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In House vs. Independent Engineers: Are In House Engineers OK for a Contractor to Use?

In House vs. Independent EngineersOver the years, I have heard various questions about the use of in house engineers for the analysis of the observations and recommendations….. As if there were some sort of ethical dilemma for this. 

It doesn’t take long to realize that some of the largest construction companies in the world have in house engineers. It is also quite common to see engineers on the staff of some of the largest foundation contractors, Schnabel, Hayward Baker, Nicholson, etc. People are used to seeing that, but because it is not that common for small contractors, they start to wonder. There is a reason smaller contractors don’t have engineers…. It’s costly. Yet, shouldn’t that point to how seriously the contractor takes his obligations to be fair, impartial and evidence based? Not to mention, the other benefits including efficacy, precision, due diligence, and a wider base of knowledge to understand basic science to put specific project concepts into.

There are several procurement models that are regularly used in the construction world. Design Bid Build, Design/Build, Construction Manager at Risk, and Job Order Contracting, to name a few. Many Design/Build projects are done with firms that have both Design and Construction expertise such as the recent merging of AE Com and Hunt Construction. This is the preferred method in most of Europe and much of the rest of the world. I don’t hear many people wondering about that.

Sometimes, I hear residential clients say another foundation repair company is using an “outside engineer” to be fair and impartial. While this on the surface sounds good, in reality, most of the time the “outside engineer” works for only one foundation contractor, doing 100% of is work for them. In reality how is that any different in practical way from an “in house” engineer? In the end, most cost-effective solutions involve collaboration between contractors and engineers.

The code does specify that special inspections be done not by the contractor. Which makes sense from a quality assurance point of view.

In the end, what really matters is that a fair, impartial, and evidenced based analysis, and data driven recommendations be given. That the project be given careful due diligence with peer review, and engineering principles followed that come with a licensed professional engineer’s oversight.


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