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Important Factors to Consider when Hiring A Structural Engineer and Why Costs May Vary

It is time your building needs to be brought up to Life Safety standards and reduction of PML (SEL and SUL now) or for your peace of mind, you determined it is time for a seismic upgrade and/or structural repairs, the first step is to find a structural engineer to complete the designs. There are several types of engineers yet, the most reliable for seismic retrofit designs would be a structural engineer. A few factors to take into consideration as to why the pricing may vary include the following:

  • Scope of Work – Are you comparing apples to oranges? This is often the case when pricing varies considerably. Engineers are proposing different scopes of service based on experience performing this type of design. Therefore, it is essential to work with an engineer that is experienced in seismic retrofits and has completed many of them.
  • Rough Estimates vs Detailed Proposals – For budgeting purposes, a rough estimate of the scope of work can cost around 3,000.00. With this, the contractor can develop an overall budget for construction costs.
  • Design-Build Engineer or Structural Engineer – What is a design-build engineer firm? This is a firm that is one contract and one team therefore, the design plans may seem low yet the construction costs may inflate due to pre-existing conditions that were not originally taken into consideration. Saunders recommends having two separate entities in which one completes the design and one completes the construction documents. It is not recommended with seismic retrofitting to use a design-build firm. They develop the design with construction costs being as low as possible. The problem with this is when you go to sell the building the new owner’s engineer may say that the design is not up to standards (SEL or SUL). Seismic retrofits are voluntary and the building departments do not check to make sure the retrofit is designed to meet most engineers’ standards.
  • Engineers and Additional Fees – What are you paying for? It is a process to develop a seismic retrofit on your building and the process may slightly differ based on location, type of building, and tenants operations, it is imperative to know if you are receiving any additional assistance from the engineer, for instance, does he expect you to submit the plans to the city or will each additional service be an additional fee?

These are just a few factors to consider when choosing an engineer to perform structural work or seismic upgrades to your building. Saunders Construction has 40+ years’ experience and has completed thousands of projects so we can assist with the entire process from recommending the appropriate engineer per your building type to assisting with value engineering.

Posted Under: structural engineers