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Structural Engineers becoming isolated from the design team.

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Please read my comments under the thread "Responsibility to complete
projects" for an background to this thread. My comments are opinions based
on conversations with contractors, perspective clients, and developers in my

As the code becomes more complicated I am finding that engineers are
becoming increasingly isolated from other members of the design/construction
team. Animosity is growing as new construction becomes more restrictive for
fully compliant engineering. Developers and architects in regions of high
risk with little or no exposure to a moderate or large earthquake in recent
years believe the stricter code provisions are unnecessary and overly
conservative. It would be nice to be at the receiving end of appreciative
clients who experience large seismic events and who report less than their
deductible in monetary damage, it is unlikely that I can wait that long to
be appreciated.

In the meantime, I am finding that I am taking a considerable amount of
verbal abuse. Most come in the form of comments suggesting that engineers,
as a whole, aggressively over design structures at the expense of the
public. Every contractor touts his ability to construct a building that has
never been damaged, but stipulates that even the best engineer will not be
able to assure performance in a large magnitude quake.

The problem is that laypersons are becoming more fraternal as the engineer
becomes the outsider who is forced to justify his or her actions in language
that the non-engineer can not understand.

I believe that those of us who practice in residential design are having a
tougher time creating and maintaining a relationship with our clients and
potential clients. I find that new clients are looking for one important
trait - an engineer who is willing to disregard compliance with the new
code. This is not difficult to do in areas outside major jurisdictions as
most small office professionals are not taking the time to understand and
learn the intent surrounding the code methodology. Many of these have
developed shortcuts which they believe will justify their decision, but I
believe the truth is that they are lost and don't have the time to study as
intensely as others in jurisdictions that enforce full compliance.


Dennis S. Wish, PE
Structural Engineering Consultant
(208) 361-5447 E-Fax