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Subcontracting outside firms directly for surveys and soil reports?
3

Subcontracting outside firms directly for surveys and soil reports?

Subcontracting outside firms directly for surveys and soil reports?

(OP)
I am wondering what other firms’ standard practice is when obtaining outside services for site surveys and soils reports? From my experience its typical for the design firm to subcontract these services, but I am concerned about potential liability my firm could be exposing itself to when hiring outside firms directly to perform site investigation work at client's sites. Do other firms typically hire directly, or do they just advise the client on the scope of work needed and allow the client to directly contract with outside firms for site investigations? If so, I am wondering what the standard of care is for the design engineer to rely on the results of site surveys/soils reports produced by outside firms that were not under direct contract? Is it okay for the design engineer to rely on the findings of these reports if they are stamped by a GeoPE/PLS following a basic review the report, if not under direct contract?

I am also curious as to other's experience with providing oversight during completion of this work, and what level may be necessary (if any). Is it typical for your firm to provide oversight/observation onsite during topographic/boundary surveys or geotechnical investigations (whether under subcontract or not)?

RE: Subcontracting outside firms directly for surveys and soil reports?

I have done it both ways, having been the client in some situations, the engineer in others. I'd think it would depend mostly on the client's ability to manage the geotech study, both in devoting adequate time and having the technical ability to do so. Plus it also depends on how the client wants to manage risk on his project. If s/he is amicable to delegating the risk and responsibility to you as the engineer, you should be prepared to take it on, if at all possible. It is a typical method of handling contract management of large projects. It lumps all engineering work conveniently with those best fit to handle the technology, ensuring the work is done adequately and centralizes engineering responsibility. The client has one point of contact for all engineering details and you get the benefit of ensuring that work is done according to your expectations, schedule and costs, plus you'll get all the information first hand and will have the authority you may need to resolve any problems that arise quickly, as you won't have to go ask your client all the time what he wants to do about it. Makes sense to me. Yes, you would take on a certain amount of risk, but if your client's technical ability, or resource allocations are not up to it, you should be the best person to handle the job, as you would also supposedly be the person best able to manage those risks as well. There's not much worse than needing good information to do your job in a timely manner and having to go through your client all the time to get at it. They often have other priorities. Id recommend that, if you can do it, do it.

I have never personally gone on site to manage a typical site/boundary survey, or to watch them drill and log holes and package samples. Go on day 1. Meet their PM on site. Ask about any of their perceived difficulties. Work those out. See that they get properly set up and have brought the right equipment. Get them started, then get out of the way. Let the PM, lead surveyor and drilling engineer do their thing the way they know best. The best way to manage your risk is to let them manage theirs. If you interfere in that process, then you are potentially assuming what should be their risk, if things go badly. Leave them to it, as long as you do not see safety or other regulations being violated. Tell them what you need, but not how to get it. Tell them what to build, but not how to build it. Make sure that your insurance blanket covers your subcontractors, and that your subcontractors have insurance too. If you can do those three things, your risk will be manageable. It will also be a value added service. What client's want the most is no headaches. You do that and they will be back.

--Einstein gave the same test to students every year. When asked why he would do something like that, "Because the answers had changed."

RE: Subcontracting outside firms directly for surveys and soil reports?

Quote (its typical for the design firm to subcontract these services)


Most firms aren't big enough to be able to support this work.

RE: Subcontracting outside firms directly for surveys and soil reports?

(OP)

Quote (bimr)

Most firms aren't big enough to be able to support this work.
Do you mean that most firms aren't big enough to offer those services (e.g., survey, soils report) in-house? Or that most firms aren't big enough to subcontract out those services? If the former, yes, I understand that, but that is not what I was asking. I am wondering if it is typical for design firms to subcontract those services out and hire outside firms directly, or if they will have the client/owner contract with such firms to obtain those services themselves. If the latter, I'm not sure I understand, can you elaborate?

Quote (1503-44)

Thank you, this makes sense to me for most situations. I agree that its not neccessary for the design firm to neccessarily oversee all work of subcontractors for the full duration, despite the fact thats what I typically see done (it always seemed unnecessary to me).

RE: Subcontracting outside firms directly for surveys and soil reports?

Our firm's preference is for the client to appoint subbies directly, if this is not possible the next best thing is for the subbie to match our insurances with the client. This often results in pushback as we may be signed up for a massive amount of work and the subbie may just be doing a minor investigation, in which case you need to assess the realistic risk of covering their work

RE: Subcontracting outside firms directly for surveys and soil reports?

Yes, there are those which are risk adverse and prefer to work in their own cell. It really just depends on the company's long term objectives and risk tolerance. A growing business will have more appetite for adding such services, Others may prefer to stay well within their comfort zone.

Direct supervision of sub's work should only be the job of the sub's onsite supervisor. Even if things go completely upside down, then you convince them to perform, or run them off. Getting personally involved would only muck it up worse, especially on the potential liability side.


--Einstein gave the same test to students every year. When asked why he would do something like that, "Because the answers had changed."

RE: Subcontracting outside firms directly for surveys and soil reports?

(OP)

Quote (1503-44)

Direct ssupervision of sub's work should only be the job of the sub's onsite supervisor. Even if things go completely upside down, then you convince them to perform, or run them off. Getting personally involved would only muck it up worse, especially on the potential liability side.
Agreed. When I said I've often seen the design firm provide oversight/observation, its hasn't been to directly supervise the sub's operations, but rather to quickly answer questions that come up regarding the scope, coordinate access issues with the owner, provide preliminary information on the findings of the investigation (e.g., infiltration rates for soils reports), to ensure the sub is working in the confines of the contract, to ensure they are not doing anything egregiously unsafe, etc. I still think much of this is unneccessary, especially with repeat subs we trust, but for some reason many PMs I've worked with in the past have felt differently. I guess it was a win for our firm as we got more work from the client who was willing to pay for this observation.

In addition to my question regarding contracting directly with subs or having the owner do so, my question to this community is whether such "observations" as described are neccessary and what everyone's thoughts are on what an acceptable standard of care level is on these matters. I appreciate the useful input thus far!

RE: Subcontracting outside firms directly for surveys and soil reports?

My insurance won't let me sub geotech. The owner has to sign for it directly. So be sure to consider that angle.

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