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RE: Two Masters

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I have worked for design build companies where we walk back and forth
regularly and I have worked for design consulting firms where there is a
strong aversion to getting into "methods and means".

The first issue when getting into construction services structural
engineering is to do a self assessment, and an assessment of the
construction company.  Do you feel capable of doing the work, and do you
trust the construction company to do what you ask?  It is engineering on the

Secondly, will your insurance cover engineering construction services?  The
risk is greater.  The alternative is to do a hold harmless agreement with
the construction company.

Personally, I like the idea of doing the structural engineering and the
construction structural engineering services.  It gives you more of a sense
of true economy of design as opposed to a theoretical economy.

Erection sequencing and safety is a good case in point.  When during the
erection of a structure is it stable to release temporary bracing?  If you
were an iron worker, would you want an ironworker foreman to decide when to
remove cable bracing, or would you want a structural engineer to decide if
the lateral system was adequate? Where and how do you stage materials?
Where and how do you install lifting equipment?

No one can force you to take a contract to do the construction structural
engineering services, and it is definitely beyond the scope of traditional
design structural engineering services.  But you can ethically work for both
the owner and the construction company.  If not, the multi billion dollar
design build companies would be in serious trouble.

The one constant about the structural engineer providing both services is
that the projects are constructed with fewer problems.  In the process you
will learn a lot about construction, and you will probably learn some new
cuss words.

Harold Sprague
The Neenan Company

-----Original Message-----
From: Bill Polhemus [mailto:polhemus(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Thursday, June 10, 1999 2:31 PM
To: Structx(--nospam--at); seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: Two Masters

For the second time in as many years, I have been "told" by a project
manager that, should our client ("the owner") request it,  I must provide
construction engineering for the contractor on a major public works project.

Public works clients typically have engineering and construction personnel,
and historically they have "held hands" with the contractor on such
projects, because that is what is required of such public "servants".

However, I'm NOT the "owner," I'm the "owner's representative." In my
previous experience, the contractor himself was responsible for providing
his own engineering services. In fact, this very topic is addressed in the
project specifications for this project. If the constructor wants to vary in
some way from the procedures outlined in his drawings, he is to submit a
request to the "owner's authorized representative" (that's our firm in this

However, the project manager feels strongly that the contractor has the
stroke with the client, to convince him that if we don't provide such a
service, we are "holding up the job." This client (since it is a public
entity) is scared to death of this eventuality.  Even though the contract
with the constructor stipulates a date certain by which the project must be
complete, this doesn't seem to comfort the client at all.

I want some input, here. Can the client "compel" us to provide such
construction services? If we are "working" for the client, can we also
"work" for the contractor?

Why, if the specifications state that the constructor must provide these
services on his own nickel, may the client then turn around and tell US, the
EOR, to do it?

What if the client convinces the contractor to pay us for the work?  Is this

I'd like to know your thoughts.