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
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).
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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 serves as the textbook for a
Estimating Civil and Sitework Construction course.
Excavation & Grading Handbook Revised, 3rd Edition (2006) ($49, 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.
Construction Surveying and Layout, 3rd Edition (2003) (new/used copies also
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.
These fee-based providers offer various classroom, online, and home-study construction
training courses, including courses specifically addressing civil construction topics
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 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.)
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,
Grades and Grading,
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.
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 ...
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"
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
Earthwork 4D (use the linked "Course 1 - Basic Earthwork Takeoff"
videos and data files to complete Lessons 2-8, plus any other lessons of interest). Unfortunately, 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
Live Instructor-Guided AGTEK Training Options for New Users:
Web-Based AGTEK 4D Training (Available Year Round) 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-Based AGTEK 4D Training (Scheduled Year Round in Livermore, California) AGTEK 4D users can attend
hands-on classroom training, offered in a
that includes quantity takeoff, GPS modeling, drone survey and production control topics.
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)
InEight (Hard Dollar) (training page for InEight software users)
Oman Systems (training page for Oman software users)
Pix4D (training page for Pix4D software users)
These groups offer/sponsor various training opportunities ...
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
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 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
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.