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Re: Salary Survey

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I would argue that the public does need us...they just have a tough time
realizing it.  Most people don't understand what an engineer does or how
they can benefit from the use of an engineer.  Everybody understands what a
doctor or a lawyer does.  The solution is to educate people about what we
do...but that is a long process that probably has a low probability of

Also, one must face the fact that a lawyer or a doctor usually are involved
with or responding to an immediate, known issue.  For example, somebody is
being sued in the present time period so they need a lawyer right away or
somebody gets cancer and they need treatment right now.  When faced with
immediate short-term issues, most people can easily justify spending the
money.  Engineers (and architects) deal with long term and not always
immediate issues.  Sure, you can tell a client about the possibility of an
earthquake in the future that COULD be big enough to destroy their home,
but getting them to shell out the additional money to prepare for that is
MUCH tougher.  This is because you are dealing with an POTENTIAL issue that
could happen a long time from now.  It is much tougher for people to see
the benefit.

I would disagree with your comments about architects.  Yes, for the most
part an architect is not trained to do what we do as structural engineers,
but they typically do have some minimal structural courses.  Can an
architect do what we do?  Generally, no.  But can we do what an architect
does?  I would say no in my case.  Could I learn it?  Yes, but then an
architect can learn what I do as well.  Does the architect assume
liability? Hell yes!  They do deal with life safety issues such as exiting
and fire rating.  They also deal with many performance issues that could
land them in trouble such as not creating a sufficent weather tight seal
for the building.  Also, architects CAN do the full job of an engineer for
residential structures in many states (in Michigan it is not until about a
3000 sq ft home or so that you need with an engineer OR an architect to
seal the drawings...if my memory serves me correctly).

I would also argue that typically an architect has MUCH more control over
the cost of a building (especially for non-industrial building types).
Generally, the structural systems in a building are about 10%-15% of the
overall cost.  I know casinos have costs per square foot of the some spaces
might approach $300 per sq ft or more, but the cost of the structure system
in that area might only be 5% or less of that number. 

You ask "why is the architect prime on many jobs?"  I would ask do you want
to have to coordinate the mechanical, electrical, and structural systems?
I would also argue that they tend to have more training to deal with the
ENTIRE building.  I don't know about you, but I wasn't taught anything
about architectural systems, electrical systems, or mechanical systems in
school.  Typically architects have at least a brief introduction to these
items and they are required (I believe) to have some exposure to them as
well as exposure to project management and interior design in order to get
their AIA.

Finally, I would argue you are fooling yourself if you think that
architects make (significantly) more than structural engineers.  In my
area, architects probably tend to make less than structural engineers.  I
don't think you would increase your spending money by making the architects
work for you.

I would be careful about beating up on architects...they are generally in
the boat right next to us, if not in the same boat.

Just some food for thought.


Scott E. Maxwell, PE
Structural Engineer

SHG Inc.
500 Griswold, Suite 500
Detroit, MI  48226

Phone: (313) 442-8254
Fax:   (313) 442-8297

Work Email:     smaxwell(--nospam--at)
Personal Email: smaxwell(--nospam--at)

BTW, I told my students (when I was a TA for an intro structural class)
that if they are choosing structural (actually civil) engineering for the
money, then they were heading into the wrong business.

At 07:13 PM 9/24/99 -0600, you wrote:
>Why can't we make the public "need" us?  As long as many items require
>an ". . . architect or enginners. . ." approval we leave a powerful tool
>open for debate.  Can an archtect do what we do. No. So why is it left
>up for discussion?  Secondly, does the architect assume the liability
>that an engineer does? No.  So why is the architect the prime on many
>jobs.  The engineer controls how safe a structure may be, controls how
>efficient a structure may be, and many times control how much a
>structure will cost.  If engineers want to start making more money, let
>force the issue and make the architects work for us!  Someone told an
>anectode that I though had a very good point.  If you get into trouble
>with the law, or want to sue someone - will you pick the lawyer by
>lowest bidder?  So why, when the quality of engineering has such a large
>impact on the cost of a structure, does everyone pick the low bidder? 
>Tell everyone that $1 spent with me, will save you $2 in construction
>costs (as compared to the low-ball engineer) and see what happens!
>Jake Watson, E.I.T.
>Salt Lake City, UT