designers failing at their job and its ok?

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jdsmith

Senior Member
Location
Ohio
I read through this thread for the first time today and I have a few observations.

...SCCR is one of them. There are still a bunch of people who just will not pay to first off decide what SCCR is appropriate and secondly to pay for a SCCR that costs more than the cheapest possible answer. So, every quote now tells them that they are getting either the SCCR they asked for, or our default (5 or 10 kA - I do so few of those that I don't recall offhand which it is). If they deliberately choose an inappropriate SCCR level, how do we stop them?

If the customer deliberately chooses some SCCR then it would seem reasonable that you could exclude short circuit calculations from your design scope and document that you are following the customer's explicit instructions.

If the customer does not specify an SCCR I think the PE's obligation is to either go conservatively high as Ron indicated, or to include the SC calculations in some other scope of work, for example requiring the equipment manufacturer to provide the SC study along with the gear package. Perhaps this is what your firm does, but simply providing 10kA equipment as a basis of design, not performing a SC study, and not writing a SC study into some other scope of work on the project would constitute negligence.

If a client doesn't want a complete short circuit study as part of the design, I determine the service size, guess conservatively at the service transformer and impedance and every breaker in the system gets that high SCCR. If they don't want everything to be 100kA or 65kA or whatever I calculated, then they they have to choose the full system calculation.

I will not put lower SCCR values on my drawing than could be possible, due to liability. In the medical profession they call it defensive medicine, and we do the same for defensive engineering.

This case is somewhat amusing to me, although I understand why it happens. The owner has an opportunity to do the SC calculations and value engineer some cost out of the project if lower rated equipment would be suitable. If a manufacturer is later hired to perform the SC study and comes up with 30-50 kA when 100 kA gear is specified, one of two things happen. Sometimes the EC knows that the lower rated equipment along with the PE stamped short circuit study from the manufacturer will pass inspection so the EC changes the gear ratings downward and pockets the savings. Sometimes the construction manager/project manager/somebody is nitpicking the paper trail and holds the design drawings up as a gold standard and will not accept the manufacturer's SC study as sufficient reason to allow lower rated gear to be used. The EE is never involved in this conversation of course, the gear is bought with ratings that greatly exceed the calculated short circuit duty, and the owner missed an opportunity to save money.

In the opposite case, when the manufacturers SC study shows the equipment to be underrated, the EE is of course always involved in this conversation along with the construction manager, project manager, etc. - especially when the tubs are already installed and the panels with the required higher rating require bigger tubs.

Anyway, it seems strange to me that calculations regarding equipment duty are often left until relatively late in the project and are conducted in such a way to often waste the owner's money.
 

Cletis

Senior Member
Location
OH
This is exactly why negotiated work needs to happen more in future. I know, its a bidding world out there but this problem will only get worse with the adversarial square of customer / engineer / GC / EC
 

Knightryder12

Member
Location
Clearwater, FL - USA
Occupation
Sr. Electrical Designer/Project Manager
Like it or not, that's the way I see most fire alarm projects bid - design by the contractor. That's also the way most fire protection contracts are bid.

How would I know if a panel needs an expansion module? Most of these existing installations look like crap with wires hanging out and everything else imaginable. I wouldn't dare touch it, much less open a cover and try to decide if an expansion module is needed. My only hope would be to ask the person who has installed and maintained this mess, who is basically going to be one of the bidding contractors. His incentive to be helpful is ziltch, and he is free to lie all he wants. And if I asked 5 different people, I'd get 5 different answers, and whoever got the contract would still come up with some off the wall request for a change order for a needed upgrade or recall, or some other made up reason to ask for more money.

I see electrical contractors work their buts off for a bid, but it seems like its too much trouble for a fire alarm person to even visit the site?? And fire alarm contractors usually have an inside track based on the existing brand of panel- the manufacturers limit the number of competing contractors, or it may even be a single sole source contractor with no competition.

You are right Steve, this is exactly how we do it in Florida also. I have a FA plan in my set that shows the general layout of the FA devices, panels, expanders, a simple riser diagram, etc... But we do not get into such detail as the point to point drawings, labeling each cable/conductors in each raceway, etc. But our specifications are based on three different FA panel manufacturers and all of their devices and we also have a series of operation spelled out for the system. In Florida as an EE or designer we are not allowed to do a complete FA system unless you are certified in that design, but yet the County, City or State plan reviewers want to see that we have included our general FA layout with our set of drawings which makes no sense to me, but we do it.

Our plans and specifications tell the EC he MUST have a certified FA Systems designer design a complete system. Now that system can be based on 1 of the 3 approved systems that we have in our spec's. And oh, BTW, I know all of this happens after the EC has been awarded the bid.

Now that being said I have been designing for the last 14 years, but before that I was working as an electrician in the field and after that was a Project Manager/Estimator for the same EC. when we received an RFP on a project we had FA companies (Simplex, Notifier, Siemens, etc.) that we as a company dealt with. When the plans came in for the RFP, those plans were sent to the FA guys and they gave us a price for that project. If they saw something that wasn't quite right we sent in for clarification or if there was enough time we made our best guess and clarified that on our bid. This whole process I thought was an industry standard, but I guess I may not be right.
 

Knightryder12

Member
Location
Clearwater, FL - USA
Occupation
Sr. Electrical Designer/Project Manager
I didn't miss that, and I agree that it is true. That doesn't excuse them. They are being paid to design the system. I don't get to build three quarters of the job and then claim that I had to bid too tightly to finish. He can't justify the attitude that he can't find out what the fire alarm system requires, but I, along with potentially 3 to 5 additional estimators are supposed to figure out exactly what it takes, assign a reasonable price to it, be low, and make sure that the workers follow through, maybe, because other four bidders may do it instead. God forbid that he include an additional two hours in to his underpriced design bid to do some research. It isn't like part of his job or something. And then he makes a comment about electrical change orders taking advantage. Yeah it is offensive.

Strathead,

I would have to agree with you on this point. If as a designer, I bid on a project and I have included site visits to determine existing conditions and then my client has me cut my price, and if i agree to this and cut my price, I don't just take out my site visit and tell them they get what they get, you didn't pay me enough to do a site visit. i still do my research and give my client the best design I can possibly give them even if I lose money in the process.
 

JoeStillman

Senior Member
Location
West Chester, PA
Strathead,

I would have to agree with you on this point. If as a designer, I bid on a project and I have included site visits to determine existing conditions and then my client has me cut my price, and if i agree to this and cut my price, I don't just take out my site visit and tell them they get what they get, you didn't pay me enough to do a site visit. i still do my research and give my client the best design I can possibly give them even if I lose money in the process.

Engineers should refrain from practicing in areas where they are not competent. You need to be familiar with the building code as much as NFPA 72 to design FA systems, or, in my opinion, specify a delegated design. There are plenty of classes available and with continuing education becoming a requirement for engineers, there's no excuse.

If an engineer is going to hold the FA supplier responsible for the system design, then he should show none of it on his plans. In many jurisdictions you can get a conditional permit on this basis, with the FA as a deferred submittal. This is how sprinkler work gets done in my region. But I still think its better if a competent designer makes the bid drawings. I have done it successfully both ways.

I found the NFPA-sponsored class on the National Fire Alarm Code to be of great value to me. I haven't had to fight over a Fire Alarm change order in years.
 

Strathead

Senior Member
Location
Ocala, Florida, USA
Occupation
Electrician/Estimator/Project Manager/Superintendent
Engineers should refrain from practicing in areas where they are not competent. You need to be familiar with the building code as much as NFPA 72 to design FA systems, or, in my opinion, specify a delegated design. There are plenty of classes available and with continuing education becoming a requirement for engineers, there's no excuse.

If an engineer is going to hold the FA supplier responsible for the system design, then he should show none of it on his plans. In many jurisdictions you can get a conditional permit on this basis, with the FA as a deferred submittal. This is how sprinkler work gets done in my region. But I still think its better if a competent designer makes the bid drawings. I have done it successfully both ways.

I found the NFPA-sponsored class on the National Fire Alarm Code to be of great value to me. I haven't had to fight over a Fire Alarm change order in years.

That is actually the State's fault. Contrary to what knightryder wrote, in Florida any fire alarm improvement, addition or system valued over $5,000 requires an Engineer's stamp by state Law. there has been some attempt to get a NICET level 4 to be able, but not yet.
 

Knightryder12

Member
Location
Clearwater, FL - USA
Occupation
Sr. Electrical Designer/Project Manager
That is actually the State's fault. Contrary to what knightryder wrote, in Florida any fire alarm improvement, addition or system valued over $5,000 requires an Engineer's stamp by state Law. there has been some attempt to get a NICET level 4 to be able, but not yet.

Strathead,
I think you misunderstood what I was saying. I was saying that all (over 5K) FA improvements, additions or systems have to have an Engineers stamp, but you need to be a certified systems engineer, an EE can not sign the drawings unless he is certified on that type of design as far as I know. And from what I understand by the FA contractors that I deal with most have a Engineer on staff or one that they use to S&S their design and most improvements are more then 5K http://forums.mikeholt.com/images/smilies/wink.gif unless its just a few additional devices that don't require additional programming.
 

ggunn

PE (Electrical), NABCEP certified
Location
Austin, TX, USA
Occupation
Electrical Engineer - Photovoltaic Systems
Strathead,
I think you misunderstood what I was saying. I was saying that all (over 5K) FA improvements, additions or systems have to have an Engineers stamp, but you need to be a certified systems engineer, an EE can not sign the drawings unless he is certified on that type of design as far as I know.
It varies state to state. In some jurisdictions a PE can stamp anything he feels qualified to stamp. He is, of course, accountable.
 

Strathead

Senior Member
Location
Ocala, Florida, USA
Occupation
Electrician/Estimator/Project Manager/Superintendent
Strathead,
I think you misunderstood what I was saying. I was saying that all (over 5K) FA improvements, additions or systems have to have an Engineers stamp, but you need to be a certified systems engineer, an EE can not sign the drawings unless he is certified on that type of design as far as I know. And from what I understand by the FA contractors that I deal with most have a Engineer on staff or one that they use to S&S their design and most improvements are more then 5K http://forums.mikeholt.com/images/smilies/wink.gif unless its just a few additional devices that don't require additional programming.

I wasn't aware of any additional requirement for certifications. What I see quite often is a person who know what they are doing designs the system and then forks over $1200 to $1500 for the Engineer to review (wink, wink) and stamp the drawings. It really isn't that difficult to design a typical commercial institutional Fire Alarm system, Rn in to a factory or a 4 story atrium and you may have a bigger challenge.
 

ggunn

PE (Electrical), NABCEP certified
Location
Austin, TX, USA
Occupation
Electrical Engineer - Photovoltaic Systems
I wasn't aware of any additional requirement for certifications. What I see quite often is a person who know what they are doing designs the system and then forks over $1200 to $1500 for the Engineer to review (wink, wink) and stamp the drawings. It really isn't that difficult to design a typical commercial institutional Fire Alarm system, Rn in to a factory or a 4 story atrium and you may have a bigger challenge.
Speaking as a PE and strictly for myself, I'd sure as heck either have to know very well and trust completely the person who designed the system or review the job to a gnat's patootie and be qualified to have designed it myself before I would even consider affixing my stamp to the drawings and thereby put my license on the line.
 

gadfly56

Senior Member
Location
New Jersey
Occupation
Professional Engineer, Fire & Life Safety
Speaking as a PE and strictly for myself, I'd sure as heck either have to know very well and trust completely the person who designed the system or review the job to a gnat's patootie and be qualified to have designed it myself before I would even consider affixing my stamp to the drawings and thereby put my license on the line.

Second that. And there's no "wink, wink" in my office. If you want my stamp, you'll make my changes.
 

iceworm

Curmudgeon still using printed IEEE Color Books
Location
North of the 65 parallel
Occupation
EE (Field - as little design as possible)
Speaking as a PE and strictly for myself:

As I said earlier:
... I'm looking at a job that has smidgen of NEC electrical and some fire alarm stuff. My response to the owner is, "I can't do the fire alarm drawings. That takes a Fire Marshal card. You are going to need a specialist. My estimate for her is $15K." ...
In this state, it takes a NICET card - I don't know what level. As PE I can get the certification to do the drawings - but I can't do the programming or installation. I don't have the certification - I hire a specialist.

I wasn't aware of any additional requirement for certifications. What I see quite often is a person who know what they are doing designs the system and then forks over $1200 to $1500 for the Engineer to review (wink, wink) and stamp the drawings. ....
I'm sure this happens - probably plenty. But:

Speaking as a PE and strictly for myself, I'd sure as heck either have to know very well and trust completely the person who designed the system or review the job to a gnat's patootie and be qualified to have designed it myself before I would even consider affixing my stamp to the drawings and thereby put my license on the line.

I'm not even up to ggunn's level - wouldn't matter if I knew and trusted the designer or not. The law says, " prepared by me or under my direction". Before my stamp goes on it, I completely understand the design and all the applicable regulations.

That PE ticket is my lifeline for work. Without it I'm just a grunt - probably an unemployed grunt, cause they can hire a kid out of school for 1/2 (or less) the money.

So, "review (wink, wink) and stamp" - that's just freaking nutz.

Just an opinion from the worm - one of the philistine engineers.
 

gadfly56

Senior Member
Location
New Jersey
Occupation
Professional Engineer, Fire & Life Safety
I did not know that was what PE stood for. :)
This Forum is so educational.

I have an engineer friend who is not a PE. His interactions with licencees have been, shall we say, less than high quality. His opinion is PE's think it means "Preserved from Error".
 

Strathead

Senior Member
Location
Ocala, Florida, USA
Occupation
Electrician/Estimator/Project Manager/Superintendent
Speaking as a PE and strictly for myself, I'd sure as heck either have to know very well and trust completely the person who designed the system or review the job to a gnat's patootie and be qualified to have designed it myself before I would even consider affixing my stamp to the drawings and thereby put my license on the line.

As a licensed EC I feel the same way, but I have seen it done over and over again.
 

ggunn

PE (Electrical), NABCEP certified
Location
Austin, TX, USA
Occupation
Electrical Engineer - Photovoltaic Systems
I have an engineer friend who is not a PE. His interactions with licencees have been, shall we say, less than high quality. His opinion is PE's think it means "Preserved from Error".
It's hard to tell from that where the fault lies. There are, I am sure, PE's who are elitist jerks simply because there are guys like that everywhere. By the same token, there are others who expect a PE to just stamp everything that comes to them, and they go off in a huff when the PE won't risk his license (read: livelihood) on a project he doesn't know intimately and/or considers to be substandard. It takes all kinds, I guess.
 

gadfly56

Senior Member
Location
New Jersey
Occupation
Professional Engineer, Fire & Life Safety
It's hard to tell from that where the fault lies. There are, I am sure, PE's who are elitist jerks simply because there are guys like that everywhere. By the same token, there are others who expect a PE to just stamp everything that comes to them, and they go off in a huff when the PE won't risk his license (read: livelihood) on a project he doesn't know intimately and/or considers to be substandard. It takes all kinds, I guess.

He does one-of-a-kind machine design, usually material handling and some pressure vessel work for Komline-Sanderson. His usual complaint is the PE wants something that's impossible/dangerous/out of spec with respect to the machine's intended purpose and is trying to hammer a round peg into a square hole. He's highly competent and I'd give him the benefit of the doubt in any dispute.
 

Strathead

Senior Member
Location
Ocala, Florida, USA
Occupation
Electrician/Estimator/Project Manager/Superintendent
It's hard to tell from that where the fault lies. There are, I am sure, PE's who are elitist jerks simply because there are guys like that everywhere. By the same token, there are others who expect a PE to just stamp everything that comes to them, and they go off in a huff when the PE won't risk his license (read: livelihood) on a project he doesn't know intimately and/or considers to be substandard. It takes all kinds, I guess.

For me it is many little things, so part of it is sure to be expectations that are too high, but here are a couple examples:

One PE loves plan notes. "Wire one bathroom exhaust fan such that it stays on 15 minutes after the lights go out in either bathroom." That is lazy. I drew out the circuit for him with part numbers for the Time delay relay, etc. and asked him to just put the detail on the drawing next time. This is a note on at least three sets of plans so it wasn't unique.

Another PE has a full spec. The job has fire alarm and it is dwelling units so there are 120V smoke detectors in rooms (shown on the fire alarm plan pages). Not one word about 120V smoke detectors in the spec, but in tyupical cut and paste fashion there is plenty about 24V smoke detectors not being used. No mention of 120V smokes in the wiring device spec either. No detail with any information. But lo and behold, in the symbol legend is a part number for a $50 Gentex smoke detector, no substitutes. And for the record, there is not one other piece of equipment that has a part number in the symbol legend.

Or a more generic one. Write an RFI, stating that say, "several receptacles throughout the job are drawn back to back, but the plans and specs state no back to back receptacles. For example see the south wall of room xx" Get and answer, " relocate receptacle on south wall 12" to the right." Not one word about the 20 other locations on the plans that are wrong.

Or how about my current job. 4000 amp switchboard but needs a customer supplied tap box because too many parallels for the Utility transformer. Max tap box rating available 3850 amps. So the answer is, that is fine because the largest transformer available from the Utility is 2900 amps. So why am I installing 4000 amps worth of secondaries? (240 foot runs too) If I were the customer I would be asking who was going to pay the extra $15,000.
 

Strathead

Senior Member
Location
Ocala, Florida, USA
Occupation
Electrician/Estimator/Project Manager/Superintendent
Oops forgot one:

On one job, the PE installs a 3 pole breaker in a panel and the load comes in as a 2 pole load. The answer is that is fine.


Another job, same Engineer same end user. Supplier provides a 3 pole breaker but the call out load is 2 pole. Answer change the breaker at your cost.
 
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