Engineering tech enhances project design in NH

Panel of experts provide insight into industry tech

Thanks to the continued surge in state-of-the-art construction projects happening all over the Granite State, engineering and project design firms have never been busier. Thanks to innovative technology and their ability to exceed their clients’ expectations, project designers are in lock-step with their clients’ needs. To get more insight into the state of New Hampshire’s engineering and project design industry, New Hampshire Business Review invited three firms to share their perspectives.

Our panel: Bill Hickey, President, Eric Dinsmore, Sr., Project Designer, and Tom Betteridge, P.E., Principal, Vice President of Mechanical Engineering, The H.L. Turner Group, Inc.,; Dylan R. Cruess, Chief Operating Officer, Principal, TF Moran,; and Doucet Survey,

Bill Hickey, President, H.L. Turner Group

• Q: What are some of the most interesting engineering projects happening in New Hampshire this year?

A: The Allenstown School is one of the most interesting projects. The project is to replace the existing elementary school and deteriorating middle school with a new building combining the two schools into one. We are the engineer and overseeing construction for the new school building, which is in a town deemed the No. 1 town in need of a new facility in the state of NH. The first level will comprise all the common spaces for the school, as well as the kindergarten through fourth grade, which we call the elementary school. The second floor will be comprised of the middle school, which also includes a family consumer science lab, and many makerspaces, robotics and technology labs.

• Q: Are you seeing a change in project design as companies downsize, streamline or expand their capabilities?

A: Yes. Technology is enabling our designers to continue to expand their design capabilities. With the finite resources in engineering staff exposed over the last two years, technology can assist firms in overcoming staffing challenges. With today’s labor market, it is harder to find employees. Companies have to look for innovative ways to streamline how we operate. Basically, doing more with less or the same. While your project volume increases, the labor pool is not able to keep up with demand. We are continually looking at ways to become more efficient while generating the quality our clients deserve, not only with our in-house technology but also with how to attract new potential employees as well.

 Q: What are the latest state-of-the art design trends that you’re seeing?

A: With new engineering technologies, it makes it possible for firms to analyze the different aspects of design to develop an energy efficient (net-zero) project while reducing the carbon generated by construction or operations. Currently, we are working with IMAGINiT Clarity to help us become more proficient in the use of 3D technologies to design, develop and manage our projects faster and more cost-effectively. This task automation tool, among many other useful operations it offers, processes the 3D models using dedicated task computers to create coordination files, freeing up resources and allowing our teams to focus on design and production. It is a huge time-saver for us throughout the design process.

Tom Betteridge, P.E., Principal, Vice President of Mechanical Engineering, H.L. Turner Group

• Q: How much emphasis do you see on incorporating energy efficiency and sustainability in upcoming projects?

A: While energy efficiency has always been a consideration in designs, with the increased energy costs and emphasis of the impact our building systems have on the environment, we are now able to implement energy-saving strategies and designs that previously would have been deemed too expensive.

• Q: What are some of the best things a design firm can do to achieve a healthy bottom line in 2023?

A: Our mission at Turner is to support our team’s success through an open and inclusive workplace. The best thing we can do to retain our current employees, as well as attract new prospects, is to create an environment that shows how much we value our team. By working on the company culture and personal development, and addressing items that are important to them, such as having the infrastructure in place to support the ability to work remotely or supporting them with work-home life balances. — Bill Hickey from the H.L. Turner Group Inc., Concord.

Dylan R. Cruess, Chief Operating Officer, Principal, TFMoran

• Q: What are some of the most interesting engineering projects happening in New Hampshire this year?

A: We are seeing many redevelopment and expansion projects throughout the state for the coming year. The inventory of previously undeveloped land, especially in Southern New Hampshire, continues to shrink, so many of our larger projects for 2023 are on redevelopment sites where previous buildings will either be removed, renovated or expanded to create something new. Redevelopment and expansion projects are particularly interesting, because it is necessary to incorporate the existing site conditions and utility connections into the design.

• Q: Are you seeing a change in project design as companies downsize, streamline or expand their capabilities?

A: Our project design processes are constantly adapting and changing based on the AutoCAD software that we use and the requirements of our clients. Since the pandemic, working remotely outside of the office has become the norm for our company and in the broader construction industry, so we have expanded our utilization of different online file-sharing and collaboration tools to make working remotely more efficient and, most importantly, more accurate.

• Q: What are the latest state-of-the-art design trends that you’re seeing?

A: The increasing use of Building Information Modeling (BIM) is the most state-of-the-art design trend that we are seeing. With high construction costs and supply chain delays, we are seeing more clients utilize BIM to virtually see the future construction of their projects. Our primary design software, AutoCAD, can merge the designs for different aspects of a project, such as the underground utility connections with the architect’s building design model. The project team can virtually see a 3D model of the future project and determine if any conflicts will arise during construction.

• Q: How much emphasis do you see on incorporating energy efficiency and sustainability in upcoming projects?

A: We see a very large emphasis on incorporating energy efficiency and sustainability in just about all of our projects.

Firstly, over the last 10 years, the international building codes have been updated to include many energy-efficiency requirements and standards that were previously thought to be above and beyond.

Also, with energy costs at historically high rates, our clients are asking us to look into every possible option during the design process to increase efficiency and sustainability in an effort to reduce construction and future maintenance costs.

• Q: What are some of the best things a construction firm can do to achieve a healthy bottom line in 2023?

A: There is a lot of uncertainty in the economic outlook for 2023, but the industry has remained resilient and I don’t foresee any change going into the Spring construction season. As a professional service firm, I think the best thing to maintain a healthy bottom line in 2023 is to continue to focus on providing value and practical solutions to clients.

Doucet Survey

• Q: What are some of the most interesting engineering/survey projects happening in New Hampshire this year?

A: Projects where we get to collaborate with professionals from various disciplines are always very fulfilling. This year, we were part of the project team involved in the Seabrook-Hampton Bridge project and adjacent 3-mile Ocean Boulevard project for NHDOT. During the course of our work, we exchanged information and ideas with Civil Engineers, Bridge Engi neers, cultural resource specialists, environmental consultants, hydrographic cartographers, title professionals and state employees. Watching these projects come to fruition over the coming years will be an exciting process, and upon completion, we’ll be proud to say that we were able to play an important role.

• Q: What are some of the latest state-of-the art surveying technologies being utilized?

A: As the demands on our industry change, we must embrace the latest in land surveying and mapping technology in order to ensure a high level of service. Once we’ve determined a client’s needs, we’ll meet it with expert use of technology including GPS/GNSS receivers, digital levels, high-definition laser scanning and UAV (drone) mapping. Our deliverable product will be tailored to the client’s needs using a suite of AutoDesk software including Civil 3D, Infraworks, Revit and Recap. Projects completed for the New Hampshire DOT are delivered in Microstation. Additional software includes ESRI ArcMap, Leica Cyclone, Point Cloud Compare and Pix4D.

• Q: What services can a survey firm provide to help an engineering or construction firm complete a successful project?

A: The standard questions we are most frequently asked from clients are: can you complete the work? when can you have it done? and how much is this going to cost? Clear two-way communication is vital to ensure that we have a firm understanding of the client’s needs, so that we can provide accurate answers to these questions. Once we have a solid grasp of the client’s goals, we are able to establish a project schedule. With multiple offices throughout southern New Hampshire and one in southeast Maine, housing a combined eight field crews and an equal number of licensed professional surveyors, we can usually accommodate the client’s needs with respect to questions one and two. Utilizing the latest technologies and well-trained staff allows us to perform our boundary, topographic and construction surveys accurately and efficiently, leading to an affordable solution to question three.

• Q: From a survey perspective, what are the critical issues to address at the start of a project to ensure success?

A: Understanding the client’s project design goals and end-use of our survey data are critical questions to address at the start of a project. We work with the client to determine which site elements are critical to their design. Knowing if our data will be used to design an addition to a garage or for the design of a new wastewater treatment facility is of vital importance. We utilize this knowledge to determine the appropriate accuracies required, which allows us to select the optimal field methodology. We also know that receiving our data in a format that will provide seamless integration into our client’s design model is critical to overall project efficiency. With this in mind, we will tailor our deliverable product to ensure the clients have a design-ready product that meets their firm’s standards. We utilize client Civil 3D templates to ensure our delivered files match their desired text style, layering format and line types, so design can begin as soon as the files hit the client’s inbox.

• Q: What are some of the best things a survey firm can do to achieve a healthy bottom line in 2023?

A: Recognizing the value of our services and being willing to charge accordingly is critical to the advancement of the survey profession. Additionally, continuing to explore new technological opportunities can help your survey staff complete work more efficiently, on time and within the expected budget.

Lastly, you must invest in your staff through mentoring, training and promotion of a healthy work-life balance through the implementation of a positive company culture. Recruiting and training new staff is an expensive investment so employee retention is vital.

Categories: Technology