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RE: Retaining wall fees

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Jason,
I do agree with your summary as this is how I generally design. I have one
exception, the software I use - RetainPro is IMO an excellent tool and the
design that I submit is site specific to the project based upon whatever
restrictions are submitted to me by the client from a geotechnical (soils)
report or by the civil engineer who prepared the grading plans but who did
not want to provide the calculations for the walls.
RetainPro (and I don't mean this as a sales pitch) provides me with the
tools to design the most economical wall sections that the soils engineer
will allow, and it allows me to produce a DXF file of the wall that I import
into AutoCad and embellish with notes specific to the wall. 
The only thing I object to in the summary is that I don't consider the work
to be generic in any way and I don't maintain a library of details to use
for wall sections - there is no need as long as the software provides the
same tools.

There are exceptions to every rule - The client is charged per unique wall
section. If a new design is required because the retained height changes or
a surcharge has been added (or the soil conditions change for example) then
the client will pay additionally to have a section designed that needs to be
done differently. In this case (since I don't draw up grading plans) the
Civil that produced the grading plan will be notified where the sections are
to be different and I will provide the details.

More often than designing a new wall, I am called in to extend and existing
wall. In most cases, the client will not like my initial response - it's
cheaper to tear it down and rebuild it than it is to add to the toe or heel
and insure that the stem is adequately reinforced. In our area the height of
the property wall must be increased to 6'-0" if a pool is added to the lot
and this is where it becomes costly for the client. It is not easy to extend
a wall unless you install a wrought iron fence to the top of the existing
wall (which the city will accept). 

Retaining and Property walls are a profitable business. I haven't done a
difficult wall since I moved from Los Angeles to the desert. If I had to
choose one area of design that I should be charging more for, it is in
Custom Homes. The more creative the architect gets (even if the soil
conditions are more favorable here than in areas where there is extensive
expansive clay soils) the long it takes to detail the project. The clients
don't understand this and as Joe did point out - engineers are perceived to
be a necessary evil. I recall when I was accused of creating a market for
the repair and retrofit of URM buildings - but I was creating no more of a
market than Lawyers or Doctors create when they need to fix something that
is broken.

Dennis

PS: Don't discount the many uses for programs like RetainPro - including as
a forensic tool should a wall fail and you are hired to determine why the
failure occurred. I've been able to pinpoint it on RetainPro and the proof
was justified after a core or Pachometer study was done that told me where
the stem steel was placed. 


Dennis S. Wish, PE


California Professional Engineer

Structural Engineering Consultant

dennis.wish(--nospam--at)verizon.net

http://www.structuralist.net

 


-----Original Message-----
From: Jason W. Kilgore [mailto:jkilgore(--nospam--at)leok.com] 
Sent: Tuesday, June 01, 2004 12:06 PM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org
Subject: RE: Retaining wall fees

> I totally agree with fee structure for retaining walls.
> It seem that Engineers in general do not have the concept
> of "Value engineering" as it pertains to the value to the
> client regarding our fee's.  If we don't consider the
> value of our service to the client and only charge an
> hourly fee you will also be at the mercy of the client.
> Our industry/ profession has lost respect and appreciation
> from most peoples over the last 50 years while architects
> and builders are held in high regard.  Usually we are
> referred to as the necessary evil by builders/contractors.

I think we need to make sure we're comparing the same "wall".  I got the
impression that Dennis was talking about a simple wall design with the only
drawing being a couple of standard sections and some notes.  The design
would cover the most conservative local soil condition and grade slope.  A
single experienced engineer using decent software and standard drawing
templates could do the design and detailing in an hour or so.  No site
visits or construction admin.  A few hundred dollars should be more than
sufficient to cover time, overhead, insurance, etc.  The contractor is
responsible for determining length of wall, top of wall and footing
elevations, where to put each design section, etc.  It's the same design
whether it's a 6' high by 20' long wall, or a 6' high by 2000' long wall
with corners and curves.

More work on the engineer's part will result in higher fees.  The other
extreme would be multiple plan and elevation views showing joints,
reinforcing, quantities, elevations, complete dimensions, etc.  Obviously,
drawing a 6' high by 2000' long wall will be more expensive than 6' high by
20' long wall, even if they are the same "design".  A fee based on
square-feet of surface area or construction cost is more reasonable for this
scenario.

With a competent, honest contractor, Dennis's method would be best.  With a
contractor who intentionally bids too low then tries to find ways to add
high-cost change orders, the highly detailed wall is by far the cheapest
overall.  It all depends on what the owner wants, and whether he knows what
he wants.

---
Jason Kilgore
Leigh & O'Kane, LLC
Kansas City, Missouri



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