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Should I trust this engineer?
9

Should I trust this engineer?

Should I trust this engineer?

(OP)
I went to inspect a job today involving a pair of access stairs for a small 2 story parking garage at an apartment complex. I met with the facilities manager and toured the project. Immediately I spotted numerous cracks in the concrete surrounding the bases of a number of tube columns and was then shown a few bases that were only covered with stones under a landing. They all showed signs of severe corrosion, some to the point of showing grain layer expansion within the rust... We then went to a second stairwell where there were a number of columns that were not only corroded but were swollen from water ingress. Upon further inspection there were a few columns that were split from freezing including one that was split some 8 feet long along the weld seam from the tube mill. It appeared to be a lack of fusion between the two sides of the welded joint as the shear line was perfectly straight with no tearing of material from one side to the other. There were a number of columns showing swelling upwards of a 1/4"- 3/8” outwards on a 6x6x1/4” HSS. Further conversation with the Facilities. Mgr I was able to find out they had an engineering inspection and forwarded me the report and scope of repair. The EOR is calling for a cut and replace of approx 1-2 feet of the columns at the bottom along with the base plates, cap the tubes but does not address the column swelling, the split columns and many other issues including the interior of the tubes as these were only painted so more than likely they were raw steel on the interior. He (the EOR) basically said it would be "OK", now I'm not a P.E. I was working towards it but fell in to fabrication and 'erection', but I am much more technical that a lot of the bolt monkeys out there. I under stand shear diagrams, radius of gyration and moments of inertia.

Should I have faith in this engineer? There were a number of things left out and seems like it's a more of a 'done for a friend' type deal and trying to be cheap than an actual professional report and plan. Any opinions?

Thanks

RE: Should I trust this engineer?

You seem very knowledgeable about the subject, and your concerns seem valid to me.

What was/is your role in the project? Are you a paid inspector, municipal inspector? Friend of the owner? I think the definition of your role should help define your response.

If you are a paid inspector, then what if you pointed out the issues mentioned here directly to the engineer of record (via email with photos)?

If friend of the owner, then same email with photos; but sent to the owner. He/she can do with it what they want.

RE: Should I trust this engineer?

No. The report does not indicate the existing conditions, so No.

The EOR should indicate the existing conditions, which are OK and are No Good. It is important that an EOR state that there are signs of structural distress, but that it is superficial. You don't have that. So No. Even if there isn't a problem, the EOR should acknowledge that.

Thank you for the post. This is a very important topic.

RE: Should I trust this engineer?

A few inspection photos, on defects you have noticed, will help us understand better.

RE: Should I trust this engineer?

I think we need to clarify a few things. First, was the inspecting engineer also the design engineer of record (EOR)? Not that it matters a great deal for his lack of attention to the issues. That borders on negligence if described correctly (and it appears that you know what you're talking about).

Second, what is the time line? How old is the project? The exfoliation you describe is indicative of long term issues with waterproofing and/or maintenance. The facilities manager probably doesn't want to hear anything about poor maintenance since it is probably one of his responsibilities. I have had facility managers ask me to remove comments from my reports to that effect. I won't but some engineers will.

The seam splits are significant concerns. They could be related to defects in the seamed ERW tube, but nevertheless MUST be repaired or replaced. Field welding a couple of stub repairs is not a proper repair.

Tell the facility manager that another engineering inspection needs to be done by a different engineer, preferably one with structural remediation experience. Also recommend shoring of the existing compromised columns.

Stairs are life safety egress routes and require a higher level of attention because of this.

RE: Should I trust this engineer?

I think the other guys have summed it up well. That report doesn't sound sufficient. I see you're in Virginia. I was involved in one of these in VA a couple years ago. A colleague and I went through a couple buildings in a large apartment complex showing almost identical issues. We wrote an initial report that sounded similar to the one your describing - though in much more detail about the problems and no specific repair recommendations. Once the problem was defined, a package of repair drawings and specs were put together - some 30+ pages worth. We scraped paint, used ultrasonic testing, etc. to verify the condition of columns that "looked" okay. Many that looked like a splice or other simple repair would be sufficient had to be replaced entirely once we pulled out the UT.

That said, what is the date on the report? The job in my story - somebody from my firm had been out a 4 years prior to do a similar inspection. The results had not been as bad, and the manager felt they could sit on it. They made a few repairs and painted over the rest. Sometimes these sorts of poor construction details can last for years and years until one small part wears out - then the water is in and the corrosion is rapid. Here on the coast, you can go from little to no obvious problem to a panic inducing appearance pretty fast.

RE: Should I trust this engineer?

I agree that a complete report would have identified and addressed the deficiencies. I think that, as an inspector, it's reasonable for you to ask for more information about issues you have questions about.

It's a two story stair and the reasoning is probably that the applied loads are very very small relative to the capacity of the damaged HSS 6X6s.

RE: Should I trust this engineer?

It sounds like the OP is working for the fabricator and is either bidding or tasked to do the job. If that is correct and the concern is that the repairs being spec'ed are insufficient then about your only choice is to pass on the job and/or recommend additional repairs.

RE: Should I trust this engineer?

If you get push-back from anyone on this, report it to the local building official and ask for an inspection.

RE: Should I trust this engineer?

@kipfoot.....stairs are means of egress for life safety....they are required to be designed for 100 psf. From the description provided by the OP, these would not likely meet that criterion.

RE: Should I trust this engineer?

I wonder why you asked the question. Are you commissioned as an inspector, or as ldeem's suggestion that you are, or represent, a contractor? From your description, yes, there are concerns, but none of us have the opportunity to read the report ourselves, thus we really know nothing but something from your mouth. No photos, no reports, who shall we trust, or not to trust, what is the base to justify our opinion? As Ron suggested, report it to the manager, if pushed back, you shall consider to report to the local official, and request an former inspection. However, I believe you must bring in all evidences that truly support a strong case then, not just talks.

RE: Should I trust this engineer?

2
Before you tender, if you decide to do so, I would insist on a pre-tender meeting with the engineer on site. Point out your observations and concerns, and you will probably find that he agrees. His report was possibly based on a cursory examination, and he needs to do better.

RE: Should I trust this engineer?

6
As an FYI, you're posting on an international site. Questioning someone's educational background simply because you "believe he may be African" is pretty &^%&ed up. I had the privilege to study with some fellow students who did their undergraduate studies in Africa, and they could do intellectual laps around almost everyone in that Virginia classroom.

RE: Should I trust this engineer?

Quote (OP)

but I am much more technical that a lot of the bolt monkeys out there

Then why you ask opinion from those "monkeys" ponder

RE: Should I trust this engineer?

(OP)
@PhanEng I'm not doubting his educational prowess, the issue I have seen from many African schools is their programs many times aren't accredited to the same standards in the US and some have passed undergraduates to get them to a US University. I have seen other come from Universities in Europe, Asia, South America the same deal. My assumption is based upon his name. I'm not going to name names, but it's the same assumption you would give if someone had the last name Popadoupolus, you'd assume they were from Greece... I'm not knocking I'm just questioning. That being said my go-to engineer is from Russia, but he doesn't have his stamp in the US but there are many other engineers that have him design and they will confirm and apply their stamp to his drawings...

My questions for all this is coming from the lack of concern from their office for the issues I described prior.

RE: Should I trust this engineer?

Quote (Metalmasterscm)

That being said my go-to engineer is from Russia, but he doesn't have his stamp in the US but there are many other engineers that have him design and they will confirm and apply their stamp to his drawings...

That's illegal in essentially every state in the US. Don't promote it.

RE: Should I trust this engineer?

Quote:

Quote:

Quote (Metalmasterscm)
That being said my go-to engineer is from Russia, but he doesn't have his stamp in the US but there are many other engineers that have him design and they will confirm and apply their stamp to his drawings...

That's illegal in essentially every state in the US. Don't promote it.

Well....not really. That's been the whole rub with the offshoring deal: you've got big companies with offices all over the world (including in places like India) that get American projects.....and they are designed in India....but sealed by a engineer living/working in one of their American offices. The whole grey area in the regs that allow this are the loopholes like "Supervisory control" (i.e. the EOR reviewed it/red lined it).

RE: Should I trust this engineer?

So illegal, but not enforced. Sounds like a lot of things.

RE: Should I trust this engineer?

It's not a loophole, per se, is it, since it's what allows EITs and non-licensed engineers to design under the supervision of a licensed engineer, even in the US? Otherwise, a licensed engineer would have do everything themselves.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
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RE: Should I trust this engineer?

Quote:

So illegal, but not enforced. Sounds like a lot of things.

That's just it: it's not illegal. (I've made this point a million times on here.)

Take (for example) Illinois's SE rules:

From Sect. Section 1480.210 Standards of Professional Conduct:

..............
a)
2) Licensees shall approve and seal only those designs reviewed or prepared by them, and found to be safe for the public health, property and welfare.

..........
b)
2) Licensees shall not affix their signature or seal to any plans or documents dealing with subject matter in which they lack competence, nor to any plan or document not prepared or reviewed under their direct supervisory control.


The "reviewed" part is what is letting all this happen.

RE: Should I trust this engineer?

Quote:

It's not a loophole, per se, is it, since it's what allows EITs and non-licensed engineers to design under the supervision of a licensed engineer, even in the US? Otherwise, a licensed engineer would have do everything themselves.

True. But I have favored (for years) altering this to prohibit offshoring. There has to be someway of altering the language of the rules (like I have cited above).

RE: Should I trust this engineer?

If it is not "under direct supervisory control", then it is illegal. If it is designed in India and reviewed in the US, to me that is not direct. I know, I'm somewhere in the last century.

RE: Should I trust this engineer?

Quote:

If it is not "under direct supervisory control", then it is illegal. If it is designed in India and reviewed in the US, to me that is not direct. I know, I'm somewhere in the last century.

I tend to agree with you.....but legally (to me) this language allows it.

RE: Should I trust this engineer?

Depends on the state. In Virginia, my reading of the regs is that it would, in fact, be illegal.

Quote (18VAC10-20-760. Use of Seal)

[A.]1. No professional shall affix a seal, signature, and date or certification to a plan, plat, document, sketch, or other work constituting the practice of the professions regulated that has been prepared by an unlicensed or uncertified person unless such work was performed under the direct control and personal supervision of the professional while the unlicensed or uncertified person was an employee of the same firm as the professional or was under written contract to the same firm that employs the professional.

RE: Should I trust this engineer?

I've two projects that were outsourced to different countries, but both were drafting (CADD) works only. We had another project that was contracted to a Chinese design institute, I and three other colleagues were rotated in and out throughout the design phases. I've never seen a project been outsourced completely without the presence of buyer side technical staff (licensed engineer).

RE: Should I trust this engineer?

Quote:

Depends on the state. In Virginia, my reading of the regs is that it would, in fact, be illegal.

Quote (18VAC10-20-760. Use of Seal)
[A.]1. No professional shall affix a seal, signature, and date or certification to a plan, plat, document, sketch, or other work constituting the practice of the professions regulated that has been prepared by an unlicensed or uncertified person unless such work was performed under the direct control and personal supervision of the professional while the unlicensed or uncertified person was an employee of the same firm as the professional or was under written contract to the same firm that employs the professional.

Again that still leaves the nebulous "under the direct control and personal supervision" language out there. One could argue (quite successfully in my opinion) that through e-mails, red lines, etc.....you are exercising supervisory control of a project. (Even if the person is in a overseas office.)

If anyone wants to think this language is stopping anyone: I'm here to tell them they are wrong......and I have seen it first hand.....and there isn't a leg to stand on to argue that this violates any rules.

If we want it to stop.....we've got to accept that fact and change this.

RE: Should I trust this engineer?

Quote (WARose)

Again that still leaves the nebulous "under the direct control and personal supervision" language out there. One could argue (quite successfully in my opinion) that through e-mails, red lines, etc.....you are exercising supervisory control of a project. (Even if the person is in a overseas office.)

I believe it is the intent to include electronic control/supervision. There are some states that specifically clarify that this is OK. But, not only does the EOR need to be in "direct control and have personal supervision", the people he has direct control over need to be in direct employment or have a contract set up.

The board is not trying to prevent you from having someone in India (or wherever) work for you and prepare engineering documents that you are in control of. What they are trying to prevent is a contractor bringing you plans that were engineered (maybe engineered?) by some other firm without a license in the state and you stamping them without having direct involvement with the actual design/designer. Even if you review them (per Virginia's law cited above as well as most other states) and determine them to be OK, it is illegal to stamp them. You would need to produce your own original documents based off of sound engineering principals to stamp.

RE: Should I trust this engineer?

WARose - I agree with everything in dauwerda's post, so I'll try not to repeat it. To your point about it stopping anyone, I don't think any of us believe that it's preventing it any more than a 35mph speed limit sign stops people from driving 55mph through a neighborhood. It's up to us to practice ethics and do our best to discourage behavior to the contrary.

In the situation described by the OP, an unlicensed engineer provides him plans and he gets a licensed engineer to stamp them. Based on the information given, it sounds like the unlicensed engineer and the "EOR" are both have a contract with the OP. IF that is the case, it is illegal according to the Virginia regs. It would be fine if the unlicensed engineer was under contract to the EOR and the EOR was under contract with the OP. But that's not what it sounds like. That's why hokie66 called it out and discouraged the practice.

RE: Should I trust this engineer?

Quote:

WARose - I agree with everything in dauwerda's post, so I'll try not to repeat it. To your point about it stopping anyone, I don't think any of us believe that it's preventing it any more than a 35mph speed limit sign stops people from driving 55mph through a neighborhood. It's up to us to practice ethics and do our best to discourage behavior to the contrary.

In the situation described by the OP, an unlicensed engineer provides him plans and he gets a licensed engineer to stamp them. Based on the information given, it sounds like the unlicensed engineer and the "EOR" are both have a contract with the OP. IF that is the case, it is illegal according to the Virginia regs. It would be fine if the unlicensed engineer was under contract to the EOR and the EOR was under contract with the OP. But that's not what it sounds like. That's why hokie66 called it out and discouraged the practice.

That's great.....but I've never understood the determination in this business to stop one but not the other. Offshoring costs us a whole lot more (in terms of jobs) than the once-in-a-blue-moon case of: it was prepared by a contractor or [whomever].

RE: Should I trust this engineer?

Because the profession is more concerned with maintaining the validity of the seal and what it stands for.

I think you'll get a wide variety of opinions from the engineering community if you asked them about engineering and engineering related job loss due to outsourcing, so it's hard to get a sufficiently large enough group to agree and push for the regs to do allow it explicitly or disallow it.

The meaning of the seal, on the other hand, has more widespread support. The seal means that the engineer whose name is on it is responsible for not only the consequences of the work, but the performance of the work itself. I know we get hung up in the litigious nature of society a lot and focus mostly on liability, but the idea of the public trust that is supposed to be embodied in the seal is really focused on the rest of the time. They want to know it won't get to litigation, or injury, or worse. So the performance of the work by a qualified individual or under the direct supervision and control of a qualified person is the predominant focus of the professional associations and regulating bodies.

I realize this is all pretty idealistic, but I'd much rather be a pragmatic idealist than an ideal pragmatist.

RE: Should I trust this engineer?

Quote:

Because the profession is more concerned with maintaining the validity of the seal and what it stands for.

Anyone who is concerned about that should be concerned about offshoring. (IMHO)

Quote:

The meaning of the seal, on the other hand, has more widespread support. The seal means that the engineer whose name is on it is responsible for not only the consequences of the work, but the performance of the work itself. I know we get hung up in the litigious nature of society a lot and focus mostly on liability, but the idea of the public trust that is supposed to be embodied in the seal is really focused on the rest of the time. They want to know it won't get to litigation, or injury, or worse. So the performance of the work by a qualified individual or under the direct supervision and control of a qualified person is the predominant focus of the professional associations and regulating bodies.

I'm not sure what the (real) difference is between the 2 situations discussed and how one somehow is better for the profession than the other (and indeed, a lot of engineering boards don't differentiate between the two).....but....in any case, vive la différence (as the French would say).

RE: Should I trust this engineer?

Quote (WARose)

Anyone who is concerned about that should be concerned about offshoring. (IMHO)

Can you expand on that a little? I'd like to know your reasoning why the concern should be any greater than with hiring an unknown entity in the States. Are they sufficiently knowledgeable about the field of engineering they're being hired for? Are they sufficiently familiar with the codes governing the design and construction of the project? Can the clearly communicate the design on contract documents?

To answer the second part of your post, I think it's easier to give a pair of hypothetical examples:

Example A) A multinational engineering firm has a large project in Anytown, VA. The local office has too much work to perform the entire job, so they tap one of their project managers there to oversee and act as EOR, but send the work to their office in, lets say, the Philippines because they're light on work. The EOR sets the parameters for the project and "builds the sandbox" for the engineer in the Philippines. The overseas engineer goes to work on the analysis and design, sending regular updates to the EOR for review and comment. The drafting is done overseas but with similar involvement from the EOR in terms of monitoring, reviewing, commenting, and directing. When the job is finished, the EOR seals it and it's delivered. The work was done by unlicensed individuals in another country, but the EOR maintained direct control and personal supervision. This could also apply to a smaller firm who outsources some analysis work or drafting, so long as the EOR maintains similar control. With the current state of technology, the only differences between this and outsourcing it to a freelancer two counties over are the time difference and the geopolitical considerations about globalization (which, as I mentioned before, is more divisive than I think the professional organizations really want to tackle).

Example B) Project Manager at a firm in Anothertown, VA gets a project from a client. He hands it off to an EIT and says it's due by next Friday. Next Wednesday comes around and the EIT, who has done all of the analysis on his own and worked with one of the firm's draftsmen to prepare the drawings, drops it on the PM's desk. The PM glances at it and sends it to the client.

Do you think either of these meet the requirements of the regulations for use of a seal? Do either of them violate them?

RE: Should I trust this engineer?

Quote:

Can you expand on that a little? I'd like to know your reasoning why the concern should be any greater than with hiring an unknown entity in the States. Are they sufficiently knowledgeable about the field of engineering they're being hired for? Are they sufficiently familiar with the codes governing the design and construction of the project? Can the clearly communicate the design on contract documents?

I'm not saying the concern should be greater than one (vs the other). What amazes me is how much the outrage is for one vs. the other....it should be for both. In both cases, neither are a licensed professional. Ergo, they both fall into the same category.

Quote:



Do you think either of these meet the requirements of the regulations for use of a seal? Do either of them violate them?

Theoretically, neither one violates the rules under many states regs. But the former undermines the profession because we are talking pennies on the dollar for engineering work.

A lot of the same organizations talking about "raising the bar" (and so forth) for licensing have said/done very little on this. What is the point of raising the bar to rubber stamp something that was done overseas.....and will ultimately drive down wages and opportunity here? Doesn't make a bit of sense (to me at least).

RE: Should I trust this engineer?

I think the discussion is over heated, and not very productive. I'll say if someone rubber stamp, just don't get caught by failure of the constructed structures, and don't mind to lose your license and be sued.

RE: Should I trust this engineer?

retired - I'm not heated, and I don't think WARose is either - just discussing a contentious issue that has important impacts on our profession.

There was a reason I said "Anytown, VA" - I wanted to keep this at least tangentially tied to the OP, and in the extremely small population sample of regs that have been presented Virginia seems to have the most stringent wording in the regs. Can you look back at the section of code I quoted earlier and tell me if either one violates the Virginia regs regarding use of seal?

On the same token, what states say it's okay for a PE to stamp a design prepared by an unlicensed person without an actual review and understanding of the design and decisions made? Maybe re-read my B above - I said "glanced" not "reviewed." I put that in there because it isn't purely hypothetical - I've encountered it first hand on occasion (as I'm sure most of us have for one reason or another).

It seems to me that your issue with this is not related to the quality of the engineering, but rather the geopolitical and socioeconomic consequences of globalization and how the impact professional engineering specifically. Does that sound about right?

RE: Should I trust this engineer?

Why does this objection only apply to engineering? Why not IT, or drafting, or accounting, etc... All of the other parts of the business that are also being offshored.

RE: Should I trust this engineer?

Quote:

(phamENG)
retired - I'm not heated, and I don't think WARose is either - just discussing a contentious issue that has important impacts on our profession.

Definitely no heat (intended) from me.


Quote:

(phamENG)

On the same token, what states say it's okay for a PE to stamp a design prepared by an unlicensed person without an actual review and understanding of the design and decisions made? Maybe re-read my B above - I said "glanced" not "reviewed." I put that in there because it isn't purely hypothetical - I've encountered it first hand on occasion (as I'm sure most of us have for one reason or another).

I'm not sure if this is aimed at me or not.....but I myself have quoted regs where the "reviewed" term is used. I think my point on that was clear.

Quote:

(phamENG)

It seems to me that your issue with this is not related to the quality of the engineering, but rather the geopolitical and socioeconomic consequences of globalization and how the impact professional engineering specifically. Does that sound about right?

Absolutely. (Although I do question (to a degree) how effective any supervisory control can be when the parties involved are separated by thousands of miles.)

I would think/hope any engineer who has any rational self-interest in preserving his/her means to earn a living and/or their profession would agree.....but more on that in a moment......

Quote:

(canwesteng)
Why does this objection only apply to engineering? Why not IT, or drafting, or accounting, etc... All of the other parts of the business that are also being offshored.

I don't presume to speak for those jobs/professions.....that's up to them. I will say this though, after a lifetime of observing this and other professions.....I'm not sure I've ever seen a professional group more willing to get screwed over than this one. Other profession's lobbies are out there fighting to help theirs. (I was just reading today about a doctor's lobby fighting tooth and nail to reduce their liability.) The organizations that presume to represent us: How about let's raise the bar?.....how you liking this CEU requirement?....legislation to reduce/eliminate a EOR's personal liability? Nah. Offshoring? Well, what about raising that bar?

Don't get me wrong.....I love what I do....and I'd probably do it all over again. But I will never, ever get the (pardon if this is too crude) bend-over-and-take-it mentality in this business.

RE: Should I trust this engineer?

^ Yeah, take a look at Jeff Schmidt's book 'Disciplined Minds' about this attitude. Pilots and teachers are other professions that organize around collective self interest.

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