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Re: RE: Plan Checking

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You definately prove the point for the need for plan checkers. I wish every city ( AND STATE )had someone like you running things.

Let me qualify my statements by saying that most of the plan check engineers on this list are excellent (well, at least the ones we hear from regularly- Scott Haan, Sid, Ben Yousefi .... a few others I am drawing a blank on right now) But there are some in your positions who abuse their power and some down right don't do their jobs.

Example 1: (I will keep the municipalities anonymous, but will identify them as either in house or private agency)  I submitted structural calculations for some roof top equipments on a tilt-up building that utilitez double cantilever glulam roof framing system. I modeled the continuous spans in RISA and placed numerous moving loads simulating the weight of the units in an attempt to prove that any spacing would work and show the glulams would work. I used RISA to generate the moment and shear envelopes and reactions. I summarized the results by printing out the force diagrams, the load cases, and the reactions. I then, calced the glulam capacity based on a positive bending situation and negative bending for the various sizes and spans of glulam. I show the system works all the way to the foundation. Then I get plan check comments: 1) Provide calculations showing the forces in the glulam. 2). Complete Special Inspection form signed by EOR.

I call up City Plan Checker and say (politely), here is my plan check No., look on calc. page 1, where I state my method of analysis (Computer) and all the load diagrams, force diagrams, and subsequent checks. I get the response, well how do I know the program is working right? I say fine, I'll send you the 25 page print out that is represented in the force diagrams.

 Week later... Call from Owner mad because Plan Checker states "These calculations are not complete". Next ... sit down meeting with the plan checker and owner at the city .... I go through original calculations page by page, re-iterate that I gave him the detailed print out and that the calculations are complete.... Plan Checker responds "How do I know the program is working" I tell him RISA is a proven program and this is only a beam analysis ... If he wants to verify it himself, go ahead. Then plan checker says " Oh, I don't remember influence lines and all that stuff... this will take me about 2 weeks to go through and I don't have that kind of time"  Owner gets pissed, says just make this guy happy, I don't care what I have to pay ... I end up doing everything by hand and then I get the god damn inspection report comment again, even though it was returned at the face to face meeting.... PURE FRUSTRATION ! ! ! 

Example 2: (This One is Shorter)... Same municipality hires an outside plan check agency to check 3 tilt-up buildings I designed. These buildings were phase II in a 7 building business park. The 1st four buildings were designed 8 months previous under 94 UBC while my buildings were under 97 UBC. I get the plan check comments which number 24 in total. I go to my boss and tell him I'm about to start the plan check response, most of it is crap and they are not reading the general notes, it will probably take me about 10 hours. He asks me who checked it, I tell him and he goes Oh.... here you go. He hands me the plan check from phase I. Phase one had 24 comments... All of them IDENTICAL to mine, just renumbered. Not a single mention or comment on any code changes from 94 to 97 ... A total rip off for everyone involved. What do I do ... I take the old plan check response letter AND RENUMBER IT !!! 1 Revision to the general notes adding an ICBO number for powder driven fasteners and that's it.

These two examples should not happen in my opinion. It is not the engineer's responsibilty to prove he validity of commercially available software and to spend my own time and clients money so the plan checker can feel okay. WHat if I gave this guy a dynamic analysis or base isolated building in ETABS or SAP. He will send it out of course, but I am I supposed to drag the CSI Staff with me to a meeting with the plan checker so they can explain gauss elimination and bandwith optimization to a guy with a degree in sociology. 

The 2nd example is simply fraud. No check was performed but I'm sure the price was even higher than the 1st check because of the new code.City gets ripped off, client gets ripped off because I bill for my time responding to garbage.

This kind of crap drags down the good plan check engineers that ask good questions. I feel I'm a better than average design engineer ... but I make mistakes and plan checkers have found those mistakes. They found the mistakes because they CHECKED and knew what to look for and what was important. I have plan checked a few jobs for cities when they were overloaded. In about an 1 hour, I picked one god awful design to death ( Like Sid was saying ... engineer designed to old code, using ultimate capacities against allowable demand forces etc....) simple things. Irs not that hard to figure out if the engineer know what he is doing.

Plan checking is something I don;t think I could do because I would get frustrated at the amount of garbage that passed across my table that was wrong. I know the job is difficult, but perhaps the ICBO certification and PE license should be mandatory (although my 2nd example was checked by a PE ). 

I think that at the very least, all plan checkers should be licensed CE's. Seminars should be mandatory for checkers because it is not the same reviewing something versus designing all the time. Seminars should also be mandatory for all PE's as well. Continuing education is important, companies should be active in supporting their employee's attendance, just as Palmdale has for Sid.

My 2 cents.

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