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Re: Architect cheating on structural calculations - where's the building depa...

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Jim and Tony,
I had the same experience - but I also have the experience from both sides of the counter (actually I sub-contracted out and do the PC in my own office). The pre-printed sheets are typically the correction list created by ICBO and modified by the different municipalities. We all heard the saying "Time is Money" and this holds here as it does with the engineer and architect. Plan Tech's are pushed to the limit. It is easier to follow a correction list than to try and remember all of the important points to pay attention to. At the end of the printed correction list is an area for the technician to add his onw personal comments for attention.
Personalities are a part of the job. When on the engineers side, we can put ourselves into jepordy by challenging the plan checker whether he/she is an engineer or not. I found that there are more "mature" engineers and technicians who perform plan check than those with superiority complexes. Most are working for the best interest of insuring a good quality design, but a few come off agressive and overly demanding to cover up their own lack of experience or knowledge. The trick is to act more mature and address the corrections with complete answers whether you agree or not - justify your work. When I get really angry, I write up a nasty response to the corrections and then shred it. I get it off my chest and remember who I work for on this project - the client. I also found that if you keep cool and treat the plan checker with respect (even if he returns it with arogance) you will break down the barrier and have a better relationship on the next go around.
One short story; about twenty years ago when I went into private practice I was consulting with a firm in L.A. that specialized in URM retrofit. My experience with one plan checker Fred **80ek* (name withheld, but some of you from the old days may recall). He ran hot and cold - most of the time he was into a yelling rage and literally tearing you apart as you stand in front of him. He was an SE and this was his way to take control. The first plan check went smooth - I thought he was a nice guy. The monster showed himself on the second plan check when he started ranting and raving. I returned to the office and informed my boss that I would do design and coordination with our drafting department, but I would not return to plan check if this engineer was on staff. Later I learned that he was much more civil if the engineer presenting the work was a woman so I suggested we send a woman engineer to complete the plan check. We probably got more permits issued because of this than any other firm who did not figure this out.
Of course it blew up in my face when the engineer we sent found out that we sent her because the plan check would go smoother. Boy was I attacked for this, she felt is was a discrimination issue and she was probably right. My mistake was mentioning it to another office that we needed approval from on historic structures as they related the story back to her. I had to hide for a week and I was the chief engineer while she was at the time, unlicensed.
I've never really had a problem since then. I think one of the mistakes that plan techs make is to assume knowledge and grey or white hair are synonomous. They are not, but because I am in my mid-50's and my hair is almost white (including my beard) I tend to have an easier time with technicians and to be frank - I resent this because I rely upon them to find my mistakes by doing their job since I am in a sole-proprietor business.
Use some psychology when dealing with plan techs or plans examiners who are engineers. You may have to comprimise or do more work to prove yourself but in the end, you are obligated to act in the best interest of your client even if it means that you must take a bit of abuse - just make it work for you rather than against you.
Regards,
Dennis

Dennis S. Wish, PE
California Professional Engineer
Structural Engineering Consultant


In a message dated 12/8/2005 6:21:18 PM Pacific Standard Time, jkestner(--nospam--at)somervilleinc.com writes:


We have  seen all kinds of plan checks over the years:

One plan checker reviewed our drawings and thought all the beams were undersized. He even had reams of output from computer programs that told us the beams were undersized. He wrote this up in a letter to us and the Owner. It turned out that this plan checker was not an engineer. He used to be a structural steel detailer and thought that he knew how to design beams.
Other plan reviews come back often  with no comments.

Jim K.



I too have seen all kinds of plan checks over the years, but I must say, with the vast majority of them I have no gripes in regard to structural corrections. My biggest gripe in general is that one or two story residences are seismically treated (plan checked) like major structures. In most cases, having to analyze the residence with a flexible diaphragm and as a rigid diaphragm is IMO an overkill. What I really hate is a preprinted correction sheet where the plan checker can circle what ever comes close to his question, but does not address what he or she really wants to know. Of course, this kind of correction list makes it easier for the ones who still have problems expressing themselves in English (and there are quite a few of them!). How I answer the plan check corrections can also depend on my mood, sometimes with a smile, other times I am sarcastic. Well, everybody is human!! Question: How do you fellow engineers "rate" the Building Departments of Santa Monica and Malibu??
My 2 cents.
Antonio S. Luisoni, SE


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