Award Winning Engineering
I was pleased to receive the "Best Of" award for structural engineer the sixth year in a row.
The white award is for a Frank Lloyd Wright - ish house in the Seattle area in 2000 that used a lot of innovative structural concrete.
The Paul Harris plaque is a Rotary International award - I'm a past-president of my local Rotary club and a big fan of what they're all about.
Background and General Info
My engineering specialty is structural analysis. I'm a licensed Professional Engineer (P.E.) in California and Washington.
My early career included quite a bit of civil engineering (water, sewer, roads, drainage, land development) as well as structural. In the past ten years, I have narrowed my practice to structural only.
I do 100 +/- jobs a year: residential, commerical, and industrial. About half involve new construction and half are repairs, upgrades, additions, or remodels.
As a consultant, my goal is to save the client money through efficient design. In the world of structural engineering, in most cases more concrete, wood, and steel is not better, it just costs more.
From 2011 - 2016 I was the structural expert on an international team of consultants who traveled all over North America helping big builders get "Lean". Lean means the elimination of waste in business. Essentially anything a customer won't willingly pay for is waste and should be removed from the process. For example: oversized beams, headers, and posts; more concrete and steel than is needed; framing hardware such as holdowns, straps, and clips that will never actually see load; and shear walls that will never resist wind or earthquake forces.
I'm such a proponent of lean, in 2010 I wrote and published a book on the subject: Green Framing - An Advanced Framing How-To Guide.
There are two ways that I determine my cost: fixed fee and hourly.
Fixed Fee. If the project is well-defined I prepare an itemized, one-page cost breakdown and proposal. I show exactly what I'll do and the time it will take and the associated cost. Nothing is hidden - I clearly show my work scope, expected timeframe, and the costs. This is my preferred method of working with clients.
Hourly. If the project is not clearly defined, or will likely change, I prepare a proposal based on my hourly rate (see below) usually with an estimated not-to-exceed amount. As the project goes along, if it becomes clear that the not-to-exceed amount is insufficient, I will contact the client well beforehand to discuss options. Alternately, if I can finish in less time and cost than the not-to-exceed estimate, I am happy to do that. It's always my goal to save my clients' time and money.
I never spend client's money unless they're fully aware of my costs. A client will never get a surprise invoice from me.
Hourly Rate. My hourly rate is $235/hr., with a two-hour minimum. I also have a flat fee of $150 per job for overhead, postage, clerical, copying, and consumables.
Ballpark Estimate for Structural Analysis. Thirty years of experience has shown that my costs for new construction generally range around $1/square foot, depending on the project's complexity. Remodels are usually messy and may cost up to $3 +/- per square foot. "Square foot" includes all built areas that require analysis including decks, garages, unfinished basements, etc.
You can use those numbers for ballpark estimating but as I indicate above, for every job, I do a proposal with an actual fixed fee or not-to-exceed estimate.
When I can start a project depends on my backlog. My schedule, posted on this website, showing backlog and status of current projects is updated daily. I am the only consultant of any type I've ever known who does this.
Once I start a project it almost always is done within a week, provided I'm not waiting on architects or owners or others for needed information.
I turn around proposals in one day. I work on a first-come, first-served basis so the sooner I have a signed contract in place, the sooner that project gets on my schedule.
If you would like a proposal for an upcoming project, please contact me.
How I Work With Architects and Designers
The Best Way to Collaborate
After 30 years of working with dozens of architects and designers, I've determined that the most efficient way to collaborate is for me to stick to analysis while the arch/designer handles the design. This means that I look to the arch/designer for complete, or almost complete, plans before I start the engineering process.
What Should Plans Include?
In order for me to provide a proposal for engineering I need a full architectural plan set, including accurate framing plans (roof and floors), foundation plan, floor plans, sections, and elevations. I.E., the plans should be essentially complete.
Will I Work With Arch/Designers During the Design Process?
Yes, absolutely. I strongly encourage archs/designers to coordinate with me during the design process. IE if they're in doubt about a particular shear wall, or beam size, or column placement, or joist layout, etc. I encourage a call or email right then. I do not charge extra for this service. It's all teamwork, which is the key to any project's success.
Full Analysis or Partial?
I always recommend a full structural analysis consisting of gravity and lateral analysis. Doing this:
* Reduces liability for the Owner and arch/designer.
* Helps ensure smoother permitting and construction.
* When I see expensive over-design, I make cost-saving recommendations. Usually I find enough of this to cover my entire fee.
* Helps ensure a strong, code-compliant structure far less likely to have future problems such as drywall cracks, bouncy floors, settlement, and the like.
Sometimes an arch/designer only wants me to do lateral (wind and earthquake) analysis. Sometimes they just want help with retaining walls. Sometimes it's just a beam or two. I'm okay to provide whatever services are requested, no more or less. When a partial analysis is requested, I specifically exclude and disclaim responsibility for the other structural items that I don't look at.
"Clean" or "Blank" Floor and Foundation Plans
My structural drawings use the arch/designer's floor plans as a base. Therefore, before I start analysis I need from the arch/designer, in pdf format, a "clean" or "blank", to-scale, version of their floor plan (for each floor if multi-story), and their foundation plan.
"Clean" or "blank" means no dimensions, text, symbols, or hatching - just the wall linework. Note I only need "clean" floor plans and foundation plan, not clean versions of the other architectural sheets. Examples here.
To summarize, before I start analysis I need, in pdf format, to scale:
1. Full architectural plan set, including framing plans, foundation plan, floor plans, sections, and elevations.
2. In addition to the above I also need "clean" or "blank" floor plans and foundation plan. Examples here.
Format of Plans
I only work with pdf format. I do not work with CAD. Nor do I want or need paper copies of plans. Any plans sent to me should be pdf format, emailed. Contact me to start an email correspondence. If you have paper plans you can get them scanned to pdf at Kinkos, Office Depot, Blueprint Company, Bayshore Office Supply, or any other retailer who has a large-format printer.
Errors and Omissions Insurance
I do not carry errors and omissions professional liability insurance, haven't for over twenty years. If that is a requirement for your project, I will not be able to help you.
Retainer or Pre-Payment
With established clients and their referral clients, I do not ask for a retainer (aka prepayment.)
With new clients I will sometimes require a retainer, usually ~25% of the expected fee, to be paid at the time of contract execution.
I usually ask for full payment when I'm about 75% finished with my work. When payment arrives, I release my engineering.
It's alway a welcome option for the client to set a meeting with me to hand-deliver payment and receive engineering immediately.
Pre-payment is also an option, and may reduce the time lag between the client mailing a check and my releasing engineering.
I only take cash or check - no credit cards or electronic payment.
Deliverables I Provide
Typically I provide 24x36 (D-size) pdf versions of signed and sealed structural plans called S sheets. I email these to the client and architectural designer. These should be included with the final architectural plan set prior to submittal for building permit.
As many paper copies may be made from these as needed. Any print shop with a large-format printer (Bayshore Office Supply in Anacortes) can produce paper copies.
I also provide via email a pdf version of a signed and sealed calculation package which is required for permit submittal.
Upon request, I can provide paper copies of S sheets and calculations.
Some arch/designers want to do all of the drafting themselves and do not want S sheets from me. That's okay, I'm happy to work with each arch/desinger individually.
I almost never am involved in the construction process. IE I do not inspect the jobsite to ensure the builder has constructed correctly and completely what is shown on my S sheets. If, however, an Owner wants to retain me for these extra services, I'm happy to perfrom them at my standard hourly rates. Contact me for my current billing schedule.
That said, I encourage phone calls and emails from Owners or builders who may have questions during constrution. I do not charge for these communications, they are included as part of my standard service for every job. My main goal is to ensure every project is built right, the first time.