Canandaigua Engineering, Canandaigua, NY, Engineers and Architects

Canandaigua Engineering has recently evolved from Robinson Engineering, a Consulting group that has served many noteworthy projects over the past 25 years.  These projects, many of which the thumbnail photos depict, were mostly on or about the Fingerlakes:  Seneca, Keuka, Canandaigua, and Honeyoye.  Past projects have included, not limited too, Structural Analysis, Residential Architecture,  Barn Restorations, Additions, Subdivisions, Residential and Commercial Waste Treatment Systems, Drainage Plans, Site Plan Development, Home and Condominium Plans, Restorations, Interior Design, Rural Water Supply, and such items as Backflow Prevention Installations.  Previous clients are generally willing to speak to our performance.  For a brief description of each photo place  the cursor over the photo.  Click to see a larger image.
email: Tel. No. 585-905-0506;  Fax same.  Cell 794-2282
W. D. Robinson, NYSPE,  Owner ,

Architectural work is depicted amongst the photos.   There are additonal examples not yet posted.  Other Professional Links and Links to Finger Lakes area authorities will be added over time.  What follows is a Guide, intended to aid  those who would wish to develop a rural piece of property:


This guide is provided to assist persons needing to understand, and to satisfy Town Planning requirements, as they relate to the development of property.  It will most likely be of most value to the person who plans to build in a rural setting, with some acreage say.  It will definitely apply whenever one wants to build outside the luxury of Municipal Water and/or a Waste Treatment Facility. The nature of a more restricted lot size, and the availability of a municipal water line, and/or waste treatment facility, negates some of the discussion.  Anyone planning to subdivide or otherwise develop properties should definitely read on.

Town Planning requirements, are typically entitled “Design and Construction Standards for Land Development”.   And, although they may vary from town to town, they generally seek to assure compliance with the town’s long term development plans.

They further set forth the safeguards that protect the health and safety of the community. Amongst these safeguards, to name but a few, are the requirements that relate specifically to such issues as health, law, waste disposal, utilities, erosion, water supply, metod of heating, drainage, transportation, maintenance, lighting, and the special needs of fire, ambulance, and police services.

Details of these “standards” are available from the towns at a price.  These are the plans, which guide the Professional Engineer, Architect, Land Surveyor, and Attorney’s in their work, whenever their services are required.

Whether a project be large or small, it is important that certain things be considered at the outset, so that the work of all these forces mesh meaningfully whenever they are required; and so that duplication of effort and unneccesary expense is avoided.

Also, whenever development is not well thought out initially, there is the risk of costly reversals, and unsalvageable disappointments.  For example, a common one in fact, a wellsite may have been selected and drilled, only to realize later that well separation setback requirements, prevent placement of a waste treatment bed in the area where soils are best suited.  The consequence might at best mean pumping waste effluent to an upslope or distant site.  Worse yet, pervious soils may need to be purchased and trucked from a distant source; an expensive proposition.

And too, one may not think of it initially, but later decide that a horsebarn, pond, swimming pool, or a tennis court, etc. might be nice.  Then realize that the driveway, landscaping, water supply, waste treatment beds, etc., all of which might have been arranged differently, now stand in the way.  Prevailing wind and sunlight conditions too should be addressed in the planning phase.  These are all considerations, which your professionals attend to when their services are used.

Typically, consider a small, individual, site development plan.  Appropriate steps might run something like this: First the potential buyer might want to know if the land is suitable for development, and might therefore request the services of a Licensed Land Surveyor, and/or Professional Engineer to assess this before the outlay of money.  Usually this is provided for by means of a purchase offer contingency, giving the buyer time to evaluate the property, and back out if it is found unsuitable.

The surveyor might search for clear title and easements.  The location of the property itself, and its boundary lines are likely to be of import to the buyer.  The surveyor would know that terrain topography (grade) is an important consideration for the engineer to consider in designing a waste treatment system;  one acceptable to appropriate authority (Local, State (primarily), and Federal). This would suggest the need for a topographic study in addition to a property line survey.

Additionally, an engineer would want to be sure that soils were adequate for foundation of structure and drive, and waste treatment requirements.  In many, if not most cases, Town’s require the involvement of a Professional Engineer in considering solutions, and creating the plans relating to the requirements of all waste disposal, and/or treatment need.

The Engineer will usually be responsible for Erosion and Sediment Control and a Drainage Control Plan.  He/she will need to study a US Geographic and Geodetic Survey Map in order to establish the water shed affecting this study.  He/she will be responsible in the design of streets, or driveways, that will comply with the Town’s requirements; in grade, and foundation, as well as drainage and surface.  The Engineer is usually required to furnish final elevations on all elements of the site plan.  Elevations, which take into, account all Local, State, and Federal requirements.  Examples are the proposed finished floor elevations, and the invert elevations of all waste effluent elements.

Importantly, as explained, the selection of a waste disposal site location must be an integral part to the House site plan; not a simple accommodation or afterthought.  Therefore you and your engineer will want to consider its needs, along with the rest of your plan, right from the start.  Here is a suggested order to things:

1.  Match your house plan and your lot.  Every house has its own character, and
Your desire to personalize this character will influence, especially on larger lots, where and how your buildings should be placed on the lot.  Many factors enter into this decision: Some are listed here to help you sort outYour preliminary thinking, obtain the most positive results, and perhaps avoidwasting time (money) with your engineer.

A. Set back requirements imposed by local zoning ordinances.
B. Solar considerations (sun vs. shade design wants).
C. Topography (terrain) of the surrounds (e.g.- walk out basement).
D. Prevailing winds direction and force re; heat loss. (e.g.-a windbreak).
E. View (Existing and potential neighboring buildings, including viewscape).
F. Access (Roadway, driveway and walkway plans-acceptable grades).
G. Existing mature trees and landscape plan.
H. Adequate space for the Sewage disposal system-its location will be
influenced by these additional factors:

1.   Proposed or existing well site(s), including neighboring sites.
2.   Location of streams, pond, wetlands, watersheds, etc.
3.   Planned municipal sewer accessibility.
4.   Plans to build future outbuildings, pools, ponds, etc.
5.   Surface water quantity and flow direction.  Drainage control.
6.   Steepness of grade, and town slope stabilization requirements.
7.   Solar impact (summer cooling and winter heating).
8.   Existing mature trees (roots).

MOST IMPORTANT!  On which sections of the property is the most suitable soil

2.   Now you will need to have a boundary line survey completed, and a map in hand.  Often this map is provided by the seller, if not you will need to obtain the services of a licensed land surveyor.   It is important (often times required), for proper site and elevation planning, that the surveyor provides topographic Contour lines at 2′ or 5’ intervals, and that the lot and house location is staked out, relative to, and in addition to the boundary line survey information.

3.   At this time it’s a good idea to consider where Waste Treatment Absorption beds (Disposal site) might be located; allow say an area about60’x70’(this varies greatly depending on soils and number of bedrooms required).  If you would like, as a cost saving measure, your engineer can teach you how to conduct a preliminary percolation rate test in the event you want to determine if some location is better than another before you start spending money.  In fact if you do not own the property you may wish doing this before you commit to purchase.  Or if you prefer your engineer can do this preliminary study for you, at added expense.

4.  Having collected your thoughts on the above matters; now is the time to meet with your engineer (on site).  Armed with confidence in knowing what it is you want done, and the boundary line survey map and topographic study in hand, the engineer will be able to begin work on the design of your special Waste Treatment System; and the first thing to do is to stake out the location thought best suited.  Do this in advance of getting an excavator or backhoe on site, for digging the deep hole test sites, required for soil analysis tests as required by NY State Department of Health, for Residential Waste Treatment Systems design.  This step will minimize your bill for this excavation service.

5.  Next the engineer must meet on site with the excavator and supervise the digging of the required deep holes in order to study and determine the nature of the soil at the proposed location of the system (not usually of the house site). These holes should be dug to a depth of at least six feet (4’ required by NYSDOH Code) for shallow sewage disposal systems in most cases (more for seepage pit type systems). WARNIING:  Do not dig without notifying  1-800-962-7962; It’s the law.  Note:  All stds. and codes are minimal.

Additional deep holes may be required if the first two show widely varying soil patterns.  They provide information that will enable selection of the right type of system and its proper design.  Information such as: Strata, Soil types, water table, preferential flow routes, bed rock or shale, all impervious soil layers, and Root systems.  Knowing this information is prerequisite to determining the Type of system that will be required, to assure compliance with state and Local codes; not to mention a lifetime of trouble free utility.

NOTE:    Provision must be made to assure that the digging of test holes have not created working conditions on site, which are Hazardous to workers or the public.  Deep exploratory holes are usually dug and back filled the same day. Always call UPFO Number 1-800-962-7962 before commencing with ANY excavation. They will locate and verify any undergound utilities.  This is required by NY State Law.

6.  Next the percolation capability of the soil must be determined.  It is the percolation rate that determines just how large an absorption field (or how many absorption pits) must be utilized.  Knowing this percolation rate allows the Engineer to select a proper total length of absorption lines (pits, etc.), to accommodate the number of intended occupants (bed rooms) and the type of services that will be required (baths, toilets, disposals, washing machines, dishwashers, hot tubs, etc.).

The percolation rate is determined by digging at least two shallow type holes (22″ to 30″ deep), each 12 inches in diameter, then after an over night soaking period, determine how long it takes to absorb from a depth of six inches to a depth of five inches.

These rate tests are repeated at least four times on each hole, and/or until a stable rate is determined.  If different soil layers were encountered in the deep hole exploration, percolation tests may have to be performed at each layer to determine overall rate.  Similarly the percolation tests for absorption pits will be performed at different depths, so that the weighted average for the pit depth can be used in its design.

Six to nine months of settling time should be allowed for stabilization in soils that are fill, or that have been disturbed.  If time restraints dictate, it may be possible to obtain permission to shorten this through special procedures. WARNING:  Never transport/import soil for absorption uses until the percolation rate has been established immediately before moving it, and then check the percolation rate immediately after movement, and placement of the soil at the new site. Keep vehicles and equipment off the soil at the chosen site at all times. NEVER move or work soil in wet/rainy conditions.

A properly designed/engineered system will assure the home owner of:

—  A long system life.
—  Maintenance and repair accessibility.
—  Adequate distance from buildings, wells, streams, etc. to minimize
chance of contamination.  Called Setback.
—  Adequate absorption field (pit) size for the number of occupants, etc.
—  Compliance with NY State Department of Health, Environmental
protection, and local sanitation codes.
—  Least future interference from landscaping root systems.
—  A Location reference sketch for future maintenance use.
—  A valuable reselling tool.

There, you have the complete rundown;.  Worst case.  Take heart, as most cases are much less complex.  It’s the job of your engineer to assure that you pursue the most economically advantageous process.

W.D. Robinson, N.Y. State Registered Professional Engineer, No. 039642.

Tel:585-905-0506     email:

The above is the intellectual property of the author and is not to be copied or used for profit in any way, without explicit permission in writing from the author.