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Hired by contractor incapable of competent work, what to do?

Hired by contractor incapable of competent work, what to do?

Hired by contractor incapable of competent work, what to do?

(OP)
I will keep this as point form and general as possible in order to keep things clear.
I work for the structural engineering firm who was hired by the contractor to design and provide construction phase services. I am not personally involved, I’m posting this on behalf of the intern (EIT) who did most of the design and is doing the construction review.
- 5 storey building, ICF walls.
- ICF contractor is incompetent, and the prime refuses to watch over them and ensure that things get built right.
- The workmanship on some of the concrete walls is by far the worst that I’ve seen in my career (from pictures I’ve seen).
- This is a classic “ask for forgiveness, not for permission” situation, where the contractor constantly asked for repair details every time something is built wrong instead of ensuring that the reinforcing steel is correct before pouring concrete.
- Examples of some of the bigger issues so far: rough openings for doors/windows misaligned requiring cutting openings biggest (resulting in compromising the vertical steel on each side of the opening), improper vibration of the concrete resulting is very very large areas of voids/air pockets in the walls.
My question is, what recourse do we have to make the contractor build things correctly? Do we tip off the municipality and get them to be more present? That seems underhanded since the contractor is our client.
I’m not sure to what extend the developer is aware that he is getting a sub-par quality building. What if we get to the point where we don’t feel comfortable granting occupancy, the developer would likely sue the contractor and as a result sue us?

RE: Hired by contractor incapable of competent work, what to do?

To me, it all comes back to engineering ethics. I'm required by my license to report anything I see that is unsafe or unethical. Now yes, those are grey areas... Have you done any background checking to amke sure what you're worried about is actually a structural problem? Have you talked to the developer?

My state board has a lawyer on staff that I can call with questions exactly like this, for free. Maybe try calling your version of that.

Please remember: we're not all guys!

RE: Hired by contractor incapable of competent work, what to do?

I would also be inclined to at least have a phone conversation with the prime contractor indicating that the issues at hand could result in occupancy not being granted. This should at least give them a reason to start watching a little closer. If that conversation appears to fall on deaf ears, I'd then have the same conversation with the developer as I can pretty much guarantee they won't be pleased to hear they may not receive occupancy on their project.

RE: Hired by contractor incapable of competent work, what to do?

You've got a problem.
*You'll get sued if the certificate of occupancy is delayed.
*You'll get sued when the shoddy workmanship is revealed. And it will be.
I'm not sure the municipality is going to be a big help. Most of them are very scared of rocking the boat. But some are pretty good. That's your call.
I'd get your company's risk management department (lawyers) involved. They'll probably recommend a heavy dose of documentation to the prime, just so you have a paper trail.

RE: Hired by contractor incapable of competent work, what to do?

(OP)
Thank you for the replies. I'll pass on the advice to the others involved.

I will look into our province's governing body to see if they have a help line to call.

JedClampett, I think you're right that the municipality is scared to get too involved.

RE: Hired by contractor incapable of competent work, what to do?

If there is a clear issue with quality of workmanship that affects the engineering performance of the building, if it has been addressed to the people in charge of the project, if they still haven't responded or corrected their actions, I would write a letter stating the issues I observed, how it may affect the project, how the project is obviously out of conformance with the plans and specifications, seal it and send it to all parties involved.

I would exhaust all other channels first, but would have no problem going scorched earth on a negligent contractor.

RE: Hired by contractor incapable of competent work, what to do?

The Contractor is probably hoping that the issue will just go away. The subcontractor that he hired to do the work was the low bidder. If he runs him off the job he will have to find another subcontractor to take his place and probably pay him more than the original sub and guess where that additional money comes from. Additionally, hiring a different sub will probably delay the project with potentially additional costs involved. As an engineering firm, your responsibility is to ensure that the construction meets the plans and specifications. If they don't you need to document very well that you communicate that to the contractor. If he is not willing to do anything about the poor performance of the sub, you may have to terminate your contract with the contractor in order to protect your firm. Guess who is going to be blamed if there are problems in the future.

RE: Hired by contractor incapable of competent work, what to do?

(OP)
Good points, I will pass this along.

Part of me thinks, why is there no governing body for contractors, where bad ones can be disciplined, have their license removed, fined or put in jail? Where bad contractors can be prevented from "practicing".

RE: Hired by contractor incapable of competent work, what to do?

Point out to the general contractor that he/she is responsible for the work of their subcontractors and the subcontractor is placing them in a liability position for defective construction.

Just because the GC is your client doesn't mean you have to tell them what they want to hear or be silent on real issues.

RE: Hired by contractor incapable of competent work, what to do?

Has there been any add-services for the preparing repair details? Is the structure unsafe, a lot of extra work, or just ugly?

RE: Hired by contractor incapable of competent work, what to do?

What does the EOR say? Talk to him or her and see what they think.

If the fixes are compromising the building stability, design, then as the engineer you need to say no, otherwise, why didnt you just design it that way in the first place.

Fixes that are expensive will straighten them up quickly.

RE: Hired by contractor incapable of competent work, what to do?

(OP)
The EOR is the owner of the company and is older. He's much more of a cowboy and a "yes" man than I am.

jrisebo:
"Fixes that are expensive will straighten them up quickly."
That is my line of thinking as well. I try and be reasonable and not be labelled an engineer who's hard to deal with, but I do believe when the line has been crossed, an expensive "chip it out and re-cast" sets the contractor straight.

RE: Hired by contractor incapable of competent work, what to do?

this is why you dont work for the contractor and never bid jobs. There is no easy way out of this. Since you are unlikely to work for this contractor again, then take of the kid gloves and get serious with them. Your firms reputation is on the line here. next time work directly for the developer or screen your clients a little better.

RE: Hired by contractor incapable of competent work, what to do?

"He's much more of a cowboy and a "yes" man"

And I always thought those two were mutually exclusive winky smile

The EIT is supposedly working under the supervision of a PE. Is that you? Are you a PE? Even the EIT, and certainly, his PE supervisor, and you, have an ethical responsibility to bring to light problems that potentially affect safety.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
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RE: Hired by contractor incapable of competent work, what to do?

A little offtopic. In my country we have engineers who supervise construction. They are paid by the owner. They have no link between the contractor and the EOR. So basically they say when something is acceptable. Ofcourse they consult with designers and have them visit the site if needed. Designers need not to be present on site. Supervising engineers read plans and supervise that everything is built according to plans. Also they check calculations and plans for any obvious mistakes. I see you have different system in the US.

RE: Hired by contractor incapable of competent work, what to do?

molibden, there are many systems of construction project format in the US from design-build, design-bid-build, construction management at risk, construction management consulting, etc. I'd be surprised if any country had only one approach to all construction, considering the varied types of construction.

RE: Hired by contractor incapable of competent work, what to do?

(OP)
IRstuff:
I'm not the PE. I am not involved with this project at all, other than the EIT talks to me about it.

molibden:
We don't have this on most projects. It would be nice to have but I can't see most developers wanting to pay for a full time engineer.

RE: Hired by contractor incapable of competent work, what to do?

(OP)
jrisebo:
The EOR isn't really sweating over these issues.

cvg:
In my experience, working for architects presents it's own set of challenges, getting paid for extras for example. I suppose the best case is working directly for the developer?

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