I have the same philosophy as Nels and Mike in the respect of Observation.
One thing that Nels pointed out is that virtually every project requires
some interpretation of the plans. Similarly, contractor tend to practice
what they historically know to do and often will neglect details. This, more
times than not, leads to arguments and accusations of omissions and errors
as the contractor must justify the extra expense of having the EOR correct
his error of justify the change in methods (even if valid). Since the
contractor goes on the defensive, arguments ensue where the engineers
drawings are picked apart so as to seek an offset from the additional fees
charged by the engineer for revisions.
As I mentioned in my last post, I often get stiffed on fees during
construction and yet am demanded to respond or correct the problem as the
city inspector easily prevents the project from going forth until this is
I find the process to be extremely adversarial. There are few protections
for the EOR. In very few cases will I perform a structural observation where
there have been no mistakes. When one is found, the contractor fights tooth
and nail to avoid additional cost. My argument is that competition and
higher design fees prevent me from including these services in my design
contract. I am also specifically asked to separate it out of my contract and
make if the responsibility of the contractor during construction. With the
exception of a few contractors who take the iniative to include a percentage
of construction cost to allow for corrections and revisions, most
contractors wage war on the professionals who point out mistakes.
Finally, I am often asked not to word my billing so as to justify a cost as
a revision due to an error. Many owners are very conscious of what the
contractor is billing them and if there is any hint that the invoice is for
deviations or errors on the contractors behalf, he or she is refused
reimbursement. The GC, if honest, will pay the engineer. If as most low
bidders, he will stiff the engineer, argue the fee or find a means to prove
by interpretation that the engineer was at fault.
How do most of you contend with this in the field when the relationships
begin to deteriorate because of failure of any party to take responsibility
for their errors?
Second question - how many of you find that the GC is lacking the level of
technical knowledge that he relies upon his sub-contractors to assume? Most
GC's that work small projects (including multimillion dollar residences) are
simply coordinators and lack the knowledge of each trade to know when that
sub-contractor is incompetent or not performing his function properly.
From: mkrakower(--nospam--at)earthlink.net [mailto:mkrakower(--nospam--at)earthlink.net]
Sent: Friday, March 31, 2000 6:49 PM
Subject: Responsibility of the Engineer
In my practice, I will not do the project unless construction observation
is part of the contract. If there is situation where construction
observation time is discouraged or disputed, I go out anyway even if
compensation is not provided. The engineer must observe the construction.
Michael Krakower SE