“The plans don’t have enough detail.”
“Who would design something like this?”
Complaints like these used to make me defensive - especially when they came from contractors. Having my plans or designs questioned by contractors didn’t seem right to me. After all, I was the engineer, right?
I’ve since learned that complaints like these are an opportunity to get a better understanding of constructability. And when talking construction, contractors are the best people to learn from.
It might seem intimidating at first, but talking to contractors is the key to identifying and avoiding mistakes. So whenever possible, I get my site visit equipment together and visit the construction site. This gives me a chance to understand how my designs are built and it lets the contractor give me feedback on our designs. Together the contractor and I are able to identify issues before they become expensive problems.
Getting feedback from contractors is one of the best – and sometimes only - way you will learn lessons about constructability. Sure, the feedback is usually negative. But the biggest learning experiences in engineering come whenever something fails. And that holds true for the plans we create. Each time there is a complaint about our plans or designs there is an opportunity to learn and improve for the next job.
As engineers we sometimes think we know it all. But contractors can – and will - give you a valuable perspective you can learn a lot from. As engineers, let’s not have such a big ego that our head won’t fit through the door. Get out in the field and talk to the contractor.