When choosing a civil engineering consultant, most people know they need to ask important, probing questions of prospective companies, and then analyze them carefully. But choosing the right firm requires another step.
Choose the consultant who asks you questions, as well: deep, probing questions that will change their approach to your architectural or construction project.
This is the starting point. Before starting anything, the engineer needs a clear understanding of what you’re trying to achieve. We don’t erect buildings or structures for their own sake: we build to solve a problem or improve a situation.
This means you need to have a clear idea of what you’re trying to achieve. It could be something as simple as more space for the work that your company does. It could be to improve efficiency of a high-traffic area, to beautify a public space, or to make an undeveloped area accessible to more people.
The engineering firm should dig deep to determine the ultimate goal, as well as the other benefits the client hopes to achieve through the project.
No project is built in isolation. Every single one has to become a functioning part of its surrounding environment. That can be an undeveloped area, but most often, it includes built structures, as well as power, water and transportation infrastructure.
This is an obvious one, but it bears closer examination from both the civil engineer and the client, as well. Both should look at the costs of the proposed project, the financing options available, and at the long-term cost savings and economies that result after the completion of the project.
The consultant needs to look carefully at any areas to reduce costs through adaptations to the scope of the project, as well as the materials, timing and other aspects.
Often, an engineering approach can find savings through some small changes to the scope or design of the project. In the same vein, adaptations to the design or scope of the project can provide cost savings over the long term.
Real understanding of the impact and usefulness of the project requires a close look at a model before the project proceeds. Your consulting firm should insist on showing you a model and having you approve it.
Look for an engineering consultant who gives you a date to show you a model or prototype, and asks for a date to approve it.
This is not just a politically correct question to ask. Reducing the environmental impact of an architectural, engineering or construction project will also reduce long-term costs of energy and maintenance.
Demand a civil engineering consulting firm that proactively looks at ways to reduce energy consumption, incorporates recycled materials and offers environmentally sustainable engineering and construction techniques.
The visual appearance, or curb appeal of the project is a critical design criterion. The civil engineering firm you select should ask questions about the overall “look” that you, as the client, prefers. How will the new project integrate visually into the existing landscape and built environment? This involves not just design, but also choice of materials, engineering, and long-term aspects.
An engineering consultant needs to be open to new ideas and input from all quarters. Look for a firm that will ask for your creativity, and seriously considers how to incorporate even some of your wildest ideas.