In my area it is a question of economics and we simply don't get the kinds
of fees that you get in your area. There is too much competition in the
trades; architects/architect, architect/engineer, architect/designer and
The developer is generally interested only in his profit margin and will
shop engineer if required. They will typically look for those who can
develop to a minimum standard and they consider what the building official
will accept as this minimum level of compliance.
The designer tries to limit his buildings to conventional construction so
that he can avoid engineering. Still, few designers are willing to toss away
a large custom home project and approach it with a tract house mentality.
They want to invest as little into the structure as possible and once again,
what the building department will accept is a driving force.
The architect who competes with a designer - or the designer who wants the
architects client will compete financially and will look to cut whatever
corner the building official will allow.
The architect who is competing against other architects compare aesthetics
but compete for price. In this case, they want the engineers fee to be low
(as all of their sub-contractors) and will try to sell construction savings
without mentioning performance. The designer I complained about in my other
post falls into this category. He is aware of the code change but feels that
I am taking it too seriously and if the building official will accept less,
he wants me to design less. After all, his client can put his money into
areas that he can see and this is important to the designer.
Finally there is the established architect with quality clients and who use
good builders. I have been fortunate to work for firms that meet at least 2
of these three team qualities. As always, you get what you pay for and the
homes from this team belong to owners who never question reasonable prices.
I think you have many of these types of clients, Lynn.
The weak link is the allowable level of compliance of submittals. I think it
is different from the past, as potential clients of middle income homes are
questioning their costs and the budgets of their clients. Unfortunately, the
engineering community is doing nothing about educating the public to the
differences in quality and how a conventional framed home will perform
compared to a home designed to an envelope solution under full compliance
In my area the "structural engineer" is considered an evil necessity when
the Architect/Builder is trying to maximize profits and can not explain the
need for compliance when the building official is willing to accept less.
Dennis S. Wish, PE