Don’t Be An Engineering Fool

Don’t Be an Engineering Fool

Proverb: “A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for his client”. I would paraphrase this to, “A man who is his own engineer has a fool for a client”.

Donald Hamm is running for re-election to the Franklin (New York) town board. In a November 2, 2017 article published in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, written by Glynis Hart, Hamm is quoted:

Hamm said the town board has achieved good things with the highway department barn and keeping costs low.

“I’m on the highway department committee. We built a new pole barn. Instead of having to hire an engineer to draw the plans for it, I drew the plans, and the architect stamped it at no cost. That saved the town thousands of dollars.”

Well, in my humble opinion, this is all great and wonderful to campaign on having saved the town thousands of dollars. Let’s now look at the realities of this circumstance.

Mr. Hamm happens to be, amongst other things, a building contractor. He does not profess to have any particular expertise at the structural design of complex buildings – of which post frame (pole barn) buildings certainly are. The Hansen Pole Buildings Instant Pricing™ system, as an example, also produces complete calculations for each building it prices. For even a simple two car post frame garage it is not unusual to have the calculations amount to over 100 typed pages as every member of the building is checked to assure its adequacy to resist all applied loads – whether wind, snow, rain, seismic forces or a combination thereof.

What has gone seriously wrong in this is Mr. Hamm having approached an architect to place his or her stamp on work not performed by them – and do it for free! Plan stamping is immoral, unethical and illegal, yet Mr. Hamm takes pride in proclaiming his involvement in it as a reason for re-election!

If Mr. Hamm had produced plans (along with the supporting structural calculations) himself, had the architect (or better yet an engineer) thoroughly review them and make needed corrections for accuracy – then charge a modest fee for services, I would see any savings thus garnered as a plus for his candidacy. As presented, not.

The moral of the story….all buildings should be designed by a Registered Design Professional (RDP – engineer or architect) specifically for the needs of the client, at the site the structure will be erected at. Please, I implore you – do not take shortcuts.

In the case of the building in the story, the architect who rubber stamped those plans probably also has no liability insurance, and in the event of a catastrophic failure – the township will be left holding an empty bag.

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