Why Ifland? - Civil Engineering, Structural Design - Ifland Engineers


Why Ifland?

Recently, we hired a consultant to conduct a client perception survey in order to garner feedback on how our clients perceive our firm.  The following is an overview of the results.

“Ifland is highly regarded and respected for both its technical achievements and its client relations.  Most highly valued was Ifland’s knowledge of local regulations and its relationships within its local community, but its personnel was valued to an almost equal degree.  The company’s technical skill and creativity in concept, design and execution were especially respected and appreciated, especially in client comparison to their experiences with other engineering firms.  Ifland is regarded as conscientious, trustworthy and reliable.”

As general characteristics were offered we compiled a list of those that were consistently mentioned.  We then asked our clients to rank our performance for those characteristics.  The following is an alphabetical list of those that ranked within the 95% percentile.

• Approachability
• Coordination
• Creativity
• Design Expertise
• Listening Skills
• Responsiveness
• Trust

What Does It Mean to our Clients?

Clients find our staff to be very personable and easy to work with.  Whether it be via phone or email we respond to clients within hours, not days.  We’ve always allowed clients to drop by our office unannounced for impromptu meetings.  Our Senior Managers and firm Principals are directly accessible to clients just as any other staff member.  Owners need to be able to communicate openly with their consultants.  We strive to accommodate client’s schedules and fully understand WE are working for YOU.

The best design can fail if it’s developed in a vacuum.  Consultants and owners need to communicate with each other throughout the design development process.  Several of our clients tell us other engineers they’ve worked with too often “disappear” while designing the project and show up at submittal time not having coordinated their efforts with anyone else on the team.  Then, when conflicts are discovered they demand additional compensation from the owner to make necessary changes to their plans.  Our approach is to collaborate with the team through frequent communication and exchange of information and plans so that the submittal package is as tight as possible, minimizing plan review comments and resubmittals.

A few years ago Ifland designed a residential subdivision in the floodway of a river in rural Santa Cruz County.  Analysis showed there was no feasible way to contain a major storm event within the improved channel designed surrounding two sides of the project and discharging into a settling forebay followed by a detention pond.  Furthermore, an upstream development had resulted in an increase in the water surface elevation of 90% of what was allowed under FEMA regulations.  If our project was to be approved we would have to find a way to limit the rise in water surface elevation to just inches.  So we designed the streets to run in the direction of the flood flows and use them as drainage channels in the event of a flood.  Hydraulic analysis showed the water surface elevation could be kept below the finish floors of the homes and approval of the subdivision was obtained.

Design Expertise
This should be expected of any civil engineer.  But what our clients appreciate is our understanding of local agency’s design standards and the practical application of such to their projects.  We take the time to review applicable design standards and ask questions, if needed, prior to engaging in design.  We’ve designed numerous projects requiring accessibility compliance and we have relationships with Certified Access Specialists with whom we consult to ensure our designs our compliant with the myriad of applicable codes before construction starts.

A few years ago a homebuilder client approached us and asked if we’d propose on preparing construction documents for an approved housing project, the tentative map of which was prepared by another engineering firm.  Upon review of the approved design we identified a number of adjustments that could be made to save construction costs.  We approached the homebuilder, explained our ideas and asked if they were open to approaching the city and asking for approval to change the design.  We were successful in making our pitch and the end result saved our client over $400,000 in construction costs, far exceeding our design fees and resulting in a “win” for everyone.

Listening Skills
Several clients have told us other engineers don’t want to hear ideas that may be different than their own.  “My way or the highway” type of thinking.  Or they’re simply resistant to trying to accommodate the needs/desires of others.  We’ve never understood this approach.  We may develop a solution to a challenge but if someone else asks “What about this?” we’ll listen to their idea and, if it will save time, money or better coordinate with another aspect of the project, we’ll redesign to accommodate the suggestion.  We’re not offended if someone else comes up with a better solution.  We’re part of a team and the team works together for the owner.  Listening and staying flexible is a hallmark of our service offerings.

Phone calls and emails returned within hours, not days.  Site visits upon receiving questions from the surveyor or contractor.  Impromptu meetings with clients who drop by the office unannounced.  Our focus is on getting the job done and being available to our clients, who tell us they appreciate our efforts to quickly turn around their requests for information or plan changes.  We understand that time really is money, especially during construction where delays can kill a project budget.  When calls come in from the jobsite, dropping what we’re doing and responding is the rule, not the exception.  Our close proximity to the site means we can be on site within minutes rather than hours.

We explain to clients what we will do for them and then we do it.  It’s simple in concept.  It’s cliché.  Yet our clients tell us it’s missing from too many consulting firms they’ve dealt with.  Without trust the owner/client relationship can turn adversarial and that’s no way to do business together.  We’ve been in business since 1962 and that alone is testament to our success in delivering on this philosophy.  We believe this to be the primary reason why so much of our work comes to us through repeat clients and the referrals of others with whom we’ve done business.  Our establishment of that trust with them is why they come back to us.

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