Can Your Project Afford a DIY Approach?

Recent trends have shifted to a more DIY approach, and you see it everywhere from home remodeling to design ideas, home repair to arts and crafts. There is certainly no shortage of information available at your fingertips to do things yourself both to save money and gain a sense of accomplishment.

While many things may turn out just fine, there are also projects where you end up skipping over dollars to save pennies, and it ultimately costs you more in the long-run than it should. For large projects, consulting a professional trained in the industry with project experience, knowledge of all relevant regulations, and experience navigating pitfalls, makes sense to avoid the significant risk associated with taking on tasks yourself.

You may be thinking, “What expenses can I avoid to save money on this project?” “Is there anything that I could do myself, so I don’t have to pay somebody else to do it?”

For many tasks, this is a reasonable alternative, and the project’s development is not affected by the owner completing tasks independently. However, there are many instances when upfront Engineering and Consultant costs have allowed for overall project savings. A correctly selected consultant will have experience with similar projects and may have a better understanding of the potential pitfalls and opportunities for cost savings as the project moves forward. The project owner should discuss any potential problems with completing project items independently with their selected consultant.

Planning: Professional Consulting firms have experienced people on staff with years of familiarity with local regulations. In the preliminary development stages, an experienced consultant can assist in developing a plan in accordance with regulations. If a variance is necessary from any of these regulations, a consultant will have experience in preparing an argument for and evaluating the feasibility of the request. Time and effort can be avoided if a consultant can confidently say a variance will not be granted. Experienced consultants have developed relationships with many of the regulating agencies which can allow an expedited review period.

Utility Coordination: Engineering Consultants have developed relationships with utility providers which help to increase project efficiency. Due to a consultant’s experience with similar projects and experience with certain utilities, the consultant will understand what information each utility provider needs to be given. Even if an owner handles the negotiations, it will be necessary for the consultant to provide the utility companies plans and staking in most instances so eliminating the third-party communication increases efficiency. Also, if an error in the installed utilities is discovered at a later stage of construction, it is far more difficult to determine who is at fault without a direct relationship between the utility provider and consultant.

Contract Administration: When an owner completes the contract administration for a project independently, it can be extremely difficult for the engineer to enforce the specifications called for in the design. When a Professional Consultant is in charge of administration, contract documents are provided to support the plans and specifications. These documents include special provisions summarizing the bid items to increase clarity for the contractors during the bidding process. It is difficult for an owner to prepare complete contract documents due to all the project intricacies often only known to those intimately familiar with the site design. Without a thorough set of contract documents, it is nearly impossible to enforce or regulate the contract schedule, and disputes can become difficult to resolve. A correctly prepared set of contract documents should outline the project with enough detail to reduce payment disputes and provide a system for handling any change order processing that could occur.

Construction Oversight: Having an Engineering Consultant oversee the construction process assures that the infrastructure install is done according to the contract documents, which include plans and specifications. This service can help avoid disagreements in the event that infrastructure is installed incorrectly. Having a consultant frequently on-site also gives the contractor the opportunity to ask for clarification and avoids delays in the construction process. Also, with an Engineering Consultant on-site, quantities can be verified, assisting with payment request processing and change orders.

There are many ways to save money on your project by completing tasks yourself, but you need to carefully consider areas where it may be better to have a professional consultant assist you. If you intend to complete tasks on your own, be sure to discuss the pros and cons of your decision with your consultant early on; and remember “cutting corners doesn’t create value…it leads down a path of slow deterioration with hidden costs that will slowly kill from the inside.” (How Cutting Corners Costs You More by Josh Nankivel)

by Jason Rice, P.E., CEO