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What is a Consulting Engineer?

A consulting engineer provides expertise and leadership in the planning, design, modification, or rehabilitation of public and private infrastructure. Consulting engineers are registered professional who practice in many disciplines, including civil, structural, sanitary, environmental, mechanical, electrical, geotechnical, chemical, industrial and agricultural engineering.

Consulting engineers are involved in designing virtually every construction and renovation project in the nation, from bridges and prisons to water purification plants and energy-efficient generation and distribution systems. They design ventilation and electrical systems for new hospitals, figure out how to build tunnels through mountains without disturbing the local wildlife, and renovate wastewater treatment systems for bustling cities. And they solve environmental and ecological problems.

As a catalyst in the problem-solving process, consulting engineers lead teams of multi-disciplined professionals on complex technical projects. They also serve as expert advisors to local, state and federal government agencies, and to private businesses and industries. Consulting engineers serve these public and private clients from preliminary survey and analysis through final design and construction.



Why is Consulting Engineering Important?

The physical framework that supports our society and makes our lives safer, cleaner and more comfortable is the substance of the consulting engineering profession.

The safety of a bridge support beam, the efficiency of a heating system, the purity of a glass of water, the convenience of an interstate highway& these are made possible by the efforts of engineers.

The range of engineering services has grown significantly in the past ten years. Hazardous waste clean-up technology and computer-assisted drafting and design (CADD), for instance, are new technologies that boost consulting engineers problem solving capabilities.

Consulting engineers are also artists, in that they mold utilitarian structures and systems into the backdrop of the environment. Graceful bridges arch over deep ravines. Glistening glass buildings rise up out of urban landscapes. Powerful rushing water plunges hundreds of feet to the base of a dam. And smooth ribbons of road wind through quiet countrysides.



What are ACEC/L and ACEC?

The American Council of Engineering Companies of Louisiana (ACEC/L) is a voluntary, non-profit professional association exclusively serving engineers in private practice. ACEC/L was founded in late 1950 to improve and promote the practice of consulting engineering in Louisiana.

The mission of ACEC/L is to facilitate the success of member engineering companies.

Today ACEC/L represents more than 150 firms and approximately 3500 employees in the State of Louisiana.

ACEC/L has broadened its horizons by establishing an AFFILIATE MEMBER category, which is open to any non-engineer company allied to the engineering field or interested in supporting and participating in chapter activities and programs. Allied, non-engineering companies would include vendors and manufacturing representatives, CPAs, stand-alone architect firms, surveying firms, contractors, computer software, hardware and office equipment reps. Affiliate Members are afforded opportunities to sponsor various events at Annual Meetings, present seminars and participate in all meeting discussions. Affiliate Member dues is a paltry $500/year. If you are interested in more information, contact the ACEC/L Office at (225) 927-7704.

Recent activities of ACEC/L include representing consulting engineers with various State agencies, developing partnering agreements with other organizations, lobbying in the State Legislature, representing the consulting engineering profession on issues throughout the State and participation in all of the activities of the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC).

ACEC is a national federation of 51 state and regional member organizations such as ACEC/L. The organization represents more than 5800 independent engineering firms throughout the country with nearly 250,000 employees.



Consulting Engineers are Entrepreneurs

Consulting engineering is a profession similar in many respects to those in law, medicine, and financial management.

Men and women who study engineering in college, then develop expertise in a particular field of engineering, may feel that their experience and talents warrant an independent venture. They may want to establish their own, or join another, entrepreneurial firm. Practicing engineering in such independent businesses can provide a particularly challenging and creative career path for these skilled professionals. Not only must they be good engineers to succeed; they also must be proficient business managers. They need financial, human resources and marketing skills, for example.

Consulting engineering firms may range in size from a sole proprietor to a multi-national firm with hundreds of engineers, architects, scientists and technicians in several regional offices. The firm may contract solely with ""owners"" of public and private facilities, or may partner with other engineering firms, architects and constructors. The consulting engineer may design an entire project, or be responsible for one element of larger project.



How to Select a Consulting Engineering Firm

Quality is a basic tenet of the consulting engineering profession, since to be competitive in the marketplace, and to be successful, a consulting firm must be the best in their field. Consulting firms build their reputations on being experts in specific disciplines of engineering; thus it makes sense that they should be selected primarily based on this expertise.

The cost of engineering services also is important, but should be a secondary consideration behind qualifications. Engineering design costs typically represent less than one percent of the total life-cycle cost of an average project. Yet an innovative, quality design can have an enormous impact on reducing construction, operation and maintenance expenses, which comprise the other 99 percent.

Hiring consulting engineering firms on an as-needed basis allows large public and private sector clients to keep their costs down by not having to support dozens of permanent in-house design professionals. Clients have the flexibility of hiring only those experts in specific specialties for whatever time they are needed. Consulting engineers give small public and private entities opportunities to develop projects which would otherwise be impossible with their own limited staffs and budgets.


For more information about ACEC of Louisiana, please contact: Barker Dirmann, President & CEO


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