“Can you have it in two weeks?” and other challenging questions you can ask a Structural Engineer

November 12, 2020

By: Nathan Klenke and Justin Ahalt

 

We are all aware the longer it takes to do something, the more money it costs; hence the phrase “time is money”. In the building industry, owners and developers want design and construction to be as speedy as possible so they can get the largest return on their investment. Keeping on schedule and in accordance with the project timeline is a common obstacle across all projects and disciplines. There are many factors that can create scheduling issues on a project: an owner’s desire to open a building during a certain time of the year, early submittal packages, permitting requirements, and project redesigns. Our team has developed many best practices, which prove to be efficient in mitigating these scheduling challenges to provide the highest quality building within the desired deadline.

Often, the best way to stop scheduling issues from arising is to pick the right people for the design team from the beginning. Before the project kicks off it is important to understand the timeline of design and construction, as well as the amount of work required to complete the project. Having engineers estimate their availability based on the schedules of ongoing projects can help in determining if they are a good fit for the team. It is important for engineers to remember projects can require more of their time in the days immediately before a submittal deadline. Taking into account the work isn’t over once the drawings go out, there is often a lengthy construction administration process that will require their input. LBYD has each of their engineers maintain their short-term and long-term schedule given the information they have on the deadlines of on-going projects and their own experience in how long tasks take them. The process is coordinated between design engineers and the project managers they work with, then discussed in a weekly scheduling meeting where new projects are assigned.

Communication is the make it or break it factor in most of life’s endeavors. The building industry is no different and good communication, both within the company and with the other disciplines, can go a long way in easing a tight schedule. Internal communication between design engineers, project managers, and the principal-in-charge is a natural occurrence during any project. Getting the team together to discuss aspects of the design process will happen as questions or issues arise. In projects with fast schedules, it might be beneficial to schedule consistent meetings between the design team to make sure the design is accurate, that changes are caught, and that everyone is still on track to meet the required deadline. Similar meetings are helpful between the engineer and other disciplines. In person conversation with the architects can point out design changes or places that need special attention, they can help clear up misunderstandings, and provide crucial explanation for design decisions. The larger the project, the greater the probability of overlooking something and the more important it is to keep open communication to make sure things do not fall through the cracks. Do not forget that a phone call or a face-to-face meeting (with proper social distancing of course) can clear up an issue faster than an email.

During the design phase, we maintain consistent communication between our engineers and our design team partners. By doing so, all parties involved receive project updates in a timely manner, which allows us to make design changes to meet the project’s completion date.