Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid When Selecting an Environmental Specialist
Year after year, we see people repeatedly make the same mistakes when planning their construction project. It seems that those seeking to engage with an Environmental Specialist are caught off guard by several common problems and challenges.
Therefore, we’ve put together a list of the top 10 mistakes, so you can avoid the common pitfalls when selecting an environmental specialist. Following the advice below will help you make a smart, informed decision that will save you time and money on your next construction project.
1. No Environmental Budget
Most of the time, construction involves environmental approvals, and they can often blow the budget. The preparation of ecological investigation reports, environmental impact statements, and approval application documentation alone can incur significant costs. Approval application fees can also be extremely costly, meaning the difference between a successful project and a disaster.
Good project managers usually consider these costs in the budget planning phase. However, if you’ve just come onto a project and you’re dealing with the remnants of the past, you may be forced to work on a shoestring.
The news isn’t all bad. With innovative solutions and a respected environmental team, you can get the work done to a high standard without blowing the budget. Be conscious of the environmental team you choose. This could make or break a project, and if things aren’t done correctly the cost can quickly blow out.
2. Choosing the Wrong Environmental Team
Credibility in the industry is a critical factor when deciding to approve an environmental team for your project. Qualifications are important, but they aren’t everything. Instead, look for a team that covers all bases.
Your chosen team should be excellent communicators who are open and transparent about what they are working on. Finding someone specific for your project may be difficult because environmental services can cover such a broad scope of skills. For example, your project may require an Aquatic Ecologist, Environmental Manager, Fauna Specialist and an Environmental Planner at various stages throughout your project. Therefore, a team would be better than a sole professional.
This is where a specialist environmental consultant with a team will add value and save on unnecessary costs in the long run. By drawing on the specialist team’s collective knowledge, you can be sure that all bases are covered under the one roof and nothing will be missed.
3. Too Many Contracts
Construction, development, and ecological projects can encompass a range of environments, from terrestrial vegetation & fauna and freshwater ecosystems to marine and saltmarsh habitats. This means that a range of environmental and ecological specialists are often essential for the success of a project.
A single point of contact is critical, however, one person is unlikely to have the skills to cover all bases. One contract with a dedicated environmental team could save you thousands of dollars and a lot of time.
4. Not Enough Time Allowance to Obtain Environmental Approvals
Obtaining environmental approvals generally takes between 3 and 6 months, depending on the complexity of the project. Therefore, it essential that adequate time is allocated for approval preparation. Unfortunately, we don’t always have the luxury of time in the fast-paced construction world, so it is important to have existing relationships and a high level of trust and credibility with regulatory authorities.
By engaging with both your environmental representative and the regulators in the planning stage, you could be saving on costs associated with significant delays in construction commencement time.
The correct allocation of time as defined in the planning phase of a project is critical. It is extremely inefficient and can be seriously costly to have machinery on standby. When you plan ahead and account for time, you can easily avoid scenarios like this.
5. Specialist Inconsistent With Environmental Reporting
We all try to take on more than we can handle from time to time. This can place undue pressure in delivering reports on time, resulting in poor quality documentation and inadequate understanding of all aspects of the project. It can also result in an extension of time beyond the initially allocated expectation.
Project reporting can sometimes be seen as the aspect of the work which is uninspiring and tedious. However, it is the pinnacle of excellent service and results-based consulting. With a team of specialists to draw upon, you can expect to deliver high-quality projects while consistently reducing time “learning the ropes.”
Finally, it is essential that any consultancy you work with can demonstrate its skill when it comes to reporting to the client.
6. Using a Team Who Provide Poor Quality Reports and Inadequate Information
Many facets contribute to quality environmental reporting. All too often we see reports which are unnecessarily lengthy, overly complex and don’t offer enough in the way of solutions.
When selecting your environmental team, you should be looking for examples of reports that cover the following elements –
- Summary and introduction (so you know you’re on the same page).
- Key segments of the project, broken down into digestible pieces.
- Risks – what are the risks to the project from an environmental perspective?
- Results and analysis of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). How are they tracking against commitments? This should include graphs and charts to demonstrate.
- Timeline – using project methodology, this can often be presented in the form of Gantt charts or similar.
- Recommendations – what can be done to eliminate issues and risks?
- Next reporting dates. When will you next receive information from them and what will it contain?
7. Not Streamlining Procurement Processes
Drawn out procurement processes when hiring an environmental specialist or team are not only time-consuming but can become very frustrating. Assessing simple background information like CVs and proven history can be a lengthy process.
To streamline this process for future construction projects, consider a standing offer arrangement, or a panel of experts. CV and qualification checks can be undertaken by your admin team or even outsourced, allowing you to focus on getting the job done. This can weed out the inexperienced candidates and highlight the best-suited suppliers.
When the panel has been selected, it is simply a matter of obtaining a quote and selecting a supplier. From that point on, it becomes very easy to onboard a great environmental team.
8. Selecting a Specialist Based on Cost Alone
While it can be extremely tempting to choose an environmental team or specialist who offers the lowest price, this is not always recommended. Unfortunately, the cheapest is not always the best. The saying ‘you get what you pay for’ is appropriate in this case.
Surprisingly, the cheapest environmental consultant on paper often ends up being the most expensive in the end. Extra costs can occur due to consultants submitting proposals that ignore important elements of the work. This results in extended timelines, causing your company substantial delays and added costs.
Remember, when selecting your environmental support team, it is about much more than cost alone.
9. Hiring Inexperienced Consultants
As the heading suggests, hiring inexperienced consultants is a huge mistake we see repeated all too often on construction projects. Often people know someone through a work connection or take the word of the consultant based purely on their ability to sell themselves.
We cannot stress enough how important it is to view examples of prior work and to see CVs of those who are potential candidates before hiring them for a project. Hiring someone who doesn’t have the level of experience you need can be detrimental to your project, and ultimately, your reputation.
10. Lack of Specialist Information
Some projects are very specific to certain areas of environmental consultation. While most environmental specialists have a strong, general knowledge of sustainability and key regulatory obligations, not all can work with highly specific subsets of environmental applications.
We recommend making sure that the people you are going to be working with have experience in your required area of project work. Failing to cover this can mean hiring someone who really can’t articulate the problems and find appropriate solutions. You may even end up missing out on certain requirements that can have a significant impact on your project’s critical path.
A simple conversation, along with a review of the consultant’s experience can resolve this easily, helping you to avoid a costly problem.
There is a lot that you need to consider when beginning a construction project, which is why people often make mistakes. Now that you know the common mistakes that trip people up, you should have a better understanding of how to plan a successful project from day one.
If you would like to discuss your environmental needs for a construction, development or ecological project, feel free to get in touch with our friendly team at Australian Coastal & Marine Ecology.
You can also heck out the resources on our website for more information: www.acmecology.com.au