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SteelPE (Structural)
3 Apr 12 11:25
What does is mean when an engineer requests information in a design document format? I though design documents were the plans and details prepared by an engineer.

In this instance we are required to send sealed connections to the EOR through the fabricator.  The drawings required information submitted to the engineer in a "design document format not a shop drawing format".  I sketched up the connections and sent them over.  Now they are requesting calculations to back up my design.  Not that big of a deal just a little PITA.
ukengineer58 (Civil/Environmental)
3 Apr 12 13:13
we submit calc docs for almost all our jobs. some have third party checks by another firm or building control. this is uk
ztengguy (Structural)
3 Apr 12 13:25
I think they mean drawings and calcs from you, not second hand shop drawings or fabrication drawings with your stamp.  
SteelPE (Structural)
3 Apr 12 13:34
I was just surprised about the calculation requirements.  The connections were simple shear connections.  I don't know what I am going to give them for calcs.... other than photocopies of the ASIC 13th edition steel manual.   
Helpful Member!  dhengr (Structural)
3 Apr 12 14:36
It seems to me that the whole business of Structural Engineering and design has become a PITA.  I assume you are doing the connection and detail design for the fabricator, in part because the EOR was too dumb or lazy to do sufficient design and detailing so that the connections could be shop detailed.  I suppose his computer software couldn't do this, for him, during his nap periods, so he put a note on his drawings saying he wanted someone else to blame for the connections.  Let's have twelve different engineers stamp this two-bit job, so we've got plenty of people to blame if something goes wrong, lots of deep pockets, all being underpaid for their effort and knowledge, or lack thereof.  Pretty soon we will need a different engineer to stamp welded connections vs. the bolted connections.  And, the bolted connections are a real PITA because you need a different engineer's stamp for each different bolt size, and others for bearing or slit critical connections.

Since you are working as an extension of the fabricator, as his engineer; I assume you have talked the details over which need your attention, and so they can start detailing the job.  You have to do enough free body diagrams of the connection to do your own design, or you might take a 8.5x11 copy of one of the shop drawing details, in its initial form, without final spacing and dimensions, etc. and red-line it as part of your calcs.  You need to show sufficient detail to do a complete, clear and proper design, but I would not worry that my calcs. and sketches look like Rembrandts unless they want to pay you for this.  You must show enough to do it right and to be able to defend your design, but you do not have an obligation to educate the EOR.  He wasn't smart enough to do it himself, or was trying to push the work off on someone else to improve his profit margin; it's your stamp and responsibility on that portion of the work, and a fair and reasonable discussion of questionable conditions is understandable, but you shouldn't have to redo your calcs. because you left out the calc. step of converting ft.-kips to inch-pounds.  If the AISC connection tables are sufficient for your design of simple shear connections, I would state that in a note in my calcs. and that they were done to the loads shown on his construction documents and let it go at that.

These types of issues in the whole design, detail, build sequence of events are starting to boarder on insanity.  Everyone, at every step along the process, is looking for someone else to do the work, take the blame, have the deep pockets; all because they aren't smart enough or are too lazy to do a complete job themselves.
SteelPE (Structural)
3 Apr 12 14:49

Must have hit a nerve there sorry.

You would be shocked to see what this "job" entails and what the EOR is asking for.  There are literally a hand full simple shear connections (9-10 in total) all worked out to 3 different cases.  Two tab plates and a double angle connection.  I drew them up, sealed them and sent them out for approval.  I gave sufficient information to build the connection (angle size, plate size, bolt size, weld size and dimensions). Well they came back requesting calculations backing up the design of the connections.  I literally opened up the 13th edition to create my sketches using tables 10-1, 10-2 and 10-9.  Their general notes require sealed connections that are "in a design drawing format not a shop drawing format".  I just never knew a design drawing format included calculations.

Now they are requesting I design hand rail attachments down to the blocking the hand rail is attached to.

I get paid to perform the design either way..... I just feel a little sorry for my client.
JedClampett (Structural)
3 Apr 12 14:54
dhengr, you might be surprised on how long it's been this way. Connection design, in particular, has been deferred to the fabricator for many years. I don't like it either, but when I started, one of my first lessons was that we assumed that the connections were to have the capacity of an AISC Type II connection unless we posted a higher load (or made it fixed), but in all cases, it was the fabricator's responsibility. When I asked why, I was told it was too much work to design all those connections.
As fees are driven ever downward by lowball competition, engineers have become quite clever at doing less and less design. And the funny thing is that the work has to be done, it's just changed who's doing it.
I don't have a solution. I'm just along for the ride.
ukengineer58 (Civil/Environmental)
3 Apr 12 15:38
in uk connections are almost always done by fabricator to loads on structural plans. we then review them.
Helpful Member!  dhengr (Structural)
3 Apr 12 15:48
Not much shocks me any longer, it's just the sheer (not shear) stupidity which puzzles and amazes me.  The utter inefficiency, laziness, expense, consumption of extra time and effort, etc. etc. of having to involve five people to do the work of one.  All to hide the laziness or lack of knowledge and experience on the part of the primary designer.  All of this at the owner's expense, and we lie to him in telling him he is getting a better finished building, in doing it this way.  When I'm designing that beam, I know the shears, and it only takes me a few seconds longer than printing the shear values on the drawing, for me to pick an angle and a weld size, tabulate these on the drawing and be done with it.  Hell, copy and paste the AISC table into the drawing and number each line A1, A2, etc. and show those Ai's on the beam ends and be done with it.  Each time I require you to get involved for a few simple shear connections, through the fabricator and back and forth to me, it's a few thousand dollars out of the project budget, for no real gain to the client.  It's absurd.  And, then I can really antagonize you by insisting on your calcs. and CAD drawings, not sketches, to my format, and then red-lining the hell out of them over insignificant issues.  You are no longer my helper or cross checker of my work, I have made you my nemesis.

I do understand the need for some special help on a complex enough structure or complex enough detailing and connections, that may be money well spent, and advice well worth it on some jobs.  But, the real proof of that pudding is that if the EOR isn't smart enough to do those complex connections and details, he probably shouldn't be pretending to be the EOR on that kind of job.  If he's not smart enough to do the whole design, how is he ever going to be smart enough to check your work.  Or, is the whole idea, now that I've got your calcs. in my file, I've got something to hang you with; even if that future project problem was of my own making, I'll force you to help cover my mistake.

Consider this also, maybe you have misread the structural notes and specs.  Maybe "sealed connections" means a seal weld all around, and you're wasting your time with all those calcs.
msquared48 (Structural)
3 Apr 12 15:53
Design of steel connections by the fabricator is an east coast thing, not west coast,  I always design these, no matter what.

However, the fabroicator does detail them for the shop, and I check them.

Mike McCann
MMC Engineering

SteelPE (Structural)
3 Apr 12 15:54

I don't think I misread the documents.  The general notes required designs carried out by other professionals to seal and sign their work.  Then we got a letter explaining to us their definition of design documents includes calculations
connectegr (Structural)
3 Apr 12 16:13
This practice is near and dear.  Our firm has provided only connection design for nearly 21 years.  In addition to the connection sketches we always provide the support calculations.  Although the simple shear connections are shown in the manual, all of the limit states are not checked for the provided capacities.  For example the clip angle or single plate tables don't check the beam web bearing, block shear, cope capacities, etc.  Our standard tables make these considerations, but back-up calculations explain the capacities given to the detailer.  These are not difficult to reproduce.  A set of standards and backup calcs take minutes, not hours to complete.  The majority of the time is spent determining the fabricator preferences, bolt diameter, welded/bolted, angle thickness, plate thickness, etc.  The rest is just a few clicks.

jdgengineer (Structural)
3 Apr 12 17:12
In California, The EOR has been responsible for the connection design for every project I've been on.
archeng59 (Structural)
3 Apr 12 17:34
I design and detail all of my connections.  If I have to review them anyway, might as well take the time to design them as I prepare the drawings.
ukengineer58 (Civil/Environmental)
3 Apr 12 18:07
but what about fabricator preference? they now what they have got access to and what they are set up to do. a designer might not even know the fabricator that will be used.  
archeng59 (Structural)
3 Apr 12 18:11
I have been doing this for almost 20 years.  I know the fabricators that I typically work with in my area and my details are based on the typical connections they like to fabricate.  If they want to do something different, I either ask for an RFI or tell them to put it on the shop drawings and I will review.
hokie66 (Structural)
3 Apr 12 18:25
When did this change in the eastern part of the US?  I worked in Virginia until 1982, and connection design was part of the structural design engineer's work.
connectegr (Structural)
3 Apr 12 18:55
This has been the trend west of the Rockies since the mid 80's.  In large part due to the Hyatt collapse.  I can argue for hours the advantages of delegating the connection design.  In addition to designing connections for the fabricator we design connections for many of the premier design firms.  This can be a very specialized design practice, with cost impact on fabrication, detailing, and erection.  Which have a much larger project cost than the structural design. Some of our projects require many more man-hours for connection design than the structural analysis.  Most engineers understand the design principals of the connections, but very few have the time or opportunity to learn the fabrication and erection considerations.  

I believe the engineer of record should insist on direct communication with the connection engineer.  Working together I have found a project benefits 100% of the time.

connectegr (Structural)
3 Apr 12 18:58
The delegation of connection design is also recognized for the first time in the 2010 Code of Standard Practice.

hokie66 (Structural)
3 Apr 12 19:03
I am sure you do a great job of connection design, connectegr, but I will never agree with the philosophy of splitting that responsibility.  My question was about the East, but you indicated that delegation is trending that way in the West as well.  Others here, in California and Washington, seem to say otherwise.
connectegr (Structural)
3 Apr 12 19:07
Sorry I meant east of the Rockies

connectegr (Structural)
3 Apr 12 19:17
We have consulted on several projects on the west coast.  But, the connections remain the responsibility of the EOR.  

For most projects, similar to the project leading to the post, connection design is minimal.  For many of these small projects we provide the required connection package, but also are available to consult on fabrication and erection issues.  Many of these questions are not addressed to the EOR, or they benefit from a more technical discussion between the EOR and connection engineer.

archeng59 (Structural)
3 Apr 12 20:07
As long as the final approval and responsibility of the connections fall to me as the EOR, I will design the connections.   
ToadJones (Structural)
3 Apr 12 22:03
I design and detail all of my own connections these days.
When I started out in the power industry, I would have really liked to have had access to Connectegr at our office.

Like he said, the building design for the plant support structures seemed relatively simple when compared to some of the connection nightmares we encountered. There were times when I designed connections for a month straight.
For normal everyday connections, the task is pretty simple.
I can understand the need for a specialized engineering firm for connection design on large projects (especially industrial).
I respect Connectegr's input on this forum and I applaud him for his effort in answering questions. Anyone who has spent weeks on end dealing with tricky connections would likely agree.  
rowingengineer (Structural)
4 Apr 12 3:44
Us engineers in australia do our own connection design, i think everytime this comes up connectegr and myself end up on different sides of the fence. i guess this is because of normal practice in each others home land but i still fail to see how you can select your members without consideration of detailing.
"Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build bigger and better idiot-proof programs, and the Universe trying to produce bigger and better idiots. So far, the Universe is winning."

steellion (Structural)
4 Apr 12 8:09
My apologies, dhengr, I didn't realize that I was actually being lazy working 55 hours a week to get a full Steel Mill Order out as part of an Early Early Early Structural Set before the architect has cut a single section.  And of course, every beam and column size had better be right, or else the contractor will want an explanation for why it changed beyond "you wanted a 100% design at 20%".

So now, I'm also going to design all of the connections, so I'll just ramp it up to 80 hours a week.  I can't ask for additional fee for this additional work, because the client will not understand and then just go elsewhere for their structural engineering services.  The fabricator is popping champagne because he certainly isn't giving any money back from his usual price, despite the fact that the engineer has gone against protocol and designed all of the connections.  But he sends a few RFI's to the engineer anyway to better align with his standards that only he knows, adding more uncompensated work to the structural EOR.

In summary, don't hate the player, hate the game.  I'm not sure how it got to this point in the Eastern US, but it is a system that everyone has gotten used to and is comfortable with.  Excuse me, it's time for my morning nap.
ToadJones (Structural)
4 Apr 12 8:10
"I still fail to see how you can select your members without consideration of detailing"...oh, you certainly cannot, but I have been involved in a few huge projects where this was a major problem.
On a few power projects we were forced to choose beams from rolling schedules. On some of the column line braced bays towards the bottom of 270' + tall boiler buildings we'd have struts with extremely high axial loads. Some of the engineers just let the software choose the beam-columns (really just columns at this point)and you might wind up with a W14 beam-column with no where near enough depth to use any kind of normal connection because of the high axial loads. Next thing you know, you spent a week trying to design some wild a$$ connection because you were stuck with your beam size....that is until you ran past your deadline and the rolling schedule changed then rinse and repeat!
SteelPE (Structural)
4 Apr 12 8:55

If you think there are a bunch of fabricators out there "popping champagne" you are out of touch with the industry.  As bad as it is on the design side of things.... it is just as bad on the other side of the fence.  I have done plenty of projects where we were nailed down to final sizes off of napkin sketches.  The key is to not figure to the gnats a$$ and have room to make some modifications.

I didn't mean for this to turn into a discussion about who is responsible for the connection design.  I was just interested in the definition of design documents and whether the definition included calculations or not.  I found it a bit irritating that when I submitted a perfectly fine set of sealed sketches the EOR then wanted to see my backup calculations..... especially since the connections came directly out of the AISC steel manual.  

I am going to photocopy the pages and send them to the EOR for their review.
steellion (Structural)
4 Apr 12 12:51
SteelPE, I think that you misinterpreted my statement.  I was responding to dhengr's sarcastic assessment that building engineers are "lazy" because we don't design the connections.  My point is simply that the current standard of practice on the East Coast would make it highly impractical for us to decide to skirt the system and to design our own connections lest we be considered "lazy".  East Coast engineers do not design connections; ergo, it is not in our fee and design schedule.  East Coast fabricators do design connections; ergo, it is in their fee and design schedule.  That's all I was trying to say.
msquared48 (Structural)
4 Apr 12 13:18

On the West coast, fabricators are generally not structural engineers.  

I assume this is not true on the East coast?

Mike McCann
MMC Engineering

ToadJones (Structural)
4 Apr 12 13:39
Many fabricators used to employ connection design engineers...I assume most smaller shops are now subbing out the connection design...
ukengineer58 (Civil/Environmental)
4 Apr 12 17:05
not sure why everyone is so against fabricator design. most decent size fabricators in uk can provide a full structural design actually. to be honest i fail to see the point in us wasting time detailing every bolt and fixture that will only be replicated on the fabrication drawings anyway (therefore done twice). to be honest on a large project we ve got bigger fish to fry. the fabricators will do the most economical connections for them. I fail to see the advantage of giving them a detail and and them asking to di an alternative.
steellion (Structural)
4 Apr 12 18:00
By "fabricator", I meant the structural engineer designing the connections, employed directly by the fabricator or hired by the fabricator by project.
rowingengineer (Structural)
4 Apr 12 23:48
food for thought here, I work for a few fabrication companies as the engineer for D&C contracts some of these are in the UK most of them are in the Australasia region. Generally they retain me to do both the structure and connections. Most of these have similar requirements for fabrication with the biggest difference being the erectors requirements.
"Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build bigger and better idiot-proof programs, and the Universe trying to produce bigger and better idiots. So far, the Universe is winning."

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