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RE: Steel test reports below specified strength

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This is a classic situation that comes up repeatedly.  There is a problem
not of the engineers making but there is a potential engineering solution. 
In trying to make the right decision we should look at what are the risks
and what is in the best interests of everybody.

The short term risk is that, the problem with the Contractors failure to
obtain the specified material may lead to delays in the project.  This in
turn may cause the Owner problems because he needs the project completed. 
In addition if this problem will cost the Contractor considerable money it
could lead to more problems as he tries to cut corners and costs later in
the project.

On the other hand some of the other risks include:

- The potential that the revised design will have a smaller factor of
safety and thus more likely to have problems.  There is a tendency for
these type of changes to reduce the quality of the completed project.  Is
this in the Owners best interests?  Is the Owner willing to accept the
lower factor of safety although it still complies with the code?

-  The potential that there will be mistakes due to the changes to the
Construction Documents.  There is a greater likely hood that mistakes
resulting from changes in the Construction Documents will lead to claims. 
Is this in the Owners best interests?

-  The concern that if you let the Contractor off too easy that he will
adopt the attitude that the structure is over designed and not worry about
maintaining quality or schedule because he believes the Engineer can find a
solution.  This can lead to more problems later in the project. Is this in
the Owners best interests?

-  The possibility that  the Owner may get the impression that the Engineer
over designed the structure leading him to lose confidence in the Engineer.

-  The likelihood that the changes to the Construction Documents will have
unintended consequences.  All too often the fix is more expensive or
results in greater delays. Is this in the Owners best interests?
If this happens your claim exposure goes up.

-  The potential that in the future somebody will try to imply that the
changes made were an attempt to correct some deficiency in the original

-  The likelihood that you will not get fully recompensed for your efforts.
 Even when it is agreed that you will get paid for changes these efforts
are not money makers and all to often you end up loosing.

-  The possibility that the changes to the Construction Documents will
cause disruption in your office which may cause problems on other projects.

Having said all of this, people have a tendency to discount long term risks
and to over value near term risks.  This is human nature.  It is also hard
to resist making changes when the Architect and the Owner are both applying
pressure but on the other hand you do not necessarily have to raise the
possibility of a potential fix when in your professional opinion the
trade-offs are not appropriate.

I think that you need to consider ALL of the risks in making such
decisions.  Some times it is appropriate to modify the design but I would 
counsel caution.  Quietly find out the facts and what are the real
consequences of the under strength material and only then make a decision
which way to go.

Mark Gilligan

Message text written by INTERNET:seaint(--nospam--at)

This has occurred too many times on projects with steel, concrete, and
masonry.  Don't react too quickly.  There are real issues with mills and
rolling schedules.  The questions are:
1.      Who is your client, and what is in his best interest
2.      What are the impacts to price
3.      What are the impacts on schedule
4.      What design changes (structural, architectural, and mechanical) are
required to accommodate the steel.

Talk to the client and express your concerns.  Don't just reject the
material out of hand.  There might be large cost and schedule impacts. 
call the mill directly, and ask them what they are going to do about this
particular problem, and what are they doing to prevent future occurrences.
Why did they even ship the steel, if it did not meet spec.?

Insist on all time that you spend on this issue be paid for by the
fabricator who will then pass it on to the mill.  Require additional coupon
tests to confirm the mill tests.

It would be nice to just reject the material, but that probably does not
provide a good service to the project or the client.

Harold Sprague

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Randy Diviney [SMTP:rsdiviney(--nospam--at)]
> Sent: Monday, January 10, 2000 9:41 AM
> To:   seaint(--nospam--at)
> Subject:      Steel test reports below specified strength
> Recently I have been contacted by a steel fabricator about some mill test
> reports being under the specified strength. I have specified 50 ksi steel
> for the wide flange columns. The highest value in the test results is 40
> ksi. The fabricator has requested we use this steel to expedite the
> project. Initially I told him I would check the design of the
> approximately
> 30 columns affected by this. After thinking about it, I don't think I
> should have to do anything other than reject the steel. I tried using 36
> ksi in my original design, but with the given parameters for the project
> 50
> ksi was necessary. I always try to work with the fabricators, this seems
> bit much. Any comment or suggestions would be appreciated.