|Selecting the Right Engineer|
What is an engineer?
An engineer is a trusted advisor with expertise in applying scientific knowledge, mathematics and ingenuity to develop solutions to technical problems. Similar to physicians having specialization in areas of medicine, there are broad range of different disciplines in which professional engineers practice, such as civil engineering, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering. Even further, within each discipline there are specific areas of expertise that should be considered when selecting the engineer best suited to a particular task (e.g. a structural engineer is a specific area of expertise within civil engineering). The qualifications of the professional engineer and their specific work history and experience are critical issues to consider when making a successful and responsible selection.
When is an engineer needed?
If you have a need for a Professional Engineer, you can go to http://engineers.texas.gov/search.php and search for licensed engineers who may have specific experience in the particular field of your need.
For public works projects, a professional engineer is required when the public health, welfare, or safety is involved. This excludes public work that involves electrical or mechanical engineering, if the contemplated expense for the completed project is $8,000 or less; or a public work that does not involve electrical or mechanical engineering, if the contemplated expense for the completed project is $20,000 or less; or for road maintenance or improvements undertaken directly by the commissioners court of a county. If a professional engineer is required, the state or political subdivision of the state may not construct the project, unless:
How can I go about selecting an engineer?
A Qualifications-Based Selection (QBS) process is required procurement procedure to follow when the state and its political subdivisions retain the services of a professional engineer. This process is also recommended for private companies and citizens alike when retaining engineering services. QBS is a competitive contract procurement process whereby consulting firms submit their qualifications to the owner who then evaluates and selects the most qualified firm. Following this selection the owner and the selected engineer negotiate several items, including:
a) the project specific scope of work;
b) project schedule;
c) construction and other budgetary issues; and
d) a fair and reasonable fee for the professional engineer’s services.
It is important to note that under a QBS process, fees are not considered when making the initial selection of the best or most qualified engineer. The fees associated with the selected engineer’s services are negotiated, but only after the owner selects the most qualified firm, that selected firm has worked with the owner to tailor a project scope and schedule that meets the owner’s wants, needs and desires. The selected engineer will then prepare a detailed scope of services which clearly identify the key project elements, the duties of both the engineer and the owner, a fair and reasonable fee for services which will all be contained in the contract for services between the owner and the engineer.
An expanded view of this process is provided below:
The owner prepares a "Request for Qualifications” (RFQ). The RFQ typically describes, in detail, the overall project and the professional service required. It also provides a deadline for when responses must be received. The owner invites firms to submit their qualifications for evaluation by either sending the RFQ directly to known firms and/or through advertisement. Typical methods of advertising RFQs include publishing an advertisement in area newspapers, placing information on the owner’s website or by contracting with a procurement website such as BidSync.
Interested firms will submit a "Statement of Qualifications” (SOQ) that details their unique abilities to meet the professional services outlined in the RFQ. Once the deadline stated in the RFQ has passed, the SOQs are evaluated and ranked by a selection committee based upon the criteria set forth in the RFQ. Occasionally, the top three to five firms are interviewed before a finalist is selected. The owner then invites the finalist to enter into negotiations to establish compensation and other contractual terms. If negotiations are not successful and the parties cannot agree to a contract, the owner would dismiss the top-ranked firm and invite the second-ranked firm to negotiate, and so on until a contract is concluded (see inset flowchart).