4 Reasons Contractors Need Their Own Structural Engineers on Their Projects

By DH Glabe & Associates / February 14, 2018

When designing a construction project, few people realize that the designer often cannot answer common questions that arise during the construction process. The owner's structural engineer, better known as the engineer of record (EOR), is hired primarily to design the project, but after the plans have been approved, the EOR does not get involved with the means and methods the contractor uses to deliver a finished project. This often leaves contractors flying blind, so to speak, as many times the plans contain errors or lack sufficient instructions. For these reasons, it is a good idea for contractors to hire their own, independent structural engineer, known as a contractor's engineer.

What Is A Contractor's Engineer?

A contractor's engineer is an independent, third-party firm retained by the contractor to help them solve day-to-day problems that arise on any construction project. While sometimes the EOR is available to fix major design flaws, these answers can often take several days or weeks to get, severely delaying the work schedule or even stopping work completely. For minor issues, where a contractor needs advice, the EOR simply will not be available to the contractor. This would be both a liability and a conflict of interest since the EOR protects only the owner, and answers only to them. There are many reasons that contractors should hire their own engineers, including construction sequencing, safety, liability protection, and preparing for building inspections.

Construction Sequencing

The decisions on which portions of projects to begin can often be complicated ones. Contractors need flexibility during the construction project in order to work around problems that may arise. This flexibility allows the project to commence safely, and without impacting the bottom line.

Additionally, a construction engineer's advice can be the difference between life and death on a project. In 1991, 3 workers lost their lives during the construction of the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, due to improper sequencing procedures. Now, OSHA has set guidelines pertaining to construction sequencing to avoid accidents and the loss of lives. A construction engineer is vital to determining these proper sequences.


Safety should be a big concern for any contractor. However, construction can be inherently unsafe. By hiring a structural engineer, contractors know that the structure is being built safely. An engineer also helps determine if weather events such as seismic activity or high winds will damage a site during the construction process. Lastly, every construction site is required to have a competent person by OSHA standards.  A structural engineer is not only knowledgeable about the applicable safety standards, but can identify unsafe situations. Additionally, they have the authority to correct unsafe workplace practices. This ensures everyone goes home safely after each shift.

Liability Protection

Ultimately, mistakes happen. No set of plans is completely perfect. What happens if the surveyor incorrectly lays out where a retaining wall should be placed? What if incorrect materials are ordered and used before anyone notices? In these situations, a contractor's engineer is an invaluable resource. They can help determine the most cost-efficient way to fix the mistake. Additionally, they may be able to advocate on the contractor's behalf.

Preparation for Inspections

During the construction process, a structure will undergo many different types of inspections. These include structural steel, compressive strength of concrete, sheer wall, framing, compaction, bearing, and more. A structural engineer can help prepare the contractor for these tests. If any tests fail, contractor's engineers can figure out the best way to bring the project up to grade.

Retaining a Structural Engineer Can Save You

Ultimately, hiring a structural engineer to act in your best interest as a contractor is well worth the initial investment. Having someone with the skills and knowledge to keep the project moving smoothly during any hangups can be the difference between delivering a completed product on time and under budget, or incurring thousands of dollars of fees for missing deadlines and damaging your client relationship. For more information on why a contractor's engineer is worth your time, please contact us at DH Glabe today. We provide expert witness services and have the skills and knowledge to keep your firm out of a courtroom. Let us earn your business.

Tags: Blog construction Contractor's engineer Engineering OSHA Standards & Regulations regulations Safety Structural Engineer

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