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RE: ENR Article

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Ideally, I would agree with you. In practicality it is not possible to
educate our clients - architects - who are placed under equally demanding
pressure to prepare design and drawings almost immediately. I'm not
defending inadequate drawings, but most of us are trying to do the best job
we can and still work under the stress and pressure that are clients demand
without losing the work. This does lead to errors and problems and I am
embarrassed to admit that I have made my share of them.
A few years ago we moved to computers and cad drafting in an effort to have
a competitive edge on our competition and to be more productive on the work
we had. This was a short lived reprieve as our clients began to speed up
production and soon expected this increased productivity as the rule rather
than the exception. Similar to the idea of downsizing, automation is used to
gain as much productivity as is possible out of an office. However, there
comes a point where you can't squeeze out any more gains and you cross the
line - to become less productive rather than more.
Unless we face recession, you can't expect to educate clients on quality
engineering if the demand oversees the supply. No one wants to turn down
work or lose it to competition. In my small corner of the country, there are
not enough engineers to go around. I had a potential client call from Orange
County this morning who is doing a project (custom home) here in the desert.
When I told him my lead times were approximately four weeks, he told me that
he had already called fourteen other firms and had the same answer. He
decided to keep trying outside the area to see if anyone could accommodate
The problem is that had he accepted my four week lead time, I would still be
juggling his project with one or two others, while needing time to address
projects in plan check and three projects under construction. That combined
with a large client who expects  a seven day turn around, and a few hours on
the phone, my time is simply maxed out. Take a breath and I'm suddenly
Clients are even offering to pay extra - something I can't do at the expense
of those I've already committed to.
The issue seems to be how we can streamline the process and provide
sufficient plans and detailing to build the project. Engineer helping
Engineer - a community library of details that can be customized to be job
specific. We already have software which is donated to the community for use
in the design of buildings, maybe we need more peer helping peer to improve
the quality of our packages while maintaining a high level of submittal and
construction document quality.

Another issue. Local building departments are cutting back on plan check
services and doing more in-house reviews. This is more common in my area.
The problem is that plan checkers are not engineers and they are not
checking plans. They are relying upon the stamp of the engineer of record
and accepting whatever is submitted. Without appropriate plan review,
engineers will be prone to streamline their packages to get them through
plan check at the demands of their clients. Although not good for liability
issues, this is a reality.

A final issue: The latest code methods have increased our design time by a
tremendous amount. Possibly some of you can argue this point, but not one of
the engineers in my area is having an easy time of it and some have chosen
not to comply to the current code (and building officials in at least three
local cities are accepting their work).

These are not meant to be excuses so much as to identify the problems in
hopes of having the community offer suggestions to improve the quality. To
flatly suggest that we all stick to our guns or else turn the work down will
leave good engineers without work and those willing to compromise or not
comply with code regulations building most of the projects in our towns. How
will the responsible engineer feel about allowing poor quality construction
and design become prominent in the communities we live in when the purpose
of all of our debates and augments has been for the sake of improving
construction quality. I submit that the answer to this problem is not so
simply found in a time of a building boom.

Dennis S. Wish PE

-----Original Message-----
From: Peter Higgins [mailto:JillHiggins(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Tuesday, May 09, 2000 9:06 PM
To: INTERNET:seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: ENR Article

I agree with ENR. Most drawings are a mess. We've been ducking our
responsibilities for too long. (CASE, you should be ashamed).

I finally bit the bullet about 5 years ago. I now do my own erection
drawings, and often the piece drawings for structural elements.
The owner pays for it one way or the other, and I no longer have to
arbitrate finger pointing disputes. It also forces my personell to
get it right, hopefully the first time.

Clients who don't like it have to go elsewhere as it is now my company
policy. But, boy, is it nice to have full control again.

Peter Higgins, SE