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Re: Fees

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Lynn Howard wrote:
> 
> James M. Warne wrote:
> >
> 
> > My, my! Does your country really have that kind of a "Big Brother" in the
> > Justice Department?
> >
> > I thought the U.S.A.  had a first amendment or something which allowed free
> > speech.
> >
> > And what an odd bunch of structural engineers if they didn't eventually get
> > around to talking about competitive bids and cut-rate fees and how we can't
> > compete with other designers working out of basements!
> >
> > In Vancouver, it seems structural engineers can't meet more than an hour
> > without the "F" word coming up.
> >
> > Our consultant's group came up with a good set of guidelines with fee
> > percentages for typical classes of projects, and it helps small firms check
> > their proposals. It certainly hasn't led to price-fixing (darn!).
> >
> > We also talk about overhead factors and agreement clauses and inspection
> > charges and what hourly rates are out there in the market. It may not be as
> > exciting as beams and columns, but everyone seems to have something to say
> > about fees.
> >
> > I wouldn't mind hearing about your problems (or successes?) in negotiating
> > reasonable fees. Give it a try.
> >
> >                                                  Jim Warne, Vancouver, Canada
> 
> Jim-
> The opinion that we should be afraid of discussing fees was only one
> person's opinion. I personally would have no problem with discussing
> this issue.  However, I feel it is a waste of time.  Here in the USA,
> you should charge whatever you can get, or in other words, "what the
> market will bear".  We cannot set rates, and discussions about what our
> fees should be are pointless.  The market will decide what we can
> charge, and that is that.
> Our policy is to charge as much as we can.  Depending on the client, the
> type of job, and other factors, we customize our fee to each project.
> To be quite honest, we have clients that pay twice as much for our
> services as another client would on the exact same project.  Why,
> because one of our clients is used to paying a higher fee structure, and
> therefore, we charge as much as we can for it.  On the other end of the
> spectrum, if we are busy, we simply will not take a project if the fees
> are too low.  If we are slow, we will take projects at almost any fee,
> just to get work.
> 
> Those are the facts, and I believe that is how most consulting
> engineering firms work.  The firms that are rewarded are the ones who
> are the most efficient, and can turn out a quality product.
> Setting a fee standard will never work in a free market system like we
> have here in the USA.  In other countries, it may be different.  I like
> our system, because it rewards the achievers, and I believe we can
> compete with anyone.  I believe we pay our Engineers and CAD drafters
> very well, and we usually manage to turn a profit every year. (well,
> almost every year :))
> 
> Lynn
> 
When I initialized this topic, my intent was not to promote fee fixing.
Believe me, I'm a BIG fan of capitalism. However, I do believe that
healthy discussion on this topic as well as other non-technical issues
would be a benefit to our membership. If this is not a proper forum to
discuss business related or other non-technical issues, I believe we
should have one. In my original message, I used a custom single family
residence as a reference for several reasons. One, it is a project type
that several of us are familiar with. Also, even though a house is not
complex technically, it does require a lot of work and I feel our
typical fees are disproportionate to the work involved and the liability
assumed. I felt, when opening this topic, that a healthy discussion
might lead to help us all correct this problem as well as others. If no
one wants to discuss fees, how about discussing changing the language of
the Business and Professions Code to protect the word "Engineer" or
"Engineering" as does the Architectural section? How about, instead of
increasing the design seismic forces, why don't we amend the UBC so that
Architects and unqualified Civil Engineers cannot do the seismic design
of buildings (maybe even adopt the California version of the UBC for
seismic zones 3 and 4)??

I believe that, if this is not the appropriate forum for non-technical
discussions then SEAOC should provide that venue. I am not that familiar
with the by-laws of SEAOC, but if there is not some provisions for the
betterment of not only the profession but the PROFESSIONALS as well, we
should edit that too. In my 17 years as a member, the meals at the
dinner meetings haven't been THAT great.

Otherwise, you folks can continue to hash out oversized holes in sill
plates.