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Resources  More Useful Links

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.  AGTEK earthwork software users can access a wide range of training options and the links provided on the following sections of this resource page 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)
Short-Course Civil Construction Training Providers
Online Forums and Articles
AGTEK Software Training Options
Other Software Training
Industry Associations
Conferences and Exhibitions
College and University Programs

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 a basic overview of what's in a typical set of site plans)
Basic Elements of Reading Plans (PDF: Slides providing a more detailed, in-depth treatment of what's in a typical set of site plans)
How to Read and Interpret Topographic Maps and Reading Topographic Maps (brief introductions to USGS contour maps; also see this legend of USGS topographic map entities). For those with a deep interest in topographic maps, see Part I (pages 14-64) of Björn Kjellström's classic text Be Expert with Map and Compass (PDF: Part I is a tutorial on topographic maps, including interpretive applications and exercises/quizzes; the book's full text is included and its end-game is to serve as a complete guide to orienteering, which goes well beyond what's actually needed for reading grading plans).
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)
How to Read Residential and Commercial Blueprints for Heavy Equipment Operators (YouTube Video: This video from Diesel and Iron provides a good discussion covering the information provided on a single-page residential lot plan and on the various plan sheets in a multi-page commercial site plan set. A download link is provided for the corresponding PDF plan sheets.)
How to Read Residential and Commercial Blueprints for Heavy Equipment Operators (YouTube Video: This video from Diesel and Iron provides a good discussion covering the information provided on a single-page residential lot plan and on the various plan sheets in a multi-page commercial site plan set. A download link is provided for the corresponding PDF plan sheets.)
Trimble - Plan Reading 101 (Video Series: This set of videos from Trimble starts with an overview of the land development process then provides commentary on a wide range of associated plan sheets, including those for a residential subdivision, commercial site, roadways and storm/sewer utilities (the videos do include some occasional references to Trimble products, but no products are demonstrated in the videos and the focus stays firmly on the plan sheets being discussed).  [Access Note: (1) Click the above link, (2) click the "Get For Free" button, (3) log in to your Trimble account (one can be created with just an email and password), (4) view the videos.]
Construction Management: Reading Civil Construction Drawings (Multimedia: This plan reading course focuses on the civil and landscape plans included in a downloadable multi-trade PDF plan set.  Free for Premium LinkedIn subscribers or with a 30-day trial subscription to LinkedIn Learning/
Basic Highway Plan Reading with Sample Plan Sheets (CDOT course covering highway plans)
[Note: Several fee-based plan-reading courses are included under the Short-Course Civil Construction Training Providers listings below (some of which offer PDH/CEU credit).]
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.)
Elementary Soil Mechanics Lecture Series (YouTube Videos: A series of 26 lectures on soil mechanics, well-presented by Dr. Kevin Franke in his CEEN 341 course at Brigham Young University.  Lecture topics include Origin of Rocks and Soil, Soil Classification, Weight Volume Relationships and Relative Density, Soil Compaction, and Elastic Settlement and Primary Consolidation Settlement.)
Geotechnical Construction Lecture Slides (This resource includes some interesting PDF slide sets for lectures presented at the Missouri University of Science and Technology by Dr. J. David Rogers, an Engineering Geologist and former General Engineering contractor.  The annotated slides include historical photos and excellent diagrams depicting various earthwork construction issues.  Take a look at this sample set of PDF slides and it will likely leave you wanting to view every slide for every lecture.)
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) ($22 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 needed for doing manual calculations).  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 also serves as the textbook for a Estimating Sitework Construction course.
Excavation & Grading Handbook Revised, 3rd Edition (2006) ($65, 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.
Construction Surveying and Layout, 3rd Edition (2003) (new/used copies also available on Amazon) Although this volume's 800+ pages provide a good entry-level guide to the office and field procedures associated with construction survey work (see the Table of Contents), its chapters on Office Practices (11), Math Essentials (12), Quantities (18) and the Glossary (Appendix A) may also be of interest to the beginning earthwork takeoff estimator.
Excavation Handbook (1988) (new/used copies available 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 available 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 volume 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.
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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, including Earthwork 101.)
American Society of Professional Estimators (Numerous online construction estimating courses, including Fundamentals of Heavy Civil Estimating: Heavy Highway.)
Construction Estimating Institute (Courses include earthwork, utilities, roadwork, paving, plan reading.)
Construction Experts (Online courses including civil plan reading/estimating/construction; some of these online courses are combined into continuing education certificate programs in "Civil Sitework Construction" offered through various partner schools and professional organizations.)
Forester University (Online courses for for PDH/CEU credit include stormwater management and sediment/erosion control topics.)
PDHonline (Various short courses for PDH/CEU credit.)
Transportation Curriculum Coordination Council (PDH credit available for 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.  AASHTO's eight-hour, eight-course Plan Reading Series will be of interest to those new to highway construction.)
Udemy is a provider of online training courses and tutorials covering a wide range of available topics, but mostly unrelated to civil construction; however, if you are looking for an introduction to the collection and processing of UAV ("drone") topographic survey data, Udemy's three-course series The Ultimate Guide for Land Surveying with Drones may be of interest.
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Online Forums and Articles

If you're looking for places where you can ask questions, exchange ideas, or read articles/posts on earthwork construction, 3D modeling and machine control, these resources are worth a look ...
AGTEK User Group on LinkedIn® (AGTEK users can join, ask questions, and share ideas)
AGTEK Videos on YouTube® (various AGTEK Tech Tip videos)
CONEXPO-CON/AGG Radio podcast archive (among other topics, these podcasts discuss technology in construction)
CONEXPO-CON/AGG Tech Talks (among other topics, these on-demand videos cover machine/grade control)
Architect Age (archived Excavation & Site Work discussion page)
Construction Equipment (updates on construction technology and grade control by Construction Equipment magazine)
Contractor Talk Forums (Excavation & Site Work discussion page)
Eng-Tips Forums (Earthwork/Grading Engineering discussion page)
Equipment World (machine control articles published by Equipment World magazine)
Heavy Equipment Forums (Construction/Excavation Technology discussion pages)
Machine Control Online (archived 3D data prep articles by Chad Cooper, Ron Ciccarone, and Marco Cecala) (earthwork equipment/operations social media links)
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AGTEK Software Training Options

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. In the Earthwork 3D manual,  see pages 1-12 through 1-57 (and, if available, pages 1 through 5 of the separate PDF Application Notes supplement). In the Sitework 4D Complete Manual (or Gradework 4D Manual), see pages 2-1 through 2-27.  [Note: AGTEK Support ID and Password may be required to access user manual downloads.]
Video-Augmented Tutorials  Work through the video-augmented basic training tutorials for Sitework 4D/Gradework 4D (start with the linked "Course 3 - Basic Earthwork Takeoff" videos and data files to complete Lessons 1-8 for raster PDF plans, plus any other Course 3 lessons of interest; after that, do "Course 1" Lessons 1-3 for vector PDF plans and "Course 2" Lessons 1-4 for CAD data). For AGTEK 3D users, the old Earthwork 3D Basics linked videos and data files are no longer available.  [Note: AGTEK Support ID and Password are required to access the associated file downloads and/or videos.]
Video Library  In addition to the basic training tutorial videos referenced above, an entire library of training videos can be accessed from AGTEK's Training Videos page [AGTEK Support ID and Password are required to view these videos].  Also, a number of short “TechTip” videos are posted on AGTEK’s YouTube channel [no ID or Password is required to view these YouTube videos but they are not as comprehensive as the videos available on AGTEK’s website]
Live Instructor-Guided AGTEK Training Options for New Users:
Web-Based AGTEK 4D Training (by Appointment)  AGTEK 4D users can purchase and schedule live, hands-on web training classes from AGTEK, including Gradework 4D and Sitework 4D Basics and other courses (live web-based training is no longer available for Earthwork 3D and AGTEK 3D users should consider the self-paced training options above).
Classroom Hands-On AGTEK 4D Training (scheduled in Livermore, California and Atlanta, Georgia)  AGTEK 4D users can attend hands-on classroom training, offered in a three-day track covering earthwork and materials/underground quantity takeoff, GPS modeling, drone survey and production control topics.
Classroom Seminar (Hands-Off) AGTEK 4D Training (scheduled in Livermore, California and Atlanta, Georgia)  AGTEK 4D users can attend seminar-format (hands-off) training classes, offered in a three-day track covering earthwork and materials/underground quantity takeoff, GPS modeling, drone survey and production control topics.
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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 (learning resources page for Bluebeam PDF software users)
Heavy Construction Systems Specialists (training page for HCSS software users)
InEight (Hard Dollar) (training page for InEight software users)
Oman Systems (training page for Oman software users)
Pix4D (training page for Pix4D software users)
PPM Global Services (independent training for Primavera as an alternative to Oracle's training)
Primavera Scheduling (independent training for Primavera as an alternative to Oracle's training)
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Industry Associations

These groups offer/sponsor various training opportunities ...
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Conferences and Exhibitions

These gatherings are a great way to see, touch, and learn about the latest products and services from various manufacturers; some events offer specific educational program tracks ...
AGTEK Technology Roadshow (AGTEK's occasional travelling hands-on demos are apparently suspended)
Autodesk University (next conference is scheduled for November 13-15, 2023)
Bluebeam Extreme Conference (XCON) (next conference is TBA)
Hexagon's 2023 HxGN LIVE (including an AGTEK seminar class) (conference is scheduled for June 12-15, 2023)
CONEXPO-CON/AGG (next conference is scheduled for March 3-7, 2026)
Topcon Technology Roadshow (Topcon Positioning's travelling multi-city exhibit is apparently suspended)
Trimble Dimensions (next conference is scheduled for November 6-8, 2023)
World of Asphalt (next conference is scheduled for March 25-27, 2024)
World of Concrete (next conference is scheduled for January 22-25, 2024)
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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 certificate in "Civil Sitework Construction" offered through Bucks County Community College.
For those interested in accredited Construction Management degree programs, the American Council for Construction Education (ACCE) website makes it easy to locate Associate, Baccalaureate, and Master 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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