As design professionals, architects and engineers play a unique role in the construction process. On a typical project, the project engineer is the only party, other than the project owner, who is actively involved from beginning to end. The engineer’s responsibilities typically span the three project phases described below. It is important to note, however, that it is not unusual for engineer’s to be retained for only one or two of the project phases.
The planning phase of the project usually involves an examination of the general feasibility of the owner’s desires as well as an examination of where and how the project will be constructed. Central to all these considerations is the issue of project budget. The engineer’s design expertise enables him or her to advise the owner of whether certain sites under consideration can physically accommodate the intended structure. Additionally, there is the question of land use regulations and other necessary permits and licenses.
In Praxis, the ‘planning phase’ is represented by the identification phase of the project life cycle.
In conjunction with evaluation of potential sites, there is an evaluation of the various ways of designing and constructing the facility. Developers usually have rather specific ideas about what they want the facility to be capable of, but they look to the engineer for advice on how to accomplish this. The three competing considerations are function, appearance and cost. The engineer is best equipped to assist the project owner in arriving at a design and a site that will satisfy the owner in all three considerations.
Sometimes the owner is committed to a single site and the design must accommodate the site. Other times the owner has a number of site options and can be more rigid in its design scheme, seeking out a site that will accommodate the design. One of the engineer’smost important planning phase responsibilities is to estimate the total cost of certain designs under consideration. This is difficult, as these designs are extremely cursory and conceptual at this point. The owner cannot start to make intelligent decisions, however, until it has an idea of how much a particular project might cost. Furthermore, construction financing will not be available unless the owner is armed with reliable estimates of construction cost.
An estimate of the necessary construction schedule goes hand in hand with the cost estimate, as time truly is money in the construction industry.
When a project has been thoroughly planned, the owner should have a designated site and be familiar with the physical characteristics of the site, including subsurface conditions. The owner should know that the intended project complies with all land use regulations and other permit requirements. The owner should also have cost and schedule estimates for construction of the facility as conceptualized. The owner is then in a position to go to a lender and seek construction funding.
Owners will typically look to their engineer to pull this entire package together. Frequently, the assistance of other professionals such as attorneys, scheduling experts, estimators, and geotechnical specialists is required. The engineer is usually the party responsible for coordinating their efforts, however, in order to come up with a project plan.
The design phase of the project usually progresses from preliminary design to detailed working drawings sufficient to put out to bid. As this process unfolds, the twin considerations of cost and schedule are always present.
Very few project owners start out with an ironclad view of what they want. Most owners are subject to budgetary and/or scheduling restrictions. As the plans progress from the conceptual or preliminary stage to the final stage of working drawings, these considerations come into play.
A detailed description of the design process is outside the scope of this book. Two issues, however, must be stressed at this time. One is the engineer’s responsibility for the work of consultants and the other is the definition of the engineer’s design responsibilities.
In Praxis, the ‘design phase’ is represented by the definition phase of the project life cycle.
It is customary for the prime design professional, be it an architect or an engineer, to utilize the skills and knowledge of a number of experts from specialized disciplines. Sometimes these disciplines are available within the prime designer’s own firm. Other times they are hired as “consultants” or subcontractors.
Just as the prime construction contractor is fully responsible for the work of its subcontractors, the prime design contractor is fully responsible for the adequacy and competency of the work of its consultants. If a consultant makes a mistake, the prime design contractor will be just as liable to the project owner as it would be had it made the mistake itself.
This fact points to the need to be very cautious in selecting consultants to use in the design process. It also points out the need to see that consultants carry adequate levels of professional malpractice insurance and agree to indemnify the prime designer in the event of a claim involving the adequacy of the consultant’s work. The improper selection, monitoring, and coordination of consultants is a major source of problems during the design phase.
The other important issue to keep in mind regarding the design phase is the definition of the engineer’s scope of work. The agreement between the project owner and the engineershould precisely spell out the engineer’s responsibilities. If the engineer is being asked to rely on certain information such as a survey, the agreement should so state. In fact, any time an engineer is asked to utilize data which the engineer is not being hired to verify independently, the agreement should indicate that the engineer is relying on the accuracy and adequacy of this owner-furnished information.
This concern should always be paramount in preparation of an engineer agreement. If the scope of work is not detailed and precise, how can anyone determine if a particular item is extra work? More important, if a problem develops, how will it be determined whether the engineer was responsible for dealing with this particular matter? A well-conceived, detailed scope of work can save the engineer a world of trouble as the design phase progresses.
The engineer’s responsibilities during the construction phase of the project vary greatly. It is therefore important again to have a detailed scope of work, as this will be relied on to determine responsibility and liability if a problem arises. The engineer’s construction phase responsibilities usually begin with preparation of bid packages. These consist of the final plans and specifications, the construction contract, the general conditions, bid forms, and instructions to bidders. Bids are solicited by advertisement or otherwise, and bid packages are given to prospective bidders.In Praxis, the ‘construction phase’ is represented by the delivery phase of the project life cycle.
In Praxis, the ‘construction phase’ is represented by the delivery phase of the project life cycle.
Prior to bid opening, the engineer may be responsible for issuing amendments to the bid package and conducting pre-bid site inspections and pre-bid construction meetings where bidders’ questions are answered. When bids are opened, the engineer frequently serves as the owner’s representative, determining the low bidder and announcing the contract award.
Once work begins, the engineer usually monitors the contractor’s performance. This is the riskiest and most controversial aspect of the engineer’s construction phase services. It will be addressed in detail later in this chapter.
When work is complete, the engineerconducts a final inspection, prepares a punch list of remaining items, authorizes release of final payment, and otherwise assists the owner with the tasks of closing out the project.
If all goes reasonably well, the engineer has the satisfaction of guiding and participating in the project from its earliest conceptualization through detailed design, construction, and completion. The engineer has been instrumental in turning vague ideas into a functioning physical facility.
Thanks to Ignacio Manzanera for providing this book