It’s Not Just The Fee That Matters
It is understandable that you want to be cost-conscious. But falling into the trap of hiring an engineer for your project based strictly on fee will most likely have some undesired consequence. When you need an operation, you want the best doctor. You don’t shop around to see who will perform the operation for the cheapest fee, nor should you do same with engineers. When you need legal representation, you want a lawyer that will provide the best representation, again, not who will be the cheapest. Like doctors and lawyers, engineers are professionals with many years of specialized education and training.
It’s important to remember that you are hiring a professional consultant, not purchasing a commodity. Unfortunately, many clients treat engineering as a commodity, and suffer unintended consequences. We are familiar with a case in which an engineer, apparently unaware of applicable state regulations, developed a design that was constructed and later failed, resulting in the owner being cited and fined by the state for not having the correct permits. In another case, a registered sanitarian, as allowed by the state sanitary code, designed a sewage disposal system and prepared a site plan for a new single-family home on a vacant lot. Regrettably, the location of the house was a natural low point that received runoff from the surrounding area. Apparently, the sanitarian, not trained in hydrology, overlooked this fact and the basement flooded in a large storm event.
A good engineer looks at the big picture when developing a solution to your problem and is here to tell you what you need to know, not what you want to hear.
Even if there is not a technical flaw with a design, there may still be expensive consequences. A good engineer looks at the big picture when developing a solution to your problem. What will it cost to construct the design? Is the design constructible? What are the alternative solutions? Going with the cheapest design fee may save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars up front, only to cost you tens of thousands of dollars on the back end during construction.
Know Your Roles
As mentioned above, your engineer is a professional consultant. Part of his or her role is to evaluate potential solutions and recommend a preferred option. As the client, your role is to make the decision how you want to proceed. You should beware of an engineer that does not provide you with options, or one that makes decisions for you.
Another role of your engineer is to tell you what you need to know, not what you want to hear. Your engineer should be willing to advise you against proceeding in a certain direction if that direction would not be beneficial to the project, or if what you want to do is ethically objectionable. An engineer willing to simply do what you ask is not serving his or her role your consultant, nor serving their profession.