Three Critical Construction Engineer Mindsets to Optimize Success on a Jobsite

An open mind is another tool a talented engineer should bring to your jobsite.
By Spencer Jemes
September 21, 2023

Engineers bring invaluable experiences and knowledge to a construction jobsite and help to mitigate conflicts before they occur by considering the goals of every party involved from contractors to key stakeholders. Forecasting potential challenges and delivering solutions to prevent them from happening ultimately leads to cost savings with existing materials remaining undamaged as the project progresses. As an engineer, key mindset skills include a problem-solving mentality, the ability to forecast potential problems at the front end and, most importantly, the emphasis on ensuring the safety of the jobsite for all team members and those involved. This mindset is rooted in an individual’s soft skills and past experiences which are refined based on an engineer’s knowledge of a project’s existing and new utilities and the ability to implement a collaborative approach across multiple different teams for the duration of the project.

Holistic and Future-Thinking

Jobsite safety is the top priority for any project and understanding the intricacies and characteristics of a project’s utilities in the early stages of construction will ensure the jobsite is safe and the project is successful. At the foundational layer of any project, existing and new utilities are interconnected and can present some of the highest risk exposures to the project.

Engineering works to predict material performance and the process of various material types coming together to interface. The typical project sequence from site work, building foundations and structure, to interior buildout and site finishes presents the risk of damaging existing work—this is the nature of construction. By looking at the project sequence through the lens of an engineer these risks can be mitigated. Engineers, specifically those with a background in civil engineering, can identify the limitations of gravity lines compared to pressurized links or ways to avoid damaging existing utilities from heavy loading from equipment like cranes in later phases of the project. The early identification is key to create space for alternative solutions to be identified before damage is done.

To further prevent risks on the jobsite, maintained service to facilities including site finish features like signs and fencing help outline the ways that existing and new utilities will be interconnected. Leveraging the holistic and future-thinking mindset of an engineer merges construction planning with engineering to deliver successful outcomes that take into account how existing work can be protected while the project progresses—saving costs and avoiding significant schedule changes.

Lastly, exposure to varying construction jobsites offers real-time insight into the supply-chain constraints and potential material compatibility issues. Some project types, such as hospitals in California, require strict adherence to specifications for materials on the project and it is important to define those interacting materials early on in the job process. In some instances, this means determining the best solution to provide preferred private utility preferences for maintenance by the landowner or developer while compiling with local jurisdictions.

Collaborative and Problem-Solving

Open communication is the foundation to successfully implement a collaborative approach on projects in which each member of the team is actively seeking a solution and offering their unique perspective. Team members that are transparent in sharing objectives, constraints and context for why a particular challenge is impactful help aid the collective team in finding the right solution.

It is a fact and an expectation that problems will arise on projects—as an engineer in construction this can be leveraged as an opportunity to be a leader for the team. Unforeseen conditions and changes during the project can be overwhelming, but the experiences and mindset of an engineer to view problems as challenges allows the team to ease the tension of big decisions by rallying the team to conquer the problem with an optimistic attitude.

Project stakeholders are complex in nature from owners, designers and contractors to inspectors, local utility providers and agencies, there are multiple perspectives that need to be accounted for. Identifying the exhaustive list of parties involved, weighing the information from the multiple parties and thus providing a conclusive decision to be executed for that project is a testament to the role that engineers play in the construction process. Stakeholders rely on engineers to not only be the liaison across the various specialties of a project but to coordinate in-person meetings and one-on-one phone calls across project stakeholders. These intimate moments create spaces for team members to share their constructive thoughts which leads to building a relationship rooted in trust and commitment.

Curious and Analytical

Every jobsite will have its own unforeseen challenges, time restraints and budget guardrails, and as an engineer, soft skills like curiosity, analytical thinking and problem-solving are equally as important as understanding the technical aspects of a project. An engineering team’s ability to anticipate potential challenges and work swiftly to prevent them from happening is determined by past field-experiences.
Trades people often have decades of past field-experience and can share their insight on the physical installation of products and materials and how they perform.

While no two projects or problems will be the same, the fundamentals of problem solving and analytical thinking are the thread between all construction projects. It is important for companies to foster a learning-based culture that prioritizes growth opportunities for junior staff members like leading projects and tackling problems they may not have been faced with before. Each team member should be encouraged to be a leader for the team and open to collaborating with others knowing each person brings a unique perspective to the table.

by Spencer Jemes
Spencer Jemes - Project Superintendent, McCarthy

Related stories

ICYMI: Highlights From NIBS’ Building Innovation Conference 2024
By Jordan LeGras
CE reports from the National Institute of Building Sciences’ Building Innovation Conference 2024, where industry experts answered questions on sustainability, diversity and inclusion, technology and more.
Nonresidential Construction Spending Slips 0.3% in April, Remains Near Record High
ABC has released its nonresidential construction spending report for April, noting a marginal slip along with maintenance of a near-record high.
Saying the Quiet Part Out Loud
By Tracy Winn
While silent leadership is easy to overlook, it can play a key role in forming deeper and more meaningful connections with work crews, subcontractors, clients, suppliers and stakeholders.

Follow us

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Stay in the know with the latest industry news, technology and our weekly features. Get early access to any CE events and webinars.