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RE: Duplication of others work.

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-----Original Message-----
From: ErnieNSE(--nospam--at) [mailto:ErnieNSE(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Thursday, October 15, 1998 1:55 AM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: Re: Duplication of others work.


Your hypothetical case is quite accurate. I've been doing a lot of fast
restaurants(but not McDonalds). And in answer to your question if I'll
upset if they used my plans and details for an exact duplicate answer is NO!    Why?      Because I copied  the
plans and details from a set plans they(the owner of the restaurant)
gave me.
I just made sure that I reviewed the plans very well and I'm completely
satisfied that it conforms to my standards. And also, I had to do my own
of structural calculations from scratch. And if I found something that
to be changed, framing size or connection detail, I would have changed
.........but everthing was OK.

My first instinct when I bid on my first job for this client is that I
use this set of plans and improve on it, modify it a bit. I didn't want
just copy it. But I was told that this is a prototype building and they
been using the same set of plans for identical buildings for a long
time. They
are very satisfied with it considering it has gone through many
revisions and
improvements throughout its use. They don't want to mess around with
untested new concepts or ideas. Now, should I refuse the job because it
against my principle of not copying somebody else's plans? If I turn the
down, I'm almost sure somebody else will jump at the opportunity to do
copying the prototype plan.

Do I feel guilty copying the plans?    Well, I did some background
first on how the current set of plans came about and I found out that
plans have been going around different engineers who have been copying
maybe improving on it during the early stages, until it came to me. The
original engineer who developed the prototype would be the first one to
upset because he spent so much time, money and effort to get it in good
But he has been adequately compensated for his initial efforts, plus he
been paid  a  nice fee for the re-use of these plans for the last few
He's still doing some new projects for them and he's quite happy with
present business arrangment. He would like to keep everything to himself
......... Anyway, now I don't feel guilty anymore. It looks like the
engineer is happy, the other engineers who did the jobs for
me) are happy, the owner is happy, the next engineer to do the job is
gonna be

I've been involved with two other similar projects with prototype
and it seems that  some other engineers are doing it this way......

Is it legal? Is it ethical? Is it standard industry
don't know.

If you were ask by McDonalds to do maybe a hundred or a thousand units
their prototype plan, would you turn it down?

Ernie Natividad



Thank you for this post!  It certainly provides a reality check for the
structural engineering profession.  I applaud your honesty, even though
I take exception to almost everything that you've written.  Earlier in
my career, I found myself confronted with the prototype & rollout
mentality inherent in chain restaurants.  Once I understood how the game
was played, I quickly got out and never looked back.  Here are a few
points for your consideration:

1.)	In most states, it is illegal to use any part of another
engineer's work without formally notifying that engineer in advance.
Also, it is unethical to do so.

2.)	Many on this listserv have complained that structural engineers
are poorly paid and not generally treated with the same level of respect
as other professionals (doctors, lawyers, accountants, and even
architects).  Engineers who accept fast food assignments such as you
have described do not deserve credible fees and professional respect
because they are not providing services of any real value.

3.)	When an engineer signs plans for a rollout, or site-adapt,
he/she typically does very little actual work and receives little more
than a token fee.  However, he/she becomes the EOR in so doing, and
accepts significant liability in the process.  Take the example of 1000
"identical" McDonalds.  If the fee on Store No. 1 is "A" and the
liability is "B", what is it for 1000 stores?  The fee might be 10 x A
or 50 x A, but the liability definitely is 1000 x B.

4.)	You are correct that restaurants are proud of their prototype
designs (and rightfully so) and resist changing them.  This can become a
huge problem considering regional differences in seismicity, wind
loading, snow loading, geotechnical conditions, site topography, and
building codes.  Now two stores are truly identical, except in the mind
of your client.  The lack of meaningful fees makes the problems even

5.)	In summary, I feel very strongly that chain restaurant work
presents one of the worst combinations of factors for a consulting
structural engineer:  low fees, high risk, and no real sense of
accomplishment.  It is best left to professional engineers working as
full time employees of the restaurant corporations.

Best Regards,

Stan R. Caldwell, P.E.
Dallas, Texas

Money can't buy happiness,
but it sure makes misery
easier to live with.