7 Essential Considerations Before Hiring an Engineering Consultant

If you were ever part of a group project in school, you know how important it is to assemble the right team. Hiring the right engineering consultant for your project is critical for your project’s success. A trustworthy consultant removes a great deal of pressure during the design and construction process.

But what do you need to look for in a consultant? How can you make sure the engineering firm you choose is right for the project at hand?

No two engineering firms are the same. Each comes with a distinct range of experience and education. Additionally, different firms will follow different processes. That’s why when it comes to hiring a consultant for the first time, there are some specific questions and requests that can help you sort through your options and make the best decision. Here are seven essential considerations before hiring an engineering consultant:

1. Understand the Benefits of Using an Engineering Consultant

The first question you’re most likely to ask is, “do I need an engineering consultant for my project?” Most of our clients come back to us for repeat projects because they know the value of adding an engineer to their team from the very start.

The benefits of hiring an engineering consultant include:

  • Having in-depth knowledge of national, provincial, and local building codes, which could save you money in the future when it comes to inspections
  • Having E&O insurance through your engineering firm of choice
  • Having access to educated and licensed professionals, ensuring a level of competency and legitimacy for your project
  • Having access to an engineer’s data resources, which you may not have access to

There are also a few costs to be aware of when it comes to hiring an engineering consultant. Engineers come with a wealth of education and experience, which is why they require a financial investment. They also will most likely require some extra time to execute their work. That’s why it’s a great idea to plan ahead and include an engineer in the engagement process early on.

2. Understand the Risks of Not Using an Engineering Consultant

Equally important as understanding the benefits of having an engineering consultant is knowing the risks of not having one. Without a consultant, you’re gambling your build and potentially costing yourself more money in the long run. However, with a consultant, it’s like playing Mario Kart with cheat codes – you can get there easier and faster. Nothing is guaranteed, of course, but it sure helps mitigate substantial risk.

3. Learn About the Fees and Breakdowns

Project costs are always a priority. Using resources where they’re needed most will ensure you get the best possible final product from your investment.

When it comes to finding an engineer, you’ll want to make sure your costs are broken down upfront. Here are a few questions to ask:

  • Do you charge a fixed fee or an hourly rate? Take into account that a fixed fee is preferable from a job costing standpoint.
  • How does your fee break down?  
  • Can you provide a list of what’s included? 

If you’re uncertain about engineering costs and you’d like to know more, reach out to CVL Engineering to get more information about engineering rates. We’ll be happy to talk to you about industry standards and give you all the material you need to make an informed decision.

4. Learn What the Engagement Process Looks Like

As with any project, the earlier the start, the better. Ask whether your prospective consultant will be willing to meet to review the potential project before finalizing the quote. This helps ensure everyone is fully on the same page and understands the scope, lines of communication, and expectations. If your consultant isn’t invested from the project outset or doesn’t want to engage your team early on, you may want to investigate more a proactive firm.

5. Ask for Copies of Paperwork

Although it’s easy to assume everyone has done their paperwork and is living up to administrative standards, there’s always a chance for mistakes or abuses of trust. Don’t forget to do your own due diligence and request copies of a firm’s license and insurance before hiring a consultant.

6. Look for Successful Past Projects

Education and licensing are important, but nothing speaks louder than actions. In engineering, different projects require different skills and knowledge. For example, modular structures require a vastly different knowledge base than bridges. It’s not to say that an engineer can’t take on a new type of project, but you’ll want to be aware of the experience level you’re hiring for upfront.

Experienced consultants should be able to provide case studies and examples of work they’ve executed on similar projects. Those case studies should come with references from clients. If you can, look for an indication that a consultant has worked with clients multiple times; repeat clients are happy clients.

7. Find Out What Happens if You Need Changes

In construction, change is inevitable. Although most consultants will be flexible in accommodating changes, it’s good to know upfront what the associated process and cost will be for major project amendments. Have this discussion before a change needs to be made so everyone is on the same page.

Learn More About Hiring an Engineering Firm

If you have questions about hiring an engineering firm in Alberta, Western Canada, or anywhere across Canada, we have answers. Our goal is to contribute to raising industry standards, which is why we’re committed to helping you find the right options for your specific project – even if it means hiring someone else. Reach out to get in touch with our engineering consultants today.

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