Building Information Modeling (BIM) Best Practices: the importance of BIM standards


With an increasing number of A/E/C companies using BIM technology, it is important to incorporate a BIM Execution Plan or BIM standards within your firm. Michelle Hart, BIM Specialist with CE Solutions, gives us best practices for setting up and sharing files as well as good communication processes to increase project efficiency and realize project success.


  • Develop a project template. No need to reinvent the wheel every time a new project starts.

  • Develop project standards. This allows staff to know what drawings, details and notes are to be used for each project type.

  • Develop a clear process for team collaboration. A BIM Execution Plan helps communicate how the files need to be set up, standards and procedures to follow, and contact information for those working on the project and their roles and responsibilities. When file sharing on an FTP site, it helps to have a schedule for uploading files on a weekly basis or a procedure to notify other team members when information is available.  Although you can see model updates instantly when using cloud-based file sharing, it is still important to let others know of major changes to help eliminate the possibility of missed items.

  • Develop and share typical details within the company. We house these details in a shared folder, so they are easily accessible to add to a new or existing project. An important issue to keep in mind is software versioning. It is not possible to downgrade a Revit version. We keep these files saved to an earlier version so that details can be copied into newer projects with minimal effort. 



  • The greatest advantage of cloud-based technology is the ability to see model updates instantly. It eliminates the uploading/downloading process of sending models between people and disciplines. There is never a question of whether one is working within the latest files.

  • One disadvantage of the Cloud includes a concern with accessing too much information. Access to models or other files can be limited for each project member in order to prevent accidental editing of the project file by another discipline. For instance, the structural team members would have the ability to view the architectural model; however, they would only have access to open and edit the structural Revit model. Another disadvantage could be costs. A license is required for each person that needs access to the models. This could prove to be cost-prohibitive.  

  • When working in an FTP site, it is easier to keep record of when information was exchanged and what changes were made. For example, we save received files into dated folders. It is also possible to save an archived version of our model before a major change. If it is necessary to salvage information, the archived version allows us to revert to the original design. When working with cloud-based file sharing, there is not an easily accessible record of what may have been updated between a model from a week versus a month ago.


  • Sheet setup – The title block is shared with the project team and contains project information, sheet numbering and naming, and details for drawing submissions. The scale of the drawings, key plans, and sheet ordering are determined at the beginning of the project to provide consistency between all drawings.

  • Recognizing the BIM Level of Development (LOD) of the models is based on what has been agreed upon contractually. We traditionally develop our structural BIM models to the extent necessary for design intent and interdisciplinary coordination (LOD 300), not to the extent necessary for fabrication, material / quantity take-off, construction scheduling, etc. For example, framing and columns need to be modeled, but the connections would be covered with graphics and written explanations.

  • Determine who is responsible for various aspects of the models. For example, who will host masonry walls in their model – architectural or structural? This should be communicated early in the process.

  • Regular interdisciplinary coordination meetings should be held. Determine who will attend and how information will be shared and updated.

With a good BIM Execution Plan or BIM standards, your projects will have better collaboration and efficiency. This assures the design and construction teams begin on the right footing leading to happier end users and owners.



Michelle Hart, LEED Green Associate
BIM Specialist, CE Solutions



Case Study: Supporting an innovative design vision for Liberty Fund's New Headquarters


The Indy Chamber, AIA Indiana and ACEC Indiana recognized the Liberty Fund corporate headquarters project with five awards, and CE Solutions was honored to be among the firms honored, in addition to Rowland Design, R.E. Dimond and Darwin Branded Environments. It’s nice for our team to get the recognition, and it’s great to see members of our team recognized. But even more fulfilling was the opportunity to collaborate with the project team to realize the vision of this unique project.

Liberty Fund was founded in 1960 by Pierre F. Goodrich, an Indianapolis lawyer and businessman. The private foundation contributes to the preservation, restoration, and development of individual liberty through investigation, research, and educational activity. The iconic design of their new 61,000-square-foot facility communicates Liberty Fund’s purpose and supports its operations.


Supporting the campus focal point
“The Liberty Fund library was designed to celebrate the books, their authors, and the inspiration they provide,” said Eric Rowland, principal, Rowland Design. The library is the focal point of Liberty Fund’s headquarters and showcases multiple custom-designed and fabricated, treelike columns made of engineered glued laminated timber. These unique features created multiple complexities for our team to solve.

Seven of the largest columns, approximately 100 feet by 30 feet, support the steel framework of the library’s roof as well as the cantilevered mezzanine system overlooking the main level of the library. This allowed for a column-free clerestory extending the full height of the building and providing visibility to the book collection and structure within. The tree columns tilt inward and taper at the top, while smaller timbers branch out to support the cantilevered channels of the roof framing. Braced frames adjacent to the library resist the lateral forces.

Chip Bradway, PE, senior project manager at CE Solutions, designed the custom-engineered tree columns that were critical to the success of the project. According to Eric Rowland, “CE Solutions did a terrific job of translating our complicated design concept into a beautiful reality.”

"The complex geometry on the tree column design created varying-degree, compound-angled cuts,” said Kyle Heminger, Glue-Lam Erectors Inc. “That, combined with the fit-up to the structural steel and concrete, made this one of the most challenging custom glued-laminated wood projects we have ever supplied and installed.”

Highlighting the timeline of liberty
Another structural challenge included designing the structural supports for a specialty screen system featuring 30 stainless steel panels that envelop the exterior curtain wall system of the library. This system protects the book collection from the sun while outlining the timeline of liberty. The tightness of the screens had to strike a balance of limiting movement while avoiding undue stress, and the curtainwall system they surround was the first of its kind installed in Indiana.

Lessons learned for innovative building structure design
Clear communication and collaboration is a must on any project. In complex projects in particular, taking advantage of advancements in technology provides notable benefits. Given the innovative structural system and unique tree columns, REVIT building information modeling software was critical to the design process and communication with the fabricator and contractor. The detailed connections and one-of-a-kind structural solution called for close coordination and communication with team members.

CE Solutions is grateful to have been part of this collaborative effort that embodies the purpose of Liberty Fund.



JD Taylor, PE
Vice President, CE Solutions



Our online renovation: introducing CE Solutions’ refreshed website 

When undergoing a building project, the client’s needs are at the forefront. Who is this structure serving? How are they going to use the building? What do they need and want?

In renovating CE Solutions’ web site, we took a similar approach, surveying clients and partner firms about what they want to see in web sites. Here are just some of the ways our new site reflects that process.

Easy navigation – When it comes to what people want in web sites, the most frequently mentioned priorities were easy navigation and quick access to contact information. We pride ourselves on being responsive—a trait that should extend to our web site. There are multiple ways for you to contact CE Solutions and our team members, and you can now send a message to any of us through our web site.

Look and feel – The site takes advantage of the latest trends in web design and uses photography prominently, understanding that our clients and collaborators are visual people.

Content – In the architecture, engineering and construction community, relationships are key. After all, professional services are all about people doing business with people! We’ve included bios that include fun facts about our team so you can get to know us a little better.

Interaction and updates – With our refreshed web site and our focus on relationships comes a commitment for us to have dialogue with you more frequently, through our blog. In addition, we’ll be continuously updating our site with our diverse experience and expertise. If you would like to hear from us on a certain topic or if you have feedback on our new site, please contact me!


Until next time,
Steve Osborn, PE, SE, FSMPS, CPSM
President, CE Solutions



Insight from CE Solutions’ Interns: Attracting the Next Generation

This summer, CE Solutions benefitted from having two interns in the office. BJ Fowler, an incoming junior studying structural engineering who returned to our firm for the second summer in a row, and Cecelia Germann, an incoming freshman studying first year engineering. Both are students at Purdue University.

For this installation of CE Solutions’ blog, read perspectives from both of them—BJ reflecting on the environment at CE Solutions and Cecelia filling us in on how to recruit members of Generation Z.

Being part of the family


I am a junior at Purdue University studying Civil Engineering with a structural emphasis, and I have had the privilege of being an intern at CE Solutions for the past two summers. My time there has been both valuable and enjoyable and I’m grateful for the opportunities I have had as a part of CE Solutions. It has been a great experience, exposing me to a wide variety of project types through sitting in on meetings, drafting, reviewing shop drawings, and getting out in the field. It has given me a clearer picture of a lot of the responsibilities and challenges in the field of structural engineering and has helped me to better contextualize the ideas being presented in class with their practical applications.

While all of this might seem typical for an internship, the workplace culture that I found at CE Solutions is something that is much more unique. Steve, the founder and owner of the firm, loves to refer to everyone as the “CES family,” and that is a very accurate description of the mentality of the workplace. Everyone is valued as a person, not simply an employee, as a premium is placed on relationships and people above simple productivity, making the workplace an enjoyable atmosphere where collaboration is encouraged and everyone genuinely wants to be there. Productivity and hard work simply come as a result of this environment without ever having to become a point of emphasis.

This distinctive characteristic is further reflected in the relationship they have formed with interns such as myself. While interns are often viewed as temporary additions, at CE Solutions, we have been welcomed by this family, as they have made an effort to create great experiences while working around our limited technical skills. Instead of asking what we can give to the firm, they have asked what CE Solutions can give to us, making the work more beneficial and enjoyable for both parties.

These past few summers have given me many great experiences and taught me a great deal about Structural Engineering, but the opportunity to be a part of a firm that values people above work is something that I have appreciated even more and found to be truly special about CE Solutions.

BJ Fowler
Purdue University

Making way for Gen Z


For years, the Millennial generation has been the talk of the town. There have been countless articles, studies, and of course criticisms about Millennials, all in the hopes of providing to older generations some understanding of how the youngest generation sees and participates in the world. However, now that time has passed, a new generation is rising to the forefront: my generation, known as Gen Z. With the oldest members of Gen Z now graduating from college, employers must change their focus from working with Millennials to attracting these new young workers into their workforce.

One of the hallmarks of Gen Z is an eagerness to learn and grow personally, which explains why so many young employees desire an office where they are part of the family. As BJ explained regarding the environment at CE Solutions, Gen Z workers look for an environment where the company gives to the employee as much as the employee gives to the company and where they feel they are valued for who they are instead of simply their productivity. Providing a nurturing atmosphere where young workers have an opportunity for both personal and professional growth is an excellent way to connect to the younger generation.

Due to their status as “digital natives” and the prevalence of technology, Gen Z are highly independent and entrepreneurial by nature. Giving young employees ownership of their projects, no matter how small, and encouraging them to think outside the box will help them feel more invested and fulfilled, ultimately increasing their loyalty to the company. By attempting independent projects, workers will also learn to problem-solve and work smarter, which can increase the workers’ success and benefit the company in the long run.

Similarly to Millennials, Gen Z are socially conscious and feel an obligation to create positive change in the world. They want to see that employers will give them meaningful work that will help make a difference. Sustainable practices, like LEED certifications, and a focus on relationships in the workplace help young workers to feel empowered and connected to their community. Facilitating discussions about the wider impact of a project, such as community or environmental benefits, will also keep employees more engaged in and enthusiastic about a project.

As Gen Z employees enter the workforce, a few adjustments on behalf of employers to play to their nature will not only attract these young workers, but ensure their loyalty and workplace contributions for years to come.

Cecelia Germann
Purdue University 

Grateful Greetings 2016 - Charities Chosen for CE Solutions' Gift of Giving Back


In a spirit of gratefulness and an interest in giving back, CE Solutions again decided to contribute to charitable organizations this past holiday season. Many of our clients, collaborators and friends responded to our email announcement and voted for their favorite charities as chosen by our staff. In addition, some elected to write in organizations important to them, adding 12 more to the list. The distribution of our holiday donations reflects the number of votes received for the above charities. We appreciate the opportunity to involve others in our holiday donation experience. If you’re not receiving email announcements from us and would like to, send us a note through the Contact page or email and let us know. Best wishes for 2017!

JD Taylor, PE named vice president and principal at CE Solutions


At CE Solutions, a lot has changed since we opened our doors in 1998. What began with our president, Steve Osborn, providing structural engineering services out of the basement of his home has developed into a growing staff of 13 working on a diverse blend of fulfilling projects in and beyond Indiana.

As CE Solutions moves to the next level, we're beginning to assemble the next level of leadership to create opportunities and prepare our firm for the future. As part of that transition, we're excited to announce that JD Taylor has been named vice president and principal of the firm.

"I'm grateful for this new role and am looking forward to the next chapter of CE Solutions, building on the successful founding principles of solid relationships, mutual respect, integrity and ethical practice," JD said.

"His expertise, his experience managing our workload, and his history with the firm--along with our personal relationship that started in 1993--makes JD ideal for this position," said Steve.

JD's role on current, ongoing projects will proceed normally. Over time, he will increase his engagement in the business of our firm while continuing to maintain project involvement and client relationships. 

We appreciate his leadership and service to CE Solutions and our clients. Congratulations, JD!

CE Solutions' Gift: Choose Your Charity

At CE Solutions, we’re grateful for our clients and partners who help us create structural engineering solutions that make a difference in our communities. 

For the fifth year in a row, in a spirit of appreciation and an interest in giving back, we will donate to several charitable organizations this holiday season. To involve our clients, collaborators and friends in the process, each member of the CE Solutions team has chosen a charit. Please visit our survey, which allows you to choose your preferred charity. Or, you can enter a different organization that's meaningful to you. The distribution of our holiday donations will reflect the results of the survey. 

In addition to the above charities and write-ins we receive, CE Solutions will make a donation to the American Red Cross this year.

Not on our email list? Email to be added and get future announcements from us.

my CANstruction Experience: the benefits of giving back

When the opportunity arose for me to represent CE Solutions and join a 2016 Canstruction team, it appealed to me for two reasons. Most importantly, all the work that goes into the project is for one purpose: to help people in need by donating thousands of cans to Gleaners Food Bank. In addition, throughout my path to structural engineering, I had never participated in a competition quite like this one, where I could apply my skills to help build a structure made solely from cans. 

My participation in Canstruction proved to be meaningful far beyond my expectations. Representing CE Solutions and working alongside our partners from InterDesign and Mattcon General Contractors in this competition benefited me on both a professional and personal level.  


  • As the structural engineer in charge from our office, I was able to practice management skills such as communication, coordination and time management. This was great experience for me because it applies to responsibilities I have as a project engineer.
  • Creating professional relationships with other participants beyond my teammates was also a significant benefit from my participation. Canstruction attracts several firms in the field. It was great for me to meet some of the individuals that work for some of the other companies. 


  • Creating closer relationships with my team members at CE Solutions was certainly rewarding.
  • I was able to meet people who work in other industries, like food (Kroger) and professional sports (Pacers).
  • Canstruction was located on the grounds of the Indiana State Fair, so I had the opportunity to experience the fair for the first time, which was an adventure on its own. 

I relished the challenge of making the Colts’ mascot, Blue, out of 3,158 cans with my team, and we took home three awards—Structural Ingenuity, Juror’s Choice and People’s Choice. I encourage firms to participate in this event in the years to come to create lasting relationships and give back to the community!


Jessica Barrios
Project Manager, CE Solutions

Attracting (and keeping) professionals in the design and construction industry

Earlier this year, I was grateful to see several months of planning come to fruition at “What’s on TAP 2016,” a half-day event promoted across a record 14 associations in the Indiana design and construction community. As many of CE Solutions' clients and collaborators can attest, we are in the midst of a talent war in the architecture, engineering and construction community. With that in mind, the planning committee (which included CE Solutions' marketing coordinator, Travis Davis) focused this year’s event on the importance of finding and investing in great people.
In addition to enjoying a cast of amazing speakers, the committee presented the fourth annual TAP Lifetime Achievement Award to Karen Courtney, AIA, FSMPS, Chief Marketing Officer at Fanning Howey.
Below are just a few soundbites captured from the amazing speakers who spoke to our theme, “For Hire: People, Projects and Profit.”

  • “Instill a sense of purpose... As builders and designers, we make a huge difference in this world.” - Brent Darnell, Author, Speaker and Coach, Brent Darnell International
  • “It’s not about the projects. It’s easy to get into that it’s more about the next project, the design, the systems, the delivery mechanism, etc. It’s about people. And what you want to do is always focus on the people.” - Dr. Thomas Morrison, Vice President, Capital Planning & Facilities, Indiana University
  • “You are all talent acquisition people. Today’s talent acquisition job is a marketing job and it requires not just those of us in HR to do this work, but it means every one of us has to be a marketer. A brand ambassador.” -  David Llewellyn, Talent Acquisition & Development Manager, Kirby Risk
  • “The people strategy is equal to the business strategy... We’ve got to have an employee value proposition.” - Susan Pittman, Vice President, Talent & Organization Development, Luckett & Farley Architects & Engineers
  • “Marketing is one of the tactics to help share what’s great about your team.” - Josh Miles, Principal, MilesHerndon
  • “During my most impressionable age, no one talked about the field I loved… If you taught us how to be part of this hidden industry, there wouldn’t be an employee shortage." - Kathy Berryhill, Construction Management Student, Ball State University

You can find slides and links to most of the videos from most of the sessions on the Youtube.

Holly Bolton, FSMPS, CPSM
Director of Marketing, CE Solutions

10 tips for improving the durability of your parking garage

A building is an investment in the future. For concrete parking garages, many considerations owners make during the design process can affect the life of the structure. Throughout design and after, keep the following in mind for a parking garage that stands the test of time:

  • Select a qualified design team and contractor with expertise and experience in the chosen construction type.
  • Select a designer that focuses on thoroughness and attention to detail—details matter when it comes to design and construction. A thorough and complete set of construction documents yields tighter bid results and reduces the chance of surprises (change orders) during construction. Also, a carefully detailed structure that addresses concrete shrinkage, thermal movement, restraining effects, deflection, steel corrosion and other serviceability concerns will go a long way toward increasing the life expectancy of the structure. Engage the design team throughout construction and incorporate the provisions of Chapter 17 of the International Building Code (Structural Tests and Special Inspections) to evaluate the contractor’s work for compliance with the design intent.
  • In a precast concrete garage, there are frequent joints and exposed steel connections. Make sure they are properly detailed and constructed to reduce opportunities for deterioration from movement or exposure to de-icing chemicals and other harsh elements. At a minimum, all exposed steel connections and embed plates should be hot-dipped galvanized.
  • For cast-in-place, post-tensioned concrete structures, make sure encapsulated tendons are used and the concrete mix design is proportioned for durability, with admixtures that resist freeze-thaw action and reduce permeability. Various combinations of low water-cement ratio (0.40 or less), air entrainment (5 to 7%), calcium nitrite corrosion inhibitor (3 gal/cy), penetrating silane sealer (40% solids or more) and micro silica fume (50 lb/cy) are commonly used to address these issues. If using micro silica fume and the parking garage will be exposed to de-icing chemicals or other harsh elements within its first year of service, consider applying a penetrating silane sealer to the concrete surface to protect the concrete until the micro silica fume has an opportunity to fully activate. This usually takes approximately one year.
  • Increasing the protective concrete cover over the embedded reinforcing steel is another easy way of achieving improved durability. A thickness of 2 inches is recommended for surfaces exposed to de-icing chemicals or other harsh elements. “Black” mild steel reinforcement with increased cover is preferred over epoxy coated reinforcement with less cover.
  • Don't allow electrical conduit to be embedded in the cast-in-place concrete portions of a structure. Many a parking garage has been severely damaged from embedded electrical conduit that has corroded and expanded, causing significant delamination and spalling.
  • The minimum floor slope for positive drainage is 1.5% or approximately 3/16 inch per foot. Ideally, 2% or 1/4 inch per foot is recommended to effectively increase the life expectancy of a parking structure by reducing the potential for contaminated water leaching into the concrete and causing corrosion of mild reinforcing steel, prestressed strands or post-tensioned tendons.
  • The value of regular maintenance and cleaning of the parking structure cannot be overemphasized. Removing harmful elements brought into the garage before they have an opportunity to do harm, touching up galvanized coating on exposed steel connections and repairing failed joint seals and sealants go a long way toward extending the life of the structure.
  • It is best practice to design a parking garage for durability without the need for a surface-applied traffic coating. Traffic coatings are an excellent option for extending the life of an existing garage that lacks the above best practices for durable design. The traffic coating can also be used as a strategy to reduce energy, depending on the goals and maintenance of the facility. For example, black traffic coating on the upper decks of a parking garage can assist in heat retention in the winter to help snow and ice melt in mild winter weather events, reducing the need for plow trucks, deicing-chemicals, etc. On the other hand, white traffic coatings reflect the sun’s energy, rather than absorb it, and may be more suitable in areas of intense heat. When selecting traffic coatings for the upper decks, make sure to select ones that won’t degrade when exposed to ultraviolet light. Aliphatic epoxies or urethanes are an excellent choice for this condition.
  • For more information regarding parking garage durability, refer to the recommendations of the American Concrete Institute in their ACI 362 publication “Guide for the Design of Durable Parking Structures,” the Post-Tensioning Institute in their publication “Design Fundamentals of Post-Tensioned Concrete Floors” and the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute in their publications “Precast Prestressed Concrete Parking Structures: Recommended Practice for Design and Construction” and “Maintenance Manual for Precast Parking Structures.”

I welcome feedback and the opportunity to discuss this topic further should you have questions about how to extend the life of your parking structure.

All the best,

Steve Osborn, PE, SE, FSMPS, CPSM
President, CE Solutions

Grateful greetings 2015 - Charities chosen for CE Solutions' gift of giving back

In a spirit of gratefulness and an interest in giving back, CE Solutions again decided to contribute to charitable organizations this past holiday season. Many of our clients, collaborators and friends responded to our email announcement and voted for their favorite charities as chosen by our staff. In addition, some elected to write in organizations important to them, adding six more to the list. The distribution of our holiday donations reflects the number of votes received for the above charities. We appreciate the opportunity to involve others in our holiday donation experience. If you’re not receiving email announcements from us and would like to, send us a note through the Contact page or email and let us know. Best wishes for 2016!

Comparing advantages of parking garage construction types in the Midwest

The need for more parking spaces results in many decisions a building owner must face. Should you construct a parking garage or a surface parking lot? What project delivery method should you use? Which team of consultants and builders should you select? And when building a parking garage—what type of construction makes the most sense?

The answer to this last question depends a lot on the owner’s goals and priorities. Today, the two most common construction types for standalone parking garages in the Midwest are:

1) cast-in-place, post-tensioned concrete, or

2) precast, prestressed concrete.

Both methods provide different advantages.

1.      Cast-in-place, post-tensioned – These garages are constructed using ready-mix concrete poured into removable forms on-site. High-strength tendons (typically sheathed with lithium-based grease and unbonded) in the concrete are anchored at the outer edges of the concrete and tensioned after the concrete has gained sufficient strength.

Durability and potential for lower long-term costs

This method of casting the garage on the site creates many benefits that relate to durability. With fewer joints and mechanical connections, and built-in protection systems such as epoxy-coated reinforcing steel and concrete admixtures (like air entraining agents, water reducers, corrosion inhibitors, silica fume, etc.), this type of garage traditionally requires fewer repairs than a precast garage. This results in lower maintenance costs over the life of the structure. The monolithic construction inherent in post-tensioned garages helps reduce building movement from both gravity and lateral loads. The more movement a structure experiences, the more likely cracking and connection distress will occur.

Comfort and design

Cast-in-place, post-tensioned garages mean fewer joints—a major source of maintenance in concrete structures. This provides a smoother ride and less noise when drivers are traveling through the garage. In addition, with a post-tensioned garage, beams can be spaced further apart, giving a more open and safe feel by increasing light distribution and depth of views into the garage without increasing floor-to-floor heights. Often fewer fixtures are needed to illuminate the space because of how the structural beam location improves light distribution. Cast-in-place garages also offer greater design flexibility and customization.

2.      Precast, prestressed – Panels, ledger beams, columns and double-tee members are fabricated off-site and assembled on-site. High-strength tendons (typically unsheathed and bonded) in the concrete are anchored at the outer edges of the concrete forms and pre-tensioned before the concrete is placed, then released after the concrete has gained sufficient strength.

Timing, speed and concrete quality

The primary components of the garage are fabricated off-site and assembled on-site, so the garage can be field-assembled quickly and in nearly any kind of weather. Depending on fabrication time, this can potentially allow an owner to gain occupancy faster. Because the components are produced in a controlled environment, concrete quality is more easily achieved.

Potential for lower initial costs

The initial construction cost is sometimes lower with precast construction because of reduced labor and erection costs and shorter construction duration. Design costs are usually lower with precast construction because the structural design is usually provided by the fabricator, consistent with design criteria established by the design team. Long-term costs however, are usually higher due to more frequent joints and mechanical connections that require regular maintenance and repairs over the life of the structure.

I welcome feedback and the opportunity to discuss this topic further should you have additional thoughts or questions about precast versus post-tensioned parking garages and how to extend their useful life economically.

In my next blog post, I’ll address considerations for improved durability in your parking garage, regardless of construction type.

Steve Osborn 5870.jpg

Until next time,

Steve Osborn, PE, SE, FSMPS, CPSM
President, CE Solutions

The QBS Process

In my last blog post, I addressed why Qualifications-Based Selection was important. But how does it work? There are essentially three steps to the process:

  1. A client issues a Request for Qualifications, shortlists three-to-five firms for interviews, checks references and ranks the firms.
  2. The client further defines the scope of work and contract terms with the highest ranked firm.
  3. The client retains the firm on the basis of mutually agreed-upon fee.

If fee negotiations fail with the highest ranked firm, the client initiates step 2 with the next highest ranked firm, and so on, until a mutually acceptable scope of work, contract terms and fee are achieved.

This process is analogous to when we recruit and hire qualified candidates for our companies. An RFQ is similar to a job description; we shortlist and interview candidates and check references, similar to step 1. Then, we formalize employment terms and conditions, benefits and compensation with the preferred candidate, similar to steps 2 and 3 above.

Commoditization happens when we are unable to demonstrate the value of our services to our clients. It’s our responsibility, at the grass roots level, to educate ourselves and our companies on the importance of QBS so that we can effectively educate our clients on how to hire us using this process. For more information, visit the QBS Committee page on the ACEC Indiana website.

Until next time,

Steve Osborn, PE, SE, FSMPS, CPSM
President, CE Solutions

QBS – What and Why?

I recently had the opportunity to talk with young professionals enrolled in ACEC Indiana’s Engineering Leadership class on the topic of Qualifications-Based Selection of professional services. QBS continues to be a hot topic in the design and construction industry, as firms strive to provide quality service delivered by the best and the brightest while buyers of professional services face financial pressures. What many don’t realize is QBS is a competitive process; however it is based on qualifications and competence, rather than price. It’s the process members of the design community prefer for the selection of professional services, is endorsed by a long list of professional organizations and governmental agencies and is the basis of the Brooks Act passed in 1972 that requires the Federal Government to select engineering and architecture firms based upon their competency, qualifications and experience rather than by price. But why is it so important?

  • By fostering a focus on understanding the scope of work between both the client and the design professional, QBS helps promotes improved project quality.
  • The cost of high quality professional services is only a small percentage of the overall project cost. However, the professional services firm's qualifications can have a significant impact on the lifetime cost of the project.
  • Studies have shown that the use of QBS to align the most qualified professional services firm with a clearly defined scope of work results in a more cost-effective construction solution. One such study can be found by visiting the following website: and selecting the "Polytechnic University Study of Qualifications-Based Selection" link under the "Studies" heading.

For my next blog post, I’ll discuss the QBS process.

Until then,

Steve Osborn, PE, SE, FSMPS, CPSM
President, CE Solutions

Grateful greetings - Charities chosen for CE Solutions' gift of giving back

In a spirit of gratefulness and an interest in giving back, CE Solutions again decided to contribute to charitable organizations this past holiday season. Many of our clients, collaborators and friends responded to our email announcement and voted for their favorite charities as chosen by our staff. In addition, some elected to write in organizations important to them, adding six more to the list. The distribution of our holiday donations reflects the number of votes received for the following charities:

We appreciate the opportunity to involve others in our holiday donation experience. If you’re not receiving email announcements from us and would like to, send us a note through the Contact page or email and let us know. Best wishes for 2015!



CE Solutions' gift: Choose your Charity

At CE Solutions, we've been blessed with great clients who help us create structural engineering solutions that make a difference. Again this holiday season, in a spirit of gratefulness and an interest in giving to those in need, CE Solutions will be donating to several charitable organizations. To involve our clients, collaborators and friends, each employee chose a charity. Recipients of the email greeting can visit a survey, which features the organizations' web site addresses and allows them to choose their favorites. Or, they can enter a different charitable organization that's meaningful to them. The distribution of our holiday donations will reflect those choices. Not on our email list? Email to be added and get future announcements from us.

Reflections on Thanksgiving

CE Solutions’ is grateful for the solid relationships we’ve built throughout the years with clients and collaborators. In the spirit of giving thanks, here are few quotes about gratitude. Happy Thanksgiving!
"Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom."
- Marcel Proust

“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.”
- Maya Angelou

"Gratitude is the sign of noble souls."
- Aesop

"Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough."
- Oprah Winfrey

“When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.”
- Tecumseh

"All that we behold is full of blessings."
- William Wordsworth

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Creating and communicating relevance

Last month, I was fortunate to present a half-day seminar at the annual convention for the National Association of Women in Construction. While the overall topic was marketing, the attendees had diverse roles, with only a few having the word “marketing” in their titles. It was a lively discussion with insightful participants who left me inspired.

Since joining the A/E/C industry in 2003, I’ve heard the term “marketing” used several different ways. “We’re going to market to them.” “They put their marketing spin on it.” Or my favorite—a Dilbert cartoon that concludes with the punchline, marketing is “just liquor and guessing.”

But marketing isn’t about blasting out sales messages, the dreaded word “spin,” or taking guesses while taking sips.  Here’s how the American Marketing Association defines it:

“The activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”

My condensed version of the definition is that effective marketing is about creating and communicating relevant value to clients and potential clients. These definitions—as I shared with the seminar attendees—make every one of us a marketer, regardless of role, because we are all responsible for providing value to our clients. We should continually ask ourselves, how are we delivering our value, communicating it, and advancing it?

Throughout our marketing efforts, we should keep in mind that roles in architecture, engineering and construction firms are service professions. Just like our A/E/C services are meant to benefit clients, so should our marketing and business development processes. That requires good listening, seeking to understand first and then be understood, customizing our approaches to each client, and providing information that is beneficial to our clients, prospects and partners.

When it comes to marketing in the A/E/C community, we’ve come a long way. In the ‘70s, “marketing” was somewhat of a bad word—firms didn’t believe they had to market and thought it was in bad taste to do so. That has changed, but we still have a long way to go, and it starts with how we define it and how we approach it.

If you’re a provider of professional services—what makes you distinct? How do you provide value to the organizations you work with? If you’re a buyer of professional services—what do you look for in consultants? What information is helpful to you? What can we do to provide more value for you?

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Let me know your thoughts!

Holly Bolton, FSMPS, CPSM
Director of Marketing

Making the transition from classroom to career

I’ve been working at CE Solutions for a little over three months now, and during that time, I have reflected on what has helped make the transition easier as my path changed from a structural engineering student to a structural engineering professional.

Both new employees and the companies that hire them are responsible for creating smooth transitions from the classroom to the workplace. Two-way communication, adaptability and transparency can go a long way in easing the transition. Like with all life experiences, there will inevitably be bumps in the road, but addressing them immediately can help prevent them from developing into larger issues. It’s not just a matter of the new employee completing assigned tasks, but becoming a new member of the team.

If you represent the hiring company, it’s important to:

  • Strike a balance between structure and freedom. Too much freedom may cause your new employee to feel aimless and uncertain, while too much structure may cause him or her to feel limited. This balance will be different for every new employee; someone out of college may be used to structure from classes and would appreciate it, but others may resent it. Pick a starting point and adjust accordingly based on the new employee’s comfort and competence.
  • Communicate expectations for the new hire. Include considerations like company culture and technical style (drafting or design), and provide clear office standards from which the newly hired employee can work. All the while, be open to new ideas or suggestions the new employee might have regarding improvements to the office standards and practices.

If you’re a new employee, it’s important to:

  • Refer to examples from projects the company has completed in the past. This will help familiarize you with company’s methodology while allowing you to think about ways to improve upon what has been done in the past. Since the methodology will be fresh and new, you might be able to find areas that could be potentially improved moving forward.
  • Be clear in your work, your thought process and how you make decisions.  This not only allows senior employees to more easily review what you’ve done, but allows them to think about how their personal methods may have changed and evolved over time.
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What tips do you have for making the transition easier? Feel free to comment and let us know what you think! 

Nathan Boltz, EI

Creating a new look for CE Solutions

Here at CE Solutions, the purpose for our structural engineering firm is to improve the quality of life in the communities where we work.

Our work can involve designing the structural system for a new building or addition. It can involve renovating or repurposing a facility. Or, it can involve analyzing an existing building or structure and providing recommendations for needed repair or strengthening.

The common thread is that each engineering solution we design supports the purpose of the structure and improves quality of life for those who use it. So, we’ve decided it’s time to improve the quality of how we represent ourselves as a company. CE Solutions has a new look that more accurately captures the purpose and attributes of our firm.

Through our process of refreshing our brand, we considered who we are as a firm and what we value, as well as outcomes of internal and external perception surveys and our strategic planning activities.

Our refreshed identity captures CE Solutions in a more symbolic way. We strive to bring a high level of care to each of our projects and relationships. The refreshed colors, fonts and mark in our new logo symbolize this care, as well as what we focus on bringing to clients and collaborators—peace of mind during the project process, successful results, and a relationship that lasts far beyond the project’s completion date.

The symbolism reflected in our logo reiterates and advances our founding principles of solid relationships, mutual respect, integrity and ethical practice.

I’m excited to unveil our new look to you today! We appreciate and value our relationship with you and look forward to continuing to be true to our purpose and help our clients be true to theirs.

Our old logo and new logo!

Until next time!

Steve Osborn, PE, SE, FSMPS, CPSM
President, CE Solutions