Regarding the question "Who Pays When the Design Doesn't Meet
Code?" (Legal, 8/05), sometimes the owner should pay
if the design doesn't meet the code, even if there was an
architect, engineer, construction manager, interior designer,
feng shui consultant, and chief boot-polisher engaged to work
on the design and construction of the project.
No design professional is perfect, and no design will be
perfect. One professional society I belong to, the Structural
Engineers Association of California (SEAOC), publishes
"Guidelines for the Practice of Structural Engineering," which
states that the owner should be advised to establish a
contingency fund for correcting errors and omissions in the
design. The publication goes on to say that "errors or
omissions will occur and if within the standard of care, the
cost of correction should be borne by the owner."
The term "standard of care" means that if most other designers
in your region working on the same sort of design would have
noticed what you left out, then you should have noticed it,
too. (You could spend thousands of dollars in court arguing
whether the standard of care was met.)
In complicated designs, it's easy to overlook a beam, say,
until construction reaches the point where it becomes obvious.
In such a case, the owner needs to pay for the beam. On the
other hand, if I design a simple carport and my plans don't
show a beam that is needed, I should pay for that beam. (But
the contractor also should have noticed, so the two of us may
be fighting in court.) Somewhere between these two extremes
there is a wide gray line between what is within the "standard
of care" and what is not.
If we all do our best, keep clear communication going, and work
together, most problems will get solved before anyone has to go
to court. If we end up in court, we've already lost.
If Only Plans and Permits Were
Just a quick comment regarding the article "Who Pays When the
Design Doesn't Meet Code?" I find it amusing that the article
was even written, let alone published. The point is that to get
a permit for a job, in most cases, one must submit a design
plan. That plan has to meet code for approval. To call for an
inspection after completion of a job, the plan and permit
number must be on file. Unless this is an isolated or unique
case, this should be a non-issue, as the situation should never
have evolved as written.
Steven D. Jones' letter ("The Good in New Jersey," 8/05) left
me wondering if there might be two places named New
Around 1988, Standard Tile of Totowa and Paramus began building
a third store south of Bergen County. Management had to
repeatedly sue to obtain show-cause orders to force local
building officials to perform inspections required by law at
various stages of construction before work could proceed. The
standard practice there — and reportedly pretty much
statewide — was to hold up further construction
indefinitely if bribes were not paid. Because of the higher
costs of construction delays added to legal fees, most people
would quietly pay the locally understood going rate and have
done with it. To their credit, management at Standard Tile
steadfastly refused to participate in such corruption.
Now, approaching two decades later, gubernatorial candidates
continue to promise to stamp out the pervasive corruption for
which New Jersey is nationally renowned. In a state where such
corruption is a multibillion-dollar industry, did someone
actually get in trouble over a tray of bagels?
C. Ed Wright
I opened up the October issue and was very offended by the
first ad I saw, for Stanley's FatMax tape. Men may find it
humorous, but women don't. More and more women are in the
construction field; the industry is changing and the
advertising ought to also.
Account for Snow Loads
In a recent issue, I noticed an advertisement for a deck joist
sized for 40-psf live load and 10-psf dead load, which is the
standard starting point for residential floor loads. But here
in Fairbanks, Alaska, the ground snow load is 60 psf. So when I
design outdoor decks, I use a live load of 60 psf.
Our winters last from October through March, and one never
knows if a client will bother keeping the deck clear in the
Mark Martin, PE
More on Sprinklers
I would like to second Ed Lester's letter in the October issue
("Fire Sprinklers Add Cost"). I hope JLC will do a feature
about residential fire sprinklers and their cost-effectiveness.
It might after all come down to how much value you put on a
human life, but it is a topic we need to hear more about, with
a skeptical voice that considers all the extra costs, meter and
hookup fees included. Locally, we pay a $6,000 upcharge just to
install a larger meter, not counting the additional monthly
surcharge above the actual water used.
I also question why all small rooms and large closets need
sprinkler heads. What if just hallways, kitchens, and garages
were provided with sprinkler heads, using appropriately sized
cold-water pipes? Simpler, less expensive systems that get
wider usage might save more lives than more comprehensive
systems that are less widely installed due to high cost.
Nova Homes LLC
Mercer Island, Wash.
Integral Gutter Design
would like to take exception to a detail provided in the
article "Adding Timber Rafter Tails to a Stick-Framed Roof"
While the rafter-tail and bracket details are correct as far as
construction goes, my concern is with the integral gutter shown
(see above). The edge of the gutter at the side closest to the
eaves is higher than the up-roof edge. This has always been
considered a poor detail because there is a chance that in a
severe storm water will fill the gutter and wick under the
flashing on the uphill side. This can lead to degradation of
the sheathing and framing under the finished roof. The leading
edge — that closest to the eaves — should always be
lower so water can spill over during a heavy storm or if the
gutter gets clogged by leaves or other debris.
Greg Burke, AIAVero Beach, Fla.