Are you planning a major site development or construction project? How your project is planned, designed, and engineered from the start will affect its budget, accuracy, and success well into the future.
Will you be clearing, grading, or excavating the land? Installing septic tanks or laying out roadways? Building a new commercial facility or industrial distribution site?
Do You Need Civil Engineers?
An experienced civil engineer can help you accomplish this (and more) according to your local, state, and federal codes and regulations. And they’ll keep you safe, on time, and on budget every step of the way.
What Could Go Wrong Without a Civil Engineer?
The truth is, any development that disturbs your site requires the trained guidance of a civil engineering team. That means just about any project that extends beyond minor interior renovations.
Choosing an engineering firm is a critical step that will greatly influence the outcomes of your project, from the ideas and solutions provided to the efficiency of your timeline and long term sustainability of your site.
Civil engineers safeguard you against a wide range of legal complications and protect your bottom line. What could go wrong without the help of skilled civil engineers? Here are just a few problems that may arise:
- Your construction may not perform as intended. At best, you could discover flaws in the design that impact your building’s functionality. At worst, a parking garage or bridge could collapse.
- You might unwittingly violate environmental regulations. Managing storm water runoff or wetland ecosystems can be complex. Without a LEED Accredited Professional (AP) engineer, you can end up with citations for water pollution, overlook a wildlife conservation area within your property, or miss out on significant energy savings.
- Your project could turn into a money pit. Even a project with strong profit potential can become financially untenable after a few costly surprises. If you discover contaminated soil, unexpected changes to local zoning codes, or worse, you can expect costs to soar.
What Does a Civil Engineering Firm Do, Exactly?
Let’s take a step back. Now you know some of the headaches and catastrophes civil engineers can prevent, but what exactly do they do?
The US Department of Labor gives this concise definition:
Civil engineers design, build, supervise, operate, and maintain construction projects and systems in the public and private sector, including roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and systems for water supply and sewage treatment.
However, the complete list of skills and knowledge civil engineers lend to clients can be hard to summarize. Especially because a Civil Engineer’s greatest strength is his or her ability to stretch and adapt to various types of projects and their unique challenges.
What Civil Engineers Do (An Incomplete List)
- Plan, design, manage, and maintain land development and construction projects, or consult on these projects.
- Design complete project infrastructure, including roads, utilities, grading, septic, wastewater, and stormwater systems.
- Create and refine design documents and plans using AutoCAD and other advanced tools and software.
- Optimize function and efficiency of systems and workplaces, improving the lives of employees and communities.
- Work closely with other experts such as contractors and architects to bring the best knowledge and ideas to a project.
- Ensure adherence to safety standards while adhering to your unique project goals and design specifications.
- Acquire all necessary permits and approvals from relevant local, state, and federal agencies.
- Ensure compliance with local, state, and federal regulations, codes, and zoning ordinances.
- Assess, mitigate, and prevent environmental issues, such as problem soils, water pollution, energy use, and watershed and conservation area ecosystems.
As you can see, Civil Engineers wear multiple hats and work in many markets and industries. The best civil engineering firm for you will be one that has ample experience in your type of project.
6 Qualities to Look for in Your Civil Engineering Partner
If you’re searching for a civil engineering firm to work with, first identify a team that knows the ins and outs of your type of land development or construction. At MASS Engineering and Consultants, we specialize in commercial and industrial projects, but other firms focus on residential, municipal, transportation, and other markets.
Once you’ve narrowed your choices down to firms in your niche, use the following six criteria to evaluate your options and choose the best candidate.
Has their knowledge and skill been tested and proven in past projects? More than theoretical understanding, a civil engineering team needs practical abilities that can only be gained from experience.
One of the biggest ways experience shows up in an engineer’s work is in the initial plans and designs. For example, if your team has developed several commercial ice arenas before, they can apply past lessons learned to your development. They can foresee issues with parking or energy that are particular to arenas and prepare a strategy that solves these issues from the get go.
The more experienced your civil engineering team, the more you will benefit in myriad, sometimes unexpected ways, such as:
Well-prepared design drawings and specifications. This leads to improved communication among all stakeholders, more accurate bids from contractors, and fewer changes and modifications along the way.
An efficient and accurate timeline. Experience trains civil engineers to develop optimal schedules and sequence projects to minimize waiting periods and delays.
Relationships with the right people. If they’ve worked on your type of project before, especially in your region, your team will already be connected to the appropriate designers, gatekeepers, contractors, inspectors, and equipment lessors.
Speak to anyone who has partnered with a civil engineering firm before, and they’ll tell you a proactive, responsive team that answers your calls quickly is a huge asset. Especially in complex, costly projects with many moving parts.
How fast do you want your calls and emails returned? A successful relationship with your engineers depends on clear, consistent communication and rapid response times. If a contractor bails or zoning regulations change and you can’t get a hold of your civil engineer, you’ll be left twiddling your thumbs while the entire project schedule lags.
A responsive team yields many benefits, including:
Greater understanding of your goals and questions. No brainer, right? The more they communicate, the more they are able to listen. Your engineers should never work in a vacuum.
Cost savings due to efficient timelines. Sometimes issues arise and your team needs to pivot on a dime to keep the project moving smoothly. Have a question that needs an immediate response? Every minor delay can add up to days, weeks, or even months or extra work.
Transparency into your project’s progress. You should receive regular updates on your design, budget, and milestones. The more communicative a civil engineering team is, the more they can empower you with knowledge and foresight throughout the process.
Land Use and Regulation Expertise
If your civil engineering firm doesn’t understand how to develop land in your area, you can be vulnerable to myriad zoning, safety, and environmental violations.
The codes, standards, and review processes that regulate land use and construction are complex and subject to constant change. That’s why up-to-date knowledge of local, state, and federal land regulations is one of the top five qualities to look for in a firm.
A strong working knowledge of proposed regulatory changes benefits and protects in important ways:
Safe, reliable plans and designs. The last thing you want is to scrap a design because you discover an obscure violation. An experienced and proactive team of engineers will be able to generate compliant designs and anticipate changes to the law at all levels of government.
Avoid fines and punishment. Imagine buying and developing a site only to discover that half the property is a protected ecosystem can’t be disturbed. Wildlife, wetland, soil, and floodplain violations can lead to major fines and other sanctions.
Efficient review processes. If your civil engineers are experienced, they will have filed many submissions with various regulatory departments in the past. Familiarity with your state and local jurisdictionâ€™s site review processes means you can navigate them efficiently and without snags.
An outstanding civil engineering team can give you out-of-the-box solutions that combine technical know-how and innovative design. Look for a firm that takes pleasure in finding creative, best-fit solutions for their clients.
Creativity in this context doesn’t mean improvising or taking creative liberties just because. It means being able to recognize and adhere to established best practices while always looking for ways to improve.
A visionary civil engineering team creatively combines traditional solutions and cutting-edge ideas in ways that serve your best interests.
Maximum operating efficiency. It takes a lot of creativity to align multiple workflows and schedules and minimize construction and operating costs.
Life-cycle cost savings. A single creative idea can be all it takes reduce energy usage, optimize site layout, reuse water, save on materials, and much more.
Boundary-pushing solutions. A creative civil engineering team will challenge the designers, architects, and contractors they work with to also rethink old assumptions seek ever better solutions.
We would be remiss not to include the obvious: Your civil engineering team should be well trained and fully certified and insured for the job.
When looking for a civil engineering partner, always make sure they hold the relevant licenses, permits, and credentials to both operate legally and deliver high quality work. Ask for proof of certifications and insurance, and check out references from past clients to vet any firm you’re considering.
Aside from the obvious benefits of partnering with a legitimate firm, a team with proper, focused training and credentials in the disciplines you need is an invaluable asset to your project.
Specialized skills you can rely on. Need a LEEP AP, Erosion Control Specialist, or trustworthy structural engineer? Don’t take their word for it without the educational background and certifications to back it up.
The outcomes you agreed upon, without surprises. The more qualified a civil engineering firm is, the more you can rely on them to hold up their agreements without unforeseen roadblocks or excuses.
Protection and coverage for worst case scenarios. Civil engineering projects carry a tremendous amount of risk. A properly insured firm with ample coverage limits can protect you from costly liabilities.
Don’t Settle for Less Than the Best
A great civil engineering team isn’t merely worth the cost; They can help you save money and maximize profits for the long haul. Rushing the selection process or picking the cheapest bid can lead to costly mistakes and even endanger people and the environment.
At MASS Engineering and Consultants, we strive to embody each of the qualities above and constantly push ourselves to expand our skills, knowledge, and relationships. We’ve assisted numerous commercial and industrial clients nationwide with all phases of land development and construction, providing comprehensive end-to-end management and expertise.
We’d love to hear from you. Contact us today to learn if we are the right fit for your project.