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RE: New home problems

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Andrew,
Florida doesn't have the market cornered on poor design and construction
issues. I have one where the builder (one of the largest in the U.S.)
has a high-end gated community here in the desert. The homes sell for
$800,000.00 and up and I had the opportunity to review the plans for the
contract agency that did the first two plan reviews of the structural. 
The structural drawings are done by a "Structural Consultant" whose name
is the business name and is on the title block of the drawings and on
the analysis. However, this consultant has no license and is not
qualified to practice structural engineering. He is "trained" as a
structural designer and left the company that he had been working for -
an engineering office controlled by a licensed engineer. Let's call him
Sam. Sam left the firm he worked for and went into private practice. His
wife worked for a large architectural firm that was hired to design
tract homes for high end developments. Sam opened his own firm "Sam
Smith / Structural Consultant" (false name) and started to practice
structural engineering on the homes designed by this architectural firm.
I don't know if the Architect for this firm wet-sealed his work but the
package I was asked to review was for a developer (again, high end
homes) outside of this area. The drawings were wet-sealed by an engineer
outside the area - about 120 miles away. The other engineer is licensed,
but his name does not exist on the plans other than his stamp.

Sam violates the Business and Profession Act in California and his about
to be turned in. What bothers me most is that while his work is somewhat
"adequate" it is not what I would expect for a tract home that sells for
nearly $1,000,000.00. I know the head of building for this large
Corporation who employees these people and have sat on a committee with
him that intended to train and employ laborers who decided not to go on
to college. When I brought up my concerns about the quality of the
construction of homes in his community, he snubbed me by stating that
his company had every right to design with the least materials necessary
as this was a free-enterprise system. 
What good is it to teach laborers to build correctly with they are
employed by those who teach them to cut corners. I no longer sit on a
committee with this man. He has control, but he doesn't have my services
- which were volunteered. Soon, he won't have this unlicensed designer
who has set up practice to compete with those of us who follow the
rules.

Andrew, the trouble with all of this is that we have allowed developers
who create spec homes to control the design and construction of homes
and there are no disclosure laws in states where the risks are high.
Organizations like SEA or ASCE could, if they were willing to invest the
energy, help lobby for disclosure so that the names of professionals
(engineers) appear on all records for permit issuances (which it doesn't
in most communities), require the permit to disclose the methodology
used in the design of the home (prescriptive or engineered) and, if
possible, to maintain a computer record of the design for review by the
homeowners representative. 
We didn't want the paper storage years ago, but now we have electronic
means to archive records like these (PDF files) and the storage
materials are plentiful and inexpensive. 

My point is that when the homebuyer understands the "games" that are
played in the building industry, they will have the strength to weed out
the bad apples. My "friend" won't lose anything by replacing his
non-licensed engineer. He will call the shots and make sure that the
engineer he hires works for him and designs to the lowest standard
possible to obtain a permit without consideration for performance. Of
course, in my opinion, ethical professionals won't allow themselves to
accept clients like this and maybe this large developer needs to clean
house and get rid of the construction manager they hired who believed
that free-enterprise meant hiding the possible out-of-pocket cost that
the homeowner becomes responsible for when tragedy occurs - the same as
it does in Florida.

I just wish I could be in the same room with this guy when he finds out
that all of his homes have been designed by an unlicensed firm.

Dennis

-----Original Message-----
From: Andrew Kester [mailto:akester(--nospam--at)bbma.com] 
Sent: Friday, October 31, 2003 9:39 AM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org
Subject: New home problems

This is a great article about the new home industry in Central FL that
you all may enjoy. They do not even address structural defaults, which I
can tell just by driving around are numerous. You just cannot have that
much glass in shear walls in high wind regions like I see around here. I
have seen permitted plans with CMU walls with #5's at 8' o.c. and
missing jambs, and that is the tip of the iceberg.

You CA guys may be a bit jealous of the prices around here, but believe
me, you are not getting the house you think you are...



Andrew Kester, EI 
Project Engineer
Longwood, FL 32750 


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