Choosing a Structural Engineer
How Hire a Geotechnical or Structural Engineer
Active soils and other challenging site conditions require the help of geotechnical and structural engineers. If you’re building on a site with steep slopes, you will need an engineer to examine soil properties and asses slope stability. The geotechnical engineer will provide recommendations for foundation design, grading, and any special requirements such engineered retaining walls. The structural engineer will use this information to design a site specific foundation. In some cases one firm may provide both services. Assuming you don’t already have a list of qualified engineers prepared, here’s how you can choose one.
Qualifications to Look for in a Structural Engineer
If you have not enlisted the services of an engineer before, you may be unfamiliar with what qualifications an engineer should have. Any professional you’re thinking about hiring should:
- Have the letters “PE” after their name, which means that they have at a minimum a four year university degree, worked under a licensed engineer for four years and passed difficult competency exams. It is the professions symbol of achievement and assurance of quality.
- Be a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)
- Carry the proper types of insurance, like Professional Liability Insurance, also known as Errors and Omissions Insurance.
You should also double check credentials with their local city or county building officials. Also many state licensing boards maintain an online data base of active licenses. This step ensures that what you are being told is factually accurate.
Assessing the Experience of a Structural Engineer
Once you have determined that your potential engineer is fully qualified you should look at experience.
Does the person proudly state how long they’ve been in the business? Are testimonials from other homebuilders readily available? Has this person completed projects similar to what you need? Homebuilders should look for these key pieces of information when vetting geotechnical and structural engineers.
And, how quickly they receive this information (if it isn’t already available online) will serve the added benefit of demonstrating how communicative and responsive the engineer is. When it comes to avoiding potential structural issues down the road this communication can bring much-needed peace of mind to the process.
Final Thoughts on Choosing a Structural Engineer
Once you have gone through this process with one engineer you might be inclined to stop there. However, you may consider getting quotes from more than one professional.
The average cost of hiring a geotechnical engineer can be $1,000 to $2,000, and engineered foundation designs can range from $1,500 to $3,000 depending on complexity. So the cost isn’t negligible. However, it can be a wise investment, and if you follow these tips you’re more likely to have a good experience.
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