There are many environmental consulting firms out there, so you won’t have a hard time finding one when you need them. Most environmental consultants have websites, blogs, or social media pages, so a simple Google search should point you in the direction of some decent firms in your area. Then the question becomes, how do you pick the right environmental consultant for your project?
Here are the three main things that you should consider when narrowing down your choices of environmental consultants.
Compatibility with your project
You want a consultant who is perfectly compatible with the type of project that you are dealing with. Environmental consultancy covers a surprisingly wide range of categories, and consultants tend to specialize in different areas, so the type of project you are handling will determine type of environmental consultancy you need to engage. There are environmental consultants that specialize in air, land and water contamination, environmental impact assessment and flood risk, waste management and recycling, emissions and climate change, renewable energy opportunities and environmental management systems. Make sure that you first understand the nature of your project so that you know which consultant to hire.
Some firms provide both environmental consulting and environmental engineering services and it may be advantageous to work with them because once they have identified an issue, they may be able to fix it too. For example, Molino Stewart is an environmental consultancy that specializes in environmental assessments, flood, bushfire and natural hazard consulting. They can not only perform environmental assessments, but if your development is in an area subject to flood, bushfire or natural disasters they can ensure that your development complies with building regulations required to mitigate these risks.
You might also want a consultant who has worked on projects within your specific jurisdiction because environmental regulations tend to differ in different states, territories and countries. Even if the regulations weren’t an issue, it would still be important to find a firm that has worked within your locality because they will be better versed with the kinds of environmental challenges that affect that specific area (perhaps there are pollutants or environmental threats that are unique to the region you are in).
The credibility of the Environmental Consultant
When you hire an environmental consultant for a project, you want to be sure that you are dealing with a firm that has the necessary expertise, meets all the legal requirements and has a good reputation in getting results in a cost effective manner in the kinds of projects you are requiring. It’s a little-known truth, but in environmental consulting the expertise of the consultant will have a direct bearing on the costs of you getting approvals. Approval processes can be expensive and there can be a lot of secondary works required after testing to meet regulatory requirements. The approach your consultant takes right from the start will impact everything that follows, so it’s vitally important things are done right the first time, because if works undertaken to meet compliance obligations are not up to scratch, you may need to redo the work, and if this happens the restitution works you undertake could double in cost.
You should be able to talk to some of its former clients to understand how they conducted themselves in past projects. Look for solid reference’s solid references in similar works in a similar area to yours. Get the contact information of any former clients and ask them if they liked working with the environmental consultant that you are vetting. You also want to be certain that the environmental consultant has had dealings with the regulatory agencies and departments in your state and local government.
You should also find out how long the consultancy has been in business, and you may want to check the academic and professional credentials of its principles. You need to pay attention to the kind of training the consultants have, whether they are fully licensed if they have memberships in any professional bodies or associations, and whether they have current certification in the specific area of environmental consulting that you are interested in. Good consultancy firms will be forthcoming with such details, don’t go with a firm that isn’t forthcoming with credentials if you request them.
The consultant’s cost-effectiveness
Environmental assessments are standard requirements for most project these days, so when you are planning your project, you need to set aside funds for hiring a consultant. However, even if the consulting is compulsory, it doesn’t mean that you can’t get a bargain. You have to shop around to find the firm whose consulting fees are within your price range, but in doing this, you should be careful not to compromise on quality because as mentioned previously, the approach, experience and expertise of the consultant will have a direct bearing on the effectiveness of how restitutive works are carried out to ensure compliance, so its not just the fees of the environmental consultants that will determine your total project costs.
A more expensive, but better experienced environmental consultant can end up saving you money because with their experience they know how to plan works to meet compliance requirements more cost effectively. Many developers ignorant of this fact have found that they need to redo remediation works after an initial attempt to comply, and this is far more expensive than paying a bit more for a better, more experienced consultant who can get the job done right first time around.
Ask your consultant to provide you with a detailed scope of the services that you will be receiving and make them explain to you what each line item means and whether it’s essential or non-essential. Finally, ensure you pick a firm that is ready to commit in writing to a budget and a timeline.