6C — October 11 - 24, 2013 — Pennsylvania — Mid Atlantic Real Estate Journal


E astErn Pa

By Denny l. Howell, PE, is president of D.l. Howell and Associates, Inc. top 5 ways to control engineering costs, written by an engineer!


bet that got your atten- tion. I bet what I say next will do so even more, but

the sum total of the cost to de- sign your project + your time to manage and interact with your engineer + the time it takes to achieve approvals + time to fix errors and mistakes (we all make them, sorry) + time for construction coordination and inspections. If you felt that bidding out your Sketch plan to the top 25 firms in the area then selecting the lowest cost is controlling costs than I am sad to inform you that you are wrong. Fortunately, I believe most “hirerers” of civil engi- neers know this but many do not. So....back on track. What are the top 5 ways to control

your engineering costs? We can start with the easiest and most obvious : 1. Get a few bids from quali- fied firms. Meaning, firms that specialize in the work you need. This will certainly al- low you to define the ball park costs you would anticipate. 2. Discuss a detailed time- line with each firm detailing out not only submission dates but most importantly turn around times. Once a project is submitted to the regulatory agencies you don’t have a lot of control of your timing, BUT, you do have a lot of control on how long it takes your chosen

firm to make plan revisions and keep the approval process moving. This is essential as time really is money in this circumstance. If you are find- ing your turn around times are costing you valuable time then you either have not had this frank conversation ahead of time with your engineer OR your engineer has a workload that dramatically exceeds his/her work output OR your project contract with your engineer has such a narrow margin that other projects are taking precedence. 3. Discuss with your engi- neer and fully understand how

much of YOUR involvement he/she is expecting. Will you just need to be present to sign applications and checks? If so, you have the wrong engineer. And yes, we all know you hired us to do a job, but engineers, although amazing in many respects, are not mind readers. You will need to be involved in the process. In fact, you will WANT to be involved. But again, it is important, up front, to have this discussion so that you move along through your approval process methodically and on the same page. If you want to have certain input on layout, storm water etc then discuss that before, during and all through the process. 75% of the cost of engineering a project is in the revisions. Your goal is to limit the amount of unnecessary revisions in your project. And keep in mind, revising a plan during the Sketch Phase is one thing, but revising a plan after grading, stormwater and erosion con- trol are designed are pretty much like starting all over. Sadly AutoCAD hasn’t come out with a one bottom function that revises entire designs at the push of a button.....yet! 4. Discuss with your en- gineer your design expecta- tions as they pertain to cost of improvements. Even more important, make sure your engineer is fully aware of the cost involved to BUILD the plan they are designing. This really should be the # 1 reason but I know if I listed it as # 1 over getting the lowest contract price you would have stopped reading right then and there. If you just spent 3 years of design effort to get your project approved and your site contractor is giving you “value engineering” sug- gestions that are all doable and permitted by ordinance than you could find yourself eating up any engineering dollars you THINK you saved in the blink of an eye. Experi- enced engineering designers will, not can, but will save you tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars. 5. And last, this is small, but every dollar counts these days. Minimize if not eliminate du- plicating any efforts. I mean this primarily on construction oversight as well as oversight in stormwater testing. We are seeing more and more often a requirement that a regulatory continued on page 10C

let’s hold that t h o u g h t a second. How about we first define what “engineering costs” really are. If you said it is the cost of doing

Denny L. Howell

your civil engineering draw- ings than AAANNNNNT!!!! Wrong. If you said it is the sum total of Item 200 Soft Costs in your proforma than once again, wrong. Engineering costs are

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