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RE: Repetitive Use of Design

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Let's say that you design just one septic tank, based on site-specific geotechnical and seismic data.  Your professional liability would be "X".  Now, if your design was subsequently re-used 19 times at virtually identical sites, you total liability would probably be about 20X.  Of course, some of those sites might have substantially different geotechnical or seismic conditions, and some might have differing embedment depths.  In these cases, your potential liability goes well beyond 20X.  Keep this in mind when you consider your fee structure.  My advice is to keep your fees proportional to your liability, regardless of the effort that may or may not be required for "adaptive re-use".
Ironically, chain restaurants have at least one thing in common with septic tanks.  The architects and their clients that dot the landscape with these gastronomical marvels expect to pay the structural engineer a "full" fee for Store #1 (the prototype), and a token fee for subsequent re-use (rollouts, or site-adapts).  Often, the re-use fee is as low as $300, even though there are changes in applicable codes, environmental loadings, and site-specific geotechnical conditions.  Surprisingly, many structural engineers actually compete for these great "opportunities".  I'm not one of them! 
Stan R. Caldwell, P.E.
Dallas, Texas

I've been asked to design the concrete work for some septic tanks for a local concrete plant.  I was not terribly excited about this request, but the concrete plant made me feel sorry for them as there are few other people in the area who perform structural design.  My question is whether or not I should request some type of repeat fee or other (?) related to the reuse of my original design.  Has anybody done a similar design task before, and if so would you mind sharing with me your contractual concept as presented to your client.  I'm not looking for an actual document, just some feedback as to whether or not you would request a yearly fee for use of the design in addition to the initial design.  Thanks.




Bill S. Marczewski, P.E.


BSM Structural, LLC