What you need to consider
When you’re considering working with a structural engineering firm it’s important that that team of people you are interviewing is a team of people you feel that you can work with, relate to and ask questions of easily. As you start this process we have seven suggestions of what to look for in a Structural Engineering firm to help you get a start on this process.
- Is the Structural Engineer qualified as a PE and Licensed?
In order to be a Structural Engineer an individual must be qualified as a Professional Engineer (PE). Firstly, they need to have graduated from an accredited university and passed the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. And secondly, they need to have gained a specified amount of experience then completed the Principles and Practice in Engineering (PE) exam. Each state of America has its own licensure board and in order for an engineer to practice in a specific state the engineer needs to have applied for a license and been approved by the licensure board in order to qualify. Once a Structural Engineer has become licensed they are then eligible to seal engineering drawings as well as taking responsibility, legally, for calculations and engineering work needed in order to submit the documents required for a building permit. Therefore, in knowing this important information you should ask are the structural engineers qualified PE’s and do they have the correct licenses for working in the states of the USA where the work will be completed?
- Statement of Qualification (SOQ)
Does the Structural Engineer or Structural Engineering firm have a SOQ? What is an SOQ? A SOQ is a Statement of Qualification that reviews and shows the qualifications and experience of an individual or firm. It can also summarise the company history and key facts of a company or engineer. For example the SOQ might show that the company has a Dunns number, Cage Code, where the office is located and the number of employees within that firm and whether it has accreditations, certifications and is registered with SAMs (important to know for any federal government work or work with small business set-asides). A Statement of Qualification also allows you to easily read the key facts and information about the structural engineer or firm you are looking to employ which helps to confirm you are making the right hiring and teaming decision.
- Who is on the team?
When you are looking to work with a structural engineering firm find out who the employees are that work for the firm? What are their specialties and areas of expertise? What are their roles and responsibilities within the firm? Do they work with specific materials or structures? Have they worked with any specialty areas for example environmental issues like hurricanes, earthquakes, flooding or fire? All of the answers to these questions can help you determine if this firm is the right choice for you, and your project, and its specific needs.
- Specific experience
Does the Structural Engineer or firm have the correct experience? Ask them questions specifically regarding what you need and are wanting to see if they are competent in the field needed. You want an engineer who has experience relevant to the project you are needing help with, or for the firm you want to team with. Even if the structural engineering firm has many years of experience behind them if it has nothing to with the project you are working on it will not be enough for you. If you need structural engineering advice for a building yet their engineering experience is purely in bridges it will be a disadvantage to you and the desired outcomes of the project.
- Technology and continued training
Is the structural engineering firm keeping up to date with technology and software to get the job done? When it comes to engineering solutions (and problems) you want software applications that can work with analysis and complex design. Do they have the software to do this and to create the best outcomes? Do they even have the hardware to come on site if there is an issue to create solutions there and then, when needed? Are they also up to date with training for the software, does the company value this training for its structural engineers in keeping their skills and software knowledge up to date so they know how to use the software efficiently so your time and money isn’t being wasted?
When you look for hire or work with a structural engineering firm you want to know that they will quickly respond to any concerns or questions. That they will be in regular contact with you, keeping you in the loop with the work that is being carried out. It’s also really important to know who will be your main point of contact if you have questions or ongoing advice. Knowing who will be the main point of contact as well as their position in the company is critical knowledge. It’s also important before you start that you meet this person and make sure you feel there will be a good working relationship. Communication and responsiveness should not be underestimated.
- Longevity and Testimonials
How long has the company been in business? If they have been in business for some time this could be that they have been pricing themselves right. What is the “word” around town” about the structural engineering firm you are looking to work with? Do they have any online testimonials from customers saying how they have been to work and interact with? A great deal of knowledge can be gleaned by seeing the longevity of the structural engineering firm you are looking to work with, as well as the combined experience of the engineers and any information that can be taken from testimonials and references to make sure that the structural engineering firm you are looking to hire will be the right firm for you.
We hope these questions will help you find the ideal structural engineering firm to work or partner with. There are obviously many important considerations in doing this but often the bottom line is how much the services are going to cost you and how quickly a project can be turned around.