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Many experts work behind the scenes on landmark projects

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When the public sees the opening of a lavish hotel, a beautiful development or a sleek office tower, they often think of the architect and what a creative mind it took to produce such a sight. But what the public doesn't see are the efforts of an army of consultants to create a concept, prepare a plan and obtain approval from a myriad of governmental agencies to be able to build the project.

A consultant team consists of many professionals, including architects, planners, engineers, surveyors, lawyers, environmentalists, marketers, financiers and contractors.

Typically a planner or architect will prepare a concept of the project for the owner, who will see if the project makes economic sense. The owner's consultant team refines the preliminary plan to confirm its functionality, and prepares a cost estimate. This preliminary plan undergoes multiple iterations based on feedback from the consultant team, with members improving the plan based on their expertise.

Once the plan is both functional and economically feasible, the owner is required to obtain approvals from governing agencies to acquire development rights to the project. These agencies ensure the project is compatible with surrounding land uses, environment and infrastructure. This process of obtaining approval from governing agencies for development rights is discretionary in nature, can take many years to accomplish and can be very costly. There are usually multiple agencies requiring approval, frequently with conflicting requirements.

With discretionary approval in place, the owner is able to have construction documents prepared and submitted for approval to construct the project. These documents are far more detailed than the preliminary plan and are used by the contractor to build the project. The governing agencies check the construction documents against the discretionary approval for conformance. The time required for designing the project and processing the plans to obtain the construction permits can be lengthy and expensive as well.

The construction permit in hand, work commences to build the lavish hotel, the beautiful development or the sleek office tower. What a sight!


Written by Tim Murphy, P.E., for Rick Engineering Co.

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