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Re: Engineering ethics

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On 5/27 -  Jim Hagensen wrote:

> I have a situation on a job where, per the UBC, special inspection was
> required on the structural roof deck.  The contract was written such
> that the special inspection for the deck welding was provided by the
> contractor.  (I know this is contrary to the UBC, but we find that this
> happens on a number of jobs since owners like to roll the inspection
> costs into one "pot of money". This client happens to be a city.
> Instead of the city hiring an inspection company (which is the logical
> way of doing it since no conflict of interest exists when the owner is
> paying for the inspections) we found out later that the contractor was
> telling the inspector when to appear on the site and specifically what
> to inspect.  We were not hired to do any construction administration
> aside from some shop drawing review.
> After the job was nearly completed structurally, the Architect called
> and requested that we go to the site and perform a site observation walk
> through.  On the walk through I noted major collector elements that were
> not welded and also structural deck diaphragm welding like I had never
> seen before.  80% of the roof deck had already been covered with
> insulation and roofing.  On the exposed portions of the deck I noted
> seam welds that did not even appear to tie the deck sheets together.
> The welds were supposed to be top seam welds  but instead of looking
> like a normal top seam weld, the sheets were not crimped at the weld
> location and at the weld location a hole existed.  It did not appear
> that the weld was engaging both sheets.   (At one location a support
> near a deck seam was omitted and the deck was spanning for two span
> lengths rather than only one.  I was able to step on the one sheet
> adjacent to the seam and the sheets totally separated indicating that
> there was indeed no tie between the sheets at the seam at this
> location).
> I wrote up a site observation report clearly stating our concerns for
> the structure's adequacy.  I understand that the strut and collector
> welds were made where they had been omitted  This all occurred a number
> of months ago.  The architect currently owes us a major amount of fee
> and we are at a point now where we have stated that we will do no more
> work until we get paid.  We have also found out through the grape vine
> that no special inspection or welding prequalification was ever
> performed on the roof deck as was specified.  (I could have guessed
> this.)  To our knowledge nothing has been done to remedy the problems on
> the roof deck and the structure is currently being used by the public.
> We have informed the registered architect of our concerns in writing and
> in our opinion, the structure is deficient and will not carry the design
> shear forces under design lateral loads.   Nothing appears to have been
> done to remedy the situation.  The structure is in a moderate wind zone
> and seisimic zone 2B  and the deck shears are 300 to 400 plf. (not very
> high)  What is our professional, ethical, responsibility in this matter.
> On the one hand we have informed our client of our concerns in writing,
> and he is a registered professional.  On the other hand is the concern
> for public safety.  Risk management folks indicate we have done
> everything professionally we are required to do by informing our client,
> who is a registered professional, of our concerns in writing.  Have we
> done everything we should do, or is more action on our part required?
I believe the SE in this case has an ethical and professional 
obligation to contact the building owner directly with his concerns 
with regard to the quality of construction and the potential building 
safety issues.  First I would make a call to the local building 
official (since this also appears to be the owner) and ask if he has 
been made aware of the structural concerns, by the architect.  If he 
has not, then I would a letter to the architect, copy to the City, 
both sent by registered mail, return receipt requested.

With regard to issues of structural safety, engineers should not hide 
ehind the cloak of the architect.  As a profession we need to come 
out of the closet and not be afriad to address the issues, directly 
with the building owner.

The fact that the architect owes the engineer money at this late date 
should not detract from this situation.

Ronald O. Hamburger, SE
Regional Manager
EQE International, Inc.
San Francisco, California