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Re: Residential Engineering Review/Coordination Process

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I am in Bluffton, SC and feel your pain.  I got into the residential market when the IRC was adopted back in 2002.  Before that I worked on a few high end houses purely at the request of the architect.  In 2002 all of the builders, architects and engineers were scrambling to figure out what to do to meet the "new" codes. 

I have found that the  builders typically just want "a stamp" and do not care about meeting.  Architects typically want a little more coordination, and will want to meet more.  I like working for the actual homeowner personally, because they appreciate the value we bring to the table - especially during hurricane season.  I would try to meet with the builder to make sure I had all of his preferences accounted for.  When you present it like this, it is more likely that they will meet with you.  I do not like options on the plans, so I figure out what the client likes to use for straps and holdowns, etc, and then cater the plan towards that.   I even wrote a checklist that I could fill out at meetings to go over these preferences. 

Trusses are not used much in this part of the world because of the broken rooflines that they like in the lowcountry.  So we design stick built roofs.  Most of our engineering for houses are high end houses on Hilton Head, etc.  We do a full package with framing, foundation, shearwalls, etc. Frankly, we do not do much though, because there are too many engineers doing "lateral only" packages for ~$1000.   Selling a package 7-8 times that cost is hard to do.

If you can get close to the homeowner, they will like you to do "observations".  They want to know things are done right.  The builder will generally try to talk them out of this.  If you do observations, I have found that it is a good idea to have a "preconstruction meeting" on site with the different trades to ensure they understand what you are looking for.

Andy Richardson
Bluffton, SC

On 7/17/07, mail <mail(--nospam--at) > wrote:

I work for a small engineering firm in coastal South Carolina (high wind 110mph-130mph and seismic zone D0-D2 zones).We do primarily wood-frame residential work. Over the past few years, I have become a frustrated with the state of engineering particularly as it applies to residential engineering. I believe that most of the engineers on this mailing list are in California (Although I would love to hear from other states also). It seems from the posts on this list that the residential engineering in California is more regulated than elsewhere and that the building official is more involved in the "review" process or at least has more of a presence in the process than in other locations. I am actually curious what the process is for residential engineering in other locations in regards to meetings with clients (how frequently), coordination of components (trusses, EWP's…), special inspections, permit review…


To give you an idea of what I am accustomed to in our practice:

  1. Contractor/Homeowner brings in a set of architectural plans
  2. Depending on the complexity of the structure, we may or may not require framing plans from the truss manuf.
    1. Option 1: Contractor provides truss framing plans: This usually takes a few weeks, because no one plans ahead of time and when they bring us the plans they want the structural drawings as quickly as possible. We have also had the case where a truss manuf provides a set of truss calcs and a layout for quote purposes and we do our design by that only to find out that the customer purchased trusses from a separate manuf, who used a different configuration.
    2. Option 2: We provide truss framing plans or "stick" framing plans. This option is good because we have flexibility in our overall design, but the coordination is not carried thru. With truss framing plans, it is left up to the customer to communicate to the truss designer the need to adhere to our layouts. I don't think this is done too often, because it is pretty common to give out the architectural drawings to the engineer, component suppliers, subs all at one time. If it is "stick" framed, we have found that whether or not the customer follows the framing plan, the residential inspectors are not equipped to review it in the field.
  3. Whether we have truss designs provided or come up with framing plans, we generally "fully engineer" the structure according to the IBC (another discussion for another day is whether this is an accurate description, to me it is really a hybrid prescriptive/engineered design). Our drawings usually include a foundation plan with shearwall holddown sizes and locations, framing plans with any notes pertinent to gravity loads or lateral loads, and a sheet of standard details modified slightly for each job. (Ocassionaly we will include building sections if needed)
  4. The plans are usually provided to the customer (this is the only other "meeting" other than the initial plan "drop off") and if there is anything really out the ordinary (Simpson steel shear wall, APA portal frame detail…) we try to flag it to the customer. The customer is responsible for coordinating any products and components that are needed or may be unique to his design.
  5. Customer then submits plans to building department along with architectural drawings and plat for a permit. Then the standard inspections apply for the different phases of construction. We have never done any special inspections and we typically do designs for anywhere from a one story 1200sf slab on grade residence to a 5000sf 2-story residence on piles.


The local jurisdiction where most of our work is located requires the following: "plans drawn to scale with wind and seismic design per 2003 IRC (with original SC engineer or architect seal)". Point being the building department is not very concerned with the engineer being a part of the design team as in commercial work, but rather they are simply facilitating the idea that engineers simply "stamp" plans for a couple hundred bucks. Anyway that is also another discussion for another day. Today, I am just looking for the process that most of you engineers go thru for residential engineering/coordination in your area. Thanks.