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How much to charge?
3

How much to charge?

How much to charge?

(OP)
Hi all,
I received a call for a steel building foundation. Approximate 3000 SQFT. I am in California. Not sure what the going rate is for these. My guesstimate is about 1500. I don’t see the job as being lucrative if i bid much less.

Any idea the going rate for these?

Or, any suggestions as to how i might find out the going rate? Is it ok to call competitors? Or maybe just call around anonymously to get a bid.

RE: How much to charge?

I don't know what the market is in your locale, but I'd likely charge about $2000 for doing the foundations... and would likely be successful with the fees.

So strange to see the singularity approaching while the entire planet is rapidly turning into a hellscape. -John Coates

-Dik

RE: How much to charge?

Have you done these before? (If the answer is no, you probably shouldn't do this one.) If you have, what sort of fees/budgets were you working with?

By steel building, I'm guessing you mean a "Metal Building System" or "Pre-Engineered Metal Building". For these, I generally charge about 80%-95% of the fee I would have charged to design the whole building myself. Reasons:

1) The foundation detailing is significantly more complex and consequential than for a "standard" steel frame building. Many of the failures (and there are quite a few) can be attributed to deficiencies in the foundation design and/or construction. You're in California, so I'm guessing you have lots of seismic stuff to deal with. That's another level of complexity that I don't have to deal with here.
2) Coordination - the superstructure should be specified by the EOR. If this is a backyard workshop, then it may not matter all that much. But these companies do not care about serviceability. They'll honor the code required minimums (barely), but the code is silent on most of the most important aspects of serviceability. So they make up their own standards and go by those...and they are woefully inadequate for anything but a very utilitarian structure.
3) Most of the time, number 2 doesn't happen. So there is an invariable back and forth trying to get them to fix the design to better suit the purpose of the building, and that takes time.
4) Liability. The superstructure drawings have all sorts of notes about not being the EOR and they can't be held liable for anything that they didn't supply. So if something goes wrong, somebody gets left holding the bag. It's probably the engineering consultant who is usually an EOR that got hired to design the foundation. (I have no proof for this, but it feels like the sort of thing that would happen.)

RE: How much to charge?

In addition to phamENG's points, if it's a PEMB, you're going to have the chore of designing the column anchorage. The manufacturer will not do it, no matter what the contract says. And since someone has to be the responsible engineer, it's going to be you.
The PEMB design will show edge distances are inadequate, the anchor spacing will be inadequate, basically no consideration of ACI. The loads will be vague, if you get any at all. You're likely to have to do your own load combinations for about 16 cases. And all of this will come after you've invoiced the foundation design.
Be sure to have a planned budget for that. And don't be shy.

RE: How much to charge?

pham... I've done so many of these that I have standard details and standard plans, including notes, and SMath programs that take care of most connections.

So strange to see the singularity approaching while the entire planet is rapidly turning into a hellscape. -John Coates

-Dik

RE: How much to charge?

dik - I've been developing similar tools, but to me it doesn't change the project coordination/risk side of the equation. And that carries a lot more weight for these than the time piece of it (at least in my figuring). And I won't depress my fees just because I have invested time in making time saving tools - the extra I get paid is the return on that investment.

The client and their expectations has a lot to do with it, too. I have some clients who appreciate the work I have to put in to these (or have put in while developing a good workflow) and are willing to pay for it. I also have some who just want me to give them a two sheet foundation plan and ignore everything else. Oh yeah, get it done yesterday, I'll pay you eventually, and it'll be half what the former is going to pay. (These are also the clients who tend to call with an 'emergency' because they decided to cut costs up front by not hiring me and now there's an issue in construction they want me to rubber stamp away.) In this market, there's enough of the former to not put up with the latter. In a down market, the latter is still not really worth it. Fast food is hiring at $14/hr now...the risk/reward calculation is probably better flipping burgers.

RE: How much to charge?

(OP)
@pham
“Probably shouldn't do this one”

Care to elaborate? That seems random. Would the next one be better?

RE: How much to charge?

I mean if you don't have experience designing PEMB foundations, you shouldn't design them without getting some training from an experienced engineer. They are fairly unique systems with, from my unscientific observation of reporting, a noticeably higher than average failure rate when compared to buildings more generally. There are books on the subject that can help, but until you've designed a few, inspected a few, and worked through at least some of the more common issues...best not to do them on your own.

But that's more of an ethics question than a business practices question. I only brought it up because a lack of knowledge of rates often (though not always) indicates a lack of experience within the particular sector. That's not always a problem. If you always do residential wood design, you'd be perfectly capable of doing commercial but the fee structure is quite different. If you do commercial steel and somebody hires you to do a steel framed house, you have the technical know-how but again, fees will likely vary. But PEMBs are a pretty niche area - both the super structure design and the foundations. I see a lot of PEMB foundation designs that violate the building code, but they get approved and built anyway. Mostly because the EOR approaches it like any other steel building and throws in a few typical details to make it look like a PEMB foundation. Meanwhile, you end up with a non-structural slab on grade that's supposed to somehow act as a tension tie, edge distances that are ignored based on dubiously detailed hairpins, base fixity issues, and other problems.

Now if you have a bunch of experience in these and you just moved to a new area, maybe haven't done one in a few years, or some other reason...this clearly doesn't apply to you. But if you've never designed one and you're thinking of taking the "I'll just watch a youtube video" approach...tread cautiously.

RE: How much to charge?

(OP)
-pham
It has been a while since i last designed one. But, yes, i have inspected several and designed severl, though to be honest more than a decade ago.
I am definitely open to any current references you are aware of that may help me get up to speed on current design methods, however! Always interested in becoming a better engineer.

RE: How much to charge?

(OP)
Thanks for the references. Nice to see there is at least one design guide these days!

RE: How much to charge?

You're also taking on liability for a delegated design. If the building fails (I've got pictures) for any reason, you're going to named prominently in the lawsuit. You're the responsible engineer, plus the PEMB supplier is going to have very sharp people trying to defect blame.

RE: How much to charge?

thanks pham... good article.

So strange to see the singularity approaching while the entire planet is rapidly turning into a hellscape. -John Coates

-Dik

RE: How much to charge?

These are the reasons I don't do PEMB foundations. And there is a firm near me who designs them for like $2k. Have at it.

RE: How much to charge?

It sounds like your bare minimum to make it worth it for YOU is $1500. If you are willing to do it for that and the client is willing to pay you that, case closed. But, it sounds like you need to brush up and re-familiarize yourself with this type of work, so you will also need to account for your time to climb the learning curve. Estimate how long you think you will need for that and tack it on to the $1500. Take any cost comparisons you get from other companies with a grain of salt. If you are a one man show, you do not have the same overhead and costs as a major engineering firm. Your potential client will certainly recognize this and want the "mom and pop shop" discount.

RE: How much to charge?

RackaRoll - my advice, don't use this forum for much of anything. You will not get an answer to your question. I read posts for entertainment purposes only these days.

RE: How much to charge?

RackaRoll,

If you haven't done a PEMB foundation before, and I mean to the degree a seasoned third party CA plan checker may see fit, I would definitely feel you should consider whether you want this headache, especially if it may be a one timer. However, if you are willing to take one for the team, to get the job, and you are that seeker of knowledge and just need to know,....well no-one can stop you. However, I feel by the time your done with this first one, without a dedicated experienced wingman,...you may find yourself in the minimum wage range per hour,...if your lucky. I'm in agreement with Pham and Jed,.. anchorage, many load cases, edge distance, anchor spacing, deciphering the PEMB load tables and endless combinations if you do it right, shared liability but with the PEMB industry having very well fed lawyers most likely heavier in the belly than your PLI/Errors and Omissions lawyers (hoping you're carrying it and practicing within your area of expertise). If you don't plan on doing many of these,..and developing your spreadsheets,...which is overhead time spent over many years with a lot of them being code updated hand me downs from former employers/companies and good mentors (RIP Jim), I'd truly consider whether or not this would benefit you and family as you're going to find yourself dividing that $1,500 or $2,000 for drawings and calcs, from scratch, by 16, 24, 32,...40,....and so on. You have expenses and retirement to think about and family health as well. We structurals have a tendency to work to damn much.

I've done many and back in the day,...Before Appendix D/Chapter 17, worked for a company who did nothing but these foundations,,,and I still hesitate to do these unless I'm comfortable with the fees. Foundation and anchorage design for a building,...I don't care if its a PEMB,....would not touch it for 2 to 3 times that rate regardless of the square footage. Or like I said before,...if you're going after a long term client, maybe you feel it's worth it,...but there are a lot of niche engineers doing this work cheap, and they somehow make it pencil out. God Bless'em.

This forum has the benefit of having extremely knowledgeable people who created it, regularly post in it, seasoned engineers, seasoned engineers/lawyers, seasoned engineers/code committee members. I've offered opinions hear and there over the years,...at least 25 years I think or more on this site, but I have received so, so much more than I've ever given back. RackaRoll, You 'have' come to the right place in my opinion, this site offering the best, broadest, quickest and cheapest advice you'll ever get anywhere. To TheRick109, I truly hope you are entertained with my post.

RE: How much to charge?

I dont get involved in anything for less than 3000. Much less providing engineering (and drawings?) for foundations for an entire building. Please tell me that doesnt include any site visits.

Am i the only one that would rather stay in bed?

RE: How much to charge?

NorthCivil - I wouldn't rather stay in bed, but there are certainly other things I'd rather be doing.

I don't remember what sector you work in. I'm mostly residential, so there are quite a few projects that come in below the $3,000 mark...though I have recently considered setting my floor in the $2500 range. Few things that are worth doing take less than two days (to do a local site visit, do some engineering, and write up a report/sketch or do a set of drawings and then QC it), so it's a good number to cover a few hours of incidentals as well.

RE: How much to charge?

Yep. I'm with you @NorthCivil and @phamEng: set a floor otherwise no work (...or work on other things that I want to do). Drawings take time, and any drawing needs site visits later on.

RE: How much to charge?

Captain Obvious: $3000 is 20 hours at a $150 rate. And don't tell me you only make $50 an hour, you're worth at least 3 time's that.
That could be the submittal review.

RE: How much to charge?

Honestly, my bread and butter is $600 jobs. Usually 2 hours max investment.

RE: How much to charge?

What sort of jobs are those? Round trip to the nearest Wal-Mart for me is 30 minutes - doing any sort of site visit, analysis, and report eats up almost a whole day. (Granted, part of that is self inflicted by my choice to live as far from other people as is fiscally reasonable.)

RE: How much to charge?

Mostly looking at cracks in foundations or sizing a beam. They are usually within 10-15 minutes of my house (office). Further away and I generally combine them with another job. I spend about 15 minutes on site and about 30 minutes on calcs or a report. My reports for foundation stuff are pretty minimal and mostly boilerplate. I do not include any photos. Has got me by for the last 25 years.
I charge $350 for the site visit. If i can combine 3 in a trip, that is $1000 in a three of less hours.
I used to live 25 minutes from civilization. Now I live in town so my income has increased significantly.

RE: How much to charge?

Sounds like you've found your bread and butter/niche XR250. If it works for you and family, this is a good thing. Careful then about taking only an occasional commercial job and underestimating time and effort and your worth. Not to mention, keeping up with code changes, losing some touch with some other material design and code knowledge, etc. Make sure your PLI is paid up, even for/and maybe especially for the residential jobs due to the level of competency of the contractor providing services to the owner, or worse,..the owner himself doing the work. If your client indemnifies you for financial damages, you're still held responsible by the state licensing board and thus your license at risk of a mark. I've heard of a couple of structural who have "flown naked" most of their years, this not for me. Sorry I went tangent,...also in no way inferring any reference to your skill set. Do what works for you,...in my experience, any time I practice slightly outside of my specialty, I end up regretting it financially and emotionally.

RE: How much to charge?

@ structuralsteelhead

That is only about 25% of my work. My desk jobs are typically high end residential new construction and renovations and about 10% light commercial and some forensic work. I don't bid jobs - only do them by the hour. Seems to work for my client base. And yes, I carry PL insurance.

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