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Re: Fee Information Sharing

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Dennis-
I've done a small survey of residential engineering design fees here in Marin Co.
and would like to compare notes. These are large two or three story homes
($400,000 to $1,000,000+)on sloped sites with pier and grade beam foundations.
Engineering time is billed in the $100 to $150 per hour range.   Structural
design fees run around $1.50 to $1.75 per square foot (the 97 UBC seismic seems
to have added about an extra $.25 to $.50). Structural drawings add another $.25
to $.35.  Trussed roofs knock off about $500.

     Most engineers don't seem to be very comfortable about discussing fees
(either in large companies or private practice).  I was fascinated by the outcry
about an engineering firm that suggested that the local Building Department
enforce the current code provisions. IMHO we should be encouraging local CBO's to
fully enforce code provisions. In my forensic work I've seen a pretty wide range
of quality in analyses, but only on rare occasions has it sunk to the level of
negligence.  ( I also suspect our standards and level of scrutiny are much higher
than for other  professionals.) Everyone is better off when the Buiding Officials
do a thorough job of plan check and inspection, we ought to do what we can to
assist the process.

    Comparing our fee/liability situation with attorneys it seems like we are
underpricing our services.  Attorneys bill T&M, make no promises about the
outcome of their work, bill for research, and often do very poor work--but try to
find a good one who will work for $100 per hour.  They aren't smarter or better
trained than engineers, and they seem to be a glut on the market, but they make a
lot more money with less liability.  Is it because they are better promoters?  It
would seem that now that everybody is busy, and with the new code provisions, we
should be raising our billing rates.  If people don't want to pay engineers to
design their homes, they can live in simple rectangular boxes that conform to
Conventional framing requirements.  Instead of complaining about how poorly the
carpenters are building, why not push for better inspections?

    I haven't opened this thread as an invitation to whine about how abused we
are.  If other professions are better compensated, that's our fault not theirs.
Lately, society seems to be more aware of the importance of  building's
structural integrity.  It seems like now is a good time for a substantial
increase in rates.  Comments?
Chuck Utzman, P.E.