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Group aims to inform about consulting engineers

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by Clarissa A. French

SBJ Staff

A professional engineer's lot is not an easy one. Especially when many people don't understand what the job entails, according to Richard Scott, of Scott Consulting Engineers PC.

Scott is intent on changing public misperceptions about the engineering field, both as a professional engineer himself, and as an officer with the Consulting Engineers Council of Missouri.

Scott serves as treasurer of CECMO. The organization keeps an eye on legislative issues affecting the engineering profession and provides "a lot of information on the business side of consulting engineering."

Support for engineers as businesspeople is important, Scott said. "That's the thing about consulting engineering it's a profession, but its also a business. You have to operate like a business and you have to be profitable, but you're also a professional whose first obligation is to the public."

CECMO also acts as an advocate for its members in sensitive situations.

"For instance, a city might not use (qualification-based selection), it might choose to take bids. There are state laws against that. CECMO steps in so an individual firm doesn't have to confront a potential client," Scott said.

Qualification-based selection, or QBS, is one of the things particular to Scott's field that many people are unaware of, he said.

"One basic thing that people don't clearly understand is (consulting engineers) are normally selected based on our qualifications, not on cost," Scott said. Most people think engineers bid for projects, just like contractors.

The services provided by consulting engineers fall into the categories of study and preliminary design, final design and construction, Scott said.

First is study and preliminary design, in which "We pin down what we're going to do for the client, then start developing an agreement," Scott said.

Next comes the final design, the plans from which the project will be built. "We develop the construction documents. We finalize what the study told us and create the documents so it can be built," Scott said.

"When the design is done, and the owner approves it, then you're ready to bid it," he said. This is the first step of the construction process.

Bids are taken and a contractor is selected. The consulting engineer then follows the project "all the way through the construction process to see that the contractor is following the bid documents, the plans and materials specifications." The last thing the engineer does is conduct a final inspection of the project with the owner before the owner makes final payment for the construction work.

"That's all we do, over and over and over again. Basically it's the same process with every type of client," Scott said.

But while there is a certain routine to the process, each new project brings its own challenges and satisfactions.

The rewards are one reason why Scott said he feels young people should be encouraged to pursue engineering as a career. "There's a lot of fulfillment in seeing (a project) develop into something," he said.

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