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[Subject Prev][Subject Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next] Stan:

The attitude I was referring to was your exact statement. 

I don't believe formal calculation submittals and plan checks lead to a better engineering practice.  Plan check requirements, if done diligently and fairly by a competent plan reviewer is to provide assurance of minimum standards to safeguard life or limb, health, property and public welfare.  Without a review of these documents in a public forum such as a building department, it is unknown whether or not this has been accomplished.

Obviously your firm probably practices good engineering judgement and it appears to be reflected in the lack of lawsuits, even frivolously, brought against you.

Unfortunately there are a lot of people who try to practice poor engineering and about the only way that they can be discovered before their structures go down or settle or break or something else, is by the plan check process by a third party.  A number of engineers on this forum also provide some plan checking services and many of us are appalled at our "competition". 

I'll change my statement from "I'd hate to have to try to defend you in court." to it might be interesting to be on the other side against you and your firm for not being able to produce complete calculations for a project which you did eight years ago (my perception of when a guy who's screwed up will usually get hit with a lawsuit).

In reflecting last night with some of the old-timers at a SEOCC meeting in Sacramento, I realized that I had been in engineering just a little over 50 years and that I'm still learning.  In the afternoon, we attended a seminar on steel joists, metal decking and a presentation on the Special Truss Moment Fame (STMF) analysis.  In the evening, we saw photos from the latest earthquake in India.  This was very sobering.

My company is in it's 30th year, with about six lawsuits - which is pretty good for California, where I know of one firm who had five lawsuits in one year.  Not fun stuff.  Most of mine were thrown out or settled out of court by the insurance companies.

Unfortunately, the USA in some places is not any better off than some of the third world countries.  The blown a part building nightmare that reoccurs to me was on CNN a few years ago.  The "movies" showed a bunch of people who had taken refuge in a concrete block church.  The "movies" showed the rubble of the block - unreinforced and unfilled.  If you look closely at some of the damage from the hurricanes, you'll note that many buildings are similar to this.  Direct hits by the tornadoes are pretty hard to defend against, but peripherial structures should provide some protection.  God sure didn't help in the one that I observed.
Some of the people, which included children, were kill.

The idea of an engineer not being involved in residential design (at least in California) is kind of ridiculous.  The problem is that some of these homes are in the one to five million-dollar ranges and that the owner has a lawyer on full time retainer.  Houses, completely structurally designed, can be extremely challenging; whereas tilt-ups, turned out day after day, can be pretty boring. 

Yeah, I know about roof drains and scuppers.  Helped the maintenance engineer clean out some after part of his building's roof had collapsed.  (not my design).  Maybe not your responsibility, but a good idea to pay attention to.   I spend a good deal of time looking at other people's screw-ups.  The thought usually comes to my mind; could this have been prevented?

Neil Moore, S.E.
neil moore and associates
shingle springs, california

At 12:43 PM 6/13/2001 -0500, Caldwell, Stan wrote:

What attitude are you referring to?  Would you have us believe that formal calculation submittals and plan checks actually lead to better engineering practice?  Do you have any proof of that?  What blown apart structures are you referring to on the East Coast?  Would they mostly be single family residences, which typically are not designed by any engineer?

Thank you very much, but I don't anticipate needing your help in court.  I have been in practice for more than 30 years.  I've been sued twice over alleged design errors.  Both suits were thrown out as being wholly without merit.  I also was the EOR on a large warehouse that collapsed two years after construction.  That led to a $26 million lawsuit, and more than $1 million of forensic structural testing, but neither I nor my employer were involved in the lawsuit (because we did not design the roof drains and scuppers).  I have also served as an expert witness in the defense of more than a dozen other structural engineers.  Most of those cases involved life loss and claims in excess of $20 million.  Not once did I ask to see the original design calculations, because it was always the design that was on trial, not the calculations.  A third party expert witness cannot form an independent and unbiased opinion of design adequacy if he/she is influenced by the original design calculations.  Incidentally, it happens that all of the defendants were eventually exonerated.


Stan R. Caldwell, P.E.
Dallas, Texas


May this attitude is why we see so many blown apart structures in the eastern side of the country.

by such bureaucratic nonsense as formal calculation submittals and plan-checks."

I'd hate to have to try to defend you in court.

Neil Moore, S.E.
neil moore and associates
shingle springs, california