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Certification
7

Certification

Certification

(OP)
I have an interesting issue that came up today, that I'll look into next week. The City of Winnipeg requires the following certification:

"I, Richard Coates, P. Eng., hereby certify that I or another suitably qualified person reporting to me have completed periodic reviews at appropriate stages of the structural aspects of construction of the building located at <Project Address> for which a building occupancy permit is being sought. I hereby represent that:

In my professional opinion the construction was carried out in substantial compliance with the applicable provisions of the Manitoba Building Code, the Manitoba Energy Code for Buildings, the Manitoba Plumbing Code and the Manitoba Fire Code and the plans submitted in support of the application for the building permit. This includes any additional plans, documents, review of plans and design decisions that have been part of my responsibility and related to Code issues applicable to my discipline that were not detailed as part of the submitted permit application.

I have informed the City in cases where I am aware that the construction has materially deviated from the submitted plans

I am not aware of any substandard workmanship, materials or assemblies that would compromise code compliance.

Sincerely,
Richard Coates, P.Eng.
Structural Engineer

They are unhappy that I'm striking out the portion of text shown... we'll see how it shakes out.

Dik

RE: Certification

They are unhappy because they will have nobody to blame because they did not do their job. I assume you did not submit plans or documents related to energy, plumbing, or fire.

RE: Certification

(OP)
Yup... just structure... Real name is Richard, but, everyone knows me as Dik for the last 50 years....

Dik

RE: Certification

Dik,
I think striking out the areas that you aren't qualified to comment upon is correct. You cannot perform engineering services in disciplines in which you are not qualified as that typically violates most engineering laws (I'm speaking of US laws here but presume Canadian laws are similar).

If they are trying to force you to practice - or claim to practice - or claim special engineering knowledge in these areas when you really are not, then the are breaking the law too.

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RE: Certification

Is this certification simply a stand-alone transmittal or is it accompanying the submittal package for the building occupancy permit?

Do they perhaps expect the other applicable P.Engs to sign the certification with you - denoting each's area of qualification and charge, of course? If the structural design was subcontracted to you alone, then I agree - you are correct to line through the non-applicable codes for your scope, with the appropriate P. Engs then needing to submit their own, separate certifications as applicable.

RE: Certification

I'd guess there are not engineers involved with the other parts of the work, thus they would like to make Dik responsible for everything.

RE: Certification

(OP)
The work has been completed and the PM is looking for an occupancy permit. Project was small... adding a new mech unit on the roof and reinforce to address snow accumulation.

JAE... that's exactly why I struck the items out... I'm familiar with parts of the referenced codes, but not enough that I'd be comfortable... The codes referenced are totally unrelated to the work. I'll have a meeting on Monday with the PM and Dept Head to determine what their thoughts are and how to proceed forward. If necessary I'll proceed through the Engineering Association...

I'll toss it around on the weekend... may get the PM or someone skilled to issue me a letter, on company letterhead, signed and sealed, certifying that compliance with the other codes has been confirmed, and will likely change the signature line to:

Yours truly,

<Company Name>,
per

Dik


Dik

RE: Certification

Dik,

We've had this fight with the COW a few times. But for some reason we always end up giving in. The fact that they're liability free all the time makes this requirement ludicrous.

RE: Certification

dik,

You make an interesting point. Are there professional engineers out there who understand the Manitoba Building Code, AND the Manitoba Energy Code for Buildings, AND the Manitoba Plumbing Code AND the Manitoba Fire Code?

--
JHG

RE: Certification

(OP)
not me... I know parts of them, but not all parts.

This is a matter that the APEGM (Manitoba Professional Assoc) should be addressing and advising the CoW of the error of their ways. The company should be addressing this on other fronts, in particular, I'm not aware of any provisions in the Manitoba Building Code or the CoW Bylaws that permits the city's engineering department to make such a demand.

I think if I can have the PM or someone offer me a letter under seal that the other code provisions have been addressed, then, I can seal the certification. The PM can use the same format as the CoW since they have likely had several lawyers review it.

I'll do that on Monday and see how it flies. If the PM resists, then I can suggest that is the reason for my reluctance to sign off.

There are now two projects that require my certification.

Dik

RE: Certification

As far as I know, the COW requires one of these letters for every project that there is a building permit followed by an occupancy permit. I would like to think EGM (formerly APEGM) has already tried to have this fight with the COW as well.

Generally, the COW requires one of these letters from each of the consultants on a job, which is why the higher ups at my company don't have as much of an issue with providing this letter verbatim. In the end, it's their liability (my company's) on the line so I just do as they say.

RE: Certification

(OP)
that's the reason for the change in the signature line... so the company is #1 on the list, else, you are.

I didn't know that APEGM has changed their name... thanks. I blow their eMails away without reviewing...

Dik

RE: Certification

Howdy Richard,
I have seen forms like that in other Jurisdictions. I have never been chastised for crossing out portions of the form that I have considered outside of my scope or outside of my comfort zone. As long as some other professional-of-record eventually takes responsibility for that portion of work they (the jurisdiction) seems happy.
GG
ps Tell the CoW to pound sand.

"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931)

RE: Certification

(OP)
GroovyGuy

one of the few things I have is integrity; I tend to be pretty flexible about most things... and, we'll see how things turn out on Monday.

I eliminated the additional code items on my first submission, and it was rejected as not conforming to the standard.

Dik

RE: Certification

Dik...I agree with your strikethrough. That's appropriate as others have said.

I would go a bit further and rather than state "I hereby certify...." I would change that to "to the best of my knowledge and belief". We use such language in our final "Threshold Building Inspection" reports in Florida (a Florida law for certain types of buildings).

RE: Certification

(OP)
Thanks Ron, we'll see how it turns out on Monday... I have the weekend to think about it.

The problem will be that the city will not budge, from my understanding, and neither will I.

The only work around I can think of is to have the PM certify that the other codes have been complied with and to send me a letter to that effect. It puts the onus for compliance on someone else.

My certification then then complies with the provision "I or other qualified person" and I can leave the other code references in without feeling 'damaged'. If the PM is reluctant to provide me with the letter, then, he can see my reluctance to include the required codes in the certification; he's paid the big bucks, anyway.

I'm thinking along this line, but, will probably modify this several times over the weekend.

Dik

RE: Certification

I agree that striking out portions that are outside your scope, and/or expertise, is the correct approach.
But you should also initial the portions that you change.

RE: Certification

(OP)
dr strangelove:

Thanks for the caution... No need to initial... the portions struck out will actually be deleted from the body of the letter.

Dik

RE: Certification

Should the PM not have to contract a mechanical engineer and/or architect to review the appropriate codes to determine if the building is compliant? If the modification to the building was small, like you say, then I'd expect the fee would be minimal for their sign-off. Sounds like the PM should have to take on the additional costs for proper sign off. It doesn't surprise me that they're looking for you to take full responsibility though, people are always looking for someone else to be liable. Especially cities...

RE: Certification

(OP)
Shotzie:

The PM is a mechanical engineer, and, the work doesn't require the use of an Architect. We'll see on Monday if he's prepared to offer me the assurances I'm looking for.

Dik

RE: Certification

If he is a mechanical engineer, get him to furnish the letter on energy, plumbing, and fire protection. Limit your letter to structure, if that is what you did.

RE: Certification

(OP)
Hokie... that's what I'm planning on.

Dik

RE: Certification

(OP)
The letters of certification were provided subject to the condition that 'Others' had certified that they were compliant with the Manitoba Energy Code for Buildings, the Manitoba Plumbing Code and the Manitoba Fire Code. I received confirmation from the PM prior to issuing the letters. Done...

Dik

RE: Certification

thumbsup

RE: Certification

(OP)
Thanks for the thumbs up... posted this to see if there were any other options...

I passed the info on to others in the department, so they have a way out... not sure how the other PM's are going to take this... but, we'll see.

Dik

RE: Certification

As a regulator, I see a problem with your approach. I wouldn't be surprised if the language was developed to provide the city assurances that everything was designed properly and up to code. The problem is that there needs to be someone who is ultimately responsible to state that everything was designed and installed properly (i.e., the professional engineer).

In order for the PE to certify everything, that "I or another suitably qualified person reporting to me" has performed the work. This language probably comes from the Code or rules governing a professional engineer. If the PE does not have the expertise and doesn't have people who work for them that are knowledgeable for the other items (e.g., energy code, fire code, plumbing code), the PE should not be the one signing the document.

Based upon the above case, if the PM is the person who supervises dik & the other experts, the PM should be the person signing the certification, provided that the PM is a PE.

RE: Certification

(OP)
There is someone in charge and taking responsibility, but, not me. The language required by the CoW goes 'way beyond' providing them with assurances.

From a legal point, I only need someone to assure me that compliance was OK. The key is, "...hereby certify that I or another suitably qualified person reporting to me..." I've done that. The signature line puts the company, and the PM first in line. Beyond the certification, I'm comfortable. I'm not playing lawyer, but, over the years, I've been involved with a few of them... also I've done a lot of work in contract administration.

The CoW has likely had their certification vetted by one or more lawyers and I modified my required certification in line with the CoW requirements, almost verbatim.

I really don't have any one that supervises me... I do my job, and most people 'leave me alone'; I assist a lot of other engineers in the firm... maybe once every month or so, I'll have a question for the department head... generally confirming something I'm considering.

The reason for the CoW certification is to keep them out of court... for all purposes, with the certification, there is no need to have a planning department.


Thanks for the caution, Dik

RE: Certification

2
Zelgar....I don't know if you are employed by some regulatory agency for if you are stating that you would have the issue if you were a regulator; however, your statements seem typical of regulators I've dealt with, so I will assume you are, in fact, a regulator. I mean no disrespect, but as regulators and government employees, you have NO PERSONAL LIABILITY. You and your agency typically enjoy sovereignty and immunity to lawsuits except under certain circumstances.

You seem to either forget or not be aware that outside your protected practice environment, we are open to lawsuits from anyone and to sign such an onerous and liability prone statement as Dik noted is not only improper but illegal in most instances for licensed professional engineers, whether in the US or Canada. We can't sign off for areas outside our competence and practice.

Further, signing such a statement could be used by others as a means to avoid responsibility in the event that something goes wrong in the future. My primary practice is forensic engineering of structures, construction and construction materials. I deal with liability on a daily basis and have the opportunity to see liability run its course through litigation. It is not a pretty picture in most cases.

Please be aware of what you ask of engineers and other design professionals. It is not always as simple as those "standard" and rote requirements would lead one to believe.

RE: Certification

(OP)
Ron, thanks for your response to zelgar; we've been in similar foxholes:

I have legally and ethically completed the certification required by the city and feel good about it. I have established a path forward for our department. I have passed the methodology on to other structural engineers in the office. I still have to set up an eMail template for confirmation of certification so I have it as a standard form and will pass this on. I haven't heard anything back from management; it's only been a day... hopefully I don't. None of this is transmitted outside the office; it is all internal.

It was fortunate to notice the part of the certification that stated, "...or another suitably qualified person reporting to me..." because the PM's are all P.Eng.'s and as such, if they certify something, they should be suitably qualified, else, they shouldn't certify it.

On a side note, the certification required by the city almost requires full time construction review (not supervision <G>) which almost never happens due to budget restraints.

I'd pretty much resolved my approach, prior to posting the first message of this thread; I was hoping that someone might have illuminated a different path.

There may come a time that the PM refuses to provide me with the certification; and I will have to sort the matter out all over again, but, have a good precedence, and as noted, if the PM's reluctant to certify why shouldn't I be.

I'm not adverse to a challenge, but, I am growing older.

Dik

RE: Certification

Ron, I work in State government. I work with permits and have worked with similar certification forms as indicated by the OP. The use of the language "...or another suitably qualified person reporting to me..." typically comes from the rules or laws governing a professional engineer. The purpose of this language is to be assured that the PE or somebody they have authority over, has done their job to assure that everything is covered (e.g., different applicable codes), since the PE is ultimately responsible by signing the certification. As I mentioned earlier, since dik's PM appears to be in authority over dik & the experts certifying the compliance with the other codes, the PM should have been the one signing off on the certification statement.

At the end of the day, we want to be certain that the item in question was constructed properly (e.g., structurally, and to all applicable codes). In an ideal world, nobody would lie, cut corners or make mistakes (e.g., misread drawings) and a construction certification would not be needed. Unfortunately, this doesn't exist, and even with the construction certifications, things happen.

Don't get me wrong, I think most PE are ethical and try their best. Unfortunately not all are, and some try their best but due to overwork or other issues may sign something when they really shouldn't.

RE: Certification

(OP)
The CoW requires that all disciplines sign the same certification... no exceptions. I have no authority over the PM, anymore than he has over me... he's simply reporting to me.

Dik

RE: Certification

I agree that the ideal situation is where the PE is knowledgeable on all items with the construction including the engineering design and all applicable codes (e.g., building, electrical, fire, plumbing, etc.) and that is how the form was designed. If the PE isn't knowledgeable, but relies on their staff who are knowledgeable for the other aspects (e.g., code issues), they can still sign the certification, but is assuming some risk due to the reliance on others. This is true for a PE certifying a CQA/CQC who may not be at the site every day, but has a subordinate onsite who is taking photos, performing some of the testing, etc.

I agree that if you only reviewed the structural design and construction, and are not relying on your staff that are under your control, you cannot certify the all of the items. Since the PE certifying the documents is taking responsibility for everything (e.g., design, construction and compliance with code), they must be knowledgeable or be willing to accept the responsibility of their subordinates with the knowledge.

RE: Certification

zelgar, I think many regulators, as Ron hinted at above but I will say, live in dream world and dream up wildly crazy "certifications" that are ultimately meaningless from the governing agency's position and are ultimately dangerous for licensed engineers.

In this case the certification is confused: it refers to "structural aspects of construction" but then goes on to include a list of non-structural codes.
It is also somewhat inconsistent in that it refers to "periodic reviews of construction" but then asks for a certification that dik isn't aware of "any" deviations from the plans, which is impossible.

However, it is not too bad as it does imply that dik only "certify" things "related to Code issues applicable to my discipline".

It is the certifications that are created asking us PE's to certify/guarantee/warrant/etc. things we can't know or wouldn't know in our practice as licensed engineers.

We had a similar discussion a while back on this - here: thread765-405552: Affidavit to certify project

Here's an example of a city required letter from some years ago that was rejected by the local engineers - the city backed down and allowed a better phrased "certification":




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RE: Certification

Ron, I was in that thread as well, towards the end of the discussion. Part of the problem with construction certifications is that the governing agency wants assurances that everything was constructed properly, in accordance with the permit and all applicable codes. I don't think anyone would want the regulating agency to be out at the site 24/7 while work was being performed, and the cost would be prohibited. On the other hand, there needs to be some type of assurance that everything was done properly, thus the construction certification by the PE.

I realize I'm on the other side of the fence from the rest of you, but unfortunately I've seen or heard from other engineers inspecting construction activities and nobody knows who the certifying PE would be for the project (or if they have a representative onsite). No engineer or representative was onsite when rebar was placed, nor when concrete was being poured. Additionally, sometimes the amount of rebar or the spacing was off because the contractor was doing everything like he always does it and doesn't even have a copy of the approved plans. I hope you realize that this unfortunately still happens and as a regulator we have problems with this. We're currently working on revising our PE Construction Certifications for Confined Feeding Operations to require submittal of daily logs, testing results, etc. because the current form typically comes back as everything is checked that everything was fine during construction, and signed & stamped by a PE (even though the PE may not have been onsite during construction activities).

Ron, BTW what was the final version of the Certification of Framing? Is it that much different from version listed above?

RE: Certification

(OP)
zelgar works for the government... and it's funny in a way that I have more confidence in the integrity of an engineer than I have in the government and they don't have to certify anything...

Dik

RE: Certification

2
dik, my job as a regulator is to review permits, plans and specifications to verify they are in compliance with all applicable regulations. I am answerable to the people of my State, the applicant and others in my agency. My job does not stop when a PE stamps his work, but start there. I am one of few people in my agency with the qualifications, education and experience to perform the work. My job is not to rubber stamp things that cross my desk, but perform a thorough review and verify the information.

I have worked as a regulator for 20+ years and have had my PE license for 19. I acknowledge that most PE are ethical and hardworking, but unfortunately that is not true for all. The same can be true for other regulators.

RE: Certification

(OP)
My email requirement for the PM is as follows:

I certify, that for the subject project, all Work was carried out in substantial compliance with the applicable provisions of:
  • The Manitoba Energy Code for Buildings,
  • The Manitoba Plumbing Code,
  • The Manitoba Fire Code, and
  • the plans submitted in support of the application for the building permit.
With that in place, I can sign off on certification

RE: Certification

(OP)
zelgar:
That's good, and you may function as one of the better regulators... but, I still have more confidence in engineers than governments...

I've been playing this game and been registered for nearly 50 years. There have been huge changes in both the profession and regulation, and, most of it has not been for the better. <Off my apple box>

Dik

RE: Certification

zelgar,
I applaud your approach to your work. If only there were more with that attitude...

RE: Certification

Quote (zelgar)

Ron, BTW what was the final version of the Certification of Framing? Is it that much different from version listed above?

I think you were referring to me and not Ron - the final version was this one:

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RE: Certification

Note that the letter here is addressed to the Client - not the city.

Here's the TSPE response to the city explaining the engineer's stance:

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RE: Certification

(OP)
Hokie... he deserves another star...

Dik

RE: Certification

dik - you don't need to do that - just felt that the letters from way back when were in a similar vein to your original post.

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RE: Certification

The thing about stars is that you never know who gave them.

Which brings us to one of the main problems with certifications...many times, we lowly engineers can't find out what we have to certify at the beginning of a project, and at the end is too late.

RE: Certification

(OP)
JAE: Just looking for an easy generic fix for the problem... just need the PM to send me certs, and the whole matter is totally transparent from the AhJ and strictly internal to the firm...

Dik

RE: Certification

dik,

It seems to me that you need to decide who is in charge of the project, you or the PM. Since he is sending certificates to you for you to follow up with the building authority, I take it you are in charge. But I still wouldn't do a unilateral certification of all the work. There is no reason for the authority not to accept multiple certificates.

RE: Certification

(OP)
PM's in charge, but, he leaves me to my own. By reporting to me, I don't mean it in the sense that he's subordinate... just in the strictest sense that he has sent me a note. I have no problem with being 'subordinate' to him in the same fashion that I'm subordinate to anyone.

"There is no reason for the authority not to accept multiple certificates." They won't and I've checked with the Professional Association and they are happy with the city's approach. In hindsight, I should have gone into medicine.

Dik

RE: Certification

JAE, tanks for the other versions of the form and the letter (even if it was a little hard to read). Sorry for the incorrect reference.

I think we all can agree, that construction certifications by a PE at a minimum should state the following:
1. The PE or their representatives were actually onsite during construction activities
2. The plans and specifications by a PE were followed during construction
3. Any changes to the plans & specifications (including material specifications) have been highlighted and approved by the PE

I do not think it's out of the question that the PE certification would also include language about the unit was constructed to meet all applicable rules and codes, but the PE must be aware of the extent of this language. It may require additional staff to review the construction for this certification.

Finally, in order to perform the construction certification, I think the PE need to be aware of what is being required for the construction certification prior to accepting the job. If the city/State/Country requires X, Y & Z, be certain that you or your staff can meet those requirements before you accept the job (or see if you can subcontract this out). If the government agency is planning on changing their certification forms to require additional items, be like JAE and comment on the proposed changes before they go into effect. Trying to change think after they're established is like fighting an uphill battle.

RE: Certification

(OP)
I would modify your first item to reflect that someone qualified made periodic review to confirm that the building was constructed in general compliance with the approved documents.

Dik

RE: Certification

zelgar,
My only argument with your approach is that you seem to be fixated on a single PE. You should allow for multiple certifications for the different disciplines. In a commercial building project, the structural engineer is rarely in control of all the disciplines. If you need consolidation of the certificates before submission, that would be up to the architect or project manager.

RE: Certification

Zelgar
I think your points are well thought out and the intent is good but I might take exception to them in subtle ways.
1. The PE or their representatives were actually onsite during construction activities
Most times we are onsite, but only during a few periodic visits. As such we cannot "certify" that all the work was done strictly per the plans. In fact we'd be lying if we so stated. As has been mentioned above, we can say that, based on our visits the work appeared to be done in general conformance with the plans.
2. The plans and specifications by a PE were followed during construction
See above.
3. Any changes to the plans & specifications (including material specifications) have been highlighted and approved by the PE. Any changes that we are aware of. Again, if we are there only periodically (vs 100%) then we can't really know or certify something like that. Contractors do all sorts of alternative construction that we aren't always made aware of.

I think your point that engineers should pre-verify what types of "certifications" are required is great. It is just hard sometimes to convince our clients that we need extra fee for a more comprehensive on-site presence.

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RE: Certification

Quote:

Which brings us to one of the main problems with certifications...many times, we lowly engineers can't find out what we have to certify at the beginning of a project, and at the end is too late.

Quote:

My only argument with your approach is that you seem to be fixated on a single PE.

In other industries its often the responsibility of a single PE acting as PM to signoff on these matters as they hold responsibility for running the overall project and ensuring every subordinate and/or subcontracted engineer has the program details and data necessary to do their work. The discussion here is certainly interesting in that the majority seem to be against this approach, which IME is the only way to drive real accountability for timing and cost. Having been on the other side of this as an elected official/customer, my limited experience hiring CE/SEs has always been to hire a single CE/SE firm who often subcontracts the mechanical and electrical design. In those instances the CE/SE firm hired has completed all signoffs on the project.

RE: Certification

CWB1,
But do not the subcontracted M&E's have to sign off on their own work? In commercial building work, the architect is usually responsible for gathering up all the certificates, including his own, and submitting them to the authority.

RE: Certification

What good is a PE certification for construction activities if they're not willing to certify the construction? I agree that it costs more money to have an engineer or their representative onsite during construction activities but what is the value of the certification if nobody was their to do the oversight. Part of the problem, is that there are some PE's willing to sign these certifications without doing the work because it is easy money (e.g., have stamp will travel), but I think everyone here would think that is unethical and should not be allowed. What should be the selling point of the PE certification to the client is that you're guaranteeing that the project is being constructed in accordance with the design (and that he's getting what he paid for).

At the end of the day, it really comes down to what do you think will happen if you've certified the construction and in the future there are problems. Do you really think that saying that since the contractor didn't tell you he had done X will get you out of the liability of signing the certification? Additionally, even if it doesn't cost you any money, an association will a failed design will not benefit your business.

RE: Certification

zelgar, I think, again, your motivation is admirable but there's no way in hell any client is going to pay a structural engineer, on say a small two story office building, to have a PE standing out there all day watching construction so they can have the ability later to "certify" the construction.

There are ample ways in which construction oversight is currently provided (in the US anyway):
1. The lead architect or lead professional usually has an individual making weekly visits to the site to discuss progress, take photos, receive questions (RFI's), etc. They are not their full time.
2. The contractor is required to submit shop drawings and other submittals of many parts of the structure, which are the true guidance documents for rebar, structural steel, light gage framing, etc. The structural engineer has opportunity to review these against the contract documents and accept, notate or reject the submittal. The contractor in most cases here is locked into building what is shop built.
3. The project has periodic and sometimes continuous special inspectors observing a large list of items (see IBC Chapter 17). They communicate back to the design team if alterations arise.
4. The project has testing labs visiting the site and observing concrete placement, taking samples, testing welds, etc. All reported to the design team for review.
5. The structural engineer does (should) visit the site at periodic times to observe the project work and workmanship and check various work details. This is "observation" vs. "inspection" which are two completely different things.
6. The contractor can easily submit Requests for Information (RFI's) if difficulties or questions arise. Most good engineers respond to these within 24 to 48 hours.
7. The authority having jurisdiction has government inspectors visits the site as well - issuing warnings or "red tags" should a perceived code violation arise.

So there are all sorts of checks on construction to be a positive influence on quality.
But what there isn't is a situation where a structural engineer can "certify" that all is well in the world. We can't do it because we don't know everything - we aren't God.

You ask: "Do you really think that saying that since the contractor didn't tell you he had done X will get you out of the liability of signing the certification?"
No I don't ever think I'm somehow magically free of liability.

The point is I'm obligated to perform my engineering tasks consistent with the applicable engineering laws and code of ethics.
By signing a "certification" that I know that all the construction is totally per the plans I would be not stating a truthful fact...which is unethical and would possibly negate my insurance against liability.

I'll ask you a question: Do you really think that forcing an engineer to sign some silly certification document really changes anything in terms of quality of construction? It certainly doesn't in light of what I listed above of the current engineering processes, inspections, observations, and construction administration that is currently applicable to most US projects.





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RE: Certification

(OP)
Yup... and in these enviorons, too often your Item 4 is undertaken by the Contractor as part of a 'Cash Allowance' to the Contract.

Dik

RE: Certification

JAE, the PE doesn't need to be onsite 24/7 while construction activities are being performed, but there should be certain activities where the PE or their representatives are onsite in order for the PE certification to be valid. Many of the people in your list above may qualify as the PE's representative onsite, so I'm having some confusion on some of the conflict.

I agree, things can be missed by the PE or others that were done during construction, but the purpose of the PE certification is that a 3rd party was involved to provide assurances that the construction was performed in accordance with the approved plans.

RE: Certification

As you state, the PE doesn't need to be onsite 24/7.
If that is so, then the PE is only passing on limited personal knowledge and other's gossip to the AHJ, not certifying anything.

"I, the PE on this project, have reports from others that things were built according the plans. Therefore, I state categorically that these reports sound pretty good to me...how about you?"

How does this then accomplish anything?
That sort of certification doesn't help preserve the public safety and welfare.

And just a nod back to dik's original post - the city there was not only asking him to positively certify conditions that he only had limited knowledge of, but they were also asking him to certify absolutely things in codes outside his discipline.

zelgar, I think there are letters that can be written by PE's to government agencies that are correct and internally consistent with the facts of the PE's extent of knowledge. (see the above sample I posted on 19 Jul 17 20:39)
Unfortunately we are asked sometimes by government to go beyond our true extent of knowledge.




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RE: Certification

JAE, I think you should evaluate the rules and regulations of your State(s) regarding PE and the use of a PE seal.

RE: Certification

The rules will clearly state what the PE can certify, and the use of the PE seal. For example from Indiana's PE rules http://www.in.gov/legislative/iac/T08640/A00011.PD...? :

864 IAC 1.1-7-4 Use of seal and signature; acceptance of full responsibility
Authority: IC 25-31-1-7; IC 25-31-1-8
Affected: IC 25-31-1-16
Sec. 4. (a) The seal and signature of a registrant on any drawings, documents, or instruments signifies the registrant's acceptance of full responsibility for the professional work represented thereon, except as another registrant shall have assumed a limited responsibility for portions of the work in accordance with section 3(d) of this rule.
(b) A registrant may include in the registrant's plans certain predesigned manufactured equipment or products which have become established as acceptable for the proposed use, when such items:
(1) meet standards established by nonprofit trade organizations;
(2) meet the requirements for the proposed use as indicated by tests performed by a competent, unbiased testing agency;
(3) are mechanical, electrical, or other types of machinery or systems guaranteed by a reputable manufacturer; or
(4) do not affect the structural safety of the project.

864 IAC 1.1-11-5 Qualification to undertake assignment
Authority: IC 25-31-1-7; IC 25-31-1-8
Affected: IC 25-31-1
Sec. 5. The engineer shall undertake to perform engineering assignments only when qualified by education and experience in the specific technical field of professional engineering involved.

864 IAC 1.1-11-6 Restricted services for assignment outside field of competence
Authority: IC 25-31-1-7; IC 25-31-1-8
Affected: IC 25-31-1
Sec. 6. The engineer may accept an assignment requiring education or experience outside of the engineer's field of competence, but only to the extent that services are restricted to those phases of the project in which the engineer is qualified. All other phases of such project shall be performed by qualified associates, consultants, or employees.

RE: Certification

I'm quite familiar with many US state's engineering laws and policies. If you could be more clear on why you think a statement I made is inconsistent with state laws I'm all ears.

As far as state laws go - many have statements like this: The licensee shall not be "engaged in fraud or material deception in the course of professional services or activities." (Indiana PE laws).
If I am not on a site 24/7 as you state, then how can I certify the construction is consistent with the plans? I'd be violating this statute.

You mentioned above that: "What should be the selling point of the PE certification to the client is that you're guaranteeing that the project is being constructed in accordance with the design."

I can't guarantee that which I don't know and not violate the PE statutes of most states.

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RE: Certification

zelgar - I posted before I saw your post.

I don't see what that copy/paste of the Indiana statute has to do with a city requiring a PE to sign a letter guaranteeing that someone else's construction efforts were done correctly.

That section of statute deals only with design responsibility, delegated design, and practicing within your expertise.
Meaningless sections with regard to the topic of guaranteeing someone else's construction work.

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RE: Certification

(OP)
The engineering members of the various associations should sit down and decide what is a proper certification.

Dik

RE: Certification

JAE, I can understand your position, but I disagree that a PE cannot sign a construction certification unless they're at the construction site 24/7. To evaluate the structure, a PE should be onsite when the structural components are being installed (e.g., checking rebar spacing) and visible (e.g., column spacing). The PE should perform due diligence to verify that the materials of construction are up to specifications, but I agree that they cannot check every nut and bolt used on a job site. Additionally, a PE does not have to be onsite for all aspects of the construction (e.g., nailing roofing does not require a PE to watch).

Since the original topic was pertaining to an engineering certification that the item was constructed in accordance with all applicable codes and the permitted design, the PE needs a lot more knowledge than other engineering certifications. They need to meet the "normal" requirements for certifying the item was constructed according to the engineering design. Additionally, they need to verify that all of the applicable codes have been met. If they don't have that knowledge ad the OP did not have, they need to check with the laws governing the PE to see if they can provide the engineering certification. If they can use the knowledge of others and they're willing to accept the responsibility of using the other's judgement, then the PE can certify the construction.

RE: Certification

zelgar I think we might be talking past one another.

I don't have a problem with a construction letter to a city stating facts.
Those facts may be things like:
1. I was only at the project site periodically.
2. I observed (not inspected) the work for general conformance with the plans and documents.
3. I've reviewed test reports, special inspection reports, contractor RFI's, etc. and they appear in order and consistent with the code.
4. Any changes to the contract documents that the contractor made us aware of were reviewed by me and approved.
5. Based on the above knowledge, we believe the construction to be in general conformance with our plans and the applicable structural code provisions.

I'm OK with the above.

Note that these are all somewhat qualified so that they will be accurate in what I know, what I don't know, and the extent of my knowledge.

dik's original post (and concern), was the city was requiring him to assert facts about code provisions that was beyond his expertise and he was going to try to strike out verbiage in the certification to that effect, fearing that the government official would resist any change to their document. This letter was asking him to go beyond the facts of what he warrant was true.

Some of your statements above have implied things that I've seen over the years common to a lot of city government engineering/permit departments in that they don't want to allow the PE to state facts but rather assert, in a particular certification language, things that go way beyond the facts.
My letter example above was of this type (see my post of 19 Jul 17 18:39).

I have been asked to certify, guarantee, warrant, etc. all sorts of things, stating that ALL codes are met, that ALL aspects of a design are built right, etc.
If I do so certify this then I would be lying. I hope you can understand this distinction.

So my ultimate point is, I guess, that as PE's - to stay true to our engineering laws, statutes and codes of standard practice, need to be careful what we assert in these letters.

No offense to you directly, but there are a lot of city/government officials that sometimes don't understand these nuances that we engineers are faced with and get carried away with inventing outlandish certification letters.

You yourself stated just above that I need to be on site to check rebar spacing. Well I do check rebar spacing on project sites - but not ALL rebar spacing.
My goal in checking rebar spacing is to verify, with spot checks, that my contract documents are adequate such that my design is being clearly communicated to the contractor.

I am NOT checking every bar space. This is the distinction between construction Observation and construction Inspection. The first is verifying communication. The latter is checking construction.

So in a certification letter, I can say, and do, that the rebar appeared to be in general conformance with the plans. If I am asked to certify that ALL rebar was constructed according to plans, I can't do it.

I can, as you suggest, rely on other special inspectors, etc. to help offer assurances that the work is done right. But again, the certification language must be kept accurate - "I have reviewed special inspection reports and based on their contents have a reasonable basis for believing the work to be in conformance..."

NOT: "I have reviewed the Special Inspection reports and hereby certify that ALL the work is in conformance..."





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RE: Certification

JAE, would you have a problem with the following language for a PE Certification Statement:
I, ___(your name), being a Registered Professional Engineer in the State of Indiana, do hereby state that, to the best of my knowledge, the response provided in this checklist for ___(type of structure), constructed at ___(facility name), is true and accurate, and contains all information required by the permit and appropriate regulations, I or my regularly employed and directly supervised subordinates have overseen the construction inspection activities. These activities have been documented to be in compliance with the permit/approval for the facility.

RE: Certification

JAE, I think we're actually fairly close in our assessment on what a PE should certify and I'm glad you take it so seriously.

Part of my issue with the OP was that in all likelihood, the PE certification language was developed prior to dik's involvement with this specific project. The time to discuss that specifics about the certification language was not at the end of the project, but at the beginning (or better yet, when the certification language was developed). That way, any issues with the language and what the City would accept was clearly established. If this required more staff to be involved at the work site or an understanding the only individuals that are considered subordinate to the PE, then it's better to find out earlier than later. This is especially true if they've been involved with performing this service for a long period of time.

RE: Certification

Not much problem.

I'm a little wary of the "I or my regularly employed and directly supervised subordinates have overseen the construction inspection activities." statement.

It seems to suggest that I/my subordinates had direct oversight over the inspection activities rather than having oversight over the nature and extent of those inspections.

Most structural engineers don't oversee the "activites" - but rather, they specify what inspections are required and review those inspections reports...but we don't oversee the inspections themselves, dictate their scheduling or coordination with the contractor, etc.



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RE: Certification

zelgar,
That sounds like it is written by a lawyer for the authority, and has "gotcha" aspects. I would formulate my own statement, with plain language, as JAE has done in his letter above.

We, as professional engineers, certify our own work, not the work of others. Our work in the construction phase of project is to oversee, not direct, or indeed to certify, the work of the contractor. We then form an opinion as to the adherence of the work with our design, and that opinion is all we can truthfully report.

RE: Certification

JAE, the language came directly from the rule regarding application of seal; signature...
864 IAC 1.1-7-3 Application of seal; signature
Authority: IC 25-31-1-7; IC 25-31-1-8
Affected: IC 25-31-1-16
Sec. 3. (a) The seal shall be affixed to documents and instruments only during the time the certificate of registration is current and has not been suspended or revoked and then only on such documents and instruments which have been prepared by the
registrant or by the regularly employed and directly supervised subordinates of the registrant. The registrant shall be responsible for seeing that the seal, however affixed, and the signature shall be legible on the document....

Hookie66, what then is the purpose of having a construction certification by a PE? If you're saying you have no control over the contractor and don't know what they've done, what's the point of you being there in the first place?

RE: Certification

The rule which you quoted is directly applicable to the documents prepared by the registrant (or directly supervised subordinates). As a PE, I agree with the statements and sentiments made by JAE et al. Having my curiosity piqued, I took a look at the state law for GA...it actually agrees with both sides:

§ 43-15-24. Construction of structures jeopardizing health, safety, or welfare; exceptions; record of building permits

(a) It shall be unlawful for this state or any of its political subdivisions such as a county, municipality, or school district, or agencies thereof, or for any private or commercial entity to engage in the construction of any work or structures involving professional engineering which by the nature of their function or existence could adversely affect or jeopardize the health, safety, or welfare of the public unless the plans and specifications have been prepared under the direct supervision or review of and bear the seal of, and the construction is executed under the direct supervision of or review by, a registered professional engineer or architect.


So it's acceptable (in Georgia) for the PE (or architect) to either directly supervise the construction (i.e. witness all key milestones personally) or through review (of inspection reports, change requests, etc.).

As an aside, I have enjoyed following this exchange and it has caused me to consider such aspects in my own practice. Thanks for the civil and productive discussion everyone.

RE: Certification

Quote:

But do not the subcontracted M&E's have to sign off on their own work?

When stamping a print yes, signing a blanket certification such as this no. By signing these the PE is simply stating that the inspections were completed by an appropriately qualified subordinate. It might open the door to more liability than some like however it is done regularly. Personally, I don't see how certifying that another PE did his diligence to a commonly acceptable level is any less ethical than the many one-man PE firms doing this work with absolutely no peer review or other outside input.

RE: Certification

To everyone involved in this discussion, I've enjoyed it, even though it's been difficult at times ;)

As I'm on the other side of the fence from a lot of you, we take the PE construction certifications with a lot of weight signifying that the construction was overseen by a PE to verify that everything was done correctly.

For my background, in the 20+ years I've worked as a regulator, I've reviewed CQA/CQC (Construction Quality Assurance/Construction Quality Control) Reports, Tank Integrity Assessments (e.g., tank design, installation) and Construction Certification Reports that require a PE certification. I've dealt with Solid and Hazardous waste facilities (e.g., landfills and tanks), and Confined Feeding Operations (CFO) (animal holding facilities, lagoons, and other manure holding structures). For the most part, these items with PE certifications include a lot of detail including calculations, field information, testing results, daily logs, etc., which provides additional assurance besides the PE certification that everything was properly designed and constructed.

RE: Certification

zelgar,
I too have appreciated the discussion.

On your quote above - the emboldened section reads: or by the regularly employed and directly supervised subordinates of the registrant.

In our projects the contractor and their sub-contractors are not regularly employed or directly supervised by our firm. So that Indiana section doesn't apply.

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RE: Certification

zelgar,
One other thought. The statement you just made above is typical of the difference in our perspectives.
To illustrate:

Your statement:
we take the PE construction certifications with a lot of weight signifying that the construction was overseen by a PE to verify that everything was done correctly.

I can't and won't state that "everything was done correctly".

My preferred version of your statement:
we take the PE construction statement with a lot of weight signifying that the construction work performed by the contractor was overseen by code required special inspectors, with materials tested by qualified personnel, was observed by the PE during periodic visits, and that the PE reviewed all required submittals pertaining to their discipline. The construction statement provides us with a record and outline of the degree of oversight and review and provides further assurance that the construction is of acceptable quality."

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RE: Certification

zelgar,

As to your last question of me, that is not what I am saying, but I think you know that. JAE has stated the PE correct position, which is responsible, and won't be changing, If the authority needs minute by minute inspection from a body other than the contractor's own QC, they can try to mandate that, but good luck. In the US, there has already been that attempt with what you call "special inspectors", but that hasn't always worked well either.

RE: Certification

(OP)
Just a followup:

I had the PM provide me with assurances that it was complying with the codes I was only vaguely familiar with; this achieves the purpose that it is compliant, supported by knowledgeable people, and I'm happy with the outcome. Also paved a way forward for other structural people in the office. I haven't heard a thing... so, I assume all's well.

Dik

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