When your company requires engineering consulting services, a key element of success is hiring the right professional for the task. Engineering is an extremely broad field with multiple areas of specialization, and consultants typically specialize in one area, or a set of closely related ones. In other words, you must answer the following question before hiring an engineering consultant: On what specific area of engineering does my company need consulting services?
If your consulting needs encompass multiple areas or you are unsure where to start, consider getting in touch with a consulting firm to assess your needs and put together a multidisciplinary team. In the case of high-rise buildings, which are common in New York City, consulting services are frequently needed for HVAC systems and electrical installations. Energy efficiency consulting can also provide high value in large commercial facilities, allowing the identification of effective measure to reduce gas and electricity bills.
This article will provide an overview of key characteristics to look for in an engineering consultant, and they apply for companies requiring their services directly, as well as for engineering firms seeking a to fill a position in their staff.
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Education and Engineering License
Engineering consulting requires advanced knowledge in a specific field, so you will want to hire a professional with a closely related academic degree. Of course, postgraduate studies are also desirable due to the high degree of specialization they provide.
You must also make sure the engineering consultant you hire is licensed. In New York City, for example, only a licensed engineer or architect can initiate the approval procedure for building modifications – keep in mind that the final deliverable of a consulting service is typically a list of upgrades and modifications for your building, each with a feasibility analysis.
An effective consultant must be able to analyze existing systems and suggest improvements, while detecting performance issues – existing and potential. This task requires not only academic knowledge, but also professional experience, so before hiring a consultant review his or her experience with fieldwork or design. In other words, an engineer must have become an expert in a field of knowledge before working as a consultant.
Experience as a member of professional associations also adds plenty of value to a consultant’s resume. The following are some of the most authoritative engineering associations in the USA:
- ASCE – American Society of Civil Engineers
- ASHRAE – American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers
- ASME –American Society of Mechanical Engineers
- IEEE – Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
An engineering professional who has continued to learn can generally provide better advice than one who stayed with only the college degree. There is now a broad range of certifications available, and consultants who hold them can bring great value to your company. The following are some of the most valuable certifications in the current engineering consulting landscape:
LEED Green Associate
The US Green Building Council offers the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for buildings. This certification is based on accumulating points, and depending on the total score, a building can be ranked as Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum. A LEED-certified building is on average 20% cheaper to own than one without the certification, and this can provide a huge corporate image boost for a company. It should come as no surprise that the certification is highly sought by firms in all business sectors.
LEED Green Associates are professionals who have been accredited in green construction practices and have approved the corresponding exam, therefore their services are of high value when a company is seeking a LEED certification for its buildings.
An engineering consultant who is LEED-certified can be a great addition to an engineering team, especially in projects dealing with energy efficiency.
CEM – Certified Energy Manager
The CEM program is managed by the Association of Energy Engineers, which has over 17,500 members across 98 countries. The program is recognized by the US Department of Energy, and accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). An engineering consultant who is a CEM can bring great value to all types of engineering projects, making sure energy efficiency is taken in to account for all building systems.
ASHRAE, the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers, is an industry authority in all things related to HVAC. The organization offers a series of certifications for engineering professionals:
- Building Energy Assessment Professional (BEAP)
- Building Energy Modeling Professional (BEMP)
- Commissioning Process Management Professional (CPMP)
- High-Performance Building Design Professional (HBDP)
These certifications are all valuable additions to the skillset of any consulting engineer who works with HVAC systems, or energy efficiency in general.
PMP – Project Management Professional
A project management certification is the ideal complement for any engineering degree, since it guarantees the holder is also a competent manager of project cost, time and personnel. The PMP certification, offered by the Project Management Institute, is a solid addition for the skillset of any engineering consultant.
The PMP certification has global recognition across all industry sectors, with over 650,000 professionals throughout the world. Keep in mind that the PMP certification is very demanding in terms of experience required, and there may be younger professionals who are highly competent but still several thousand hours away from the threshold – in these cases, the Project Management Institute offers the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) program.
Software Knowledge and Experience
Software packages play a very important role in engineering design, and mastery of these tools is highly desirable in the consulting skillset. The following are some of the most useful programs in MEP design and consulting.
Revit is one of the most powerful software packages for Building Information Modeling (BIM). It is a highly intuitive 3D modeling tool for buildings and all their associated systems, and it features cloud computing capabilities, where engineering professionals of multiple specializations can work collaboratively on a single building model. Mastery of Revit MEP is highly desirable as part of a consultant’s skillset.
Trane Air Conditioning Economics (TRACE) was developed by HVAC manufacturer TRANE, a LEED automation partner. The software meets the requirements of ASHRAE Standard 90.1 and the LEED Green Building Rating System. If an engineering consultant is a LEED Green Associate and has mastered TRACE700, you can rest assured that he or she will be a valuable addition to your team.
Energy Modeling Software
Software-based modeling is the only way to carry out a detailed energy analysis for a building within a reasonable timeframe, and it can be a very powerful tool to meet the requirements of the NYC Energy Conservation Code. The following modeling tools are approved by the NYC Department of Buildings, and are a solid addition to a consultant’s skillset:
- Visual DOE
Assessing the entire professional profile is important when selecting an engineering consultant. Ideally, you will want to hire someone with a relevant academic degree and sufficient experience in his or her professional skill. Postgraduate degrees, certifications and mastery of software tools further enhance the consulting skillset. As with any professional service, previous clients or employers are a solid reference when dealing with an engineering consultant.