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Invoicing Emergeny Engineering Services

Invoicing Emergeny Engineering Services

Invoicing Emergeny Engineering Services


Recently, a GC called me about a building where a vehicle had demolished a part of a building. The event had just happened, the building was in-use, and the owner needed direction on how to secure the building immediately.

I was directed to drop what I was doing, right then, travel to the site, and provide structural engineering advisement as to getting the people out of the building and how to temporarily shore the building until a plan could be developed to make the building stable so it could be used.

I was on-site well into the night, telling the GC how to shore. Then, I made return trips as the temporary shoring system was installed. I also made the call as to when the building was structurally safe to reoccupy.

All that said, this type of service, delivered the way it was, is, in my opinion, at maximum risk to me and my business....and....jumped in front of all my other work.

This has value, over and above hourly rates.

How do you guys handle taking that risk and timing into account when determining a value for something like that?

RE: Invoicing Emergeny Engineering Services

We have a set of three different rates we use...well four actually...in order from smallest rates to largest:

1. Preferred client rates - where client sets up with us an on-going general engineering service agreement to streamline contracts and they tend to use us for everything.
2. Standard rates
3. Special rates - for higher risk projects, construction related engineering services, hurry-up projects that "show up" like yours.
4. Court/deposition rates

1, 2 and 3 are within 5% of each other.
4 is double the standard rate.

RE: Invoicing Emergeny Engineering Services

When a fire hydrant behind a temporary soldier pile and lagging wall was hit by a motorist, causing a slow failure of the wall, we were called to come out and help with the emergency fix. The problem started around 10 pm and required us to be there all night. Our hourly rate did not change for the services we provided, the GC appreciated our time and effort, and our value to them and the rest of the team increased.

RE: Invoicing Emergeny Engineering Services

I'd follow a model based on the ideas behind JAE's comment. Do you know this owner/contractor? Have they brought you business in the past, or are they likely to continue to bring you work in the future? If yes, then charge them a fair amount that won't make them angry or think about trying out your competition but also compensates you for your work and possibly for some of the inconvenience. If no, then charge them the full value of your services and trouble (as long as this was agreed to upfront - if you try to charge them $400 an hour without getting the OK, you probably won't get anything).

RE: Invoicing Emergeny Engineering Services

You should be paid your full hourly rate plus something for the inconvenience, and something which respects the fact that you saved their hides, but its worth remembering that this was someone else's misfortune. I start thinking about really aggressive billing when a client is suing someone and needs an expert witness.

RE: Invoicing Emergeny Engineering Services

Thank you guys for your input.

I believe there are two rates at work here....in my case:

First - The on-the-spot, off the hip, emergency service has a rate. In this case, there was no time to consider, calculate, draw, etc etc...the situation. I had to, on the spot, tell the guys what to do, and do my best to see what the dangers might be, given the conditions....and see it through, on-site. This is where I draw from 30 yrs experience. This is HIGH risk.....as portions of the building were teetering with full collapse. I think that should be double standard rate.

I was successful, damage was limited, and nobody got hurt.

Second - After the dire emergency of the initial situation is stabilized, working thru anything else should be normal rates.

That's how I see this situation.

RE: Invoicing Emergeny Engineering Services

Your above post is roughly how I would see it as well. We charge 50% premium for those situations but discuss the situation prior to invoicing with whoever it is that we will be invoicing, so that they are okay with it, and they generally are. Chances are that this particular situation will end up being billed to an insurance company, so it's no skin off their back.

RE: Invoicing Emergeny Engineering Services

There is no problem with charging for expedited services. Since most of my work is forensic, we only charge a single hourly rate for everything. We don't differentiate between investigation and testimony or litigation support...our time is the same for either and therefore our rate is the same.

RE: Invoicing Emergeny Engineering Services

Ron you are nothing but a pathological ....er.....a pathologistic engineer!!!

RE: Invoicing Emergeny Engineering Services

JAE...I ain't smart enough for big wordsbugeyed

RE: Invoicing Emergeny Engineering Services

OK I understand.

Ron: "I see dead buildings"

RE: Invoicing Emergeny Engineering Services


Had an attorney recently ask me why I hated buildings! Told him I don't hate buildings, just bad construction.

RE: Invoicing Emergeny Engineering Services

What is the difference in rates between a regular plumber and an emergency plumber? Or between an urgent care doctor and a regular general practitioner?

RE: Invoicing Emergeny Engineering Services

Responding to a emergency call generally requires you to be on your toes to a much higher degree than the typical environment of the office. Things are hectic, you do not have all your resources on hand generally. Your risk goes up in the emergency environment, so your fee should also. You will also find out your own safety is at a higher risk.

I went to a partially collapsed basement one time. Walls were noticeably bulged inwards in a curve and the walls were stripped with 1x4s that had 1/8" paneling over them. I got as close as I was willing to get to the wall and explained to the Owner that the paneling was currently holding the block wall in place. The paneling was stretched tight as a drum. The Contractor that was present told me I was wrong and went to snatch the paneling loose with one hand as he was saying that the paneling is only on the wall for looks. I took off running to the basement entrance. Once at the entrance I advised the Owner to move to the entrance also. The Contractor decided he was not that confident I was wrong and left the paneling alone. Later, after shoring the floors up, when he slowly removed the paneling the blocks finished collapsing inwards but it was a somewhat controlled collapse.

RE: Invoicing Emergeny Engineering Services

No idea on plumber's rates but I sure charge higher rates - if not simply "no, deal with it until tomorrow" - if someone wants me to be working when I'd much rather be doing something else. If nothing else, that encourages scheduling during regular business hours. Not charging a premium for weekend or overtime means you will be taken advantage of.

Emergency requests that mean dropping or delaying another client's paid job, plus dealing with the situations described in the couple of posts above, ought to be yet another premium above that.

RE: Invoicing Emergeny Engineering Services

I would make the invoice with a single fixed price - urgent intermediating at XXX site - so do not disclose the hours you were present or your hourly tariff.
Not even billing mileage separately.

RE: Invoicing Emergeny Engineering Services

A perceived scenario:

Lawyer: Ron why do you hate buildings?
Ron (with judge looking on): I’ll answer your question if you first answer me why you hate judges so much.
Lawyer (sideways glancing at the judge): I don’t hate judges, just bad judges. Answer the question.
Judge (wondering whether the lawyer thinks he’s a bad judge)

RE: Invoicing Emergeny Engineering Services


Don't forget to charge the client for the use of the boat!

Mike McCann, PE, SE (WA, HI)

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