What is a Consulting Engineer?

A Consulting Engineer’s specialty may be anywhere in the broad spectrum of engineering technology, including the fields of civil, electrical, structural, mechanical, chemical, metallurgical, geotechnical and highway engineering. A firm may also concentrate in specific fields such as soil mechanics, sanitation, hydrology and petroleum.

A consulting engineer can provide general consultation, feasibility reports, design, cost estimates, rate studies, project development, patent assistance, construction drawings and preparation of environmental impact statements.

Locating the best available consulting engineer and negotiating the fairest fee requires research, organization, evaluation and responsible decision making. Engineering value is obtained when the most qualified firm – engaged for a fair and equitable cost – shy; develops a design which best serves the client by holding down present and future costs.

The components of our built environment—roads, bridges, tunnels, buildings, sewers, water treatment systems, hazardous waste disposal, and others—make people’s lives safer, cleaner, and more comfortable. These engineered components also give us greater mobility, more work and recreational opportunities, and a better overall quality of life than we would have otherwise.

Engineers figure out how to suspend a bridge, clean rainwater, build earthquake-resistant buildings, or heat and cool a 40-story building. Consulting engineers provide expertise and leadership in the planning, design, modification or rehabilitation of public and private infrastructure. They 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 ventilating 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. They also solve environmental and ecological problems, like wetlands, brown fields and hazardous waste disposal.

Consulting engineers frequently lead teams of multi-disciplined professionals on complex technical projects, and they serve as expert advisors to state, local and federal government agencies and to private businesses and industries.

America’s consulting engineering firms are among the best in the world, designing some of the most technologically advanced infrastructure. Just as they strive to continually update and improve their engineering proficiency, these entrepreneurs must also cultivate their business practice skills to compete in domestic and international marketplaces. The American Consulting Engineers Council (ACEC) provides the executives of private engineering firms with the tools and educational opportunities to be better business owners and managers. ACEC also presents a strong, cohesive voice for the profession in national legislative and policy debates to help ensure that firms can compete fairly in an increasingly aggressive world market.

ACEC today is the largest national organization of engineers engaged in private practice. It is comprised of 52 state and regional member organizations, representing more than 5,700 independent engineering firms throughout the United States. These firms employ a quarter of a million engineers, architects, land surveyors, scientists, technicians and other professionals who design some $150 billion of private and public works annually.

ACEC member firms represent a wide range of engineering disciplines including civil, structural, mechanical, electrical, environmental, industrial, metallurgical, chemical, acoustical, mining and agricultural.

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