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Classifications of Engineering Services
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Reprinted by permission. ®2003, American Society of Civil Engineers, 
Manual 45, pp. 9-17.

The need for professional engineering services varies along with the organizational structure, size, and capability of consulting engineering firms. Many consulting engineering firms provide comprehensive services, while other firms specialize in specific areas of engineering such as geotechnical, environmental, traffic, or structural and provide their services to a prime engineer, architect, or owner. Few consulting firms are qualified to provide complete service for all projects; thus, it is common to use associate consulting professionals to provide specialized services.

The services provided by consultants can be grouped into the following three broad categories:

  1. Consultations, investigations, and studies
  2. Services relating to construction projects, and
  3. Special services

This chapter provides a description of the types of services that a consultant may be expected to provide a client. However, the classification of services is not nearly as important as the mutual understanding of services required between the consultant and the client. It is imperative that the consultant and client communicate clearly about the scope of services needed.

Both parties must clearly understand what services are and are not included. Frequently, a client may assume that services, such as extra meetings, are included in the cost when it is the intention of the engineer to charge additional fees. Conversely, the engineer may want to decline responsibility for inspecting construction. To remove doubt, clarifying language should be included in the contract for engineering services.

Consultation, Investigations, and Studies

Consultants may be engaged to provide consulting services or to conduct various types of studies or investigations. These services primarily deal with collecting, interpreting, and reporting information, as well as formulating conclusions and making recommendations. Typical services in this category include the following:

Preliminary and Feasibility Investigations and Reports

These services usually precede the authorization of a capital project and may involve extensive investigations, analyses of conditions, and comparisons of several possible plans. They may focus on alternatives analysis, environmental impact, sustainable development, operating costs, life-cycle costs, financing considerations, and expected revenues as bases for conclusions and recommendations regarding the advisability of undertaking a project.

Planning Studies

These services include the broad areas of developing master plans for long-range capital improvement programs; preparation of land development plans, urban plans, and regional plans; and the investigation of environmental conditions and preparation of environmental impact studies, with subsequent planning to improve or maintain existing conditions. Such planning often requires coordination of the work of engineering and other disciplines.

Public Involvement

The client may engage the engineer to present a project concept, technical analysis, or planning study to the public. In addition, the client may use the engineer to solicit public involvement on a particular project or study. These services require the engineer to be familiar with the array of public involvement techniques in order to achieve the desired result.

Appraisals, Valuations, and Rate Studies

These services may include investigations and analyses of existing conditions; estimates of capital and operating costs, overhead costs, and financing costs; and forecasts of revenues for property development or for the recommendation of prospective utility rates.

Assistance in Financial Matters

A client who is planning to issue bondscparticularly revenue bondscto finance a capital project may engage a consultant. The scope of services may include an evaluation of capabilities of existing and proposed facilities to meet present and projected future needs, statements of probable construction costs, and an estimate of annual revenue requirements, as well as a determination of appropriate rates to provide this income. The consultant also may act as the responsible agent to certify that certain terms and conditions of the bond issues are carried out.

Materials Engineering and Equipment Tests

These services include tests of materials and equipment under established codes and standards, specialized examination of equipment and materials used in construction and industry, and other inspections and monitoring required by the clients.

Inspections and Evaluations of Existing Facilities and Structures

These inspections include material testing for a bridge, sewage treatment plant, airport runway, and other facilities or structures.

Direct Personal Services

This includes services such as assistance in preparing for legal proceedings, appearances before courts or commissions to render expert opinions and conclusions, and investigation of technical matters in which specialized engineering knowledge, experience, and judgment are required.

Construction Projects

Professional engineering services are required for each of the six typical phases of a construction project. Ideally, for consistency and efficiency, all services should be provided by the same consultant, although at times services in various phases can be furnished by different consultants or by the client.

The six standard phases of a construction project and the engineering services needed for each are as follows:

  1. Study and Report Phasecanalysis of client needs, evaluation of alternatives and recommendations of a preferred option, conceptual design, conceptual opinions of probable construction cost
  2. Preliminary Design Phasecpreparation of final design criteria, preliminary drawings, outline specifications, and preliminary estimate of construction cost
  3. Final Design Phasecpreparation of construction drawings, specifications, estimates of probable construction cost, and other contract documents
  4. Bidding or Negotiating Phasecassistance to the client with the bidding or negotiating process for construction of the project
  5. Construction Phasecrepresentation of the client during construction and inspection of construction
  6. Operation Phasecassistance to the client in startup and operation of the project, including periodic inspections

In some cases, the study and report phase, the preliminary design phase, and the final design phase may be combined, especially for smaller projects. Although the client often will specify what phases of service are required, the engineer also may offer advice about the appropriate steps needed for the project.

More detailed descriptions of the six phases follow.

Study and Report Phase

This phase involves determination of project scope and economic and technical evaluation of feasible alternatives. The services performed during this phase may include the following:

  • Review available data and consult with the client to clarify and define project requirements.
  • Advise the client about the need to provide or obtain additional data or services, and assist the client in obtaining them. These additional services may include photogrammetry, reconnaissance surveys, property surveys, topographic surveys, geotechnical investigations and consultations, compilation of hydrological data, traffic studies, materials engineering, assembly of zoning, deed and other restrictive land use information, and environmental assessments and impact statements.
  • Identify and analyze requirements of governmental authorities that have jurisdiction to approve the design of the project, and participate in consultations with such authorities.
  • Identify and analyze pertinent government regulations and work with government agencies as needed to ensure that the design specifications meet with their approval.
  • Provide analyses of the client’s needs, planning surveys, and comparative evaluations of prospective sites and solutions.
  • Provide a general economic analysis of various alternatives that meet the client’s requirements.
  • Present the project concepts and alternatives to obtain input from the public or affected citizens and businesses.
  • Prepare a report that includes alternative solutions available to the client as well as the consultant’s findings and recommendations. The report may contain schematic layouts, sketches, conceptual design criteria with appropriate exhibits indicating clearly the considerations involved (including applicable requirements of governmental authorities having jurisdiction), and the consultant’s conceptual opinion of probable costs for the project.

Preliminary Design Phase

This phase establishes the general size and scope of the project and its location on the selected site. Services may include the following:

  • Consult with the client, review preliminary reports, clarify and define project requirements, review available data, and discuss general scheduling. Conferences with approving and regulatory governmental agencies and applicable utilities also may be required.
  • Advise the client about requirements for additional data or services described in the study and report phase, and assist the client in obtainingcsuch data and services.
  • Prepare preliminary design documents, including final design criteria, preliminary drawings, outline specifications, and written descriptions of the project.
  • Determine right-of-way and easement needs.
  • Present the project to the public or to affected citizens/businesses. Prepare revised opinions of probable total project costs.
  • Provide periodic status reports.

Final Design Phase

This phase of project development is usually undertaken only after the client has approved the preliminary design phase material. The basic services for the final design phase may include the following:

  • Prepare construction drawings and specifications showing the character and extent of the project based on the accepted preliminary design documents.
  • Prepare right-of-way and easement documents.
  • Prepare and present a revised estimate of probable total project costs based on the final drawings and specifications.
  • Furnish the necessary engineering data and assist in the application for regulatory permits from local, state, or federal authorities. These are distinguished from and do not include detailed applications and supporting documents for government grants-in-aid or planning grants that would be furnished as additional services, described later in this chapter.
  • Prepare basic documents related to construction contracts for review and approval by the client and the client’s legal and other advisors. These may include contract agreement forms, general conditions and supplementary conditions, invitations to bid, instructions to bidders, insurance and bonding requirements, and other contract-related documents.
  • Furnish the client a specified number of copies of drawings, specifications, and other contract documents.
  • Present the project to the public or to affected citizens and businesses. . Provide periodic status reports.

Bidding or Negotiating Phase

Services under this phase may include the following:

  • Assist the client in advertising and obtaining bids or negotiating proposals for each separate prime construction contract, maintain a record of prospective bidders to whom bidding documents have been issued, attend pre-bid conferences, and receive and process deposits for bidding documents.
  • Issue addenda as appropriate to interpret, clarify, expand, or amend the bidding documents.
  • Assist the client in determining the qualifications and acceptability of prospective contractors, subcontractors, and materials suppliers.
  • Advise the client on the acceptability of alternative materials and equipment proposed by the prospective constructors when substitution prior to the award of contracts is allowed by the bidding documents.
  • Attend the bid opening, prepare bid tabulation sheets, and assist the client in evaluating bids or proposals and in assembling and awarding contracts for construction, materials, equipment, and services.

Construction Phase

Services performed during this phase are those usually associated with acting as the client’s representative. Construction services may include:

Review, for compliance with design concepts, the shop and erection drawings submitted by the constructors.

  • Review laboratory, shop, and mill test reports on materials and equipment, or provide inspection at the manufacturing facilities during the production of materials specific to the project.
  • Visit the project site at appropriate intervals as construction proceeds to observe and report on the progress and the quality of the executed work.
  • Provide services of a full-time resident project representative, and support staff as required, during construction to ensure that it is accomplished in conformance with the construction drawings, specifications, and other contract documents.
  • Issue instructions from the client to the contractors, issue necessary interpretations and clarifications of contract documents, prepare change orders requiring special inspections and testing of the work, and make recommendations as to acceptability of the work.
  • Make recommendations to the client on corrective actions or contractual measures that may be exercised by the owner.
  • Prepare sketches required to resolve problems due to actual field conditions encountered.
  • Determine amounts of progress payments due, based on degree of completion of the work, and recommend issuance of such payments by the client.
  • Observe and assist performance tests and initial operation of the project.
  • Prepare record drawings from information submitted by the contractor or resident engineer.
  • Make a final inspection and report on completion of the project, including recommendations concerning final payments to contractors and release of retained percentages.

Operation Phase

At the completion of construction, as a basic service the consultant may assist with the startup of project operations. The consultant may be commissioned to prepare a manual for both operation and maintenance requirements, and may also provide assistance in adjusting and balancing equipment, identifying deficiencies and assisting in obtaining corrections, and performing inspection prior to the end of the project warranty period. The consultant may assist in operator training, setting up job classifications and salaries, organizing the purchase of supplies, developing charts for recording operational data, and observing and reporting on project operations.

Special Services

Special services required during the study, design, construction, and operation phases of a construction project may include investigations, reports, and activities beyond the scope of the basic services. These services, many of which are also listed earlier in this chapter under the category “Consultations, Investigations, and Studies,” relate to feasibility, scope, and location of the project. The research, compilation of engineering data, and acquisition of property may involve professional specialists in engineering and other fields.

Special services that may be provided by the constant, or negotiated with other firms or sub consultants by the consultant acting on behalf of the client, include the following:

  • Geotechnical engineeringcincluding test borings, sampling and analysis, and recommendations.
  • Special studies, tests, and process determinations to establish design criteria or demonstrate compliance.
  • Land surveys, establishment of boundaries and monuments, preparation of easement descriptions, and related computations and drawings.
  • Engineering and topographic surveys for design and construction.
  • Mill, shop, or laboratory inspections of the materials and equipment.
  • Additional copies of reports, construction drawings, specifications, and other documents as required for bidding and construction beyond the number specified in the basic services agreement.
  • Extra travel and subsistence as defined by the agreement for engineering services.
  • Value engineeringcincluding review of the work of other engineers, either within the same organization or in other firms, to determine whether a proposed solution is optimum and, if not, to suggest a better approach for meeting the project’s functional and financial criteria.
  • Redesign to reflect changes requested by the client or necessitated by the client’s acceptance of substitutions proposed by the contractor.
  • Assistance to the client as an expert witness in litigation in connection with the project or in hearings before approving and regulatory agencies.
  • Final investigations involving detailed consideration of operation, maintenance, and overhead expenses, and preparation of final rate schedules and earning and expense statements, appraisals, valuations, and material audits or inventories required for 
    certification of force account construction performed by the client or for extra work done by the contractor.
  • Preparation of detailed applications and supporting documents for government grants or advances for public works projects.
  • Plotting, computing, and filing subdivision plats staking lots, and other land planning and partitioning activities.
  • Preparation of environmental assessment and impact statements and other assistance to the client in connection with public hearings.
  • Additional studies and design efforts to meet special conditions encountered during construction.
  • Assistance in the selection and engagement of architects, other engineers, contractors, and subcontractors; review and approval of their work; contacting governmental agencies to obtain permits and documents; and other services related to project development.
  • Assessment of completed project’s ability to meet its design intent.