The Value of a Quality Civil Engineering Consultant
Procurement of engineering services is a critical early step in the development process. Oftentimes, projects come together quickly and you need the benefit of a trusted engineer involved in the conversation to address due diligence. Important areas to receive input from a civil engineer include location of utility connections, entitlement requirements, soil analysis, wetland review and preliminary site layouts. A project’s feasibility hinges on these items. In order to address these issues with the speed required to keep the deal on track you need an opinion that can be relied upon with millions of dollars at stake.
Civil Engineers design infrastructure that provides quality drinking water, roads that last, pipes that carry wastewater away from our homes and drainage infrastructure that keeps storm water runoff away from our valued assets. Civil engineers are charged with protecting the health, safety and general welfare of the public. We learn design methodologies from prestigious universities and gain substantial real world experience before obtaining Professional Engineer certification. Years of education and training are required to become a member of society trusted to design safely engineered systems.
Training and experience teach engineers to design infrastructure, but it doesn’t mean they understand how to provide optimum value as consultants. Quality consultants understand the goals of their clients. From preliminary research to project closeout, a consultant should work as a partner with your team. Each project involves a unique set of circumstances that dictate the design process. If your engineer doesn’t discuss the design process in detail with you early in the project, you should be confident of only one thing. You’re dealing with a consultant that is using your project as a learning experience. If you’re an owner that has been in this situation, you know it leads to incomplete design information, extended timelines and excessive construction phase changes.
What is our Value?
The value provided by a quality civil engineering consultant far outweighs the cost of their services. Think for a moment about a consultant that you pay $40,000 to design a phase of a single family residential development. The average cost for a storm sewer structure in this development is about $1,500. That means 27 storm sewer structures equal the cost of engineering services. A development was constructed last year in Central Indiana of approximately this size that included 72 storm sewer structures. An engineer learned how to design residential subdivisions on this project. They had historically worked for commercial development clients and drastically overdesigned the storm sewer system. It could have easily been designed with 40 storm sewer structures. The overdesign cost the client more than the entire fee they paid the consultant!
You should expect us to Communicate.
For starters, you should expect us to communicate proactively with you. If you only talk with your engineer when you call them, something isn’t right. We will review your goals and communicate with you throughout the design process. You will have the opportunity to review plans and major design components prior to submittal for review by the governing jurisdiction. You will have an opportunity to understand the impact of other consultants’ designs on the project infrastructure design. You should understand the reviewing agencies’ timelines and to agree on a schedule that meets your timeline while giving us, the engineer, adequate time to prepare a complete set of plans.
What are some of the Risks?
One of the pitfalls we often see is submittal of plans prior to completion. Consultants agree to an advanced schedule at their client’s request, only to submit incomplete plans that delay approval for several months. A month saved on the submittal oftentimes does not lead to a month saved on the project approval. Wouldn’t you rather understand that early in the project instead of finding out 6 months down the road that your approval could have been in place 3 months ago?
We are your Advocate.
The value provided by a civil engineering consultant goes far beyond the cost of their services. A valued engineering consultant should be a vital team member, fighting to meet the project goals. They should proactively communicate with you and be willing to let you know if they believe your sequence and schedule is optimal for the project. At the same time, they should understand that a development project includes many facets that they may not fully understand. Civil engineering is not the centerpiece of every project and your consultant should work to make sure their design fits in with other project priorities.
The next time you consider civil engineering consultants, consider Weihe Engineers. Our number one core value is that “We Care about our Employees, Clients and Projects”. And we take this seriously. Providing a great environment for our employees allows them to provide great designs for our clients, which result in safe and profitable projects that benefit the community.
If you’d like to discuss Civil Engineering services available from Weihe Engineers, please contact our Vice President of Residential Development, Duane Sharrer, P.E. or our Vice President of Commercial Development, Jamie Shinneman, P.E. at (317) 846-6611.
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