What does a consulting engineer do?

By Vincent Brady

There can be some confusion about the role of consulting engineers. Project managers and owners who already have an architect and builder might ask themselves ‘What does a consulting engineer do?’. Even the job title, consulting engineer, sounds less hands on than the actual role can be. In this article we’ll remove any ambiguity about the role and provide you with a clear image of when and why you need to use the services of a consulting engineer, as well as tips for hiring a consulting engineer that’s the best fit for your project.

What is a consulting engineer?

While all consulting engineers are licensed professionals, their qualifications and areas of expertise can vary greatly. This is one of the reasons many people responsible for engaging a consulting engineer will use an experienced firm, as they will often have a team of professionals with a varied skill set, meaning the customer will always get the best person for any particular task.

The various areas a consulting engineer might specialise (and be qualified) in can include agriculture, civil, structural, geotechnical, environmental, mechanical, industrial, electrical, or chemical disciplines. A consulting engineer is normally also experienced dealing with planning permission. Each project is different, and as such, the role of the consulting engineer has to adapt to fulfil the needs of the current project. Sometimes they design and undertake a whole project, other times they are hired to focus on a single aspect of the overall construction.

The bigger picture of what a consulting engineer does

A consulting engineer will be qualified in the planning, design, and construction of infrastructures. They work on both private and public projects. Their role, on a societal level, is to benefit the wider community through the application of design principles that are safer and cleaner. Some consulting engineers will specialise in one aspect of your project, such as structural, civil, or mechanical and electrical aspects.

Consulting engineers are great problem solvers and they are often engaged to ensure a project achieves its specific goals, or when an architect or builder faces challenges beyond their own technical expertise. They are also great at coordinating different aspects of the project. If each area that falls under their remit is a brick, the consulting engineer is the mortar that holds the bricks together and ensures the development progresses as expected.

They can also help to optimise the project and save time and money by highlighting potential problems, such as material limitations and design weaknesses.

The detailed view of a consulting engineer’s role

A closer look at the role of the consulting engineer is slightly trickier, as the role varies greatly depending on the needs of the project. On a daily basis they could be planning a project within the limitations of the budget, or simply working on a single aspect, such as the connection of mains utilities or the installation of a fire alarm system. Consulting engineers will also create a specification document from their plans, which will specify materials to be used and functions that must be met.

A consulting engineer will often be ever-present throughout a project to ensure the contractor is meeting the required standards and that everything is progressing as it should be. Sometimes, when required, they will also prepare a detailed list of any corrections required after the project is complete.

While consulting engineers will regularly work on big projects, they can be equally as invaluable on small projects, and will often work on residential sites as well as larger public or private projects.

Should I use a consulting engineer?

If you’re unsure of whether you should engage a consulting engineer, then you probably should. If you were confident that you don’t need one, you wouldn’t be unsure, and getting things wrong a consulting engineer would usually deal with can be catastrophic for a project.

If you’re still unsure, then get in touch. We’re always happy to have a chat about your project, and if it becomes clear a consulting engineer isn’t needed, we’ll tell you. Either way, you’ll have a much clearer picture of what you’re doing after talking to us.

How do I pick the best consulting engineer?

Recommendations are always a good way to find someone experienced and reliable. However, recommended or not, ask any firm or individual you speak to about the past projects they have worked on. Look for projects that incorporate as many elements as possible of your own project. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, a good consulting engineer will have solved lots of problems using innovative materials, methods, and creativity, and they will want to tell you about it. This will help you to gauge the quality of their work and depth of their knowledge.

Most reputable firms of consulting engineers will also be happy to give you contact details for previous clients, so you can ask about their experience using the firm.

Why you should choose Banrach Consulting Engineers

We are trusted by other professionals, such as solicitors, insurance companies, and construction companies. We have approaching two decades of experience of not just achieving the goals of our clients but providing them with innovative solutions that ensure the project is completed on time and within budget.

Our reputation is built upon the attention we pay to our clients needs. We understand that a successful project requires a sensible budget and cost-effective solutions. We regularly work in civil and structural engineering, planning permission, fire, energy, and forensic investigation.

We pride ourselves on our ability to deliver. Many clients use us again and again as they love knowing we will take care of all of our aspects of the project in a professional manner, while still being approachable and friendly if any issues need addressing.

If you’re starting a project, get in touch with us to discover how we can ensure your success.