designers failing at their job and its ok?

Merry Christmas
Status
Not open for further replies.

nhfire77

Senior Member
Location
NH
How can design professionals do such sloppy work that must be caught, corrected or redesigned by contractors? I speak specifically in regards to life safety systems.

No one is perfect and I am not asking for perfection. My complaint is that I am constantly having to provide design coordination between trades or rework existing systems that no one has touched or reviewed in years. It has certainly made me much better at my job. And it can pay when change orders come our way, but at a certain cost. Not to mention time and aggravation. The most common reason is to the lack of details and the use the phrases such as "typical" and "contractor is responsible for coordination with other trades..." The coordination of the physical execution of the work is the contractor's job. We are not however, mind readers, and piles of RFI's get annoying for both sides.

Most projects, no matter the size, require a rework of systems integration/coordination on some level. I will end up having to spoon feed to the designer the exact details needed he needs to put on on paper to maintain code compliance. Either that, or have their intentions meaningfully summarized. In some cases the email reply is follow best practices (gee thanks). We cannot always extrapolate meaning with the word 'typical' or ,decide we are correct and just do what we want, if you are the one who is the designer of record.

Changes are expected and understood, but what about all the specs on hand in advance?
Are you overworked or haphazardly cutting and pasting boiler plate?
Those of you who have PE, FPE and AA after your names, is their any hope for your industry to get better?
 

nhfire77

Senior Member
Location
NH
Seems to me that a lot of this is the province of the G.C.

I appreciate what you are getting at. This post is specifically aimed at those who draft plans, the GC's are a different story.


In my case they do not draft the plans, they are a management firm that hires (puts out to bid) others to do the bulk of the work. There are 1-10 outside firms that handle the design and drafting. Many of the jobs in recent memory the owner hires the designer and the GC separately. These are mostly projects $10MM or less. I recognize a higher level of work product in the larger projects, but they are a small number of the overall number of job sites, despite there depth and breadth.
 

mkgrady

Senior Member
Location
Massachusetts
NH, you must be having a bad day. You obviously are very good at what you do and probably know far more about your specialty than the engineers that design the systems. If you could only ask for direction, as opposed to making suggestions to resolve things, your name would be mud. Instead you get to help resolve the problems and maintain a good reputation and level of respect.

If these contracts are low bid maybe you could work on ways to figure out how to charge more for your added effort. If they are not low bid maybe you can charge enough to make it worth your effort.
 

nhfire77

Senior Member
Location
NH
NH, you must be having a bad day. You obviously are very good at what you do and probably know far more about your specialty than the engineers that design the systems. If you could only ask for direction, as opposed to making suggestions to resolve things, your name would be mud. Instead you get to help resolve the problems and maintain a good reputation and level of respect.

If these contracts are low bid maybe you could work on ways to figure out how to charge more for your added effort. If they are not low bid maybe you can charge enough to make it worth your effort.

I hope it didnt sound like I know it all and tell them that. I am mindful that there are other factors in play that cannot be derived from drawings. It's the persistant lack of detail to their work that rubs me the wrong way. Essentially, the attitude is if it's on the plans just make it work. Round peg in square hole if you will.

The job on my was not low bid and we doubled the contract price with approved change orders. The original scope never took into account the AHJ. The plan had the wrong city's requirements and contacts from cut and pasting. No one bothered to even verify who the AHJ was, it's a complicated situation. 60% of the way through the job we are finding little notes and details that allude to intergration of whole systems that physically cannot be.

I polietly asked for direction and was told follow all the notes apply and make it work, literally 'make it work' from an EE
 
Last edited:

petersonra

Senior Member
Location
Northern illinois
Occupation
engineer
There is always someone who has ultimate responsibility for making sure this stuff all works out. His name is G.C.

It is his job to make this stuff work. Often due to cost pressures they try to skimp on the kind of design stuff that you are complaining about.

History suggests that for the most part they are making pretty good choices about where to skimp on costs. It can be a little frustrating but costs are a huge part of every project.

I am not actually sure I see anything wrong with "making it work". At some point that is about all that can be done, and often the guy on site has a better handle on how to go about doing that then someone in an office 100 miles away.

Many times when plans are developed there just is not enough information available to dot all the "is" and cross all the "t"s.
 
Last edited:

nhfire77

Senior Member
Location
NH
Many times when plans are developed there just is not enough information available to dot all the "is" and cross all the "t"s.

Agreed. It is when the information is available but is not applied and lends itself to RFI hell.


Many projects I do the GC is hired after, or outside of the designer. Plans are drawn and they do not have any design responsibility. They are suppose to be the enablers and problem solvers but it's all but impossible to motivate someone to do their job if they don't want to.........like the designer. Shirking responsibility and laziness is pervasive everywhere, and its unfortunate.

Petersonra- Does the work you do have contracts that assign all liability for the installation to the installing contractor (not GC) to follow your design basis?

If so- are you required to reconcile discrepancies made by you at your cost... or the contractor? Most contractors must eat costs if they had known, should have known regardless of what is on the construction document.

To summarize- The designer is not at fault for omissions from their work product. The contractor has to predict all possible conditions and theories the designer operates under and anticipate additional changes without a basis.
 
Last edited:

petersonra

Senior Member
Location
Northern illinois
Occupation
engineer
No, in construction the engineers and designers typically work for the customer.

It is still the job of the G.C. to make all this stuff come out right in the end. Especially coordinating between trades, which seemed to be one of the main issues with the OP.

What I do not get is why the OP even cares. If there are problems with the plans, it is money in his pocket.
 

iwire

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Massachusetts
It is still the job of the G.C. to make all this stuff come out right in the end. Especially coordinating between trades, which seemed to be one of the main issues with the OP.

But the GC cant fix what the GC is not aware of and it is the sub-contractors that have waste their time trying to explain the issue to the GC.

What I do not get is why the OP even cares. If there are problems with the plans, it is money in his pocket.

Dead lines, at the job with the issue and deadlines at other jobs they are committed to.

I imagine you will say if there are problems the time will be extended, that hardly every happens. Turn over dates are often etched in stone. You may be well be able to bill for additional OT to make it happen but you must have the labor force available to do so.

It is no where near as black and white as you seem to believe it is.
 

nhfire77

Senior Member
Location
NH
It is still the job of the G.C. to make all this stuff come out right in the end. Especially coordinating between trades, which seemed to be one of the main issues with the OP.

What I do not get is why the OP even cares. If there are problems with the plans, it is money in his pocket.

Where does this concept apply? Your attitude is what leads to my frustration. Its all of our problems, like it or not we are all working towards the same goal. Why is it ok that designer doesn't do their job completely? Are they are too busy/don't care/don't know better and tell me to "make it work" is easier. Get out in to the field if you don't get it. After all its your specs not mine.


Sir, you make it work on paper, beyond the ambiguous boiler plate and I won't have an issue.



The contract spells out responsibility. If the design work is not with the GC he is not going to just make it work by coordinating hack work

It is not money in my pocket. You have to argue every change order that is not apparent. I missed a single line that state connect X to Y. Ok my fault. Turns out there isn't a physical way to do so. I now need to coordinate with all the affected parties to prove this. The owner will not pay me to rectify the designers issue. The designer sits down with the owner in a room, without anyone who handles the day to day and just passes the buck- Contractor doesn't get it, they own this issue etc. I will get a change order, but it doesn't cover the hours it took to justify it. No one pays for my time gathering the information before its approved.



Specialty electrical contractors are constantly being put at fault for issues beyond our sphere of influence and control. We are assumed guilty until proven otherwise. When we are found to be right, it makes us out to be the thorn in everyone's side. (I do not relish in being the one that makes a designer look foolish, it hurts both of us in different ways) Being risk averse is good, being arrogant without the work product to back it up is bad.
 
Last edited:
Get out in to the field if you don't get it. After all its your specs not mine.

As a designer I make every effort to determine what I can in the field, to provide clear and concise directions on my plans.

However I am not allowed to open things up myself and most clients will not allow any shutdowns for me to poke my head into pieces of equipment to figure it out. Existing owner documentation? Yeah good luck assuming I get anything of that nature. Usually what's as existing is the designer's best guess based on what could non intrusively be observed in the field.

So what am I supposed to do? I'm not a miracle worker either. I'm not one of those that will immediately throw up a wall and say the contractor missed it or doesn't understand or not be helpful. I only go "shields up" when it becomes obvious that a contractor missed something on the plans and is now fishing for change orders to cover that miss. Not to say you are doing that, just something I get to deal with a couple of contractors in my area.

However the contractor does have a responsibility to ask for clarifications during bid if they feel something isn't clear or correct.

At the end of the day, it's not beneficial by either side to apply an "us vs. them" mentality. Both sides want the thing built.
 

kwired

Electron manager
Location
NE Nebraska
However I am not allowed to open things up myself and most clients will not allow any shutdowns for me to poke my head into pieces of equipment to figure it out.
That right there can make a big difference in some instances, nothing like tying your hands behind your back then telling you to go do your job. You need to be able to collect certain data that applies to the situation or it can make a big impact on the final result. Now if that means you need to come to look during a scheduled shutdown so be it, if it is going to cost you more to do so then you need to charge more to do so. If the customer will not let you poke your head in at all - they need explanation that doing so may result in errors in your finished product and you will not take responsibility for such errors if they will not work with you.
 

charlie b

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Seattle, WA
Occupation
Electrical Engineer
Please forgive me if I am missing your key points. You have been light on specific examples.

I see my role as the EE/PE as creating a design that is code-compliant, that is constructible, and that is sufficiently clear and complete to minimize the opportunity for RFIs and change orders. But there are pieces of the design that I do not want to touch, that the owner would not want to pay me to touch, and that the installer would not want me to impose upon him or her. One example is conduit routing. I seldom give any information or instructions on which way to route conduit, or how many to run side-by-side, or where to make the bends, or where to put pull boxes. I really do prefer that the EC just ?make it work.? One notable exception is in crowded corridors, where the mechanical ducting, the plumbing piping, the telecomm cable tray, and the panelboard feeders must share the ceiling space. Another notable exception is in a correctional facility, because the nature of the wall construction does not allow conduit routing sideways from outlet to outlet, and every outlet must be fed from directly above.

Another example is in the realm of circuiting. My drawing will show that three specific receptacles in a room are all on circuit #2. But it will not tell you to run the conduit from the panel first to the receptacle on the north wall, and then to the one on the west wall, and finally to the one on the south wall. Here again, I want you to ?make it work,? because I am fully aware that you are better at making those decisions than I will ever be.

Does this put me in your category of EEs who don?t give you enough information?
 

kwired

Electron manager
Location
NE Nebraska
Please forgive me if I am missing your key points. You have been light on specific examples.

I see my role as the EE/PE as creating a design that is code-compliant, that is constructible, and that is sufficiently clear and complete to minimize the opportunity for RFIs and change orders. But there are pieces of the design that I do not want to touch, that the owner would not want to pay me to touch, and that the installer would not want me to impose upon him or her. One example is conduit routing. I seldom give any information or instructions on which way to route conduit, or how many to run side-by-side, or where to make the bends, or where to put pull boxes. I really do prefer that the EC just ?make it work.? One notable exception is in crowded corridors, where the mechanical ducting, the plumbing piping, the telecomm cable tray, and the panelboard feeders must share the ceiling space. Another notable exception is in a correctional facility, because the nature of the wall construction does not allow conduit routing sideways from outlet to outlet, and every outlet must be fed from directly above.

Another example is in the realm of circuiting. My drawing will show that three specific receptacles in a room are all on circuit #2. But it will not tell you to run the conduit from the panel first to the receptacle on the north wall, and then to the one on the west wall, and finally to the one on the south wall. Here again, I want you to ?make it work,? because I am fully aware that you are better at making those decisions than I will ever be.

Does this put me in your category of EEs who don?t give you enough information?
Sounds like you are doing exactly what I would like to see, give some specifications on matters that you see are important but let me figure out how to get it there otherwise. In some instances those specifications may include more details then they do for others, and that is fine - there is usually good reason when that happens.

I don't especially care for boilerplate specifications that include things that don't even apply to the current project - that fact alone means the designer may have missed something IMO. Designer could still use a boiler plate, but one that gets information adjusted to fit the project, at least he has to go through the specs and may see something that needs attention instead of just handing us a one specification fits all listing.
 

ron

Senior Member
Due to pressure from the design builders of the world, this trend will get worse.

The design engineer is often beaten down on fee and shopped around in the same way the trades are shopped around before construction contract award. This was never the way in the past.

The trend is to push more of the design onto the tradesman, and until the Engineering community resists the commoditization of our work, it will not get better.
 
Distilling some of the comments-

"Connect system A to system B" where without the unmentioned custom-built interfaces, they won't actually connect (designer didn't look at the specs/capabilities for the equipment, i.e. one control system wants ModBus and the other needs EtherCat, to pull two at random)

"Connect system A to system B" which are on either side of an impenetrable wall, requiring a 200' conduit to go up and around and there's a 100' wire limit (designer didn't know about the wall? didn't think about routing?)

"as typical", except we don't to that sort of thing in this city, so it's not typical (designer doesn't know local practice or codes)

Then there are the more usual things like trying to put more equipment on a wall than will actually fit, putting 3 3" conduits in a 6" core hole, or even not making sure all the numbers add up when they're supposed to.


charlie b said:
I see my role as the EE/PE as creating a design that is code-compliant, that is constructible, and that is sufficiently clear and complete to minimize the opportunity for RFIs and change orders

Surely, and I expect you're more on top of things than others. I'd much rather see plans actually say "work this out yourself" than "as typical" or stand silent the the matter.

(z should not post before coffee) (z should not post before coffee) (z should not post before coffee)
 

Strathead

Senior Member
Location
Ocala, Florida, USA
Occupation
Electrician/Estimator/Project Manager/Superintendent
It is still the job of the G.C. to make all this stuff come out right in the end. Especially coordinating between trades, which seemed to be one of the main issues with the OP.

What I do not get is why the OP even cares. If there are problems with the plans, it is money in his pocket.

If I understand why you wrote this I adamantly disagree. Change orders rarely make anyone any money. In my experience I would MUCH rather have a job that gets installed 100% to the plans with no changes. It is even worse nowadays when many contracts limit overhead to 10 or 15%. I used to write a change to cover my costs. Now I have to include, printing, material person, project manager, foreman, itemize, tape, hacksaw blades etc. and then argue every penny to break even. No thanks.
 

Strathead

Senior Member
Location
Ocala, Florida, USA
Occupation
Electrician/Estimator/Project Manager/Superintendent
Please forgive me if I am missing your key points. You have been light on specific examples.

I see my role as the EE/PE as creating a design that is code-compliant, that is constructible, and that is sufficiently clear and complete to minimize the opportunity for RFIs and change orders. But there are pieces of the design that I do not want to touch, that the owner would not want to pay me to touch, and that the installer would not want me to impose upon him or her. One example is conduit routing. I seldom give any information or instructions on which way to route conduit, or how many to run side-by-side, or where to make the bends, or where to put pull boxes. I really do prefer that the EC just ?make it work.? One notable exception is in crowded corridors, where the mechanical ducting, the plumbing piping, the telecomm cable tray, and the panelboard feeders must share the ceiling space. Another notable exception is in a correctional facility, because the nature of the wall construction does not allow conduit routing sideways from outlet to outlet, and every outlet must be fed from directly above.

Another example is in the realm of circuiting. My drawing will show that three specific receptacles in a room are all on circuit #2. But it will not tell you to run the conduit from the panel first to the receptacle on the north wall, and then to the one on the west wall, and finally to the one on the south wall. Here again, I want you to ?make it work,? because I am fully aware that you are better at making those decisions than I will ever be.

Does this put me in your category of EEs who don?t give you enough information?


I agree with the OP and my answer to you is no. More like this... Instruct me to install 4 3/0 in a 2 1/2" conduit in one place. Instruct me to install 3-500 in another but it feeds a 3 phase panel with neutral then tell me I should have known that I needed to install 4 500's, but make me change it if I put the 3/0 is a 2" conduit which I also "know" is allowed by code.

There are a lot, I would say more than 50%, of EE's designing who expect you to catch their errors, but will castrate you for yours.
 

Strathead

Senior Member
Location
Ocala, Florida, USA
Occupation
Electrician/Estimator/Project Manager/Superintendent
Sounds like you are doing exactly what I would like to see, give some specifications on matters that you see are important but let me figure out how to get it there otherwise. In some instances those specifications may include more details then they do for others, and that is fine - there is usually good reason when that happens.

I don't especially care for boilerplate specifications that include things that don't even apply to the current project - that fact alone means the designer may have missed something IMO. Designer could still use a boiler plate, but one that gets information adjusted to fit the project, at least he has to go through the specs and may see something that needs attention instead of just handing us a one specification fits all listing.

What kills me is in Florida, specifications rule over plans, even details. This is per Florida building code.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top