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Re: RE: Engineering compensation

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I've noticed that most of the posts on this thread seem to be 
from people that work on the building side of structural engineering.

So let me pose this question:

Have any of you considered Bridge Engineering?

Advantages:  (to name a few)

1.  Minimal work (if ever) with architechs.  Most of the time the client (DOT's) have
     structural engineers in charge of the project.  You might be asked to change a few
     details here and there, but your design will never be questioned.

2.  Bridge engineers get paid too.  And most work is awarded based on qualification rather
     than fees.  You will be audited to determine your overhead rate.  Most that I've seen 
     fall in the 1.4 to 1.85 range.  Salaries are directly passed on to the client.

3.  With most of the projects in the public sector, money to pay for them is never in doubt.

4.  The AASHTO code is a single code.  No IBC, BOCA, SBC etc.

Disadvantages:  (again to name a few)

1.  At times due to the public nature of the projects, citizen involvement and political
     involvement can cause delays on the completion of these projects.

2.  Due to the nature of the beast, sometimes during these delays, you get stuck doing other
     things that are not necessarily what you enjoy doing.  Surverying, storm sewer design, and
     roadway quantity takeoffs are not among my favorites.

But on the whole, based upon what I'm hearing, I would think there are a lot less headaches
on this side of the fence.


And as someone looking to buy his first house, I can attest to the fact that you can get a 
brand new 2-story, 4-bedroom, with an attached garage for $132k in this part of the
country.


Comments?  



Jonathan Mallard
Ralph Whitehead Assoc.
553 Southlake Blvd.
Richmond, VA 23236
(804) 794-1185
(804) 378-0923 FAX


>>> "Gerard Madden" <GMadden(--nospam--at)mplusl.com> 05/01 3:16 PM >>>
Stan,

Would it be fair to assume that your work is primarily industrial in nature? If so, I can see how it would work, but on commercial, it seems rare that Multi discipline firms can compete with individual specialty firms who don't want the headaches associated with meeting with Facility Managers and A slew of project managers from the owner. 

My past employer was a Multi discipline firm doing mostly industrial work. I found it troublesome because I was associated with the other disciplines no matter how good a job the structural division did. You can have a great structural department and not get squat in terms of good projects if ALL the disciplines can't perform at an equally high level.

One example, was a one story steel canopy structure and truck dock. I got them all the structural construction documents out in a little over a week. Zero plan check comments, 1 RFI, completely smooth. The first day they go to use the damn thing, An 18 Wheeler's jack stand could be heard scraping across the pavement and busting up the asphalt on the dock ramp because the transition slope was too steep and too long. Seems, the Civil department bent over too far for the owner's project manager and actually forgot that a truck has to get in and out of the thing to use it. By association, I look bad, even though my portion went very well.

Generally, cost drives the commercial projects rather than time, which is the major factor in industrial. Round these parts, it's pretty specialized. I've worked for a firm that did 95% Tilt-ups, then 95%  industrial, and now one that does mostly Mid to High Rise new construction with the Top Arch. Firms in the state and worldwide. I have no idea at my level how much of the haggling goes on or even what our fees are, but it seems that the real goal is to establish a solid reputation and long term relationship with Arch. firms doing the kind of work you specialize in. Luckily, my firm has many great engineers with experiences in everything from Roller Coasters, base isolated buildings & retrofits, office buildings, jails, etc... a good array of project types for someone like me, still relatively young and eager to learn, but not about to starve either. As I age, and my kids get closer to college, and as the price of a 2 bedroom house gets to 1 million bucks (about 750k right now ... 1200 square feet ... needs work), I'll be moving to Dallas were Stan will be paying me big bucks (6 figures and  a Luxury Box at Ranger Games) :>) ! 

-gerard  

>>> scaldwell(--nospam--at)halff.com 05/01/01 11:23AM >>>
Gerard Madden wrote:

Stan, do have any decent competition in the area or do your clients have
money to blow? Or could it be that you have a corner on the market of some
highly technical design. The reason I ask is that when dealing with
architects as the prime, they like (so I've heard ... no concrete evidence
here) to frequently shop around like buying a used car....

Gerard:

There are plenty of good structural engineering firms in the DFW area.
There are also a number of large, multi-disciplined firms.  There is plenty
of competition, and our clients are just as frugal as anyone else's.
Perhaps the difference is that we generally don't work for outside
architects unless they approach us and almost beg for our help.  I haven't
made a marketing call on an outside architect in the better part of a
decade.  Instead, we have built a substantial architecture practice inhouse
("If you can't beat 'em, join 'em".)  All of the other large
multi-disciplinary firms in our area have done likewise.  In summary, we
almost always sell our services as the prime professional, and often as the
sole professional, on building projects as well as on bridge projects.
Working at the top of the food chain is infinitely better than working one
rung above the poor geotech (at the bottom). 

Regards,

Stan R. Caldwell, P.E.
NOT in San Francisco 


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