For over a year now, I have been working on a contract with a local Crown Corporation to survey the waste pipe systems in nearly all of the buildings on their main Ottawa site. The waste piping below the site streets was installed in the mid 20th century and it is a combined sewer with both storm and sanitary effluent mixing before eventually heading east towards the main Ottawa sewage treatment plant. My client intends to replace all of this waste piping and split it into two dedicated systems below the roads, storm and sanitary. Each building on the site generally has sanitary waste discharging into one or two septic tanks, with (mainly) water leaving these tanks, and joining a main rainwater storm pipe leaving the building.
My task is to survey everything inside the buildings – to make sure that there have not been any potentially disastrous cross-connections over the years. The theory being that if the new sanitary piping leaving a building is sized based on potential usage – possibly NPS 6 – and a whopping similar storm drain is connected to that system inside the building – we could have a problem. You may be thinking “where are the record drawings” and quite rightly you have guessed that these do exist. The original building drawings date on average from about 1945, back when drafting was a profession – they are largely masterpieces of yesteryear. Gradually all of the drawings have been scanned to PDF – that wondrous file format that we tend to take for granted these days.
This being said, things inevitably get missed. Responsibility for updating drawings to “as-built” condition is rarely taken as seriously as it warrants, and companies cannot afford the luxury of technicians to perform this task. Often the actual designer gets handed a set of contractor marked-up prints about 3 months after the project is complete – and these sometimes get misplaced. SO anyway I have been studying thousands of original PDF’s gleaning what I can about the base building systems, transferring these to AutoCad, and then wandering through the bowels of the buildings with mini-plots at hand. Luckily back in the mid 40’s, the drawings were beautiful as stated, and contractors tended to install things exactly as drawn. Not like modern day when contractors often install systems in an entirely different (and perhaps more economical) fashion.
A prime example of a cross-connection was revealed last month when I was starting my surveys in the main boiler house on the site. I informed the guy in charge what I was up to, and he walked me across to the back of the main floor and pointed at a floor drain next to some menacing looking pumps: “Whenever we get heavy rain, water pours out of this floor drain, and floods this entire area“. Interesting I thought and sure enough, a day or so later of wandering around at high level revealed that a main rainwater leader drops about 40 feet down the building, only to turn horizontal below these pumps, and instantaneously become a sanitary drain. The one that the floor drain connects to. So 40 feet of head rushing down manages to go backwards through the trap, and floods the floor. Added to my list of required corrections as you might imagine.
This is leading me back to those thousands of scanned PDF’s. I have relied upon the excellent Adobe Reader (latest version at time of writing is DC) for years – because it displays a PDF quickly and allows you to zoom around it and pan it and mark it up with ease. However – it does not allow you to “tweak it”, which is often what I need to do. We have to remember that the person manually scanning thousands of original drawings is likely to get bored with the task, and might not always make sure that the drawing is “straight” in the scanner. Consequently there are many PDF’s that are a little skewed – enough to annoy me anyway. Also there are many PDF’s that have too much white space around the drawing border and it would be nice to crop them back a bit. Not with Adobe Reader DC.
After months of not editing bad scans, I eventually downloaded a trial of Adobe Acrobat DC, expecting it to do everything I needed it to do. Alas even with the monthly pricing plan to contend with, I was sad to find that I could only rotate a PDF by 90 degree increments – when I typically need to just tweak them about 2 degrees left or right. The trial version was rejected after about an hour. I am not trying to criticise what has to be a superb product here; I am just saying I could not get it to do what I needed.
So I went on the hunt for a full-featured PDF editor that would not break the bank. It turns out that these are not that easy to find and only a chance conversation at a friend’s office introduced me to PDF-XChange Editor. It looked promising so I did some research and this product proved to do everything I needed – and plenty more I don’t. The price is very reasonable, and it turns out that this software is produced by a Canadian company out of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Now it is my default PDF viewer, and anytime I load a (nasty) PDF that needs some cleaning up, I do that on the fly. It even allows you to customize the toolbars, and the printing interface is far better than what I had been used to – such as Print Current View being available from the main print dialog box (not embedded deeper).
I highly recommend this product, cheers.