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Selecting the Right Engineering Firm

Selecting the right Engineer is one of the most important decisions a client can make. The success of any engineering project is made possible by the qualifications and professionalism of a seasoned engineer.

When seeking an engineer or engineering firm, the client is best served by a QBS (qualification based selection) process and negotiation of a reasonable fee tied to a clear scope of work.

The qualification criteria for selecting and engineer generally include:

  • Technical competence
  • Managerial ability
  • Experience on similar projects
  • Qualified personnel available for the project's duration
  • Proven performance
  • Location and/or local knowledge; and
  • Professional integrity
Qualification Based Selection is a proven process for retaining the services of a consulting engineering firm. First, it involves selecting the best consulting engineering firm using a set of qualitative criteria and second, negotiating a fair engineering fee directly related to the scope of services required.

Many people when they seek out an engineer, seek out the lowest cost for this service, however, this can be counter-productive when looking at the entire scope of the project. You need to look at the overall picture at what the engineering firm is actually providing.

Let's look at an example.

A client has a building project, but wants to hire a structural engineer based only on the lowest fee amount. You might say, "This is how many products and services are purchased, why not use this same approach for hiring an engineer?".

Well, let's look at that approach. How would a structural engineer lower his fees to compete on the basis of lowest fee? Since Time is Money - that engineer would reduce the amount of hours spent on your project.

Here is what that engineer would typically do to meet that kind of "lowest fee" qualification:

  1. They do not consider alternatives.
  2. Detail to project at hand, and customization is ignored.
  3. They select a structural system that is simple to design and draw, so that the least experienced person in the office can perform the work.
  4. And, they only analyze and size the heaviest and largest beams and columns, and then replicate that same design throughout the entire building.
What are the implications of such a design? These strategies potentially lead to substantially higher construction costs. The two thousand dollars the client saved on engineering cost, ended up costing $20,000 more during construction and with a lack of detail on how to get the project built.

So, what has been gained in hiring an engineer based solely on lowest fee? Nothing. In fact, it is a counter-productive approach when selecting an engineer.

What is to be learned? When hiring an engineer, use a Qualified Based Selection process. Go with someone who has the experience and qualifications to get the job done right.

At Harrison Engineering, LLC, we pride ourselves in providing the best valued solutions for our clients. Our goal is to provide high-quality professional civil engineering services to clients who desire excellence, distinction and value.

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