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Who Hijacked My Plan Review?

Who Hijacked My Plan Review?

(OP)
Interesting article in the November 2017 issue of Structure Magazine.
The trend towards plan reviewers diving deeper and deeper into the submitted designs - a pseudo-peer review - but who pays?

I've attached the one-page pdf of the article. You can also find the article HERE - last page of the magazine.

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RE: Who Hijacked My Plan Review?

Hear hear!

I can't tell you how many plan review comments I've received in the last few years that didn't contribute to the process (e.g. you forgot to carry over these 2k of shear -- in a system at 30% of capacity).

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The name is a long story -- just call me Lo.

RE: Who Hijacked My Plan Review?

Kind of a touchy subject for me. On the one side I agree that I'm putting my ass (or my boss is putting his ass) on the line every time something is stamped and there needs to be some respect for the risk licensed engineers are taking and trust their judgement. Gets really obnoxious debating nits with reviewers that have negligible impact on performance and are a waste of everyone's time and money.

On the other hand, I've seen a lot of sketchy stuff stamped by a licensed engineer get submitted as delegated designs or in jobs we've peer reviewed or been asked to take over for whatever reason. A lot of it not engineering judgement-related but plain, black-and-white stuff. Like providing A706 or properly specified A615 rebar in special moment frames. Or not doweling your CMU supposedly non-load bearing partitions into the diaphragms in a special moment frame structure.

Items like these examples are issues that are highly unlikely to ever present as a problem during the stamping engineer's lifetime due to the infrequency of the events they're designed to mitigate. For those items, I think the AHJ (as an entity, not a collection of individuals) has the larger vested interest in providing a safe structure because the odds that say the State of California or the City/County of Los Angeles is still around for this event are a lot larger than the odds that the stamping engineer is around.

Think in the end it's a necessary process but think reviewers would do better to focus on the big ticket, clearly wrong items and not worry about playing around with the margins.

RE: Who Hijacked My Plan Review?

(OP)
Yes, I think this topic is a play on two aspects - 1) the perceived and/or actual quality and professionalism of engineers and 2) the response from government on that perception.

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RE: Who Hijacked My Plan Review?

I think there's another aspect at play here, which is that "government" is not a unified "being,;" it's a conglomeration of humans with their own wants, etc. The end result is that the people in government often operate against the greater good for their own reasons, be it greed or psychopathy, particularly in the case where external resources are called upon to do the reviews. It could simply be a way to enrich or send some extra business towards "friends and family," without any regard for public utility or necessity .

There was a city in the LA area where the nearly the whole of the city government was pilfering the coffers to enrich themselves. One council member was supposedly innocent, but apparently, they didn't do anything to hasten the end of the scofflaws, either. The rest of the council was drawing 800k+ "salaries."

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
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RE: Who Hijacked My Plan Review?

On the other hand I have seen numerous stamped designs which were totally incorrect and would never work. Then the contractor has to go toe to toe with the EOR.

RE: Who Hijacked My Plan Review?

I am very rarely for more government involvement in anything, but as a design engineer in another industry I applaud these reviews. While I am sure that there are many highly competent and ethical engineers in SE/CE, I've been amazed for years that many of these 1-2 man firms can legally design and stamp prints for a structure without competent peer review and not be seen as guilty of ethics violations. Given that SE/CE is where the need for professional licensure began this seems both ironic and hypocritical.

RE: Who Hijacked My Plan Review?

While I get what you're saying CWB1, it sounds like you are saying it's an "ethical violation" simply by being in a small firm.

If William LeMessurier rises from the grave to stamp one last structural design as a solo designer would you say it was unethical? The ethical considerations only deal with competency of the engineer; not firm size.

I'm assuming/hoping you meant that you see more small firms operating outside of their competency? While that may be true from your experience, I've seen it on both sides; small firms messing up large jobs and large firms messing up small jobs, and everything in-between. It really just depends on who the engineer is.

All said, I get your point and agree with you. I'd rather see more peer reviews than less, even though I'm subjected to them in my work. Often they are completely useless and pick apart completely irrelevant details (had one request I fix a spelling error once!) because they couldn't find anything else and want to make sure they justify their review. I think only a few times have they ever found an actually significant deficiency in my calculations and I think only once was it actually sufficient enough to change the design. Yet, even with all that it's worth it to catch those few times I left out a design check or misplaced a digit, and definitely worth it to find keep any engineers honest if they have no business doing engineering in that field.

Professional Engineer (ME, NH, MA) Structural Engineer (IL)
American Concrete Industries
https://www.facebook.com/AmericanConcrete/

RE: Who Hijacked My Plan Review?

And to be clear -- I fully support peer reviews. Rather enjoy them myself. I just want them to be:
1) Applied as a measure of risk mitigation when deemed necessary by the client, engineer or contractor. Not an across-the-board requirement.
2) Performed by engineers who share the motivation of either the client (to get a good end product), engineer (to provide a good design) or the contractor (to build the product safely, affordably, etc). Or who are motivated by public safety -- as long as they aren't obstructionist about it.

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The name is a long story -- just call me Lo.

RE: Who Hijacked My Plan Review?

I'm assuming most people commenting here are from the US? I work in Australia and have only written one formal calculation in the last 10 years and that was to help with a court case. When I'm designing a building I simply grab the nearest bit of scrap paper and work out my calculations on that, or use my own spreadsheets (which I will refuse to give or show anyone). If I've done the calculation a hundred times I'd just eyeball it or judge it based on experience. I can't imagine having to explain my design and calculations to every incompetent engineer under the sun. If someone asks for calculations I just tell them politely to f*** off or send them a quote for 5 times the design cost.

The last time I had another company question my design they asked me how I worked out the capacity of a steel rod in tension, and I replied that it's the yield strength times the area. They said because the steel rod was built into masonry I had to use the 'items embedded in masonry' code and that particular code did not have a clause for calculating steel strength, therefore they wanted me to literally test a steel rod to failure to work out it's capacity. Unbelievable how many retarded incompetent engineers there are who refuse to use basic engineering principles. Next they'll ask how I calculated 1+1=2 and say they could not find the clause in the code that allows that calculation.

Like the saying goes, if you're a bad lawyer you become a judge. And if you're a bad engineer you become a reviewer (or off course manager). (No offense to the actual good engineers here who spend their free time browsing this forum).

RE: Who Hijacked My Plan Review?

TME, I believe we are on the same page but to clarify, I am not suggesting there is anything wrong with small firms so long as they are doing their diligence and conducting regular peer reviews of every project to minimize the human aspect. Regardless of "competency" (as defined by testing or past projects) we all make mistakes and a fundamental tenet of professional ethics is admitting our humanity, putting our egos aside, and allowing our work to be reviewed by everyone from the customer to regulatory agencies, tradesmen, and fellow engineers. My comment about smaller firms was simply due to the fact that many skip these reviews due to the cost, which while somewhat understandable is highly unethical.

RE: Who Hijacked My Plan Review?

CWB1,
While I agree that peer review is a good thing, requiring it for very small firms won't happen. I can't see that a single proprietor checking his/her own work is in any way unethical.

RE: Who Hijacked My Plan Review?

CWB1 -- every project?

Say I'm a residential foundation designer, in a company of 3 engineers. I've been working in this region for 10 years, and know that for the types of soils we get and for a typical house layout, a 10" basement wall typically works. I finish a project, and sure enough, 10" walls.

Do I need to have my coworker peer review that? How about one of my competitors?

I also disagree with your statement "a fundamental tenet of professional ethics is... allowing our work to be reviewed by everyone..." Frankly, no. Forget about the cost/time involved, what about IP/trade secret concerns?

I'll admit, I've learned a great many things from (at the expense of?) competitors from peer reviewing their work. I'm sure the opposite is true, in fact I've intentionally obfuscated a few things when I knew my work was to be peer reviewed by competitors. (Leaving plenty to tell that the cake was good without giving away the recipe).

All stemming from cases where I was a qualified member of an appropriate and limited peer review team -- let alone the floodgates you propose to open.

----
The name is a long story -- just call me Lo.

RE: Who Hijacked My Plan Review?

Last I checked the engineer's second duty is to act in their client's best interests. As project complexity is irrelevant to that obligation every project needs peer review. Just because you have been designing in a particular manner for years does not make it the best for the particular customer/situation/etc, and since these judgments are largely subjective engineers are precluded from individually making them - peer review applying collective judgment must be applied. FWIW this is nothing new nor uncommon, its preached from college ethics courses to the professional societies and practiced in most every industry. NSPE (among others) after trying to self police this issue for years has taken the stance of lobbying for legislation requiring it.

Like most in private industry I've conducted many simple 10-minute product improvement design reviews after tweaking only one part. Also like most, I've conducted design reviews involving everyone from fellow engineers to tradesmen to customers. Most of my career has been spent purely on the research side developing future technology for products that might be financially, technologically, or manufacturing viable in 5-15 years, and that entails regular design reviews sharing IP with everyone throughout the food chain as a means of predicting future viability. Yes, these secrets are carefully guarded but indeed are shared with outside groups regularly.

RE: Who Hijacked My Plan Review?

(OP)
I don't agree that every project needs a peer review by another engineer whether internal to the firm or external.
That would be ridiculous for a large number of small or moderate sized projects of limited complexity.

It also assumes that the only means to Quality Control/Assurance in engineering design is via peer review by another engineer, which isn't true.

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RE: Who Hijacked My Plan Review?

3
CWB1,
Your experience as a mechanical engineer in product development is obviously different from a sole proprietor engineer who designs the structure of houses. I doubt there is any substance to your statement that "engineers are precluded from individually making them".

RE: Who Hijacked My Plan Review?

Agreed with the above; there is no technical, ethical, or practical limitation to a sole-proprietor self-checking ones own work. Yes, these self-checks need to be done. Yes, you could have a situation where you don't know enough to know when you're wrong, and you need to be experienced enough to know when you're outside your qualified areas of competency.

Are either of these insurmountable problems or reasons that sole-proprietors are not as good as larger firms? Definitely not.

Professional Engineer (ME, NH, MA) Structural Engineer (IL)
American Concrete Industries
https://www.facebook.com/AmericanConcrete/

RE: Who Hijacked My Plan Review?

Plan reviewers for national clients are the most annoying for us. They want to apply their opinions based on practices they are used to in different regions. For instance, rigorous settlement evaluations for lightly loaded structures in regions where highly over-consolidated expanding clay soils are what really controls the design. Plan reviewers need to justify their salaries, so often times they have to dig deep and find minutia. Sometimes the give edicts that certain recommendations must be made because that is "how they do it on all stores". We recommended it and caveat it. Then there's always an addendum back to local practice approach when the contractor quotes it.

That said, the meticulous review from third party sometimes points out systemic flaws in our work which we use to improve work across the board. This is rare, but my pride won't prevent me from admitting that we make our share of mistakes and always have room to improve.

RE: Who Hijacked My Plan Review?

I agree with the comments hokie and mightyengineer above. Checking ones own work should not be considered unethical. I check my own work almost exclusively, usually by review of calculations and the drawings that are produced. If something appears out of place or atypical that will highlight it for further review.

Other professions may operate as sole proprietorships and this doesn't raise an eyebrow. Both my accountant and doctor have never told me to get their work peer-reviewed, and so far so good.

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