Why CA is Critical for an Engineer’s Success

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By Herman Gude, Senior Electrical Design Engineer

MEP design engineers design a project, send it out the door and sometimes never hear about it again (unless there is a problem). For this reason, construction administration (CA) is a vital piece of the design process. It walks the design through every phase of construction, from framer and concrete guys to pipe fitters, sheet metal installers, etc. It provides a first-hand look at what the design engineer puts on paper (2D) all the way through the full building construction (3D – brick, mortar and steel).

A strong CA person helps keep the design integrity intact, while also letting the designer know if the project has pitfalls and short comings. Engineering is a service industry, which means we are only as good as our last project. Feedback from CA helps to keep the designer thinking, “How can I do a better job on the next project?” This is accomplished through detailed field reports.

In order to be effective, the CA individual must have a complete understanding of the design intent and effective documents to follow. It is crucial to bring CA into the fold early in the process. Their involvement in the kick-off meeting, 50% review and project integration meeting are all essential to ensure 100% success.

In addition to ensuring the success of the project at hand, the CA person brings valuable construction tips back to the design engineer that can be used on other projects and assist in the creation of design processes, which standardize the way designers approach certain types of systems. It also helps the design engineer understand construction beyond the 2D perspective.

Finally, the most critical element is that the CA person is the last line of defense when it comes to design documents and a contractor’s interpretation of them. When CA knows the engineer’s design standards, gets involved during the initial design process and takes part in a thorough meeting to go over the final documents, they can head into the field equipped the ammo they need to keep the project on track and the general contractor and sub-contractors in check. This is a reassurance for the owner that they have a team on the job that can be fully trusted.