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RE:Construction law for structural engineers

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Message text written by INTERNET:seaint(--nospam--at)
"Can anyone recommend some references, books, seminars,
etc. that would be worthwhile for structural engineers
regarding the legal aspects of the building
construction. I want to learn more about the legal
aspects of change orders, RFI's, claims for
construction delays, etc."

I would recommend:
A Legal Guide to AIA Documents by Walter Sabo.
Legal Sspects of Architecture Engineering and the Construction Process by
Justin Sweet.

These are legal books for lawyers yet readable.  

"Here's an example of the kind of knowledge that I
need: Structural drawings refer to geotechnical report
for slab-on-grade sub-base requirements. Geotechnical
report has no info on the what kind of sub-base
material is needed. Contractor points this out during
construction and charges huge price for sub-base
material and claims it's a change order because
nothing was shown on the contract documents."

First read the Construction Specification Institute's Manual of Practice. 
You should not be referencing the Geotech report directly.  The information
in the geotech report should be stated in mandatory language in

You should not be referencing a document without verifying it says what you

The Contractor can probably claim an extra, but if there was something on
the drawings that indicated a sub-base he should be on the hook for some of
the cost.  But if there is no reference to sub-base he gets paid for it
all.  The contractor is only responsible for what the Contract says he is
responsible for.
"Here are my questions: Can a contractor legally charge
twice the going rate for the sub-base even if there's
no delay involved and the "omission" was caught in

There are common law theories  that prevent unjust enrichment.  The Owner
should hire a Lawyer.

"Is the sub-base material part of the primary
structural system and is the specification of this
item the responsiblity of the SER?"

Not typically, but a lot depends on your contract and reasonable
expectations.  If you make a point of verifying that somebody has addressed
the earthwork issues you can save a lot of grief at little cost to
yourself.  Your contract should clearly state your scope of work.

"Can an owner make
the SER pay for the sub-base material just because it
was not shown on the structural drawings?"

Your liability is related to what is your scope of work.  Did you have a
duty to address the sub-base material?

Just because something was left out and the Owner has to pay does not mean
you are liable.  If the Owner has received value and it costs no more than
it would have if part of the original contract you most likely have no
liability.  You will still likely have an unhappy client but that is
another issue.

You probably need to be talking to an attorney if you have a problem.

"Is it not
the responsibility of bidders to point out
discreptancies and missing information on the contract
documents during the bidding phase? Are they not
obligated to question what a missing beam size is if a
steel beam is shown on a drawing but the size is

Typically this is the case but all too often people use this a catch all
for every problem.

Ignorance can be expensive.  Get a legal book and read it.  Also develop a
relationship with a Lawyer who you can call when you are in one of these
situations.  Yes you will pay for his time but it can save you big time.

Mark Gilligan

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