Despite the challenges presented by this strange, pandemic-impacted year, 2020 was a record-setting year for Richard J. Driscoll, Consulting Engineer (RJDCE), but also required resilience and adaptability.
The Year in Review
After record years in 2018 and 2019, RJDCE set records for proposals issued, new projects, hit rate, billings and revenue in 2020. Structural condition assessments, including forensic investigations, design for structural alterations, and claims/litigation support represented much of the practice’s work for the year. One highlight of the year was RJDCE’s involvement in the renovation of City Hall in Lebanon, New Hampshire for which RJDCE provided design of underpinning, sheeting and bracing, waterproofing and subslab drainage.
Five Year Anniversary
In February, RJDCE celebrated its fifth anniversary as a practice. While five years may not sound like much, this anniversary is a good measure of the practice’s sustainability. Although the celebration was subdued, it provided a good opportunity to look back at the last five years.
Like most organizations, RJDCE experienced disruption, delays and difficulties as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, the impacts were largely limited to operational frustrations and some missed opportunities. RJDCE has maintained continuity of operation throughout and intends to continue operations as normally as the conditions allow until the pandemic is brought under control for good.
The coronavirus reached RJDCE’s service area in February and March, leading to the cancelation of in-person events and meetings, closure of nonessential businesses, travel restrictions, and in some places, construction shutdowns. Since RJDCE already made use of remote work and online collaboration, the first impact was a precipitous drop in new project inquiries and a few stalled projects, ending what had been a strong start to the year. In addition, the inability to travel and attend events and meetings impeded strategic business development activities.
RJDCE has strived to continue serving clients and ongoing projects during the COVID-19 crisis with minimal disruption. Most services, including consulting, engineering analysis and design were not interrupted. As the “first wave” subsided in April and May, some delayed projects resumed. RJDCE began to resume making routine site visits, implementing new measures to reduce the risk of virus transmission. The restart or delayed start of projects coincided with a sharp acceleration of new project inquiries, representing the usual seasonal increase in workload complicating project management and scheduling.
The pandemic-impacted project mix was different from past years, which also proved challenging. More of the projects were time-sensitive. Some had hard external deadlines due to arbitration or court dates. Some involved design or remediation of work-in-progress in connection with ongoing projects, with the hope of reaching completion before the end of the pandemic-shortened construction season. An unusually large number of projects were connected to real estate transaction due diligence. The new projects, while typically small, often involved novel attributes and sometimes required creative problem-solving under time and budget constraints. The quantity, time-sensitivity and technical challenges of the new projects led to significant scheduling difficulties, especially for projects needing site visits, reports, drawings and other deliverables.
While the pandemic has resulted in a strange and formidable year, RJDCE has been relatively fortunate. Nevertheless, a return to normal cannot come too soon.
A silver lining of the pandemic-related travel restrictions and in-person event cancellations has been the proliferation of online events. Without the time and expense associated with travel, it was easier to attend a greater variety of events, albeit in video-conference form. RJDCE attended events organized by ACEC-Metropolitan Washington, ASCE-New Hampshire, DC Building Industry Association, Structural Engineers of New Hampshire, WTS-New Hampshire, Upper Valley Young Professionals, and the 45th Annual Conference on Deep Foundations, as well as numerous professional development opportunities.
New Software Tools
To increase the productivity of projects involving analysis and design of wood structures, RJDCE added the Woodworks Software suite to its toolbox in September. Since the Woodworks programs are optimized for the design of wood beams, columns and shearwalls, they are more efficient than a general structural analysis package, single-purpose program or hand calculations, especially when an entire structure must be analyzed or designed.
This year, RJDCE is supporting charities related to COVID-19 impacts, including the CDC Foundation, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, Granite (NH) United Way, the Restaurant Strong Fund for restaurant employees impacted by the Covid-19 closures and the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington’s Worker Relief Fund. If you are so inclined you can find nonprofit organizations providing support for communities affected by the pandemic at Charity Navigator.
RJDCE wishes you a healthy, safe, and happy holiday season, and a peaceful and prosperous new year.