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Making design changes via RFI or shop drawing review - Not licensed in project state

Making design changes via RFI or shop drawing review - Not licensed in project state

Making design changes via RFI or shop drawing review - Not licensed in project state

(OP)
I work for a medium/large AE firm and currently involved in a project that is under construction and about 80% complete. I have been handling all submittal reviews, job site visits and RFIs, which in a few cases require "on-the-fly" design changes as part of the RFI response.

I did all of the structural design and drafting for the project, but was not the EOR, since I am not registered in the project state. The CD's were sealed by another engineer in my firm who also acted as my checker. That engineer is still in the company but has had no involvement in the project since the drawings were issued for construction.

I have expressed concern that I should not be making design changes via submittal review or RFI. So far my concerns have fallen on deaf ears. Am I right to think this activity is essentially unlicensed engineering work or is there some kind of exemption for engineering services performed via RFI or submittal review? If the EOR was in the loop it would be one thing, but it's just me at this point and has been since the CD's were issued. I'm interested in what others think about this situation.

RE: Making design changes via RFI or shop drawing review - Not licensed in project state

From the Contractor's point of view, if these are indeed changes to the design, for whatever reason, I would expect formal Contract change orders to accompany them or be referenced when the changes are issued. Is this design-build?
And, I think you are correct about "mismanagement" in your firm. Why not work elsewhere?

RE: Making design changes via RFI or shop drawing review - Not licensed in project state

FWIW, many states have or are moving toward requirements that the stamping engineer observe the construction of their design for general conformance to the design requirements (the extent/scope of these observations can be somewhat contentious based upon some interpretation of various state's statues/rules governing professional engineering). Generally speaking, another licensed engineer may expressly take on this responsibility if the design engineer is unable to do so and, in many cases, must also supply a stamp to the design to that effect.

That being said, my general thought is that a "non-intent" change made in the design during construction should not require the stamping engineer's direct review/approval prior to implementation; for example, a minor relocation of an anchor bolt to miss existing rebar. An "intent" change to the design, on the other hand, should be approved by the stamping engineer, or their designee, prior to proceeding with construction; for example, changing the support of a heat exchanger from cast-in-place concrete piers to a steel frame.

I can't quote chapter and verse for the above, but, again in my opinion, believe it follows good engineering practice.

RE: Making design changes via RFI or shop drawing review - Not licensed in project state

I see two issues. First, if changes are made that affect the design intent or integrity, the EOR should be involved since he/she is ultimately responsible for the design.

The EOR's responsibility does not stop after the design is complete (think Kansas City Hyatt Regency collapse).

Second, if changes are made that affect the design intent or integrity, (in my opinion) it would be practicing without a license if those changes were not issued by the EOR who is licensed in the project state.
There may be some leniency or loopholes on this depending on the laws in that particular state, so its best to check with the state (before this happens).

RE: Making design changes via RFI or shop drawing review - Not licensed in project state

(OP)
Not design build. And yes, I am planning to jump ship as soon as possible. I was previously in nuclear for 6 years, which is largely exempted from PE requirements, so this was my first stint in a "traditional" engineering firm. After 4 years, I've got the sneaking suspicion that I'm learning the "wrong way" to do things.

RE: Making design changes via RFI or shop drawing review - Not licensed in project state

(OP)
So it's typical for all RFIs, submittals, etc. to run through the EOR for review and sign-off?

Or is it sometimes the case that another engineer handles the bulk of these items, only flagging "design intent" changes for the EOR's review/sign off?

RE: Making design changes via RFI or shop drawing review - Not licensed in project state

In my experience I'd expect the EOR to be informed & aware of the RFI responses and agree with the direction provided. Actual updated drawings may come later after a particular batch of RFIs, but as mentioned above, the EOR is ultimately responsible. If you cannot stamp the drawings, the engineer that will stamp the updated drawings need to agree with the changes.

RE: Making design changes via RFI or shop drawing review - Not licensed in project state

I tend to agree with most of the comments above but would add:

1. There are RFI's in which the answer is simply pointing the contractor to the appropriate detail, specification, or note. These do not involve the practice of engineering and thus would not require the EOR to review. You are simply helping the contractor understand and interpret their contractual obligations.

2. There are RFI's in which an alternative product is proposed which falls under the "or equal" category. Again - the EOR is not required here in my view.

3. There are RFI's where there was a field error - misplaced anchor rod per KoachCSR's comment above - here it gets a little questionable. The EIT or inspector who is not an engineer may not fully understand the issue of moving an anchor over 3 inches. That may be a bad thing if the cover over the anchor is reduced from 5 inches to 2 inches and Appendix D kicks in. The EOR should be involved.

4. There are also other RFI's where design aspects are changed, moved, re-configured, etc. All these should have the EOR involved.

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RE: Making design changes via RFI or shop drawing review - Not licensed in project state

I think you can look at product specifications, many times, and get a handle on whether the two compared products both meet the same ASTM standards, provide similar numerical testing results, etc.

But you have a point that there may be a "special" feature of product A that product B doesn't provide but that is unknown to the reviewer and only to the EOR.

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RE: Making design changes via RFI or shop drawing review - Not licensed in project state

Bones206…

On projects where I'm the EOR, I don't let ANY submittal or RFI response go out without my review. This is not just because I am worried that the response creates a design change for which I would be unwittingly responsible for, I am also picky about how we respond (wording, depth of explanation, punctuation, etc.).

==========
"Is it the only lesson of history that mankind is unteachable?"
--Winston S. Churchill

RE: Making design changes via RFI or shop drawing review - Not licensed in project state

JAE, agreed; most of the time it's not a big deal, but there are occasions when the design intent is not patently clear or just not evident to other people, who might not be as experienced or knowledgeable.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
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RE: Making design changes via RFI or shop drawing review - Not licensed in project state

(OP)
I guess I've been lulled into thinking everything was fine because I'm sort of the EOR in spirit. I performed all the design, drafting, analysis, construction admin, etc. and for all intents and purposes, this is MY project. But it just occurred to me that legally, maybe it isn't.

What I've seen most times in the last 4 years: One engineer does the bulk of the design development work, then an EOR is selected right before issuing for construction. Management looks at a list of engineers in the company, selects one who is licensed in the project state, calls them up and says, "Hey, could you be the checker and also stamp these drawings?". After issuing the drawings, that EOR goes off on their merry way and has no ties to the project going forward. So I guess I've thought of myself as the responsible engineer in charge of the work, and the person stamping is more of a checker with a much shallower knowledge of the project than my own. It's not plan-stamping because they check everything, but they are never fully brought in to the project, if that makes sense.

This seems to be the norm at my company and apparently I'm the only one who has an issue with it. I just spoke to the EOR on my current project to fill him in on the changes I've been making via RFI, and he really just didn't want to be involved.

RE: Making design changes via RFI or shop drawing review - Not licensed in project state

bones206. Those are not very "good" engineers in my opinion. Bad culture and they obviously don't respect the profession as they should.

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RE: Making design changes via RFI or shop drawing review - Not licensed in project state

(OP)
Thanks for all the feedback.

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