Running a brick and mortar business in today’s predominantly digital world can be challenging. Consumers today want immediate contact and answers and almost as fast results. This makes it difficult for just about any business, but when you are involved in commercial engineering – an industry where it takes time to plan safe, accurate structures – it creates extra obstacles.
Commercial engineering is a term that encompasses all industries from industrial to recreational engineering. If a building is being constructed or renovated, a commercial engineer is required. Engineering also covers addressing potential problems that may occur in the future and designing structures that will mitigate or fix those issues before they happen.
But to complete a client’s project within a budget, in the agreed upon, specified time frame, and within the requirements of commercial zoning regulations takes careful planning.
Because of these considerations, commercial engineering is one of the most challenging industries to work in today. Those in charge or and working in these companies must acknowledge and overcome many obstacles, like these 7 challenges faced in the industry today.
7 Challenges Commercial Engineering Companies Must Overcome
Although the term “commercial engineering” is used to cover a wide array of projects, it often is found hand-in-hand with the following services:
- Land planning, creating plans for buildings, and anything that requires the drawing and analysis of plans
- Zoning, rezoning, permit applications, applications for special exemptions or special use permits
- Managing construction on and off-site, including obtaining insurance for such
- Running and analyzing feasibility and environmental studies to create a macro picture of the finished product before any time, money, and effort are put in further
- Surveying the property before, during, and after construction
- Whole-site engineering, from the water resources to the infrastructure
- Preparing documents, including permits, construction documents, and all other applications and contracts
- All aspects of civil engineering, including cordoning off roadways while construction is underway, working with the city or county to construct new entryways, and abiding by all ordinances
It’s a complicated job, but somebody’s got to do it.
As all of these aspects are considered, though, there are always obstacles that keep the commercial engineer from being able to simply do their job in a manner that takes them from point A to point B directly, such as:
1. Taking the environment into consideration. Yes, the ecosystem should be a priority in every new building. However, the current climate crisis makes it extra challenging for engineers who are constantly working to predict and reduce damage from environmental stimuli before it happens.
The climate in which a commercial engineering company like Cochran Engineering is predominantly working will determine where their main focus in this area is given. With the significant damage to industrial and residential buildings in hurricane-prone areas, engineers must plan their structures in such a way that damage from floods and winds is mitigated.
Similarly, those who build in zones where wildfires are rampant must work to find ways to reduce damage from heat and fire. This same concept applies to commercial engineers in any climate with the potential for severe weather.
This often means that top engineering companies are working ahead of the current available materials and solutions to find new, improved ways to help protect the environment and their projects.
It’s why engineers must consider everything from the way their plans may cause pollution to the potential to use what they are working on to create sustainable and environmentally-friendly energy solutions.
The impact that the commercial engineer’s design may have on future generations means that ignorance is not an excuse. The engineer must stay up-to-date and ahead on environmental pollutants, damage caused by other buildings, and problems with infrastructures around the world so that they don’t make the same mistakes.
2. Water accessibility. Once commercial engineers have determined that what they are doing will not impact the environment detrimentally, they must then figure out how to make clean, fresh, sustainable water accessible throughout their structures.
This obstacle is a common one that often requires working and planning together with the county or city to access fresh water and hiring commercial plumbers to create a network of pipes that cover both drinking water and septic system access.
Ensuring that the water used meets or exceeds the quality standards set by the EPA is part of this job, as well. There are federal standards that must be adhered to, and these standards may change.
Today’s knowledge makes this aspect of engineering more important than ever in the past. With so many mistakes made in history due to ignorance of science that caused significant, widespread health conditions, it’s crucial that the water systems be clean and free of pollutants.
3. Ongoing education. Technology is in a constant state of flux. It’s ever-changing. Since commercial engineering covers such a broad range of factors, it’s crucial that those working in the industry are always staying up-to-date with the changes.
Commercial engineers must be on the forefront of every field in their industry. They should be aware or ahead of changes in protecting the environment, water stabilization and zoning regulations and laws. But they also need to stay update on computer technology and new, improved programs released that could make their work more efficient and faster.
4. Security. No one in today’s society is immune to potential cybercrimes. For those working in commercial engineering, where so much of the work is done in the shareable cloud or on networks, cybertheft is a major concern.
As a commercial engineer, it’s not only important to secure your own company’s access to sensitive data, but it might even be on the agenda to design and create software programs that use new technology to prevent cybercrime yourself.
5. Increasing supply costs. Online shopping makes it easy to price-check and many consumers want the lowest price without taking into consideration quality. To attract customers, commercial engineering companies may bid low after looking into current rates for the raw materials necessary to complete the project.
The problem arises when, by the time the client signs the contract and the labor begins, the raw material prices have escalated significantly. Unless you have specifically stipulated that the client must pay the difference in materials, which is often what scares away the consumer, you will have to eat that cost yourself, cutting into your profit.
Big commercial engineering companies are able to get better prices by buying in bulk, but small companies stuck in this same predicament are financially impacted when raw material prices skyrocket.
6. Irrational deadlines. Contemporary society lives in a constant state of immediate gratification. Many clients will expect deadlines that are not feasible and will threaten to go elsewhere if they are not met.
Some companies will turn those clients away, choosing safety and careful planning over a potentially turbulent client. But other companies will strive to meet those impossible deadlines, especially smaller companies who need the business and word-of-mouth advertising.
The problem with irrational deadlines, aside from the added stress and safety concerns when planning is rushed, is that you can’t control the zoning and permits. Clients who are given a timeframe when an aspect of the project will be met are usually unhappy when that date is delayed, even when it’s not your fault.
Permits require time and reliance on people you have no control over, so if you agree to irrational deadlines, be sure to warn your client ahead on the areas that may delay the project and include those areas on your contract.
7. Insurance. Commercial engineering companies are responsible for obtaining insurance coverage for multiple aspects.
If you have employees, you most likely have to offer them the minimum coverage required by federal law. This can get expensive, even if they are paying their share. Health insurance premiums on average go up 6% every year, with the employer compensating for at least part of this increase.
Additionally, you may have to have general liability coverage for any construction delay or defect, coverage for accidents that happen during your project, and worker’s compensation insurance.
The insurance premiums alone can put a small commercial engineering company out of business if they are not careful with their planning or if a major incident occurs.
Engineering is a Tough Field, But It’s Rewarding
Commercial engineering is extremely difficult, even with all of the computer software designed to make it simpler. For those who have the calling and skill to work in this industry, it’s a rewarding career.
Not everyone can handle the multitasking, higher level thinking, and micro and macro planning required to work in commercial engineering. These aspects alone make it difficult to find competent employees or business owners, but adding in the other 7 challenges faced in the industry today makes it even harder.
The extreme difficulty commercial engineers face, though, means that they are in high demand. Even with all of these obstacles, having a reputable commercial engineer working on a project with you means that your final outcome will be done right and last for the long-term.