Step-by-Step Guide to Choosing an Engineering Firm to Help Build Your Business

When you want to build a facility for your new business, whether it be a garden nursery or a factory, you want to have an experienced and trustworthy engineering firm to handle all of the nuances and specifications that building a business requires. Engineering firms handle permits, land surveying, zoning, blueprint design, inspections, materials testing and so much more. There are many components that are essential to having a well constructed facility to run your business out of, so you want to choose a firm based on a qualifications based selection process (QBS).

When it comes to choosing an engineering firm, there are lots of options to choose from. Firms come in a wide range of sizes. Some engineering firms are quite small, run out of a home with only a single engineer, while other firms are massive, having offices worldwide and handle more than just the engineering. They handle the construction, maintenance and operation of a facility. So your first order of business is deciding what type of engineering firm you need to handle the building of your business.

Types of Engineers

A civil engineering firm is one of the more commonly selected because this type of firm handles anything that is for the public domain. Building bridges and roads are probably the first things that come to mind, but their reach goes much further than that. Civil engineering is often involved in streetlights, pumping stations and water treatment plants. And at times civil engineering can include environmental, structural and geotechnical engineering. Larger civil firms tend to employ many different types of engineers for this very reason. Civil engineering is a perfect example of being cross-disciplinary.

Geotechnical engineers deal with things that are underground, including building foundations and landfills. Environmental engineers handle the regulations and environmental factors that need to be observed and considered when building. They also handle the clean up when environmental contamination occurs, whether it be on land, air or more commonly in the water.

Electrical engineering firms are made up of two types of electrical engineers. There are electrical engineers who deal with electrical components like power generation, transmission distribution and other building electrical systems like security and fire systems. The other face of electrical engineering involves more information and technology systems, including computers, software and instrumentation.

Mechanical engineers either deal with the manufacture of a company’s products. They can be involved in any of the production steps, from prototyping to working with manufacturing engineers to produce a product. Mechanical engineers can also work with public works, like plumbing, electrical and fire safety systems. They are also heavily involved in the heating, ventilation and cooling systems of buildings.

As you can see, there are many types of engineers (there are many more) and depending on the needs of your business, you may not need all of them, you may only need a few. Some engineers are interdisciplinary, while others are not. When you are choosing an engineering firm to help you build your business you can choose a firm that specializes in one area or you can go with a firm that employs a wide range of engineers–sort of a one stop shop. When you are going through your selection process, be sure to ask potential firms how or if they plan on handling areas outside of their specified scope of expertise.

Be Clear About What You Require

Before you set out on the road to build your business, you must first make sure that your business is not violating any federal, state or jurisdictional laws. And once you have addressed everything that pertains to local procurement laws, you can set off on the road to hiring an engineering firm. Be aware that procurement laws will vary according to the entity that initiates the request. Taking care of this step early on in the process can save you valuable project time.

You also need to create a scope of work or a project description. Your description needs to clearly detail what you need and all the details of your project. It should include the location of your business, the size of the lot or existing structure, the objectives of your project and business, a schedule that details milestones that are of importance to your and your business and your contact information. If you are looking to accept bids from competing engineering firms, your project description should also include your criteria for evaluation and guidelines for firms to respond to you. You can also advertise your project in appropriate places so that engineering firms will come to you.

When you are clear on exactly what you require from an engineering firm and the needs for your specific building project, you should try to choose a firm that has a diverse staff of engineers. This will save you time and money. So a firm that is competent to handle multiple disciplines is definitely a bonus.

Importance of Licensing and Experience

Any firm you choose needs to be properly licensed. Most importantly, the firm you choose needs to be licensed by the state or country they do business in. This means that they have met the licensing agency’s requirements and knowledge to offer their services to the public or private domain. You should be aware that each individual engineer in a firm is not required to be licensed, but every project has to be overseen by a licensed engineer. Depending on the size of the firm, you may find that they are able to do business in many different states because their engineers are licensed in multiple states.

Engineering firms that are not licensed, are not permitted to offer their services to the public sector. This means that an unlicensed firm cannot work on bridges, roads, municipal buildings, and the like. They are only able to offer their services to other businesses, not the public. This is called industry exclusion.

There is also professional licensing that is given by engineering associations. Make sure that you ask about a firm’s licensing restrictions or privileges before you make your decision. Having licensed professionals on your team can make the difference between a well done project and an exceptionally done project. It may also have some bearing on the price tag. Professional licensing associations or groups are where you will be able to find out if any disciplinary actions have been taken against a firm or a specific engineer. Checking a firm’s background can help you avoid unnecessary trouble.

You definitely want experienced engineers on your project. You don’t want your dollars to be spent on someone’s learning experience. There are several ways of knowing how experienced a firm is. One way is to see how long they have been in business and another is to look at some of their past projects. You can even contact former clients to ask about their experience with the firm. As the client, you have the responsibility to research any potential engineering firm.

Environmentally Friendly

Green buildings and green businesses are the wave of the future. And should you be looking to build a “green” facility for your business, you want to hire a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified firm. The US Green Building Council has created this certification to help businesses and other entities that want to reduce their effects on the environment, be more sustainable, reduce their dependence of fossil fuels and more be recognized for properly doing so. WIthout the hiring of a LEED certified engineering firm, you will not be an officially “green” facility.

Making the Final Cut

Once you have narrowed down your list of potential firms, you’ve got to make a final decision. You want to choose wisely because a well designed project will make a big difference to your bottom line, the quality of the building as well as the performance of the facility. Although cost is a major factor when it comes to choosing a firm, you don’t want to base your decision solely on how much it will cost you. You want a professional and skilled firm that can handle the needs of your project. So you want to base your choice on quality more than anything. There are lots of things that can cause setbacks in a building project, but choosing the right group of engineers can eliminate some of the avoidable ones and quickly navigate the unavoidable troubles.

Creative and proper engineering is vital to the success of business’s building project. It allows construction and operating costs to be minimized while maximizing the efficiency and overall function of your facility. When your business means a lot to you and your clients or consumers you want it to be all that you dreamed of and more. You want it to run efficiently and properly, and you want things to be up and running in a reasonable amount of time. Be clear on what you want and expect, have a checklist and be open to innovative solutions.