When is a Consulting Engineer Needed?

Consulting engineers can help with any aspect of a development problem: feasibility studies, assistance in the resource consent process; design of structures; and supporting services (such as lighting or air conditioning); construction monitoring; testing and commissioning; and more. Consulting engineers will provide valuable advice for smaller projects (a driveway) to the larger (a highway bridge). Their advice is independent and professional. Some clients may only use a consulting engineer once in their lifetime but selecting the right consulting engineer is important. The success of the client's assets and investment depends on it.

How Do I Select an Engineer?

ACE New Zealand has a directory of members and free guidelines on methods of selecting a consultant. See the Client Information Sheets in the Library or review the information on QBS (Qualification Based Selection) below.


The QBS process involves selecting consultants based on skills and qualifications of personnel, technical competence, reputation, experience on similar projects, capacity to undertake the project, understanding and commitment to the client's interests, professional affiliations, and commitment to professional development. Using QBS, the choice is made on these criteria and a fee is negotiated after the consultant has been selected. Although negotiations are entered into with the preferred consultant, if these are unsuccessful the second preference is then approached.
By avoiding price based selection, the consultant has the flexibility to explore innovative avenues which result in optimal project performance. It often creates a situation where small initial savings can result in higher capital and life cycle costs later.

Questions and Contracts

ACE New Zealand members are professionals, they will be pleased to discuss your job with you. Make sure you clarify what you want them to do, and what you expect out of the job. Put it in writing before you commit to anything. There are easy to understand contract forms available on this website and ACE New Zealand recommends CCCS or one of the Producer Statements, which any ACE New Zealand member has access to. Discuss it with the consultant, who should be able to recommend a contract appropriate for the work. You can include special conditions, but you should discuss agree these with your consultant first. There are some limitations in the law. Domestic clients (doing work around your own home) have specific rights under the Consumer Guarantees Act.

What Will It Cost?

There is no standard answer for this as each project has a number of variables which impact the price quoted; risk, access, level of expertise needed, time, resources, etc. We recommend you discuss this with the consultant (they won’t think less of you for asking) and they should be able to provide you with more information. If you think it is too much, ask him what is involved and it is always recommended to collect quotes from several providers to gain a better idea of what a fair market price is. This can be specified in your contract so you both know where you stand.

What If Things Don't Go As Planned?

There are provisions in the standard contracts for mediation or arbitration of disputes. Generally discussing the job thoroughly beforehand reduces the risk of things going wrong. If another sub-consultant or contractor has a problem with the job, talk to your consultant. He may be able to help you sort it. You can talk to ACE New Zealand and we can make some suggestions as to the route to take to sort any confusion among parties. Note that there are no set fees, and ACE New Zealand cannot rule on whether a fee is fair or not. ACE New Zealand can only mediate if the concern is for a firm and not an individual. Complaints about individual persons should be made through IPENZ, the organisation that looks after individual engineers. 
While we regret that disagreements are possible, it is important to be clear and open with your consultant before signing a contract. Define the scope of the work in detail first and select a qualified and credible consultant. Use the QBS system rather than price-driven selection to ensure the best match is made for the success of your project. 

Using the QBS Process


The client should complete the project initiation process and prepare a short project delivery brief. Firms should be invited to submit proposals setting out qualifications and capabilities which are evaluated and a shortlist determined. Any or all of the following criteria can be used: previous experience and referees, management and administration, key personnel (availability), key support equipment and systems, research and development or examples of innovation (a Gold, Silver or Merit winning project from the ACE Awards is the highest benchmark consulting engineers can achieve), project performance details, quality assurance details, and life cycle costing skills.
 Negotiations are conducted with the top-ranked firm relative to scope of work, services provided, and fee/payment schedules. If an agreement cannot be reached with the top-ranked firm, those negotiations are ended and begun with the second-ranked firm, and so on down the list until the agreement is reached.
An agreement covering the issues in Step 2 is executed. It is recommended that standard conditions of engagement developed in consultation with client groups be used for this purpose (eg ACE New Zealand or IPENZ standard contracts and conditions of engagement). Commonly used standard contracts are available (and more resources) on the Client, Helpful Guidelines page.