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# Structural Engineers Getting Slammed28

## Structural Engineers Getting Slammed

(OP)
Structural Engineers Getting Slammed in the latest edition of Modern Steel Construction:

Modern Steel Construction Letter to Editor

### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed

He's right.  In the two firms I've worked for in my short 3 years I've seen nothing but mistake after mistake and inconsistency on drawings that have gone out.  If I say something or try to fix the problem, I get the "we've done it that way for years" BFS.  It's lousy mediocre "engineers" who can't find their butt with both hands getting very stuck in the status quo.  What's worse is they seem to have an overbig helping of the arrogance we're known for.  If the youngest least experienced person in the company can paint your drawings red then you have a problem IMHO.  Anyway, I'm sure this isn't confined to where I'm at and is obviously elsewhere as well.  All I do is make sure what I do is right to the best of my ability.  I'm sure that everyone isn't that bad because I have seen some very good drawings by other companines.  The problem is it doesn't take a lot of bad apples to make us look bad as a whole. It's not enough to have a degree, you must have the knowledge and the drive to be better than what you are and be the best you can, not put in your 8 and go home.

### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed

I agree UcfSE.  I would like to add that sufficient time is also a major factor in poor drawings.  Ever seen a project run out of money/time and everyone just starts releasing incomplete drawings.  I do not agree with the "we'll handle it with field/supplemental details" attitude.

### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed

I don't like the incomplete drawings either but I don't have time to address every situation and I make that known at the beginning, yet I am still given the job with the same low budget.

For the details I do come up with, they are thorough, but I absolutely do not have time to address all that I would like to. And this is typical of every place I have worked and most I know feel the same way.

### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed

7
(OP)
haynewp - this article was brought up by a local structural engineer who is now working for an erector.  One other structural engineer responded that much of the lowering of detail is also due to a huge increase in pressures on engineers to produce designs in incredibly short time periods.

I remember working on a major library project in the early 80's.  I probably worked on the concrete beam and joist designs for at least 3 or 4 months.  Today, I know a similar project would require final designs in 30 days or less.  I've got one project on right now where the structural "package" is due in 2 weeks.

I agree that a lot of structural drawings are not as detailed as in previous years, but to be honest, I've reviewed countless structural drawings from the "good old days" that this guy seems to think happened once upon a time, and they included two or three sheets for a major building.  Today, we put out 20 to 30 sheets for that same structure.  The difference is that construction/detailing personnel have no specific standards to take a rough design and finish it.  There's way too many types of systems, materials, standards, etc.

### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed

I definitely agree that we aren't given as much time as should be allocated to projects typically.  Who is to blame though?  Do we blame unrealistic owners and architects or is it our boss' or our own fault for agreeing to an unreasonable date?

### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed

2
(OP)
Its an overall cultural thing where the practice of engineering is fast devolving into a commodity instead of a profession.

### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed

I agree, short design deadlines are a major cause for these problems. I find it amazing that owners/architects can take 2 years deciding whether to construct something or how it will look, but expect the design and construction to be finished within 6 months.

Like it or not, there will always be another engineering firm out there willing to take the owners measley design fee. Until this changes (I'm not holding my breath) we'll all be lowered to their level.

### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed

A star for you JAE for pointing out that engineering has been commoditized.  But this goes for other services as well, including architectural and related design services.

I've worked for firms that were open about sending incomplete and seriously flawed drawings out for bid, often saying that what the contractors don't catch, we won't have t fix.  I worked in the construction administration department, so it became my job to figure out a way to make the design work (without admitting fault).

I quit one place after I was reprimanded for pointing out that a set of hospital drawings had been sent out to bid where the architectural team in Chicago used different column spacing dimensions than the structural team did in Florida.  I told my boss at the time that it was a design flaw I could not 'fix.'  I was told I had a bad attitude.

### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed

That's BS casseopia.  I got an eye opener once when I was told not to worry about fixing some of the steel details before we sent them out.  "We'll get it in the shop drawings".  That ain't right!

### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed

2
I have always suspected architects of holding secret meetings to discuss ways of paying their structural consultants less and less fees <sarcasm>. With the modern architecture now, they are changing things more right up to the deadline. Engineers have to spend less time on a given project, but architects spend just about the same time they have over the years. Now that we have canned computer solutions, we spend far less time on given project, but profits are not increasing because of much higher overhead to run a company. Therefore jobs are "slopped out". Well, all that sounds really negative...but perhaps engineering is becoming this.

### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed

"I find it amazing that owners/architects can take 2 years deciding whether to construct something or how it will look, but expect the design and construction to be finished within 6 months."  You forgot to mention that they will then expect it to be built in 3 months!

It seems to me a lot of the poor engineering that I have seen wasn't so much a lack of competence or time, but a matter of attitude.  "Everyone is ignorant- only on different subjects."  Someone uses that on their posts.  But we run across some engineers who, though ignorant on a subject, feel the need to play the expert once the job is contracted.  It makes for a bad situation, especially for the poor owner that pays for whatever foolishness gets designed up.

### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed

Lately, we're lucky if we can get the architects to pay us for what we've done.

### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed

JStephen,
From my experience, what I have seen: most consulting engineering companies are driven to slop projects out in a hurry, just to make a profit. The office "atmosphere" is becoming more hectic, like a newsroom. There is little mentoring of new engineers, and very little in-house peer review. This Eng-Tips is actually the modern way to exchange info...it is getting impossible to even ask my boss any technical questions, since he is on the road all the time.

### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed

It sounds like a lot of us work in the same office.

One thing I see that's changed is we no longer give priority to engineering a project; it's managing the project that counts. In the 70's it seems that most offices had chief engineers. I don't see that much these days.

In my office, we have no full-time chief engineers but a lot of project managers (some with two years experience; gimme a f-----g break.) There's no uniformity; no office standards; what ever the PM decides is fine. I should keep a list of the stupid questions I'm asked on a daily basis but it wouldn't be right; these people just don't know any better. Managing the budget is more important than learning to be an engineer. We have two "Stuctural Directors". They're both semi-retired and up in years. They don't add much value to a project. Their attitude was summed up by  UcfSE: "we've done it that way for years". Unfortunately, time has passed them by but management doesn't see this.

We have non-structural engineers managing strucutral projects; "done by - checked by", is a thing of the past, we don't start checking calculations until the drawings are finished; the all-purpose "QAQC Review" has replaced checking drawings.

That's my $0.02 worth for now. ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed Bridgebuster I feel the same way, it almost seems like when I am running the numbers, I feel like I am doing the grunt work. Everybody wants to manage and nobody wants to design, project management is where the money and recognition is. Unfortunately I enjoy designing. ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed 8 What I am going to say will echo some of the points raised by my colleagues. This subject is dear to my heart because I am an engineer and I used to be a steel detailer many years ago. I used to detail on the board before the computer days. I saw and almost touched every detail on my drawings. Therefore, I can speak for both sides. I must agree with Steve’s statement regarding the state and quality of the design drawings these days. The black eye is not limited to structural engineering drawings only. The ugly head of poor drawings reaches deep into mechanical and electrical plans as well. I do not claim to have the answer or solution to this problem. However, I can offer my observations that may shed some light into why these things happen. Then we may be able to take an action to avoid them. I speak about this matter because I own my engineering firm that provides structural and MEP. Therefore, I consider myself to have first hand knowledge of some the issues at hand. Here are some of my observations: 1. The engineers are not getting the right fees. My partner and I just completed a paper that we intend on publishing and presenting in several forums on state and national level. Engineers are being paid fees based on curves that were established in the 1930s! This is if they are lucky to get a chance and negotiate them, after competing based on qualifications, with government entity. If you are so unlucky and have to negotiate with an architect, you may as well forget it. They have been squeezed and they do their turn to squeeze the engineers. I am not saying that lack of proper fee justifies poor qualify. However, in order for business to compete and survive, some details may be left out (or left up to the contractor) to save time and effort. 2. Clients are driven by different motives than the designers. Often times they come to the designers with unrealistic schedules. This leaves the engineers, who are working on several projects simultaneously, no time to do a quality design and QC check. I also found out that many firms will not try to elaborate on the design process and what will it take to perform a decent design package to their clients. I found out in many cases that my clients did appreciate me explaining to them the design process and what it takes to complete designs. When appropriate, ask to stretch the schedule. We also mention the positives of receiving a good quality design package. It saves lots of RFIS and change orders as well. I get the feeling that most firms will accept whatever is thrown at them schedule wise. This may lead to poor quality drawings. By the way, it has been my experience that some clients can impact schedule and expect the dead line to remain. I requested an extension from one particular client because he held us up for a week. We were told point blank not to bother is submitting your request because it would be denied. We opted not to make waves and proceeded. The alternative would not been so nice for neither company. 3. I have not met an engineer who works 40 hours per week. At least not yet and including yours truly. In my case I have to do some design, QC, marketing and administrative. At least this is my excuse. It has been my experience whenever a human works past 12 hours a day; he becomes vulnerable to making mistakes let alone fatigue and frustration. We do all of this for the sake of meeting schedules based on my comments under item number 2 above. 4. The new generation engineers are not trained properly in college for the market. This is an age-old issue. I was one of those engineers who graduated and when I entered the work place, I found myself knowing nothing! I was overwhelmed. Sure I knew the steel manual and ACI code. However, college did not train me on how design drawings are prepared, how engineers convey their design to the contractors, how to write specifications and engineering reports. I like the colleges that offer Co-Op. I think every engineer should spend at least one year in the field (engineering office and construction site equally). They get the chance to see and hear the good and the bad, what to do and that not to do. This will better prepare engineers entering the profession. 5. CAD! I can talk all day about CAD. While it is a blessing, I find it to be equally scary. It introduced to our profession a new layer I call it “CAD operators”. In the old days, drafters were designers of sorts. I have known drafters who would layout-framing plans, cut sections and develop details for me. In some instances, they were able to size beams. Majority of CAD drafters these days are no more than input operators. They are not trained well enough to understand the building construction, the skills, materials, techniques, and discipline interaction involved in the design and construction of a building. I get drawings with missing data, wrong terminology, layers turned on or off. In our office, we established a procedure that no drawings leave without my partner or I checking it. We scan for missing layers and or ones that are turned on when they should not be. 6. Contractor’s expectations are too high from the engineering plans. It amazes me to know that some of the worlds most significant structures that were built in the middle ages and I dare to say in the turn of the century were done with minimum drawings and details; why? Because contractors understood the profession and they worked as a team and in many cases they were one entity. For some reason, lawyers got the profession scared to death of law suites and liability. Contractors are forced to bid competitively based on the low bid concept that I dislike. This process is a wide-open invitation to contractors to bid strictly “what is on the plans” instead of thinking of what will it take to construct the project properly. Therefore, the design professional and the contractor are in adversarial position form the get go. This not a healthy situation. I think we need to evaluate our position, all parties’ talk about issues openly. I think engineers, and architects too, should be compensated properly for their efforts. Engineering firms should invest in a good quality control plan because when all said and done, it is our duty to provide a safe, economical and good designs for our clients. My two cents worth and I hope I did not make anyone mad. Lutfi www.cdeco.com ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed Get it right in the shop drawings?? From what I've seen the designers are allowed a few days to review a stack of drawings several inches thicks. Nothing but the grossest of errors will get caught there. But designers are also just plain ignorant about certain things. In my world, it's weld symbols (weld-all-around probably isn't what you think it is) and what "fracture-critical" really means. (If you take the easy way out and just designate an entire structure FC, you create problems down the road with the need to shut the structure down for federally mandated inspection, not to mention shop expense AND owner QA time wasted. I'm having major bad attitude right now because of a structure I'm dealing with designed by MEs who didn't bother to find out a damn thing about bridge codes. They say they're very sorry.) Hg Eng-Tips guidelines: FAQ731-376 ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed As Lufti has noted, I will echo many of the same sentiments already offered by our colleagues. But I feel it's important to sound off on this issue since it is fast becoming (or has become) a major problem. Structural Engineers are increasingly being driven by fast tracked projects or even design build. If you hestitate, you're out the door and the next readily available victim is chosen to do the structural engineering. This seems to push us to use other entities (reviewers, steel detailers, etc) to review our drawings. This is not good. Someone has got to get it through to clients, architects and owners that the fastest is not always the best. In my estimate this will only happen when a tragedy occurs. Regards, Qshake Eng-Tips Forums:Real Solutions for Real Problems Really Quick. ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed I've worked with some very good CAD operators over the years. I'll freely admit that the drawings sent out under my name lack both the drawing and engineering detail of those produced in the past. I believe that they contain all that is reasonable for the following trades (fabricators and contractors)to understand the design intention. It is now usual for our drawing inforamtion to be submitted in phases as the work is completed. I have found that the details we receive back are uniformly poor (but presumably fit for purpose). I don't complain about this. I purposely give fabricators as little information as I can and don't expect miracles. I suspect that better details from us would NOT be greeted with improved fabrication drawings. I agree with other posts. Engineering fees are being squeezed by Clients and Architects. It seems only right in these circumstances that we pass on some of the pressure. We are now looking to compete in a world market. The company I work for is starting to package design information for processing in India. When this happens there will be yet another stage of interpretation (or misinterpretation). I guess we will then start tolook on the current situation as 'the god old days'. ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed I agree with all the points being made about time and money constraints. There is one thing, however, that is being overlooked in all these posts. To our clients, whether they be architects, owners, contactors, etc, our drawings are the deliverables. Too many engineers, espicially younger ones, think that all that counts is that we have elegant calculations that are accurate to four decimal places, or that we produce a FEM solution to problems that have been solved years before. Time is money. If I'm an owner why should I pay for forty hours of engineering time to produce a 5/8 thick baseplate when for one hour I could have a 3/4 thick one and save time and money in the process. Years ago engineers used approximate methods for analysis and produced elegant drawings. Now we use elegant analysis techniques and produce lousy drawings. Which situation is better for our clients? Also, how many engineers have the ability and knowledge to provide guidance on matters of Autocad or other eleconic drafting means? When I first started in engineering it was not uncommon to have engineers pitch in and help with drafting duties when time deadlines were near. How many do that today? I may have gotten off message here so I'll repeat my main point. The drawings are the deliverables, the calculations are a means to that end. ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed I design and draft my own work. I find that architects moving things around right up until due date is the most annoying, and usually its by luck that I notice they moved a bearing wall 5 feet the day before CD's are due. And of course, not one architect picks up the phone to tell me! Nothing bothers me more than having to do a job 5 different times because the architects cant figure out what the hell they're doing. I'm off on a tangent here about architects, but has anyone seen a quality set of drawings from an architect lately? Myself, fellow engineers, and fellow contractors have all said "what are they teaching architects these days?". And as a point, a recent BA architect graduate was awarded a Masters Degree, because the school ruled that their BA arch. program was equal to a Masters program. Not to name names, but if you went to Tulane university...... ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed I went to school at a university that had a World-Famous Architecture Program. Over their five-year program, they weren't taught any structural stuff, just the aesthetic design aspect. It was assumed they'd pick up the structural stuff in their apprenticeship period. This is getting close to the topic of another thread somewhere around here about turf wars between architects & engineers. I still don't understand how, from a public safety point of view, architects are given the power they apparently have. Hg Eng-Tips guidelines: FAQ731-376 ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed It seems to a greater trend these days where speed and price are the issue. While working as Quality Manager I was once told by a customer that "quality is in the price" meaning that we couldn't suggest quality as a selling point. We all know we get what we pay for and quality is taking a hit (whether it is processes or finished goods) but with so much going over seas and domestic competition I think it will just keep getting worse. Companies will get the boot if they can't do it RIGHT NOW. Because somebody else will.... I am a structural designer in the corrugated industry and nowhere near what you all do, but I do feel your pain. You can't ask for the right information or make suggestions without reprecussions. good luck Thats my hourly chinese salary for the day... ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed As a structural engineer who works for a fabricator, the biggest problem I deal with is inaccurate and conflicting information. It is a lot easier to detail a project when the information given is accurate. In that case you are interacting with the design team to produce a structural system which meets the needs of the project. On jobs with conflicting information you often end up spending more time on establishing the information the system should be based on than you do in design, detailing, and drafting. ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed Lufti and Qshake have covered almost all the points I had in mind. I am perhaps adding the last piece. Interestingly, the term 'fast track project' is of a recent origin but it has become the first definition of any project nowadays. Apparently, the presence of numerous software in the design and drafting field with the compatible hardware to excute them in seconds makes the client believe that the engineering schedule can be squeezed drastically. It is only partly true that the engineering automation can cut down the engineering time. The design and the drawing are not completely software dependent but requires the proper judgement, checking and the intelectual contribution of an experienced engineer for making them fit for use. It is this crucial phase of engineering which is sacrificed in the 'fast track' journey of the project. It is necessary that the clients and the design engineers recognise the importance of this critical phase and do not compromise the hours required carry it out. I am sure that these quality problems and the consequential rework and delays in the schedule can be eliminated. we can not afford to wait for a tragedy to occur! ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed I've seen a lot of drawings issued for tender that are nothing more than preliminary (even to the point of "assuming the allowable bearing pressure!) - expect the contractor to design (or the supervision staff). Basically, everything is a cut and paste. I saw one bridge design requiring piles to be driven, yet the pile cap was in fractured bedrock! How to drive precast concrete piles into fractured bedrock? I was told to pass another drawing on to the contractor - and it had, in the title block, another project. They didn't even change the title block; nothing changed in the foundations even though the conditions were quite different. Anyway - Steve1 - how many of the newer grads even know what an engineer's scale is? or, heaven forbid, a protractor? or a planimeter? I worked for a geotechnical firm - I learned to photocopy and collate, run blue print machines, fold the drawings correctly and make the cuts, even colour in the stratigraphic sections, fill out courier slips, etc. (I admit, though, I never learned the watercolour method). By doing drawings by hand in the younger years, you gained, in my view, a better appreciation of how things went together - not just flip this, copy drag, etc. but damn, now where is that template and eraser so I can get that thing gone? The computer is the bane of life in many respects - the expectations of faster turn-around is a false expectation - sure the drawings are issued faster but the delays, changes, even variation requirements, etc. needed to actually build the project far outweigh the design time saved. Seriously, I just reviewed a drawing today (earthworks) - they got the sections correct but they didn't know how to make the transition from the "section" to the next section. Lufti - great response!! ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed (OP) One characterization that is so true: Fast track projects are like trying to take 9 women and make a baby in one month ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed Also, I think the Design/Build method has lead to lousy drawings. ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed BigH - I had to laugh when you mentioned protractor. A couple of months ago, a younger engineer asked me, "...do you have one of those things, you know the one that measures angles?" ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed My perspective (from 34 years of experience) is that we have tried to speed up the design phase of projects by various techniques: Fast Track, Design Build, etc. Foolishly, we have thought that we can do this by technological advancements only: computers, fax machines, etc. In fact, we have even created additional hurdles to speeding up the process by creating ever changing, more complicated codes. Somehow we have tried to manage this additional burden. The thing that we have not been able to make significantly faster is the "human" decision making process and coordination. As JAE has so adaptly put it, "It is like trying to have a baby in a month, by making 9 women pregenant." When the coordination and decision making doesn't happen in a timely fashion on a compressed schedule, the results of the design can turn into one big, ugly, uncoordinated mess. Unfortunately, many of these issues can and do land in our laps. The Owner and project manager will try to ultimately absolve themselves from having any responsiblity. The faster the project needs to go, the more critical is the timing of the decisions. Our plates are often so full, that we bearly have enough time to do what needs to get done and now we need to tell others by what date I need this decision by? Ask yourselves this.... what are the consequences of not getting that decsion on time? To be sucessful, we must continuously hold the decision makers and other diciplines feet to the fire so that we have the information we need, in a timely manner, to produce a quality end product. It is human nature to want to be liked and to never have to give difficult news or put pressure on others, but sometimes we have to deliver this news for our own good. Often, we are relunctant to do it. I am not naive enough to believe that this will solve all of our problems, but it will go a long way. Proper training and mentoring is also big problem in structural engineering, other engineering disciplines, architecture, construction, etc. Many companies put more emphasis and give recognition to project management instead of technical development. This only exaceberates the problem. When we receive poor quality information from other disciplines, how can we be expected to produce a good quality work product? All disciplines need to attack this problem thru a unified effort. ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed How can a structural engineer make a decision, or give an opinion, when he or she cannot visually see what the problem is? Our completed home has built in problems and continued developing problems. Destructive investigation cannot be done, therefore our Structural Engineer can only give an opinion as to what the cause of the problems may or may not be. This certainly places the structural engineer in a poor light through no fault of their doing or not doing. ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed Well said, jike, especially how project managers get the recognition (and big bonuses) instead of the people who actually got their hands dirty and did the work. ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed Hey swthwdy, Sorry to change the subject, but what problems are you having with the house? A major part of my job is to evaluate structural issues with single family tract homes involved in class action lawsuits. Almost every week we have a project with destructive testing and have managed to amass a fairly large data base that ties defects to construction or design flaws. These tend to be fairly regular with tract homes. If you want, start a new post here and let us know what defects you are experiencing. Also, is the home 1 or 2-story, slab on grade or basement. General location helps (high wind or seismic load considerations). The more detail, the better I can give you options to consider looking at closer. And I would not rule out DT. ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed Thanks Casseopeia: We have a 2 story, post-tension foundation on expansive soil, in the Houston unincorporated area, that is labeled as: "Extremely non uniform, below typical industry standard", (cables range from approx 1 inch to over 5" in the 4 inch slab, one cable has never been stressed, soil plasticity index is 24 at least, the located 5" cable is not in a beam, there was no 4" layer of sand compacted as mandated in the soil preparation report, the vapor barrier was not layered, just butted together, and the duct tape had separated as shown in one core sample. The production builder had only a flip plan of this house. At least two GPR photo indicates pockets of subsurface water, we have differential settlement, plus other code and poor workmanship issues. We are in an 80 MPH windload area and there are no hurricane clips or straps installed as the plans call for. The Appraisal District has substantially lowered the value of our home. The structure is built to the highs and lows of the foundation. My husband and I are senior citizens and have a June jury trial in District Court. Thank you for your interest. It is so difficult for a Structural Engineer to recommend repair on what cannot be visually seen in the walls, ceilings and the foundation. We wish that the legislature would license home builders and mandate inspections in the unincorporated areas, so some home builders would be more accountable and responsible to the home buyers. Maybe the Engineering membership will initiate those possibilities in the future. ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed Please excuse this detailer for offering a post. I've read with great interest this thread and have found that most of you guys are experiencing exactly what we've thought for so long. The design drawing quality is suffering (and detail drawing quality in terms of completeness are a direct result). I've noticed several comments though that indicate there are a few out there that don't see things from our side. If your firm is now considering outsourcing the packaging of design documents, find out how successful some fabricators have been with offshore detailing. Furthermore, passing along the pressure only causes a backup that eventually gets passed back to the owner with alot of extra bills to pay and a dose of ill will. We've seriously considered trying to market ourselves as an outsource for preliminary design review, only to seek and destroy all of the questions that the detailer is GOING to ask you later, only then it will be one question at a time and perhaps a year from now. Why not consider a detailer to take a week or so to troubleshoot the project, iron out all of the annoying issues with the EOR, spend a few days to get the drawings up to snuff and send out as usual. We've seen so many instances that would have saved the staff engineer at least 20-30% of his time in the long run. Your CAD staff can be quite versatile at turning out nothing. Why not make sure that as many issues as possible are taken care of BEFORE you HAVE to deal with it later? This can only come through experience on the part of the EOR, his CAD staff, or a steel detailer. Which of these is your best option? If you have to fast-track a project, there is a way to fast-track this issue as well. Just a thought and thanks for the debate. ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed swthwdy, You may be interested in this discussion by a Katy-area structural engineer regarding the new Texas Residential Construction Commission (the foxes are guarding the hen house). see http://www.polhemus.cc/blog/news.php ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed Thanks TomBarsh for the Open Letter. I have printed it out and would only hope that more home owners would be enlightened before their purchase. I am well aware of the TRCC and the inadequacies thereof. Many of us are hopeful that HB3404 will pass this year. At least it would be an improvement over the present, definitely not a cure all. ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed (OP) LPRooster - your comments are well thought out and I can see an advantage in what you are suggesting. But one issue pops up here that would interfere with this proposal - that is that our design is a contractual effort that would require some form of concurrance by our client before we offer bid documents (or potential bid documents) out to a potential bidder. I can see howls of protest by one fabricator if another fabricator is given the opportunity to see the job prior to its public issuance and have input into its content. On public projects, this sometimes could even be considered unethical or illegal. ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed swthwdy, Sounds to me like the problem has been identified as an improper foundation design and/or construction for the soil conditions. I'm assuming that the cores were taken in your home. I've worked on projects in Dallas and Houston, primarily 3-4 story multi-family or hotels. We had drilled piers with post-tensioned slabs and used a product, if I recall, called SureVoid, to separate the slab from the soil. The concept is that the cardboard-like surevoid product would collapse as the soil heaved, but not transfer load to the structure. Seemed to work faily well. Here in the California bay area we have pockets of expansive soils where the developers are allowed to put post-tensioned slabs on grade. I don't think our soils are as expansive as in Texas, though. It does not seem to work well in any case, based on the number of litigation cases. I've seen a number of instances where the soil heaved significantly. One case (2-story town home in Santa Rosa) heaved about 2 feet. One building in the development had to be evacuated and was torn down. A second building is still being evaluated. The repair recommendations that I reviewed were expensive, complicated and there was absolutely no guarantee that the results would be satisfactory. I wish I could tell you more positive news. I hope your case settles well for you. ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed Thanks again casseopeia. Our structural engineer's opinion is that our house has to come down. This house is only 7 years old and has major differential settlement. Our expansive soil moves with the rains and dry spells here in Texas, which of course can be very unpredictable. Too bad that some home builders just can't do it right, perhaps even in California? ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed Thanks JAE, I agree with the problems contractually. I'm speaking hypothethically as a detailer NOT associated with a fabricator. You hire an outside source (if need be) for IT service, printing, payroll, office cleaning, etc. What's wrong with hiring a detailer to "troubleshoot" as an adjunct to your own QA process, if you have one? The questions that I could bring to you during the design phase can be addressed collectively at a more appropriate time (now). You're going to get the questions anyway. Why not address them early and be done with it? Wouldn't you rather not have to answer later for simple issues that a good analysis can resolve now? We're talking simple things: dimensions, sections, welds, clashing, erectability, fabrication economy, LOADS, etc. ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed I think that's a good idea LP, except the problem is we don't get paid enough to take the time we should with drawings so there isn't a lot of money to hire someone else in the process. I do agree though, having a detailer review drawings would eliminate a lot of problems before they happen. ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed There always seems to be time to re-do things so why can't we have that time up front and so it is right the first time? Again I cannot speak for your environment, but I am also seeing a real lack of sufficient training. It seems if someone can use a CAD system somehow that qualifies them for what we do and there is no specific detail training applied. The one thing that is a sore issue for me is the individual is tought after there is a mistake and sometimes to the point of ridicule. Bad for morale and not good for quality work up front. I am where I am by stubborness and learning through mistakes. I have been that route and expect new people to be able to comprehend instructions and apply reasoning to why we do things but will do everything I possibly can to pass on what I have learned the hard way. The other sore spot is when those people don't listen... ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed We have constructibility reviews, value engineering (don't get me started on this one), peer reviews, why not steel detailing reviews? Perhaps, it should be part of the constructibility review rather than a separate review. This is usually done by the GC and so it would seem logical to approach the GC about it. However, this would only reach one firm at a time and so it would take a long time to affect the change we would like to see. To reach a larger part of the profession, in a shorter time, it would have to be done thru continuing education. This is already being done by AISC. I believe LeJeune is also involved. This appoach reaches a larger portion of the profession, but unfortunately not everyone. ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed Just some extra fuel to the fire. Building codes are getting bigger, more demanding and much more complicated, yet our fees are relatively unchanging if not less than what they used to be. We have to constantly polish our skills with newly required CE units. I suggest that we unify our voice and make all of the above addressed concerns well known to the public and developers. We can accomplish this by improving our PR and image. And show to the public how important our work is. A doctor my save few lives in his lifetime, but an engineer is saving countless lives every single day during his lifetime and beyond. ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed I would like to build on some of the things that have been said. The biggest reason I see for the state of some of the drawings that go out the door is lack of time to do a complete set of drawings. Archictects and project managers need to educate (manage) owners about what it takes to put a complete set of drawings together. The amount of automation has made the job of designing faster, but there is a limit to how fast a project can be done. ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed "I can see howls of protest by one fabricator if another fabricator is given the opportunity to see the job prior to its public issuance and have input into its content. On public projects, this sometimes could even be considered unethical or illegal." I disagree with the above- it is done some, should be done more- but I'm not aware of anything unethical about it either. Engineers are not obligated to keep their work secret until it is bid. It is quite common to have plans and specifications that favor one company or process or material over another, and also quite common to get details from specialty suppliers. ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed There's a bunch of rants going on here, we'll leave the money issue and the getting pushed around by 'others read architects' alone ... the issue is quality of drawings. Personally i blame it on CAD. Hand drawing is always superior. When you have a big sheet of paper the whole building of the structure on paper seems to work better, lining up the grids, whats going on at a grid intersection as you draw, always begs a detail to be drawn. You think differently i fell, probably more like the guy that has to actually build the building. Pride of draughtsmanship is long gone replaced by cut and paste,...... line work, lettering, boy you really used to have to figure out your sheet layouts before you started. We do alot of forensic work and often get drawings from the 20's 30's and 40's sometimes i find myself staring at the draughtsman work thinking 'holy cow the work that went into that, this guy knew how to build' and in ink too. I love to draw it's one of the reasons i became a structural engineer. If you let garbage out of your office well thats your problem then. Zoom and pan don't work for me. The draughtsman in my office don't bring me anything to review unless its on paper. I have specific type of pen and pencil i use to mark them up ...... hahhahaha this is when we start loosing money on the design portion of the job. ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed Connect2 - good points and I agree wholeheartedly. Suggest any Canadian Engineer (and maybe at US universities with good libraries) take a look at some of the older Journals of the Canadian Engineering Institute - say from the 1910-1920 era. They used to attach in the Journal drawings of such things as dams and the like. The drawings were astonishing - I guarantee you'll be blown away - like listening to Miles Davis' Bitches Brew! ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed Connect2 - good points. I'd argue that you may have to get with the times. If you cant or dont know how to use AutoCAD, then you're really behind the 8-ball in my neck of the woods. Unfortunately, my company hired some people who were very knowledgable in their field, but couldnt use AutoCAD, much less a computer. They were soon released. AutoCAD is an important tool today, not just for drawing, but for the transmission of information to and from parties in a project. I wouldnt blame it on CAD for bad drawings, I'd blame it on CAD operators not knowledgable enough. ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed You can't stand in the middle of a road because thats where a field used to be where you played as a kid and not expect to get ran over. Drawings are an art form no doubt, but the quality of work, or lack thereof, is not because of CAD. It is the user and the environment of the user(high expectations). If they are taking shortcuts or do not have the experience or knowledge to put in the detail required, where does the problem lay? Maybe they need to do things by hand to learn, maybe they need a new type of system to ensure the quality, maybe they are expected to do more in less amount of time - those all need to be addressed. CAD is a tool to help but should not be used as supplement to the quality of the output. You can blame CAD all you want but I seriously doubt your going to see it go away. Put out the fire not the smoke. ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed Disregard last post. I was ranting. I am just trying to emphasize that we (everyone, not just engineers) need look at what is going on and work with it. We may not like how things are changing but they are. If we are to be succesful (not salary but quality) we need to focus on how to work with the change. If its coming from the top down, start there. Talk to them, tell them the truth, whatever. If it is inexperience or someone cutting corners, fix it. Train them, fire them, beat them whatever. Fix the problem. We (as people) think too highly of ourselves as indespensible. We that do are wrong. ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed I wonder, if you took those old drawings and actually started through the geometry, if they would look near as good then? I've seen plenty of hand-drawn drawings that were lacking in detail and aesthetics. So it's not like hand drawings were just always these works of art in the past. I've seen drawings that were most beautifully done, only filled with details that just weren't applicable, or that had to be redesigned by the contractor anyway. Meaning some owner paid some big bucks for all the time spent, but received zero benefit from that extra time. I wonder how many draftsmen in the world have just adamantly refused to learn CAD because they loved to hand draft? The main ones whom I have heard praise hand drafting are the ones who don't have to do it. It can be very boring and very frustrating. "Change this and draw it over again" is simple to say, but not so simple to do by hand. Did anyone besides me ever start in on a drawing and run out of room on the page? ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed I "worked on the board" for 10 years. I never ran out of room on the paage I sure wore holes in the paper a few times rubbing out and redrawing. I loved hand drafting but maybe I like CAD even more. ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed Here's another perspective for you folks: I am an ME (machine design background) who ended up working for a structural company by mistake (a long story). I remember sitting in my first meeting at that firm while the owner discussed the "detail drawing" that he had up on the wall. I looked around and saw no detail drawing, only a subassembly drawing. I asked the person next to me what "detail drawing" the boss was talking about? My colleague also happened to be an ME who recently had joined the firm. He said he would explain it to me later. I later found out about the "engineer's drawings" and the "shop drawings" process. I was aghast when I found out about this process where the structural engineer produces drawings which are turned over to an outside entity (the detailer) for production of the "shop drawings". No such division in production of drawings exists in industry. In industry, an ME would produce a complete set of fully dimensioned and toleranced drawings. If information was missing, the machine shop would send the drawings back to the engineer. I find this division of engineering between "engineer", "detailer" and "contractor" in the A/E world to be weird. While I was at that particular job, I noticed that a set of structural drawings for a high school had fewer sheets than a 2-foot long pressure vessel that I designed in the past. A structural engineer's 100% drawings would be considered 30% by the standards of the manufacturing industry. The detailer's "shop drawings" would bring things up to 70%. No wonder that you structural folks have so many headaches when things go to get built. Looks like 70% of the design has been taken away from you structural folks and has been given to detailers and contractors, no doubt in the interests of supposedly saving money. How did this ever come about? ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed (OP) EddyC - with respect (and I mean it) I don't think you understand the vast difference between the ME drawings you describe, and a set of structural drawings, say, for a building. You are, in my humble opinion, comparing apples to existentialism. Your drawings are used in a particular context, or culture, of fabrication where there is no "in-between" entity between the designer and the fabricator. Thus, the ME drawings you refer to MUST be precise because the culture in which they are used, and the kind of "thing" you are producing demand it. For structural designs, the level of detail of locating each hole in a beam, determining how long a column is between connection plates, etc. is not required on our plans because the process of creating that beam or column is performed in a vastly different community or culture. The information is there, and is shown on the 100% structural plans via dimensions, notes, references to industry standards. A steel fabricator, or a formwork designer picks up the structural plans and works through them, adding value from their own expertise, to provide the necessary (and adequate) level of precision. In other words, this vast community, or culture of structural engineering/fabrication/construction negates the requirement for the kind of precision that you require in your ME world. One isn't better than the other...just different. There is also a vast amount of calculations, analysis, and constructability that goes into a set of structural plans that is essentially "hidden" from those who don't know structural engineering but which are "in the plans" none-the-less. ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed JAE, I've now been in the A/E side of engineering for 7.5 years. I'm fully familiar with the numerous calculations that go into making a set of structural drawings. I still disagree with the engineer drawing/shop drawing division of labor. In my opinion, only engineers should be doing engineering, not detailers or contractors or anybody else. It belittles the engineering profession. I believe that the entire drawing package for a building should be done by the engineer, or subcontracted out by the engineer. As someone else pointed out on this forum, the shop drawings are not always properly checked by the engineer for conformance to the engineer's design. That has been my experience as well. From what I have heard, the engineer drawing/shop drawing division of labor also contributed to the Kansas City Hyatt walkway collapse as well as to the deficiencies of the Citycorp Building in NYC (Thankfully discovered). ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed tsboxman I know how to draw with AutoCad, however we have CAD operators, my stuff is usually 'sketchy' ... hahaha .... contributions. When i said the draughtsman always bring me paper of course i meant their CAD drawings to review. Panning in and out of the drawing means i'm changing glasses to quickly and i get dizzy. 20 years in the business .... I'm still a youngster, just getting going. ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed (OP) EddyC, If I would ever be compelled to sit down and draw out countless pieces of steel, figuring out every little dimension, angle, piece number, bill of materials, etc... I'd go mad. And performing these kinds of tasks, in my opinion, is a TOTAL diminshment and belittling of the engineering profession. We are not micro detailers. In fact, shop drawing preparation is NOT engineering. We are engineers who apply science to the design of structures. Its our overall expertise in framing out a building and ensuring that buildings are safe that is our value to our clients...I can pay a guy much less to sit down and figure out all the messy details. And clients aren't going to pay me at my salary to do this kind of task. The Hyatt Regency collapse was in fact a result of poor shop drawing checking - but was really antagonized by a comedy of errors when the fabricator/detailer hired someone else to do the shop drawings - and this was almost 30 years ago! The Citycorp was a design flaw...not a shop drawing issue. The nasty separation between design and micro-detailing that you so despise is not a primary culprit in the lowering of engineering drawing quality this thread is talking about. ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed JAE, Let's agree to disagree and leave it at that. But thanks for your views. ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed Jae, i don´t agree with you but i don´t totaly desagree. First of all did you know wich was the reason because the top structure collapse happend, bad details...So i think that a good structure design is a proces that starts with a good structures design and finishes with a good detail drawing. But a agree with you that is tedius job and someone has to do it, but someone has to check specialy if the person who has thought the design is not the person who draw it. But i like to get to the beginig of this discussion, I think that the quality of all data is being damaged because the deadlines are often too short because today be have cad programs, excel spred sheets, and all of the software tools that are available to do what we must do , but this makes that the person who does the construction details often has the shortest time to do his job, and must do it in the best way. ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed "In fact, shop drawing preparation is NOT engineering." In fact, that depends on the nature of the "shop drawing" in question, and many "shop drawings" of various kinds are considered engineering, and do require preparation by a PE. ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed The point is that some aren't, and don't require PE. Hg Eng-Tips guidelines: FAQ731-376 ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed (OP) Just good points all around I think. My statement that shop drawing preparation is not engineering is based on this idea: "Let's see, here's a steel wide flange shown on the engineer's design drawings spanning from column A-3 to B-3 and its a W24x76 - top of steel at elevation 113'-0" and the design drawings show 4 bolt connection with double L4x4x3/8. I need to draw out the beam with the four holes cut into it at each end. Add a series of connector holes along the length at 8 ft. centers for intesecting beams. I then draw it up and dimension where all these holes go...." What part of that involves the application of engineering principles? Nothing in my view. ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed JAE, The 2 consulting firms that I worked for in the last 7.5 years did not put any connection info on their drawings like you described. All they called out were member sizes, member loads and member locations. Perhaps these 2 firms were an anomaly. ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed (OP) EddyC - I don't think so - I think your two firms are probably more the norm, although after the Hyatt Regency collapse, and especially in the last 10 years or so, I think a lot more structural firms are setting up their own connection schedules or at least showing standard connections based on beam depth, etc. I would agree that if a firm doesn't do the connection design, then they at least have to show the reactions. One firm I worked with some years ago used to refer to the AISC Manual where they had (and still do have) tables of max. uniform loads that various WF beams could support (based on zero unbraced length). They essentially told the fabricators to go find those tables, find the beam, the span, and look up its max uniform load. Then take it times half the span and voila - you have an end reaction. In recent years I've leaned toward actually dictating the connections...even the simple framed connections, just due to the uncertainty of what quality of fabricator I'd get. ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed connect2 I understand your position and don't blame you for looking at printouts over looking at a screen. I usually print things out as well since you can go crosseyed looking at screens at times. I just see so many frustrating things (as a whole in business) that I just have to shake my head. I am no less guilty than the next guy and have contibuted my portion to chaos, but most times it is ignorance than lack of attention. I see so much berating vs training and complaining about people who try but just don't know any better. Then there is the issue of not enough time or resources to accomplish a job adequately. My last position I had to implement ISO:9001 at a start-up facility (no training - no experience), purchase all the tooling, handle design, and in the beginning putting together the safety program. All on my own to be done within a year. In the beginning I worked 7 days a week putting together most of the ISO program at home because at work I had all the other details to attend to. Of course I came under the gun because I wasn't doing a "good job". I did the best I could with what I had to work with. (My wife transfered so I left at the end of the year. I stayed an extra month until the first audit which they had only 6 findings. A few months after I left they became certified and my replacement commended me on the quality program I put together.) Anyway, I did not mean to imply you were part of the problem and that you are not part of the solution. So I apologize if you took that directly. There are just so many better ways to do things that we don't do... ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed So, we have identified the major problems..... lack of time lack of money (fee) lack of education/training/mentoring poor info. received from others Any others that I missed? We should start another thread on how can we solve these.... ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed An aside to the shop drawing discussion above- I just received alleged "shop drawings" today from a fabricator who photocopied my plans and details, and put a note on the drawings that "anything circled is not by steel fabricator" and circled the metal studs, concrete work, etc. No piece marks, nothing! HAHA! Am I really expected to approve these?! Ha, I needed a good laugh today. Someone above said that the fabricator was designing and/or engineering parts of the structure - NOT ALWAYS! ### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed Let me preface my comments by saying that I'm a recent grad (August 04) and have only the limited experience since then. Some of the items that have been discussed are issues we're currently dealing with. My firm is currently designing a large project for a hospital in several phases. The first phase (parking garage) started at the first of the year and is due in about six weeks and to date we've recieved typical floor plans from the architect. That's it. No sections, elevations, etc. On top of this there seems to be a propensity for the architect to make changes without alerting us. As this is a post-tensioned structure, changing column spacing/locations, adding stairwells, changing bay sizes (all that have happened in the last two days) vastly affects the design. There are sections of the project that we've basically had to tell the architect he couldn't change because we're done and a redesign ($\$) would be required.  As the PM on this project says, "We're about a month ahead of the architect right now."

Is this the usual mode of operations for architects?

How can we turn out drawings with any quality without timely input from the architect?

Are there ways to increase quality without taking on more than our fair share of duties (i.e. design development)?

### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed

MikeT14:

Sounds like the architect either:

started too late on the project
does not have sufficient manpower on the project

or

the schedule is unrealistic

or

possibly all the above.

Your PM needs to have a real serious talk with the architect before the problems get out of hand.

Finding structurally significant changes by the architect is sometimes like finding a needle in a haystack. He needs to be "communicating" with the structural engineer not just changing his drawings and hope that you find his changes. "Communication" is not a new concept but I have seen this sort of thing happen when everyone is scrambling on a project that has an unrelistic schedule.

Some architects like to continue to tinker with things without realizing the ramifications to other disciplines. The only thing that seems to get their attention and put a stop to the changes is a request for additional fee and additional time.

### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed

Jike, Right on.
By the way our requirement is that the fabricator always supply shop drawings bearing the seal of a PE.  We provide reactions, shears, moments, FF or PR requirements, minimium 2 bolt where not specified. and exact connection details when we feel it's required and of course the required dim stuff.  Never seem to have this problem with reinforced concrete, the real engineering material(s). That should elicite a few posts!  This is a huge posting.

### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed

My understanding of the problem with the Kansas City Hyatt wasn't so much connection detailing as it was a rerouting of the load path so that the load exceeded what the connection was intended to handle.  That was a design *change*, not a conventional filling in of details.

Hg

Eng-Tips guidelines:  FAQ731-376

### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed

(OP)
The original design by Gilliam called for a pair of channels welded together to form a box section.  According to the NBS investigation, that detail had problems of its own even before the changes later took place via the fabricator's detailer.

The flaws, the way I understand the history, were:

1.  Original design was flawed to begin with and Gillian assumed that the fabricator would do the entire design anyway.
2.  The original fabricator got too busy and farmed the job out to another fabricator after getting the connection somewhat drawn.  The second fabricator assumed that the connection design had been completed and just shined up the detail a bit.
3.  Gillian's engineer's apparently only did a cursery review of the shop drawings, not catching the connection detail.
4.  The contractor saw the long all-thread running up through two levels of skywalk and requested an alternate detail to change to two sets of rods, which resulted in a doubling of the load.
5.  Gillian's office didn't check this change either.

### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed

JAE-that's the point I made previously. There is virtually no mentoring of new engineers in the consulting office. A mistake such as assuming a long steel rod could be threaded its entire length is typical of a newbie engineer. It could have been easily detected by anyone with some experience. Another factor is: there was no attempt to reinforce the flanges of the channels for induced bending. To me, that indicates the office policy was to get things done as fast as possible for maximum profit, and there was no training or QC by more experienced engineers. How typical.

### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed

SacreBleu,

These days many engineering firms are having to operate as you described just to stay in business, not for maximum profit. As an employee, I absolutely hate it since I usually don't learn much on the job. I end up learning more reading in the evenings on my own time. This is what happens when engineers are selected based upon price rather than ability.

### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed

EddyC,
Exactly. Typical want ad in the papers: Engineer wanted, 2-4 years experience. Energetic, enthusiasm a plus.

Translation: Engineer wanted to work for minimal salary, will not ask too many questions. Will not have too much "baggage", will not have deeply ingrained philosophies contrary to established office policies.

Under the conditions in most offices, you need plenty of enthusiasm to overcome all the negative conditions. Luckily for me, I am in a much better situation now.

### RE: Structural Engineers Getting Slammed

SacreBleu,

Right on.
We are sacrificing real world experience and knowledge to compensate for lower wages to increase profits. Then we can't figure out why the quality is going down. Hmmm....

jike,
I agree, we need to look at ways to try and resolve issues. Posting a thread will help, but does anyone write articles in any magazines? (engineering or business) I am going to be working on one concerning a confusing issue in the packaging business as soon as I gather enough data.
I got into this forum to look for things concerning the corrugated business and found so many echoing complaints. Details may be different, but the scope of the problem is the same.

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