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Owner Requesting Structural Calculations
9

Owner Requesting Structural Calculations

Owner Requesting Structural Calculations

(OP)
Good Afternoon All,

Hopefully a quick question here... is it normal for an owner to request calculations from the structural EOR as part of their CD reviews? We typically only submit calculations to the applicable jurisdiction during the permitting phase and not sure what the owner is intending to do by reviewing our calculations.

My fear in providing this information would be future misuse of the calculations in order to justify modifications/additional loads to the as-built structure without the consolation of the EOR. Any thoughts/experience here?

Thanks as always.

RE: Owner Requesting Structural Calculations

Submitting calcs, apart from those required by an AHJ, is atypical.

Some exceptions: government work (though they are often the AHJ), industrial clients with staff engineers. In both cases, the requirement for calculation submittals is generally stipulated up front and in the contract.

I think your concerns are justified. Besides, there is often additional work involved in submitting calculations. Depending on your company's internal practices, calculations may or may not be stored in a suitable submittal format. If you just keep a design notebook and a saved analysis model, you have plenty to do to prepare a formal package.

There have been a few threads on this issue in the past. Have you searched for any? There's usually a split between those who do formal calcs as a matter of course and don't care and those who don't.

RE: Owner Requesting Structural Calculations

(OP)
phamENG,

I have not read through the previous threads. I will comb through regarding this topic for more info. Glad to hear my concerns are legitimate though.

We typical prepare formal calculation packages for every project to make accessing the calculations/design parameters much quicker during the bids phase. Organized and easy-to-understand calc packages make for easy DD changes and usually fewer permit comments IMO.

Thanks for the quick response.

RE: Owner Requesting Structural Calculations

4
You’re not obliged to give them out. They are your own intellectual property.

I don’t like giving them out for the following reasons:

1) Some show-off will at some point accuse me of overdesign

2) Someone justifying their existence will accuse me of underdesign

RE: Owner Requesting Structural Calculations

On the other hand, if your contract is with the owner, then they have a right to ask for all the deliverables. Assuming you live in an area where sending calculations to the AHJ is standard, then the calculations are a deliverable. They are specifically itemized as a deliverable in all my contracts. If the owner is not your client, then it is technically up to the client (architect or contractor or developer) if they want to share the deliverables with the owner.

I fail to see how misuse of calculations is a serious concern. Owners do all kinds of questionable things to their buildings without the approval of the EOR. I can't see how having calculations will make it more likely. If I were a wise owner, I would definitely ask for calculations so that for any future work on the building, my structural engineer would not have to reinvent the wheel and make assumptions to justify each modification.

RE: Owner Requesting Structural Calculations

Do not the calculations become "public record" if submitted as part of CD's to the AHJ? If the owner is asking for them during the design phase, I would let them know they aren't compiled nor organized at this point and that there may be additional services required for my time to compile for their review before finishing the project - I bet this would make them not ask or at least give you some indication of why they are asking for them before submittal to the AHJ. If I gave them out before completion I would put a disclaimer that they aren't final and may change or something along those lines to cover myself. If you are at CD phase (assuming sealed set) then I would think your calculations are compiled if they are being submitted to the AHJ. I assume you are really at 99% (unsealed) for owner review before finishing touches and submittal to AHJ. As others have said though, I caution against direct conversations with the owner if they aren't your client, it's best to follow the chain of command to avoid project changes/issues. It is worth nothing that we have been hired before to do a peer review of another engineers calculations and plans before they were submitted to the AHJ, and as I'm sure happens in every set of calculations produced by every engineer, we did find things that we disagreed with or that were wrong/didn't' meet code. It is important to note that most engineers know we all make mistakes and we don't hold this personal against each other. In fact I have seen a few projects where we designed the shell building and another engineer who happened to be a friend designed the TI and I found a mistake in their drawings and or calculations during my coordination review and just picked up the phone to inform them, every time it's been a "thank you".

MIStructE_IRE's concerns are legit however, there is always those two types of engineers and the owners who hire those types to review something are not the type of clients I want.

RE: Owner Requesting Structural Calculations

RangeRock:
I have generally not included my calc. files as part of my deliverables package, to the AHJ or the owner, when working on buildings or civil structures. They just were not reqr’d. as a normal part of that package in my day. Certainly, this should be spelled out in the original contract and you should be paid for the extra work in doing so. Some industries have reqr’d. this long before I got involved, and there I’ve complied. Actually, I’ve always been proud of my calcs. and design process. If the owner does anything nefarious with your calcs., you shouldn’t be held responsible for that. The sniping and second guessing, these days, has become so prevalent, that they’ll do it to you with or without your calcs. So, you’ll end up showing your calcs. anyway just to defend your original design. And, we all know that a court will have you printing your calcs. faster than the printer bulb will warm up, and the judge expects a smile while you do it, even if you don’t like it.

On the other hand, I’ve always wondered why/how an owner can spend millions of dollars on a project/structure, and not insist on a couple complete packages of plans, specs., as-builts, maybe major final shop drwgs., etc., maybe my calcs. too. Then, they don’t take care of what they do have or pass it on to the next owner, with the bldg. Then in ten years they want to make a change and know nothing about their bldg., except that it is taking the SE to long to figure out what grade of steel they used, and to measure each beam to guess at its size. We’ve all faced this dozens of times over the years.

RE: Owner Requesting Structural Calculations

dhengr:

I think it comes down to financing versus out of pocket expense. Design phase many times is out of pocket so they physically see that money being spend on the plans, calculations, etc. which means they want to reduce the cost and in doing so they care little about paying for extra plans, or really even a more efficient design. It sounds funny, but they really to question every little expense on the design phase, including shopping engineers and architects against each other, almost always using the cheapest one. There have been a few projects where we hear "we ant your level of quality, but at this other engineers fee" I just laugh and say this is my fee, take it or leave it and 95% of the time they go with the other engineer on those, I just don't see designing something like a 3 story custom concrete house with no stacked load paths for 2000 dollars...

RE: Owner Requesting Structural Calculations

I try to always compile a calculation package whether it's part of the contract or not. Moreover, within reason, I'll share my calculation package with pretty much anyone who asks. I'm of the mind that meaningful, external peer reviews are really our only path towards the following as a profession:

1) Better fees and;
2) Better engineering.

Personally, I'd be annoyed and insulted if I were the owner of a building and some consultant refused to share their work on my project. The owner is ultimately everybody'd client in a way. And, frankly, if you're not prepared to defend your work ala peer review, you probably shouldn't be doing the work.

Yes, of course I would prefer to see engineers doing "friendly" peer reviews rather than using them as marketing opportunities, as some do.

RE: Owner Requesting Structural Calculations

I've always put together a structural calculation package. Usually for plan review here in California. Other times have been the following:
a) Working on a project in a state where I did not have licensure.... The structural package (drawings and calculations, both) were reviewed by an engineer the client hired for him to stamp. Note: I was off this project before we received any significant feedback / changes / requests from this engineer.
b) Case where there wasn't really a valid jurisdiction to submit to. This was for internal records for our company, for the client.
c) Cases where nothing was to be built yet. In those cases, it was for project / construction / engineering planning and for bidding for the project. I believe in these cases, these calculations were kept in house and we would NOT send them to the client. Essentially, these would reduce the "re-work" once we won the project or once we had better knowledge of which mech equipment suppliers won the bid.

RE: Owner Requesting Structural Calculations

I should also point out that I had one project where the owner wanted to be able to install the equipment just about anywhere in the US. So, we put together a crazy calc package assuming some of the worst wind and seismic loading that clearly stated the wind speed and seismic acceleration factors that were used.

I hope we charged more for that package because that equipment was going to be installed and those foundations were going to be built over and over and over again. Granted, they would have to get stamped again likely for each install.

RE: Owner Requesting Structural Calculations

It's not common to submit calcs to the AHJ in these environs. In 50 years, I could count the number of times on one hand and have fingers left over. Whenever I've been asked for them, I include a note thanking the AHJ for the detailed review he's undertaking... just to share the guilt. There's no free lunch. Only once I've received a comment back about it not being a detailed review, and I've responded that I disagree.

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

-Dik

RE: Owner Requesting Structural Calculations

I think I would prepare the calculations differently depending on who they were being submitted to. It's kind of atypical to submit them to an owner (no engineering experience), but yeah, if they want that as part of the service then account for it in the fee. Alternatively, go the bare bones method and just submit the software output that states Pass/Fail for each member.

I think it's kind of crazy to take calculations and go line by line. It's probably more valuable (in a "secondary review" sense) for the reviewer to take the final design and piece it together. There's always going to be little things that another designer will do differently.

RE: Owner Requesting Structural Calculations

With KK on this one, the better we share info the better off the profession.

RE: Owner Requesting Structural Calculations

This question depends on who the owner is. If this is a residential project it seems like a fishing expedition, but if the owner is an industrial or commercial owner with their own representatives, then it does not seem out of line. We have entered contracts where we were required to submit our calculation package to the federal building owner. There is an added cost to produce a package for someone other than a colleague who is familiar with the work.

RE: Owner Requesting Structural Calculations

It's not a matter of sharing. This forum is good for that. My calcs are generally sketchy, thumbnail calcs, unless something is of concern or unusual. Often just the calculations downloaded from my TI calculator. I can follow them, but others may have difficulty. If I do lots of a similar problem (generally 3 or more) I usually make an SMath sheet and save it and a multiple printout in *.pdf. I can change the variables and append the pdf printout to the document. I've not encountered a request for calcs often, only a few times in 50 years. If a client wants calcs, I will provide him with a copy that is presentable and charge him for the time of preparation.

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

-Dik

RE: Owner Requesting Structural Calculations

Dik, understand it from your perspective, however I will put forward an alternative view.

After a larger Earthquake in NZ which was above the design codes applicable at the but not by much, the building damage to event was higher than expected. The conclusion was that engineers needed more training and information.

Part of this more information was providing calculations and examples. In NZ most calc sets are discoverable as part of the building, you can easily see how other people have solved the more complex problems of soft soils and liquidation etc. Helps you get a larger perspective.

The information part also includes test so that engineer can turn theory into practice.

RE: Owner Requesting Structural Calculations

Then the agencies should/could provide guidelines (which I think they do) and people can use these without presenting their calculations.

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

-Dik

RE: Owner Requesting Structural Calculations

Quote (dik)

I've not encountered a request for calcs often, only a few times in 50 years.
I've had just the opposite experience. Only a few times have I not been required to submit calcs. I practice mostly in the western U.S. where almost every AHJ permitting agency requires calcs. I also do a lot of work where the owner is a government agency and calcs are required in their contracts. So my fee proposals already include the effort to produce a formal calc package and have it QC reviewed by another engineer. It's interesting how the standard of practice varies across different regions.

RE: Owner Requesting Structural Calculations

1) Some show-off will at some point accuse me of overdesign

2) Someone justifying their existence will accuse me of underdesign

While these are legit concerns, but, in my opinion, they are not valid excuses for not providing a copy (PDF) of the design calc upon request from the owner.

RE: Owner Requesting Structural Calculations

OldDawg - here in the east (specifically mid Atlantic), none of the AHJs have anyone qualified to review calcs. They tried once, and after a rather embarrassing back and forth and 45 minute instructional session during which I explained how IBC chapter 16 works, they relented and I haven't received Structural comments since.

State or federal is different. They require calcs and I provide them.

RE: Owner Requesting Structural Calculations

Quote (Rowingengineer)

In NZ most calc sets are discoverable as part of the building, you can easily see how other people have solved

Could you elaborate on that? How does it work?

RE: Owner Requesting Structural Calculations

The building approvals request calcs to show basic understanding of the problems and you can request the building approvals which includes the calcs for any building. Fairly simple but largely unaffected by the above concerns.

RE: Owner Requesting Structural Calculations

@le99 - they’re not excuses. I do give them out, albeit relatively infrequently. These aren’t excuses, but simply reasons, based on past experience, I don’t like giving out calcs.

RE: Owner Requesting Structural Calculations

It's also important to understand what legal right you do or do not have to your calcs. In the US, an engineer's work belongs to them, even after it has been produced and payment has been made. The design of every building I've designed (under my company, anyway), is my property. It does not belong to my client. My client has license to use my design once and only once to permit and construct the building. Once that is done their license is invalid and they have to get my permission to use it again. What I do or do not do to arrive at that design is also my property, and I have the right to control its distribution. Other countries may have a different take on things.

Now an AHJ has the authority to withhold permit until calculations or other proof of design adequacy is presented for review and approval. For a discussion on whether or not an EOR can be compelled to comply, see my recent thread on that subject. Best I can tell, it comes down to the contract. And how much work that EOR wants to get in the future. If the AHJ requires it and the EOR refuses, they're likely to end up in a lawsuit and probably won't be able to work in that jurisdiction again.

RE: Owner Requesting Structural Calculations

Providing calculation to the owner usually is not part of the contract. We normally send this to AHJ not to the owner. However, if they really insist on having a copy, you have the right to charge for additional fee since calculation is your intellectual property.

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