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Releasing Structural Calculations
8

Releasing Structural Calculations

Releasing Structural Calculations

(OP)
We've been asked to release our structural calculations on a project. The client has been told by the Architect that we had to redesign a number of elements (this is false, and I believe occurred because the Architect had issued drawings with incorrect sizes, which we insisted be revised), and we are now told that the client has "lost all confidence in our engineering" and wishes to have the calculations reviewed.

I've looked back, and there was a thread discussing release of calculations back in 2004: https://www.eng-tips.com/viewthread.cfm?qid=263793

Fundamentally, having practiced in jurisdictions where release of calculations is the norm (ie: Design calculations going into the authority with the drawings), I don't mind, but I do worry.

I wanted to hear opinions, etc. I think in North America (this being Ottawa, Canada), releasing calculations is a possible source of liability, and perhaps unwise.

High level: I am confident in the design, happy with the sizes, and my objections to the release are based on liability and legal concerns. Thoughts?

RE: Releasing Structural Calculations

I thought the client owned the calc as it is part of what they paid for and generally you are required to release calc to the building department.

RE: Releasing Structural Calculations

2
Some jurisdictions almost always require calculations. Some almost never. I’ve been sealing drawings for almost 30 years and I’ve submitted calcs just a handful of times.

It also depends on your contract. If it’s not in your contract, then why go through the time and expense to create, organize, and submit calculations? Just to give them a stick to beat you with? No thanks.

RE: Releasing Structural Calculations

GC_Hopi...

Ownership of calcs, plans, specs, etc. depends on the contract between the design professional and the client. As I recall, ASCE, AIA, EJCDC, etc. consider these documents to be "instruments of service" and recommend ownership remain with the design professional. For the little bit of private work I have done, we retained ownership and the client was given copies of plans and specs, but usually not calcs even when calcs were submitted to the AHJ for review and permitting. Governments, on the other hand, take a different approach and they typically claim ownership or at least an ownership interest in these documents. For my state and federal projects, calcs were always submitted to the client.

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

RE: Releasing Structural Calculations

Quote (I thought the client owned the calc)


Not in my books... unless agreed to before. My calcs are 'proprietary'. When I say that stuff is available (mostly photos) on request, I don't mention that it may take a 'court order'.

The only time I had a request for calcs was from a building official for a precast structure outside Ottawa. The project manager didn't believe that rock anchors were required to resist the seismic forces, so he asked his buddy the building inspector to get the calcs. I sent them on, and thanked the building inspector for the added review of the design (liability issue, and he was not pleased).

Rather than think climate change and the corona virus as science, think of it as the wrath of God. Feel any better?

-Dik

RE: Releasing Structural Calculations

oww... my neck. Got a little backlash on that. haha

Yes, I agree there is always the in's and out's if you go down the legal path but why cause friction with a client. Here is an old post. Link

RE: Releasing Structural Calculations

Asking for the calcs to be provided in this situation is odd in my experience. What normally happens is that the client informs you that they are going to provide the design drawings to another engineer for a peer review. In Ontario the engineer completing the peer review needs to inform the original engineer that they have been engaged to do this work. The peer review engineer then does their own independent calculations and provides an opinion to the client that could fall into three general categories A) the design fails to meet code requirements or B) the design is satisfactory or C) the design meets/exceeds code requirements, however there is possibly a more efficient solution.

If there is disagreement between the professionals, often at that point there is direct communication between the two engineers to try and discuss and resolve. I have seen calcs released between the professionals at this point a couple of times. I have only had to release calculations a few times over many years, and that was to satisfy building department requests.

RE: Releasing Structural Calculations

I don't know that there's any liability risk beyond what you're typically exposed to, but that would be a good question for your insurance carrier.

I'd go for requesting a meeting with the owner to discuss their 'loss of confidence' and how that came to be. Be prepared with progress drawings that show the development of your design over time and that you didn't have to redesign things after the design was finalized.

If you can't assuage their concerns that way, then give them the option to 1) provide your drawings to a third party of their choice to review the design and conduct an independent analysis of the structural system or 2) give them a fee to convert your archived calculations into a presentable submittal document (assuming doing so is not part of your SOP) that can then be reviewed by a third party that you agree to, since you did not contractually agree to it in the first place and you don't want your instruments of service that fall outside of what would have been public record to get into the hands of your primary competitors.

I typically find that number 1 is a better review anyway. After all, the question isn't (or shouldn't be) your methods, but rather the suitability of the final design.

RE: Releasing Structural Calculations

There have only been a few times that I have done a peer review. I preface the report noting that other professionals might evaluate things in a slightly different fashion and that the building code is a minimal standard. The Ontario association cautions engineers not to be 'picky' in their peer review. The only review I did that was 'picky' was for a presentation on forensic reports, and the document was an engineering report on the collapse of the Algo Mall, in Ontario. The report was terrible and seriously flawed. The review was strictly internal and not published. In accordance with Ontario guidelines, the engineer was informed of my review... not the results of it. I do that anyway; if I review anything, I inform the other party of my involvement just as a common courtesy.

Rather than think climate change and the corona virus as science, think of it as the wrath of God. Feel any better?

-Dik

RE: Releasing Structural Calculations

Seems like this is a rabbit hole.

RE: Releasing Structural Calculations

a waskelly one, no doubt... hourglass

Rather than think climate change and the corona virus as science, think of it as the wrath of God. Feel any better?

-Dik

RE: Releasing Structural Calculations

I don’t like releasing calculations but have begrudgingly done so a number of times. Once I came up against another consultant, the reviewer, being a d1ck, telling my client where he would have saved money on rebar had he been the engineer.. There used to be a code of ethics engineers maintained!

RE: Releasing Structural Calculations

Good one dik! lol.

I've stamped calcs for building departments several times in my career. Mostly just a check the box thing for a permit.

I've also thoroughly reviewed another engineer's calculations. It was a weird project where he was working under me and I had responsible charge. We had meetings often during design but following his calcs was difficult.

In this situation if the reviewing engineer wants to be a pain (dikbigsmile), it'll get messy.

RE: Releasing Structural Calculations

For our state projects (TxDOT) we turn in all calculations. Depending on the engineer, sometimes these are highly formatted beautiful calcs; and sometimes they are 'chicken-scratch' written on a post-it note. I do not think they are ever looked at by the state. We have never received a comment on them. My guess is that they just get filed away in case a bridge falls down.

For the private projects; we only release calc's in rare circumstance. I cannot think of an occurrence, but I'm sure we have a few times over the years.

RE: Releasing Structural Calculations

I almost never review calcs... generally faster to do a quick preliminary design. With reviewing calcs, you can fall into the trap of following calculations and not following the design... I don't recall ever finding a faulty design that I've reviewed... have after the fact, though... with collapses.

I do a lot of connection design for a metal fabricator and often find 'things' on other drawings. The most common, I think is reference to the latest version of CSA S16.1... which was about 2000. when it was done... Another often 'misthought' is designing for the full strength of the member... CJP welds for everything?...I often enounter specs that were withdrawn decades back... using same specs/notes that they have for decades. When I was with Lavalin, in the Winnipeg office, I modified all the structural dept specs to refer to the current version unless a specific version was referenced.

Rather than think climate change and the corona virus as science, think of it as the wrath of God. Feel any better?

-Dik

RE: Releasing Structural Calculations

I don't like reviewing calculations done by others as part of a design review and I always get hinky about turning them in. But we do, quite commonly.
Whichever external entity (building department, client, etc.) is receiving them doesn't have the time, patience or knowledge to review the calculations. If they did, they'd be doing what I do. I think they just like the security of knowing we toted that barge and lifted that bale.
And regarding internal calculations, I'd much rather eyeball the critical elements of a project (45 years gets you focused on them) and do my own back of the envelope calculations on them. Trying to follow someone else's calculation work just eats up too much time. It becomes a number review exercise, not a design review.

RE: Releasing Structural Calculations

Calculations are an essential part of the submittal to the AHJ in CA. And they are always scrutinized. The depth to which they are scrutinized depends on the jurisdiction. Third-party reviewers are almost like a peer review. The good thing for those of us who do a lot of the same types of projects, our process and details are fairly well refined.

RE: Releasing Structural Calculations

I have no problem giving calcs to anyone who wants to see them. However, I do question what the client's reason is for asking for them, especially if they are not the technical type and have no idea what they're looking at. If you publish drawings for all to see, there should not be an issue in publishing the calcs that determined the drawing content. I think that engineers are nervous about releasing calcs because they are worried someone may pick them apart, find an error, etc. Nobody reviewing calcs (or drawings) should expect them to be 100% perfect and error free, be it technical, mathematical, or otherwise. I have never checked a project where there was not a single error or where something could not have been done better or differently. Have you ever placed your seal on a set of construction drawings and never made a correction in a bulletin or addendum? I am not advocating that errors are ok or acceptable, the point is we as engineers should strive to be error free and correct errors we do make......be it on calcs or drawings. Show us your calcs bigsmile.

RE: Releasing Structural Calculations

(OP)
While I am fairly confident MotorCity's "Show us your calcs." isn't actually a request to show our calcs to the thread, it does make me think...

At the outset I stated that I don't mind releasing calcs, and have practiced where it is the norm. When it is not, however, I must ask the proverbial "When in Rome.".

Without good reason, I'm not going to release the calculations. I will permit a review, at our offices, by whomever the client may wish to have review, but our calculations are not leaving this office without significant fee or another reason we find motivating. This is a fee for service profession, and our time has value.

Thank you all for your time, and your thoughts. I'm still hopeful that I may get some guidance from my professional licensing body, and will make a point of updating the thread once received.

RE: Releasing Structural Calculations

Quote (pvachabot)

Calculations are an essential part of the submittal to the AHJ in CA. And they are always scrutinized. The depth to which they are scrutinized depends on the jurisdiction. Third-party reviewers are almost like a peer review. The good thing for those of us who do a lot of the same types of projects, our process and details are fairly well refined.

I'm also in California and I agree. On any project I've ever worked on, our calculations were part of our submittal (sometimes to the client, sometimes to the building department). We strove to have the Calculation package easy to understand with a table of contents and such.

Later I worked on some OSHPD (hospital) projects and this was elevated. Not only did our calcs have to be clear, but we had to make sure they referenced the drawings and details directly so that the OSHPD reviewers could go back and forth between the drawings and calcs with ease. The more I think about it, the more I realize that I should have been doing this all along. It makes things so much easier for a reviewer. And, anyone who looks at it can see how much more "profession" it is.

RE: Releasing Structural Calculations

@JoshPlumSE:

Just curious, who is tasked with organizing/creating the calculation package? Is there a technical writer or junior eng. that does the assembly and documentation? Or is that on the EOR/designer? It seems like it could turn out to be a bit of a time-task, and I'm wondering what is done to either (a) reduce the time investment, or (b) standardize the process.

RE: Releasing Structural Calculations

Skeletron -

Put together by one of the junior engineer. Supervised and reviewed by a senior engineer or the EOR. It takes some time to do for sure. Definitely takes time getting used to it.

Some quick thoughts on the process and such:
a) In California, we're submitting our calcs to the building department no matter what. So, putting together a calc package isn't much of a burden. Organizing them and adding a table of contents are part of what's generally expected.
b) We used Blue Beam Review to mark up our drawings which helped with the drawing review process. We also used the regular Blue Beam to help organize our calc packages. We standardized a number of the small calcs with Excel spreadsheets or such. So, our office had an organizational structure to a lot of our calcs that helped to speed things up.
b) It's making sure the calcs agree with the drawings that is really what really made the difference with the OSHPD projects. A lot of this could be added / modified after the original calc package was put together. We kept a part of our standard "header" that referenced a detail or drawing page. Editing this section in the PDF was relatively easy if the drawing page or detail number changed.... But, man it was great once it was done. If you had any questions about a particular detail, you could immediately compare it to the calculation and vice versa.

Honestly, the best part of this was how much easier it was to check / supervise other engineers working under you. Plus, it taught the younger engineers a lot about how the drawings are put together and relate to their calculations. Something that is often not taught very well in the University.

RE: Releasing Structural Calculations

Just make sure you thank them for their review...

Rather than think climate change and the corona virus as science, think of it as the wrath of God. Feel any better?

-Dik

RE: Releasing Structural Calculations

3
Not quite on OP's topic, but:
Where I work (Utah) we submit calcs with every single project, no matter how big or how small. If you don't, the plan reviewer will ask for them anyway, so its a now or later type thing. And in our contracts we specifically state that our product includes drawings AND calculations.

pvchabot and JoshPlum might be familiar with WC3, a 3rd party plan review firm (they have a staff of PE/SE's) that is more or less contracted with the AHJ for all plan reviews. It is interesting to see how the process works. I've had the same individual review multiple tiltup warehouses I've designed. Each time they will try to come up with some obscure code reference that they haven't used yet and I'll either refute their claim or revise my design. But rest assured, on the next project they will come back with something that hasn't been discussed before.

No hard feelings towards them - that's their job and I think it's an important part of the process. In fact I think it helps keep some of the...less scrupulous...designers in check, and therefore allows us to stay competitive.

@skeletron: I'm sure you've used ATC hazard / USGS / etc. websites to gather load criteria (wind / seismic / snow / whatever)? So a guy in our office developed a "spreadsheet" (VBA monstrosity) that automates much of the process. You enter in the job number and it looks up the project name/client/other data for the coversheet. Enter the project address and it will automatically: geocode the location (get coordinates) and pulls an image of the map off of google maps and pastes it onto one of the sheets, accesses the ATC website for wind and populates the respective cells, accesses the UT snow load website for...snow and populates those cells, and accesses the USGS website for seismic data and populates those cells. It saves quite a lot of time, and standardizes it for the whole office.

Beyond that, it's kind of up to each engineer as to what the calc package looks like/contains. Personally, I'm of the mindset of "here are the important calcs, if you want me to show proof that a 3/4" Titen HD can resist the 150lb reaction from this canopy, just ask, and I'll punch in some numbers showing that it's 5% stressed - thanks for wasting our time."

When it comes to software output, I'm kind of torn. Half of me wants to drown them in 1000's of sheets of detailed member reports, the other half of me feels bad for doing so.

But what I've had the best results with is the "narrative approach". I'll just type out more or less what my thought process was while doing the design and providing a few of the important calculations. That way it's much easier for them to follow along and to see that there is sound reasoning in the design, and MORE IMPORTANTLY, much easier for the next engineer who comes behind you a year later to make a revision or whatever...to figure out what on earth you were thinking. That's usually how I try to instruct newer engineers to do their calcs: "tell a story and make it easy to follow". Hell, sometimes I have a hard time figuring out my own calcs from a year ago...

RE: Releasing Structural Calculations

(OP)
Hello All,

So, we've had a reply from our licensing body (Professional Engineers Ontario). I'm including it here in its entirety.

[start]

Dear [CELinOttawa],

Hope all is well.

Please refer to PEO’s practice guidelines:

https://www.peo.on.ca/knowledge-centre/practice-ad...

Especially, the “Peer Review” guideline:

https://www.peo.on.ca/sites/default/files/2019-07/...



Here is some relevant text from page 11:



Clients or regulatory bodies might ask authoring engineers to submit design calculations and other information that is not normally considered part of the final documents. Unless there is a contractual or legislated obligation to do otherwise, authoring engineers should not provide documents generated during commission of the engineering services. However, it is acceptable for reviewers to request any data defining design or study parameters, client requirements communicated to the authoring engineer, equipment specifications or other information that would reasonably be expected to be needed by the reviewing engineer to carry out the review. Authoring engineers should consider whether these documents are necessary for conducting fair reviews, and provide them on an as-needed or temporary basis.

[/end]

Emphasis mine; I thought the reply quite helpful.

RE: Releasing Structural Calculations

I had an old contract juju man inform me that you never underline material or bold it in a contract. No one line is more important than another in the agreement. Thanks for the great reply... and, pretty much what I've done.

Rather than think climate change and the corona virus as science, think of it as the wrath of God. Feel any better?

-Dik

RE: Releasing Structural Calculations

If AHJs were clever, they would ask the engineer submitting the project for a peer review to be provided by the engineer submitting it. I'm not a lawyer, but suspect strongly that by doing it themselves, the are putting themselves at risk if something goes wrong. If they want the 'control' there is a price to be paid.

You always thank them for their review. If they reply that it's not a review, you don't acknowledge it... your statement is on record.

Rather than think climate change and the corona virus as science, think of it as the wrath of God. Feel any better?

-Dik

RE: Releasing Structural Calculations

The problem with doing that, on the customer side, is that unless they are very carefully reviewing the assumptions that back those calculations they could very well just confirm that excellent math was performed on the wrong problem. The FIU bridge collapse comes to mind.

If they wanted the stress results, that would be better as they would have to independently derive the assumptions and independently create the math to see what the stresses are and then, if there is a problem, it won't have been by inheriting a bad start (not saying there is one, but finding them is the whole point on their part.)

Now if they come back and say, we got a different answer "here" then you have a spot to discus. Both can can confirm if the assumptions are the same and if not, what effect that has, and so forth.

RE: Releasing Structural Calculations

The AHJ takes on no additional liability. They are the Authority, approver and deepest pockets already.

RE: Releasing Structural Calculations

I used to work in a jurisdiction with very rare peer review. Now, I work in an area with required peer review, where the AHJs collect calcs that become part of the public record.

When i issue documentation, I like it to be readable, presentable, neat and easy to follow. Calcs included. this takes time, if i am only doing calcs for myself, they dont need to be very formal.

I wouldnt turn up to a meeting in my pajamas, the same way i wouldnt give scrap paper to a client and present it as "my calcs". if they want calcs, you can have them, but thatll be an extra for me to put together for you

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