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RE: STANDARD PRACTICE

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Neil Moore wrote: 

I don't believe formal calculation submittals and plan checks lead to a better engineering practice.   
 
Neither do I!
 
Obviously your firm probably practices good engineering judgement and it appears to be reflected in the lack of lawsuits, even frivolously, brought against you. 
 
Thank you for that compliment, if that is what you intended. 

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.    
 
In Texas, we police our own.  State law requires that all PEs report suspected violations.  Last year, I filed a complaint against a structural engineer who, on behalf of a contractor, tried to subvert the permitting process on one of my projects.  Earlier this year, the Texas PE Board suspended that engineer's PE license for three years, fined him $5,000, and forced him to attend a remedial course in engineering ethics.  Considering his age, this punishment probably amounts to a forced retirement.  The incident happened during construction, and would not have been discovered through a plan check or calculation review.
 
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). 
 
Who said anything about not having calculations?  I and my team prepare comprehensive calculations on every project, although they might not be very presentable and might not even be comprehensible to anyone other than the EOR.  Of course, if you want to see my calculations in your role as a plaintiff's expert, you will first need to get a subpoena!  In my experience, by the way, lawsuits most often occur when a project is 9 years and 364 days old.

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.   
 
Congratulations, but I hope that I never have to acquire that much experience!  I fully intend to retire fat and happy after 40-45 years of experience.  You must have started your career in 1950, the same year that Halff Associates (my firm) was established.
 
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 
 
The reality in California is obviously different than elsewhere.  The vast majority of single family homes east of the Rockies are not engineered structures, not even the expensive ones.  In Dallas, the local home builders are building $5 million (25,000 s.f.) spec homes without any engineering whatsoever, except for the foundation.  In fact, I don't think that I've ever even met a local engineer who works with stick-built wood frame construction.
 
Regards,
 
Stan R. Caldwell, P.E.
Dallas, Texas