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Subject: Use of your work by another engineer

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>From: Stan Johnson <hawneng(--nospam--at)>
>To: seaoc(--nospam--at)
>Subject: Use of your work by another engineer.

>Here we go again...   :^\

>A client wants you to do a preliminary design of a
>large public building.  You are to provide
>drawings and specifications (on paper and perhaps
>computer file) to the client.  It was your
>original understanding that your drawings were to
>be for estimating purposes only.  Now it appears
>that the client will want the future engineer to
>have them as a foundation for his own work.  In
>other words, the drawings that you are to provide
>are not to say anything like "property of XYZ
>engineering".  Of course, some other engineering
>firm will likely end up doing the final design of
>the building.

Since the project is "public building," I'm assuming the ultimate 
client is a public agency.  If so, the typical agency owns the work 
product (by virtue of contract with prime, which if the prime is smart 
-or is required by prime contract - provisions are passed down to all 
subs), i.e., drawings, calculations, reports, etc.  Specify in your 
contract what you are to deliver: drawings, calculations, paper, 
electronic etc.  Don't deliver any more than what is specified.

>There are a few areas of concern that I have about
>such a set up:

>1.  What is the appropriate level of additional
>compensation for the additional service of
>providing drawings for use in future work rather
>than just estimating drawings.

There are various levels of design and associated cost estimating.  We 
use the following:  Conceptual (about 15% design effort); Preliminary 
(about 30% effort); Final (100%).  Some agencies will have an 
intermediate level (60%).  Appropriate contingency amounts are added 
to the cost estimate to account for the level of design and unknowns 
therein:  Conceptual 20% to 25%; Preliminary 10% - 15%; Final - none. 
 For fees:  figure that you'll spend more engineering effort than the 
design level indicates, i.e., for a 30% submittal, 50% of the 
engineering may be spent.  Drafting effort tends to be at the design 
level.  Trying to convince your client of this can be difficult, 
who'll want to pay 30% of a typical full design fee for a 30% 
submittal.  To compensate, the drafting effort is sometimes reduced. 
 Conceptual design can sometimes involve looking at a number of 
alternative concepts.  This should be done as additional compensation, 
the amount a function of how many alternatives are looked at.  Try to 
define the level of effort with your client and charge appropriately.

>2.  What measures are reasonable to take to try to
>limit undue liability exposure (real or

Liability is minimal.  Your agreement with the client should indicate 
that you are not assuming liability except for final product.  When 
you submit, drawings should have note: "Preliminary Drawings - Not For 
Construction."  Spec & calculations should have similar on cover 
sheet.  Do not sign drawings or specs, as they are not a final product 
under California law (assume that you will be getting final work for 
this purpose).

>3.  What is the appropriate level of additional
>compensation for any increase in liability (real
>or otherwise) created by the move from a
>proprietary set of documents to an open set.

None, if level of effort is defines as previously mentioned

>4.  The client may end up asking for calculations
>(on paper or on disk).  How does this impact items

I don't see any additional liability.  Such deliverables should be 
spelled out in agreement before hand.  Letter of transmittal should 
state that electronic files are submitted for information only and no 
warranty is given or assumed.

>With respect to all items:  Is this a reasonable
>arrangement to get into?

Done all the time with public agencies.

>With respect to Item 3:  What are the proper
>limits of liability in this situation?

Ideally, you should refuse to accept any liability - this is not final 
plans & specs.  In the real world, your client will probably be 
adverse to limiting your liability, as it reduces his future options. 
 This is why you earn the big bucks!!

>With respect to Item 4:  Is it reasonable for you
>to provide calcs for a partial design, when the
>rest of the design will be done by someone else.
>Should you try to restrict the incorporation or
>use of your calcs by said future engineer.  Should
>every page of your calcs say,  "XYZ engineering
>makes no warranty... or some other such language" or
>is this going too far.

See response to item # 2 above.  Your calcs are to justify the level 
of design for purposes of cost estimate.  Do not assume that they will 
be used by another engineer.  I don't think that the note needs to be 
on each sheet; on cover page and transmittal letter should be enough.

>Also with respect to Item 4:  Concerns may extend
>to calculation computer files.  Public agencies
>often want plans submitted in electronic format,
>which is generally something like DWG, DXF or some
>other format that is not only  readable, but
>operable.  Are calcs different?  If your computer
>files include spreadsheets or ETABS files (which
>you spent a fair amount of time developing), is it
>reasonable to PDF those files (change them to the
>Acrobat Reader format) so that they are readable
>but inoperable.

Submit calcs in PDF format.  Client would need a license for the 
ETABS, spreadsheet, etc. software to be useful, although he may want 
the ASCII input files.

>Please help
>Stan Johnson, PE,  Do coffee stains count as
>proprietary information?        :o)))

Doesn't matter, Client owns it !!!

Hope this is helpful.  Most of our clients are government agencies.

Warren Stewart, SE
Frederic R. Harris, Inc.
San Pedro, CA