) This 550-page book is written from the estimator's point of view.  An awful lot of its pages are devoted to documenting various time-consuming and tedious methods for calculating plan areas and earthwork volumes by hand (although it doesn't hurt to have an understanding of the calculations associated with the old manual methods, not too many people have time for hand earthwork calculations today--if nothing else, understanding the manual methods will certainly increase your appreciation of what your AGTEK software will allow you to accomplish in a fraction of the time).  But the book does include some helpful coverage of plan reading, soil properties, shrink/swell factors, construction methods/production, and putting together an estimate of the work; unfortunately, it lacks a bibliography and glossary of terms.  This book serves as the textbook for a Estimating Civil and Sitework Construction course.
Excavation & Grading Handbook Revised, 3rd Edition (2006) ($49.00, includes both a soft cover book and a PDF eBook download, but either format can be purchased separately) This 512-page book's point of view is from the construction job site.  It includes a helpful discussion about plan reading, but it does not include any direct discussion of quantity takeoff and estimating.  It provides a very good discussion of survey stakes, grade setting and grade checking, and construction methods for highway, commercial and residential subdivision projects, including mass grading, fine grading, utility trenching and pipe laying, lime-treated and aggregate base, and asphalt paving operations (and more along the way).  Although its intended audience is field personnel, this easy-to-read book is recommended to any takeoff technician/estimator needing a practical understanding of earthwork, grading, pipe, and asphalt paving operations.  Also included are a glossary of terms and a list of definitions for abbreviations commonly used on grading plans; a bibliography is not provided.  This book serves as the textbook for a Civil Blueprint Reading course.
Excavation Handbook (1988) (out of print but new copies can still be found for about $60.00, used copies for much less, on Amazon) This comprehensive and detailed earthwork tome (1,024 pages) includes sections on the geology of excavated materials, earthmoving methods, equipment and production, manual volume calculation methods (not much used today), shrink/swell factors, and bid preparation.  One unique feature of this book is the author's painstaking compilation of apparent specific gravities and average densities for 133 different excavated/mined materials (the specific gravities and densities are presented in a convenient table; the densities are stated in pounds per cubic yard for each material's bank, loose, and compacted state, and each materials' bank-to-loose/bank-to-compacted shrink/swell percentages are likewise provided).  This volume includes a bibliography and an extensive glossary of terms.  If not a more expensive new copy, then certainly an inexpensive used copy of this book deserves a place in the personal reference library of anyone involved in estimating and/or managing earthwork construction.
Moving The Earth: The Workbook of Excavation, Sixth Edition (2010) (new/used copies can be had for about $90.00 on Amazon) First published in 1955, this is another comprehensive and detailed earthwork tome (1,232 pages).  This volume also includes an extensive glossary of terms.  Although there is some topical overlap between this and the Excavation Handbook (described just above), this more recent edition definitely belongs in the personal library of any person involved in estimating and/or managing earthwork construction.

Short-Course Civil Construction Training Providers

These fee-based providers offer various classroom, online, and home-study construction training courses, including courses specifically addressing civil construction topics ...
American Society of Civil Engineers (Numerous continuing education courses for PDH/CEU credit; a few examples include Earthwork 101, Laboratory Compaction Tests, and Field Compaction of Soils.)
Construction Estimating Institute (Courses include earthwork, utilities, roadwork and paving.)
Construction Experts (Online courses including civil plan reading/estimating/construction; some of these online courses are combined into a continuing education "Certificate in Civil Sitework Construction" program offered through Bucks County Community College and San Diego State University.)
Forester University (Focus on stormwater management, sediment/erosion control for PDH/CEU credit.)
PDH Enterprises (Various short courses for PDH/CEU credit.)
PDHonline (Various short courses for PDH/CEU credit.)
Transportation Curriculum Coordination Council (Numerous online courses produced and delivered by AASHTO; although these courses are primarily intended to educate transportation construction inspectors, they may be useful to anyone entering the civil construction industry--take a look at the 13-hour, five-course Earthwork Series consisting of Earth Materials as Engineering Materials, Site Preparation, Grades and Grading, Excavation, and Fill Placement.)

Online Forums and User Groups

If you're just looking for a place to ask questions (or compare notes) with others in the industry, consider making use of these resources ...
AGTEK User Group on LinkedIn (AGTEK users are welcome to join, ask questions, and share ideas)
Architect Age (Excavation & Site Work discussion page)
Contractor Talk Forums (Excavation & Site Work discussion page)
Eng-Tips Forums (Earthwork/Grading Engineering discussion page)
Heavy Equipment Forums (Construction/Excavation Technology discussion pages)
Machine Control Online Archives (See the 3D data prep articles by Chad Cooper, Ron Ciccarone, and Marco Cecala)
The Earth Movers Forum (Earthwork equipment/operations oriented discussion pages)

AGTEK Software Training

In addition to the AGTEK Earthwork 3D/4D regional software training seminars produced and conducted by Earthwork Software Services, other training options are available to AGTEK users.  For instance, AGTEK Support subscribers can access a large and growing library of online training videos which address various basic and advanced software applications.
In order to maximize the value gained from attending Earthwork Software Services' AGTEK seminars, we recommend that new AGTEK users have at least some prior hands-on experience with the AGTEK software before attending the seminars.  Any of the following options would be good preparation for new users planning to attend our seminars ...
Self-Paced AGTEK Training Options for New Users:
Day 1 Seminar Handbook  If co-workers from your company have previously attended our Day 1 seminar, ask to borrow their Day 1 seminar handbook and work through the "Earthwork Modeling Step-by-Step" exercise (these self-paced tips will help you get maximum benefit from the handbook).  Click here if you can't locate your Day 1 seminar handbook.
Tutorial Section of AGTEK User Manual  Work through the "Tutorial" section of the AGTEK User Manual that came with your AGTEK software.  If you've misplaced your manual you may be able to download a PDF user manual via the following links: Earthwork 3D (see pages 1-12 through 1-57) and Earthwork 3D PDF Digitizing Supplement (see pages 1 through 5), or Earthwork 4D (see pages 2-1 through 2-27) [Note: AGTEK Support ID and Password are required to access these downloads].
Video-Augmented Tutorials  Work through the video-augmented basic training tutorials for Earthwork 3D (use the linked "Earthwork 3D Basics" videos and data files) or Earthwork 4D (use the linked "Course 1 - Basic Earthwork Takeoff" videos and data files to complete Lessons 2-8).  A video only option (no corresponding data file downloads) is available via the Sitework 4D Basics video series (in the "Select Topics" dialog, pick "Basic PDF Takeoff" then watch the videos for Lessons 1 through 5).  [Note: AGTEK Support ID and Password are required to access the associated file downloads and/or videos.]
Guided Hands-On Web Training for New Users:  Earthwork 4D users can purchase and schedule a live, hands-on Sitework 4D Basics web training class (live web-based training is no longer available for Earthwork 3D and 3D users should consider the self-paced training options described above).

Other Software Training

In addition to modeling and quantifying earthwork, many AGTEK users' day-to-day responsibilities include pricing bids, modeling/managing project schedules, and other project-related activities.  Depending on the software being used in these other activities, AGTEK users may have interest in some of these resources ...
B2W (Training page for B2W software users)
Bluebeam (Training page for Bluebeam PDF software users)
Hard Dollar (Training page for Hard Dollar users)
Heavy Construction Systems Specialists (Training page for HCSS users)
Oman Systems (Training page for Oman software users)
Primavera Scheduling (Independent training for Primavera as an alternative to Oracle's training)

Industry Associations

These groups offer/sponsor various training opportunities ...
American Assoc. of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) (Education page)
American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) (Education page)
American Society of Professional Estimators (ASPE) (Education page)
Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) (Education and training page)
Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) (Education and training page)
National Utility Contractors Association (NUCA) (Education page)

Conferences and Exhibitions

These gatherings are a great way to see, touch, and learn about the latest products and services from multiple exhibitors; they also offer various educational program tracks ...
Autodesk University (Next conference scheduled for November 15-17, 2016)
Bluebeam eXtreme Conference (Next conference scheduled for August 15-17, 2016)
CONEXPO-CON/AGG (Next conference scheduled for March 7-11, 2017)
Trimble Dimensions (Next conference scheduled for November 7-9, 2016)
World of Asphalt (Next conference scheduled for March 6-8, 2018)
World of Concrete (Next conference scheduled for January 16-20, 2017)

College and University Programs

Check with your local community college or university, as many of these institutions offer degree programs in construction management, civil engineering, and surveying; for both full- and part-time students; and often with day, evening and online options available.  Even if you're not pursuing a formal academic degree, keep in mind that a local college or university with a dedicated school of construction management/civil engineering may also offer short courses and seminars which are geared towards continuing education for those already working in the industry (good examples include the continuing education "Certificate in Civil Sitework Construction" program offered through Bucks County Community College and San Diego State University). 
For those interested in degreed Construction Management programs, the American Council for Construction Education (ACCE) website makes it easy to locate ACCE accredited Associate, Baccalaureate, and Master degree programs in the United States and Canada.
For those more interested in degreed Engineering programs, the IEEE's TryEngineering website can be used to locate Civil/Construction Engineering programs worldwide.
 
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