The last thing any of us want is a job done wrong due to lack of communication. In a perfect world, the team is on the same page and works out issues at the data stage. Unfortunately, about 20% of our jobs go this way. The industry average is about 5%. My team gets all parties talking at the front of a job due to experience and repeatedly work with firms who understand we are there to make things go as smoothly as possible.
Engineering firms are not to blame. Their reason for not being cooperative may be they are too busy to have a nice long talk about what you found wrong with their job. With proper coordination and your experience as a data engineer, doors will open and there will be better, quicker interaction with designers. Here is how to work things out.
We need a starting point to get things rolling. In our case, it is the building of the model provided after the contractor has won the job. If everything is scheduled correctly, the data is received before field work is ready to start, and there is time for building and review. While building the model, we are looking for a lot of different things.
- Overall quality of the plans.
- With experience, you can tell when things were thoughtfully prepared or just kicked out the door.
- Obvious issues with elevations, COGO, and drainage.
- A few spot grades that are not correct is normal. We will fix them and report it to the contractor.
- The COGO, (Coordinate Geometry) is another thing. When the layout of a site is not consistent from page to page, we need to let people know. A building must fit, cars need to park, and water needs to be managed. If the site permit calculations call for 165 parking spots and the grading sheet only shows 140, we need to alert the team.
- Laws regarding the handling of onsite storm water have changed and become more restrictive. Most sites need to contain and properly drain runoff. Know the rules and verify the cubic footage of water as compared to the plans. If there is a difference, everybody will thank you for not letting the wheels fall off that wagon.
- Experience with the engineer and contractor. When working with known entities, communication is easier. We know who to email and where to get results. With new people in the mix, it is best to get acquainted quickly and establish your main contacts.
- Share the model with everyone. At the start of the project, try and get the right person with the contractor and engineer in the email loop.
When you have a feel for how good things are and who is committed to making things happen, you are now on course to get things taken care of.
Dealing with Issues
There will be things that need to be changed for the project to work, at least on the screen. Sometimes we see an issue that does not look right, and we bring it to the attention of the contractor and engineer only to find out they wanted it that way. Usually, it needs to be changed. How you present the issue is more than half the battle.
- Never bring up a problem without offering a solution. There are two reasons for this:
- First, everybody will know you are familiar with the project.
- Second, nobody wants to figure things out. We are the professionals in making a surface, we should have some clue for success.
- Put together a well thought out email to the group.
- This means that when they read the email, they should have no questions.
- Do not send out something that says, “call me.” Yes, there are times on complex projects that some type of discussion is important, but for the other 95% of the time, be clear and complete in this communication.
- Always put some deadline on the request but don’t go around wanting everything in an hour.
- Pick your battles and leave as much time as possible but be sure to put a limit on it. If you do not get results, they should know you will go ahead and change things or just leave that section out of the model. That will get you answers.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff.
- A fat-fingered elevation is no cause for a Zoom call. Just make sure you note the changes made in a communication to the core group.
- Everybody is busy. The engineers’ process for dealing with the problem you present may take a meeting on their part.
- The message here is to note issues early on so the rest of the project can move along while the details are worked out.
When working on a project, we want everybody to get a copy of our data. It is always better to have several eyes on your work so there are no surprises down the road. In over 80% percent of our jobs, we will provide working files to the surveyors to help them with their portion of the job. This covers several factors:
- The surveyor can look at the data and let us know if they feel changes are in order.
- We are already producing a lot of the information needed for layout, so we can add points or a subgrade file for the survey crews to get to work.
- The survey bill to the contractor will be reduced. No surveyor wants to be stuck in the office doing calculations to send to the field.
It has taken a lot of years to get to the point where we have the trust of most of the large engineering and surveying firms in the country. Now that they are familiar with our work and competence, we are welcomed into a job. If this is your first time with a group, proceed slowly and earn their trust to prove your capable of providing accurate information.