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RE: Level of Detailing

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Your comments are good ones...

I'm always caught in the following quandary:

As a firm owner and hopefully businessman, I want projects to be completed
on or under budget so that they make economic sense for the company.

However, as an engineer, I want the building to be designed efficiently and
in conformance with the code.

The first (and only) rule here is, "get the engineering right"

If an engineering budget gets blown, it's the same if the overall
construction budget gets exceeded:

Either the expectations were wrong, the program unrealistic, or the
management failed.

I never get down on my staff for doing too many details or too good a
job...budgets are my problem.

Its just frustrating when you see the level of detail (usually low) by other
firms on similar projects...for 20% of the fee you charge.

But, now, you're back to that favorite list topic, fee competition.

David L. Fisher SE PE
Senior Director

Cape Cod Grand Cayman Holdings Ltd. - Cayman
Fisher+Partners Structural Engineers Ltd. - Cayman
372 West Ontario Chicago 60610
75 Fort Street Georgetown Grand Cayman BWI
319 A Street Boston 02210

312.573.1726 facsimile
312.622.0409 mobile

-----Original Message-----
From: Daryl Richardson [mailto:h.d.richardson(--nospam--at)] 
Sent: Tuesday, August 15, 2006 2:40 PM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: Re: Level of Detailing

Fellow engineers,

        Gary's reply (shown below) is very good.  I would, however like to
modify it slightly and add a little flavor of my own.

        As I see it the level of detailing depends on a number of things.
Some of these are:
1) The type of project.
2) The purpose of the drawings.
3) The requirements of "The Authority Having Jurisdiction".
4) The relationships between the involved parties (Owner, Client,
Contractor, Yourself, Etc.)

1)     By type of project I would consider new, addition, and renovation to
subdivide Gary's classifications.  For additions and/or renovations, for
example, The information required to provide a high level of detailing may
require selective demolition which may not be practical for an occupied in
service project.  The details simply must wait and be provided later as

2)     For purpose of the drawings I am thinking of permit applications,
public hearings, pricing, for construction, etc.  The public don't want any
detail whatever presented at a public hearing; that is not the case for
fabricators during construction.

3)     Requirements of "The Authority Having Jurisdiction" differ widely
from place to place.  In California, for example, I understand, all
connection details and all cladding fasteners are to be shown on the
structural drawings.  In Alberta that is not the case.  In Alberta that sort
of information is provided on shop drawings submitted to the EOR for review.
Whether shop drawings are stamped by an engineer is generally governed by
the terms of the contract, hence, most architects and EORs require stamped
shop drawings.  Which system is best is difficult to determine since neither
of us have very many structural failures.

4)     The relationships between the various parties is probably more
important than many realize.  The answers to some questions may affect the
level of detailing required.  Are you providing full engineering services or
providing a "second opinion" for an architect who does not legally require
engineering services?  Do you know the contractor well or is it a public
tender where any Joe with a $50.00 deposit can take out a set of drawings
and bid the job?  Are you contracted to carry out site reviews or full
resident engineering services?

        I think the fee for the job is irrelevant in determining the amount
of detail required on the drawings.  Even if you do the job free you are
still responsible for doing it right.  If a litigation develops the courts
will not give any consideration whatever to the fee you charged!!


H. Daryl Richardson

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Gary Loomis" <gloomis(--nospam--at)>
To: <seaint(--nospam--at)>
Sent: Saturday, August 12, 2006 3:32 PM
Subject: RE: Level of Detailing

There are several questions that need to be addressed.

Are there projects residential, commercial, industrial, or nuclear?  The
level of detail increases significantly from the residential to nuclear.
Do you know the contractor and the quality of their work (or lack there of)?
If the projects are not going to be bid or the bidders are pre-selected and
we know the quality of work, then we may reduce the amount of detail.  This
savings is past onto the client.
What is the fee?  If the client wants to minimize the risk of RFIs and
unknowns and is he willing to pay for the detail?   With the amount of work
we have become more selective on clients and do not want to do the quick and
dirty projects.
Drawings manually or electronically generated.  Pre cad, plans were 1/8" or
1/4" and sometimes only 1/16" and sections and details typically 3/8" and
possibly 3/4".  Today details are drawn larger resulting in more detail.
For example, on a wall section showing metal studs at 1-1/2" scale showed
the holes in the stud.  When drawings were manual the level of detail was
kept down by keeping the scale down.  You used one line instead of 2 lines.
The amount of detail shown by the architect.  We get drawings from
architects that are not even dimensioned and the details are not worked out.
So to keep the project going we spend time developing sections and
elevations that the architect should have developed.  How do contractors
build without dimensioned drawings?

Being from the heavy industrial and nuclear side I tend to over detail
(according to my boss).  But that minimizes the RFIs.

Gary Loomis


From: Will Haynes [mailto:gtg740p(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Sat 8/12/2006 12:46 PM
To: seaint
Subject: Level of Detailing

I wanted to get a rough estimate of the level of detailing some of you are
putting into your drawings. I have worked at a couple of different places
where there was a general acceptance of the level of detailing that should
go into our drawings. Some places were kind of low where others were very
high. However, there was always at least one person that was on the very low
end of the standard and one that would almost drive you to insanity with
his/her level of perfection.

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the minimal amount of detailing to get
by (which also normally results in a lot more RFI's being generated and
field problems), and 10 being anal retentive to the max (where it takes
twice as long to detail a project), how would you rate yourself or others
you work with? Also, what do you feel the goal should be?

I guess that the person that is on the high or low end would actually not
see himself as being that way. Right now, I feel like I am about midway. I
try to show the critical details on a project and note the structurally
important nuances. However, I don't address every possible thought that
might come into a contractor's mind during construction, and all of my text
does not have to line up perfectly either. I usually make budget too.

I know this is kind of subjective and depends on your client and what the
standard is in your area.


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