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The Concept of Being Conceptual

In the age of “make it faster”, we sometimes forget that charging full speed ahead isn’t always the best answer. Sometimes, taking a step back and considering your options is the best way to go. This is especially true in the design and construction world, where competition, speed, and a driving need for efficient project completion can push us into making quick decisions that aren’t always in our - or our client’s - best interest.

I’ve seen a disturbing trend emerging in our industry over the last few years, and it’s a sort of big box/retail approach to site design. The customer shows up, tells the senior engineer what he wants, and that’s exactly what gets designed. There’s no discussion, suggestions, and no interaction between the client and the design staff. Civil design is becoming more and more like the retail world where “the customer is always right” platitude prevails. That shouldn’t be the case. In the design world, the customer isn’t always right, and he doesn’t always have the best idea, that’s why he’s paying for an engineer to help him out. I do understand that budgets are tight and the customer does pay the final bill, but the best service you can provide your client is a selection of well-thought-out design options before they invest in a full-scale design.

It may seem counterintuitive to say that more work and more time up-front is to the client’s (or your) benefit, but it really is. Providing multiple concepts shows that you’ve seriously considered the client’s needs and the actual feasibility and profitability of a project. It also shows that you care more about your client’s needs than their checkbook. In the long run, that’s what leads to client satisfaction, repeat business, and solid referrals.

Design firms are everywhere and easily found with a simple Google search. What makes your firm different (and successful) is the care and concerns you can present to your clients, and that can’t take a back seat to getting paid faster.

So, how do you balance the need to present multiple concepts against their time and costs? Sometimes, it’s a matter of simplifying, instead of trying to overwhelm. You’re better off providing several, easily developed and well-thought-out options, rather than one that’s visually impressive and half way thru preliminary design. To make that cost effective, you should begin with free data services, like Google Earth, so you can do effective review and concept planning in coordination with all the surrounding utilities and conditions, not just working from the site boundary inward.

You can even take that type of aerial and georeferenced data and bring it into your CAD system using low-cost tools like CAD-Earth, that let you quickly generate surfaces, profiles, section and even do volume/slope analysis on the proposed site with almost no time investment. This simplified process lets you run multiple concepts in far less time than manual layout, importing extensive GIS data, building Civil 3D surfaces from scratch, etc. It lets you spend time actually developing concepts that will make you much more valuable to your client, which in turn makes him a much happier, and long-term, customer!

Join us for a webinar on May 22nd to learn how CAD-Earth can help you run multiple concepts in far less time than manual layout.

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