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RE: Design fee guidelines

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Greg, you are my friend so I don't want to insult you. I think one of the
other engineers said it very well when he suggested that the code used in
the design may provide a better structure but at an increased cost to the
client in material and labor. Therefore, but provide better engineering may
not produce a more economical structure where the client saves by creative
Even if we wait until the '97 UBC (for example) is adopted, I don't think
that full time engineers (those who are devoted to the profession and don't
consider it a 9-5 type job)can guarantee design economy if they are smart
enough to know what is coming down the pipeline and are willing to suggest
it to the client early in the game.
If we know that some provision in the IBC will produce a better structure
and our clients do not want to contend with a performance based design (they
want a bomb shelter for the price of a barn), we are simply competing for
dollars on an apple for orange basis. The other engineer - hungrier, less
ethical, will produce a package for much less and by the time the
consideration for cost due to damage occurs, the engineer is out of the
picture, protected by the code in forced at the time the design was
permitted and feels ethically justified.

I recommend a 3x plate for shearwalls over 300 plf and get crucified by the
owner when the contractor in the field complains about it. This is not a
requirement in our area yet, but is one that I detail because I believe it
to be a good choice.

This puts holes into your argument. There will always be "whores" who wish
to argue intent of code in order to design to the least compliant. I saw
this in URM work and still see it in Residential design. I have a reputation
of over-kill by those who do not hire me and have very devoted and satisfied
clients for those who do hire me. The problem is that I am often not asked
to bid based upon my perceived reputation and rarely have the opportunity to
explain or defend my position.

Therefore, I can not use the argument that if the client pays more for my
services, I will insure him a more economical structure than my competition
or less problems in the fields (considering how may times I have had to
respond to contractors who screw-up).

Any better idea's - my friend:>)

[Just to be clear - Greg and I are friends and I don't mean to trash his
ideas. We have spent a few hours a couple of months ago debating these
topics and for the most part are not far off from our basic ideals. I also
respect the advice I received from Greg as I would from Bill Allen or any
other engineer who as debated this issue with me]


-----Original Message-----
From: GRileyPE(--nospam--at) [mailto:GRileyPE(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Wednesday, November 04, 1998 10:26 AM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: Re: Design fee guidelines

Dennis, et al.

I couldn't take it anymore and I had to jump in. Fees can be addressed in a
variety of ways. In my days at corporate hell (i.e. any organization greater
than 100 employees), the fees were figured based opun actual manhours times
multiplier (usually 2.65). This number was then compared to the total
construction cost. Since the competition were bidding in a similar fashion,
all washed out.

However, in the world of micro-hell, this is not possible since many of us
not believe that we have the power to dictate our fees, but rather that the
market determines our fees (in other words when an owner says that the fee
outrageous and they can get it for less we fold. Half a loaf being better
none). So we work for $1.99/hour.

What needs to be done is better negotiations. Owners (they ultimately pay
bills) view engineering as a line item on a bid similar to a quantitiy of
concrete. Therefore, their first reaction is to take the lesser bid. But, at
this point, it must be shown that the structural engineering design can
a large percentage of the construction cost well over the design fee. With
this in mind, show the owner that your services (not fees) will result in a
less expensive structural cost through value engineering and a good set of
plans that will limit the time and money lost due to change orders,
clarifications, etc. If the owner can be convinced that the structural
services (not fees) that you are proposing will lower the project's total
cost, then a reasonable owner will pay the premium for the service. If they
still can't be convinced, you don't want to work for them.

Remember, it is services and not fees that you must sell to the clients. And
if you don't believe me, ask Richard Meier what he got to do the Getty.

Greg Riley PE