The term ‘engineer’ is a very broad one, covering a wide range of disciplines who use the sciences and mathematics to develop solutions for technical applications. Typically on a construction project, a structural engineer and building services engineer will be part of the core consultant team, but other specialist expertise may also be required, such as; fire engineer, water engineer, thermal engineer, environmental engineer and so on.
A consulting engineer (or consultant engineer) provides expert assistance and guidance to clients on planning, design and construction issues. This may be necessary on complex projects, or where specific expertise is required to tackle a particular problem. A consulting engineer can be employed for the whole duration of a projects, from inception and feasibility to completion and operation or for specific phases as required.
Clients of consulting engineers can include construction contractors, government bodies, local authorities, private companies, other consultants and so on. The duties of a consulting engineer will vary depending on the nature of the projects and the area of engineering expertise required. Some consulting engineering companies will offer a range of engineering capabilities, allowing them to cater for a wide variety of projects, whilst others may specialise in one particular area..
Consulting engineers are commonly employed to work alongside other project team members and can be required to provide design, project management, coordination, site inspection and contract administration services. They can provide insights that will help to optimise the project in relation to materials use, cost, programme, safety, design, infrastructure, construction defects and failures and so on.
- Professional competence and integrity.
- Specialist knowledge.
- Managerial ability.
- Availability of resources.
Methods of seeking information on the above may include:
- Pre-qualification information from the consultant.
- Examining the consulting engineer’s systems and methods of work.
- Contacting and gaining feedback from previous clients.
NB Roles in construction projects: analysis and terminology, by Hughes, W. and Murdoch, J. R, published in 2001 by the University of Reading, defines consulting engineer as: ‘Synonymous with consultant designer with the emphasis on one of the engineering disciplines, implying a Chartered Engineer of some sort.’