Return to index: [Subject] [Thread] [Date] [Author]

RE: It's What You Don't Know That Hurts You...

[Subject Prev][Subject Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next]
As a fellow bridge engineer, I sympathize with you.  I suppose we all (the
building folks included) find ourselves awake at night worrying about things
like this. Please allow me to gently ask some questions:

Did you have to stamp the drawings?  Couldn't the project engineer have
stamped them?  I don't ask this in a critical way at all, only to understand
the situation better.

I do 99% of my work in California, so I'm unfamiliar with practices in other
states.  Caltrans requires that the lowest level person in responsible
charge stamp the drawings. I assume that would be the project engineer in
your case.  This seems like a reasonable policy to me.

Also, out here we do complete independent checks of bridges, rather than QA
reviews.  Essentially each bridge is designed twice and the the results are
compared.  Perhaps the client may find this extra expense worthwhile on
their next project (probably not...).  

Your open discussion of this matter is particularly bold and inspiring.  In
my office, we make sure we talk to each other, especially to younger staff,
about problems encountered on projects.  We hear enough about the projects
that went great.  How else can we learn?




-----Original Message-----
From: Bill Polhemus [mailto:bpolhem(--nospam--at)swbell.net]
Sent: September 19, 2000 6:30 AM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org
Subject: It's What You Don't Know That Hurts You...


I'm just have to gripe a little bit here.

I was informed by a colleague familiar with the situation that a bridge that
had
been designed under my supervision a few years back, which is being
constructed
now, has had some problems in construction.

At the time of its design, I had a group of ten engineers working under my
supervision at a consulting firm. Two of the "engineers" were recent
graduates,
but the rest either had or would soon have their P.E. licenses. We had this
bridge project, which consisted of six bridges of various types, spans and
configurations, part of a freeway expansion project. I divided my group into
task forces with a P.E. as "project engineer" over each, and a senior P.E.
as
"quality assurance" (i.e. he was to check all design calculations).

As it turns out, one of the bridges under a particular "project engineer"
has
had problems almost from the start, but the problems were rather minor in
scope.
However, this time, the problem is great.

It seems that in designing the bridge to use prestressed concrete "U-Beams"
(that is, they are a "U" shaped section), the design team had dithered about
how
many beams to use in each two lane span. They apparently settled on three
beams
per span. But unfortunately, somehow they had placed on the drawings, the
prestressing information that was adequate if they had used FOUR beams. In
other
words, the prestressed concrete beams were underreinforced for the loading!

Somehow, this got through not ONLY the design, but even the checking phase.
The
calculations exist that show the original project engineer's and the
checker's
initials. And of course, in the end I sealed the drawings.

Now, it looks like the contractor is going to backcharge the client about $4
million for the prestressed beams that are now, in a word, useless. They are
in
addition going to have to delay the project because they will have to have
new
beams made.

I have not been contacted officially on this, and don't know that I will,
but I
am sure that this will be remembered by many in our area should the time
come
that I am in the running to get some of this kind of design work.

It is frustrating to me because of the way that work is done in consulting
firms
like this, where you are SUPERVISING people who are doing the work, but the
scope of the projects makes it difficult to be involved in every aspect of
the
design. I have found from time to time, in fact most recently just a few
months
ago, that if I DO get involved in detailed checking of others' work that is
being done under my seal, I am very often disappointed.

This, however, is the first time that a catastrophe of this magnitude has
occurred, and I am sick about it! I pride myself on my diligence. We are all
human, and prone to make mistakes, but the nature of the negligence on this
project astounds me! I don't understand why others don't worry as I do about
their work.

I am now in private practice, and thankful that from this time forth nothing
is
going out under my name that I have not PERSONALLY been responsible for
doing. I
will never again trust the "QA" portion of the work to anyone else when
something is being done under my supervision. I only hope that this
particular
chicken doesn't come home to roost directly over my head, but if it does I
am
resigned to take responsibility for it. H*ll, I guess I could lose my
license
over something like this. Not a good thing.

Just a cautionary note to you all. Please be careful what is being done
under
your supervision.

******* ****** ******* ******** ******* ******* ******* *** 
*   Read list FAQ at: http://www.seaint.org/list_FAQ.asp 
*   This email was sent to you via Structural Engineers 
*   Association of Southern California (SEAOSC) server. To 
*   subscribe (no fee) to the list, send email to 
*   admin(--nospam--at)seaint.org and in the body of the message type 
*   "join seaint" (no quotes). To Unsubscribe, send email 
*   to admin(--nospam--at)seaint.org and in the body of the message 
*   type "leave seaint" (no quotes). For questions, send 
*   email to seaint-ad(--nospam--at)seaint.org. Remember, any email you 
*   send to the list is public domain and may be re-posted 
*   without your permission. Make sure you visit our web 
*   site at: http://www.seaint.org 
******* ****** ****** ****** ******* ****** ****** ********

******* ****** ******* ******** ******* ******* ******* *** 
*   Read list FAQ at: http://www.seaint.org/list_FAQ.asp 
*   This email was sent to you via Structural Engineers 
*   Association of Southern California (SEAOSC) server. To 
*   subscribe (no fee) to the list, send email to 
*   admin(--nospam--at)seaint.org and in the body of the message type 
*   "join seaint" (no quotes). To Unsubscribe, send email 
*   to admin(--nospam--at)seaint.org and in the body of the message 
*   type "leave seaint" (no quotes). For questions, send 
*   email to seaint-ad(--nospam--at)seaint.org. Remember, any email you 
*   send to the list is public domain and may be re-posted 
*   without your permission. Make sure you visit our web 
*   site at: http://www.seaint.org 
******* ****** ****** ****** ******* ****** ****** ********