Five questions to ask when choosing a civil engineering firm
Construction and landscaping projects can be far more complex than you initially think. From unseen problems with the site to complex regulatory requirements, there are always many jobs for a civil engineering consulting firm to be the center of the process.
Choosing the civil engineering consulting firm often boosts stress for developers, property owners and business managers. But it doesn’t have to. Here are five questions to ask civil engineering firms to help you make the right choice.
1. Do they have the necessary accreditations, licenses and permits they need to perform the work you need done, from appropriate federal, state and local government agencies?
This will require some homework on your part as the potential client. Different kinds of construction and engineering projects are subject to different regulations from various levels of government — some of which will surprise you. For example, some jurisdictions prohibit collecting rainwater without a special permit.
At the same time, civil engineers must be accredited professional engineers. In Utah, any company offering engineering services to the public must be licensed by the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing, or DOPL. This requires that an Engineer must have a bachelor’s degree in engineering from an accredited college or university, pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, have at least four years of experience as an engineer, and then pass a second examination. The DOPL also requires that accredited engineers take continuing education to renew their license.
2. How much experience do they have in the type of project you are planning?
Warehouse, office building, gas station, food processing facility — every project has its own special characteristics, and therefore specific engineering requirements. Ask the civil engineering firms that you are considering about the kind of work they have done that’s similar to your project. If possible, visit the sites and take a careful look.
Ask, too, about their knowledge of the specific federal, state and local regulations and requirements that apply to your type of project and your specific site. For example, your project may require special approvals and permits if it is near a wetland, or if construction will affect the flow and discharge of storm water.
Ask about their track record in submitting plans and managing approvals.
3. What unique challenges do they foresee in your project?
An engineer’s ability to see problems or challenges in a plan is key to finding solutions before they become construction problems. Doing your homework is essential here, as well, so that you can provide as many details as possible to the prospective civil engineering consultants that you are considering.
4. Who would be responsible for managing your project?
While your project will involve a number of engineers who will each bring specific skills to bear, it’s essential that the civil engineering consulting firm you hire put one person in charge — someone who will “own” your project until it’s complete to your satisfaction. Ask who that person would be, and ask about their personal qualifications and experience in general, and in your type of project.
5. How much input will you have during the development of your project? Ask for a specific person that you can contact during design and development. This can ensure that your requirements are met, everyone has the right information and issues can be resolved quickly.
Civil engineering starts with conversation
Whether it’s retail, residential, commercial, manufacturing or any other civil engineering project, start with simple conversations with a range of experienced firms. Sound them out on what they see as the challenges, and on what sets them apart from other civil engineers. Then make a short list and narrow on the details of your specific project.
By asking the questions above, you’ll be that much further ahead in a successful development.