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Home » Why consulting engineers are ‘more crucial than ever’  – Part 1

Why consulting engineers are ‘more crucial than ever’  – Part 1

Writing in Construction Europe, Neil Gerrard says that consulting engineers will play a crucial role in delivering both the green transition and the accelerating adoption of digital technologies. This is Part 1 of a two-part series.

Inés Ferguson at EFCA's 2023 conference in Rome, Italy. Image supplied by EFCA
Inés Ferguson at EFCA’s 2023 conference in Rome, Italy. Image supplied by EFCA

That’s according to Inés Ferguson, the new president-elect of the European Federation of Engineering Consultancy Associations (EFCA).

Ferguson, who is director of business development at independent consulting engineering group TYPSA, has been on the EFCA board since 2020, prior to her appointment as president-elect in June this year.

Speaking to Construction Europe, Ferguson said, “All the major changes we need to make in our economy require intense engineering to make them carbon free, resilient, circular, digital, and inclusive.

“All that means investing more in engineering. So, I think that the fact that we are critical actors to design and deliver a new built environment makes me very confident that we have a big role to play.”

Preparing for rapid change

A report published by EFCA last year, examining how the consulting engineering industry could overcome the challenges of digitalisation, harmonisation and sustainability, noted that in the past, consulting engineers have been relatively slow to adopt new technologies.

It also suggested that by 2030, the planning and execution of infrastructure projects could be fully digitalised, with harmonisation of regulations and consolidation in the sector making it easier for larger players to compete across borders.

Meanwhile, software companies, contractors and technology start-ups could all make in-roads into the traditional playing field of consulting engineers.

Ferguson said rather than being slow to adopt digital tools, the sector had found itself at the forefront of adopting technology like BIM and is building its capabilities in digital twins and other digital tools like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).

But it will also have to learn to cope with rapid change. “There are new tools and technologies being developed that could make our work go faster. We need to incorporate those into what we do,” she says.

“Our environment is constantly changing but we still have a central role in delivering transformation in the economy. There is no predefined business model of what is going to work in the future.

“What we need to do is to have this flexible mindset in which we’re able to adapt to constant change. This is something that we need to understand to become more resilient: You need to be more flexible and be able to incorporate the new skills that are required.”

But she also made the point that consulting engineers are part of a larger construction ‘ecosystem’ and that it wasn’t simply about adopting technology for the sake of it.

“We can deliver anything our clients want, but the clients have to understand why they’re asking for it. And I think it’s not just about us being more digital, it’s really about the whole ecosystem becoming more digital. All the different stakeholders need to need to be aligned with this pathway,” she added.

Key objectives for EFCA

Ferguson also set out some of her key objectives for EFCA during her presidency. The first of these is to make EFCA more visible to European institutions through more active policy work.

“I think we have started something that is quite powerful and consistent. We are going to continue delving into the policy work and improving our communications in social media. So, visibility is an important priority,” she said.

She added that EFCA benefits from having a “double layer” in its role as main interlocutor on behalf of consulting engineers with European institutions but also able to influence legislation in individual countries through its member associations in those countries.

“That double impact can prove to be very effective and positive because they will be receiving the same messages from Brussels and from the individual countries. This is something we want to make a better use of in the coming years,” she said.

Read further in Part 2…