Most building materials companies focus their sales and marketing efforts on a few types of customers. Typically, architects, builders and contractors. Those are key players in any construction project, but there’s another key player that tends to get overlooked, especially in commercial construction.
I’m talking about engineers.
As buildings grow more sophisticated, architects are increasingly relying on engineers to ensure that there are no flaws in the plans. During the early phase of a project, they practically work side by side. The architects handle the design while the engineers take care of all the technical aspects – fire resistance, acoustics, moisture, sustainability. Not to mention the traditional areas of structural, mechanical and electrical engineering.
This gives the engineer a lot of sway over an architect’s specifications. Even if you win the architect over, they will almost certainly change their mind if the engineer is less than impressed with your product.
Given the influence engineers have on product decisions, prioritizing them can be a smart sales strategy.
The Role of Engineers in Building Projects
The role of the engineer is critical in construction. Who gets blamed when there is a major problem or failure with a building? Health and safety issues such as fire, moisture, or even building collapses are frequently blamed on the engineer.
During the early stage of a building project, the engineer will consult with the owner and general contractor to understand how the building will function. They’ll also consult the construction documents to identify any potential difficulties or code requirements.
To do their job well, the engineer needs to gather various types of data, including information about building codes, schedules and materials. They will then use that information to make recommendations about the materials and construction processes that should be used. The goal is to minimize risk and assure the long term performance of the structure
The engineer’s work is meticulous, time-consuming and might drag out the design of a building. That kind of technical fussiness is incredibly valuable, however. When an engineer spots a service vent going through a load-bearing wall in the plans, redrafting it can be a real pain in the neck. But having to deal with a problem like that during the construction phase could easily bring the project past its deadline and over its budget.
How to Get an Engineer to Consider a Product They Haven’t Used Before
Typically, an engineer is likely to use a solution that has performed well for them in the past.
If they have not used your product before, they will want to know about other projects that have successfully used your product. They are interested in long term performance.
How will your product perform twenty years from now? If you don’t have twenty year old installations, you will have to have your facts in order.
While a lower price may appeal to an architect, owner or contractor, the engineer is more focused on avoiding failures.
Make sure you also pair your engineering leads with salespeople who can give them a high level of technical guidance. They should be in touch with someone who understands the type of information they need and can supply it to them on demand.
Doing that will give them more confidence in your company and your product’s ability to meet their demands.
7 Types of Engineers in a Building Project
Engineering has a number of sub-specialties. Each type of engineer will have their own category of problems to solve, concerns to worry about, and product needs.
To make sure you’re taking the right approach with each engineer, familiarize yourself with the 7 different types of engineers involved in building projects.
Lights and power outlets might come to mind first, but electrical engineers also cover fire alarms, life safety systems and power distribution. They are particularly crucial in remodeling projects that don’t have the electrical capacity to handle the features found in modern buildings.
Structural engineers are responsible for the trusses, columns, beams and foundations that keep a building stable. They also collaborate with facility engineers to establish passageways through the structure to route the various systems and prepare for future building expansions.
Civil engineers are primarily concerned with the distribution of utilities, such as sanitation, natural gas and storm water pipe. They work closely with landscape architects to enhance a facility’s surroundings while providing the infrastructure needed to sustain the building.
While electrical engineers are responsible for the way a building is wired, energy engineers are concerned with the overall energy efficiency and usage. With green buildings and renewable energy sources becoming more common, these engineers are in higher demand.
Plumbing engineers handle water softening systems, hot water heating systems, storm piping systems, fire prevention systems – basically, anything involving pipes and water will need their involvement.
Mechanical engineers play a key role in making a building comfortable and ensuring the health of its occupants. They’re responsible for HVAC systems and ventilation, which are essential to preventing “sick building syndrome.”
Technically a subclass of electrical engineers, technology engineers have a distinct specialization. They cover a number of building features, from security, card access, and IT infrastructure to centralized energy control systems.
Building Enclosure Consultants
A building enclosure consultant oversees the integration of air, thermal barriers and water for below and above-grade buildings, such as external cladding systems, roofing systems and windows.
Depending on the type of project, building enclosure consultants might assist the architect, the owner, the contractor, the developer, a construction law firm or an insurance company.
Above all else, engineers are concerned with a product’s performance. Aesthetics and design elements still matter, but that’s someone else’s department. Their job is to make sure that whatever product the architect or contractor chooses will meet some essential requirements for safety, serviceability and performance.
Architects rely on the engineer’s judgment and expertise to get those things right. Selling to an architect is a fine strategy, but it won’t get you far if you can’t get the engineer on board as well.
It’s easy to overlook engineers when selling and marketing your building material products. But if you start speaking to them directly, you’ll see an increase in your success rate.
Getting your building materials accepted by engineers can be challenging, but working with the right team can help you reach them. If you’d like to grow your business, contact us to learn how.