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RE: Tales of Terror #1: Architects doing engineering

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Probably the worst example I've personally seen of this was actually a
custom residence. It was a fancy construction built in the early 70s, with a
flat roof, internal drains and parapet walls all around.

During the torrential rains we had a couple of years ago here in Houston
related to Tropical Storm Allison (and not to be confused with the
torrential rains we've had this year), the drains became clogged, and they
ended up with quite an impressive swimming pool around two-and-a-half to
three feet deep on their roof.

Which lasted until the roof beam(s) gave way and most of the water dumped
into the living room below. We're talking about a VERY nice home here, and
the value of the furnishings lost in the flood alone came to about $60,000.

Anyway, the roof was found to be wood joists framing into two glulam beams
as the primary support. There was no engineer involved; the original
architect "designed" the beams.

When I did the analysis I was stunned to find that they beams were not even
able to meet the current code-specified loads (which really haven't changed
much over the years, after all). In essence, the architect just threw in
some beams that he "felt" would work, and didn't worry about those pesky
structural design considerations.

We ended up having to reframe the entire roof. Last I heard the Insurance
company was going after the Architect's liability--but was stopped by the
ten-year statute of liability that was enacted a few years ago in the Texas

This isn't to say the statute of liability is wrong. What's wrong is an
architect as structural engineer.

-----Original Message-----
From: Haan, Scott M. [mailto:HaanSM(--nospam--at)] 
Sent: Friday, July 02, 2004 10:39 AM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: RE: Tales of Terror #1: Architects doing engineering


My experience has been that unless buildings structurally designed by
architects have the ability to levitate, then it would have been better
if an engineer was involved.  Working at a building department we
periodically see architects that try to save a buck by acting as their
own engineer. 

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