Subject: Re: Strange stuff that I don't understand.
From: "Barry H. Welliver" <wellive(--nospam--at)ibm.net>
Date: Tue, 18 May 1999 20:07:52 -0600
> I do not know if software was used in the design of the building in question.
> I simply know that whatever method was used does not work.
"Show me the money". You can "feel" that something is not right, but you need to
"know" that something's' wrong (or missing) to really get your stomach churning.
> I also know that the building department has a reputation of not checking the
> They simply want to make sure that the plans and calculations are stamped and
> When I run into a situation of a building department that does not really
> check the engineering calculations and details over, it makes me nervous.
OK, this is as it should be. Question is, are you willing to act on your
> The building was permitted and is currently under construction. It has what I
> would consider some serious design flaws. I haven't set out to prove that but
> then I am not required to check the work of other engineers in the field.
> That is the duty of the design engineer. The building official is the issuer
> of permits and in some cities that I have dealt with do NOT perform a careful
> check of the design engineer's work. What do I do with the heavy thought that
> this building may be designed to less than the Code provisions?
You probably consider all your "gut" feelings and either decide to stick your
nose in it or hide behind a rock (not meaning to be blunt). I feel it is
necessary to do what you perceive has not been done. Is it possible to approach
your client as others have suggested and obtain a meeting with the Design
Engineer? Perhaps your premise is your potential misunderstanding of the
structural design combined with the Architects "leaked" concerns to you.
> There are two items that concern me. They are:
> 1. The extremely tall (22' high) vertical walls that are only 8" thick and
> are only anchored at the base to the foundation. [i.e. They are cantilevered
> out of the foundation] Refer to my original post.
> 2. The apparent excessive roof deflection caused by the Architect moving on
> the now constructed roof. The bracing system is a rigid frame composed of 22'
> high W8x?? columns with a much larger beam. It doesn't look right in the
> field, but worse the Architect claimed he could move the roof structure 1/2"
> either side of a fixed reference point with simply his 190 lb weight.
> Appreciate your comments.
> John Ott
Another post on this matter suggests referring this to the Professional Licensing
Board. I disagree, at least at this stage. Every attempt should be made to
discuss this with the Engineer of Record to either uncover a design flaw, or to
determine if the practitioner wishes to deny what you believe is an error. It's
not pretty, and it may require some "diplomacy" to discuss with the Engineer, but
I think it's important to do. The issue is not to prove someone else wrong, but
to catch a potential mistake. Consider your own office procedure. You have
instituted an internal back check to catch errors right? Don't you consider this
a necessary safety measure to assure a quality product? Because we have
competition in this business, you can either choose to bury them with their
mistakes or help elevate the respectability of the profession. We all make
mistakes. Period. It's obviously more useful to be alerted to an oversight than
to hide the dirty laundry.
Lastly, it is appropriate to allow a graceful resolution of a possible problem.
Nothing raises fences quicker than accusations coming blindly out of the blue.
Give the firm an opportunity to address this. I recall hearing about a prominent
engineer of high rise structures in New York discovering a design error in a
constructed building and reporting it to his professional liability carrier,
providing the needed engineering and solving the problem. I wish we all could
look upon our work importantly and put our egos in check when needed.
Barry H. Welliver