Can I Draw Up My Own Building Plans and Have an Engineer Stamp Them?
This became a rather heated topic in a recent social media discussion. Question posed was could an individual draw their own post-frame building plans, take them to an engineer, and have the engineer stamp them.
A professional engineer’s role in signing and sealing engineering drawings, plans, and specifications is a core issue within professional engineering practice. A professional engineer’s signature and seal is a legal representation engineering drawings, plans, and specifications were prepared under professional engineer’s responsible charge (direct control and personal supervision) and certifies work was performed competently, meets professional care standards, and acceptable practice standards.
NSPE (National Society of Professional Engineers) Board of Ethical Review has addressed this issue on numerous occasions. For example, in BER Case 86-2, Engineer A was Chief Engineer within a large engineering firm and affixed his seal to some plans prepared by registered engineers working under his general direction who did not affix their seals to these plans. At times, Engineer A also sealed plans prepared by non registered, graduate engineers working under his general supervision. Because of the organization’s size and the large number of projects being designed at any one time, Engineer A found it impossible to give a detailed review or design check. Engineer A believed he was ethically and legally correct in not doing so because of his confidence in the ability of those he had hired and who were working under his general direction and supervision. By general direction and supervision, Engineer A meant he was involved in helping to establish concept, design requirements, and reviewed design elements or project status as design progressed. Engineer A was consulted about technical questions, and he provided answers and direction in these matters.
In finding it was unethical for Engineer A to seal plans not prepared by him, or he had not checked and reviewed in detail, the Board noted one of the most important parts of NSPE’s Code of Ethics is reference to “direction and control” found in Section II.2.b. The Board stated accepted definition of this provision is “guidance or supervision of action or conduct; management; a channel or direct course of thought or action.” Word “control” is generally defined as “authority to guide or manage; direction, regulation, and coordination of business activities.” The Board concluded “direction” and “control” have a meaning, when combined, would suggest an engineer would be required to perform critical tasks related to preparing drawings, plans, and specifications in order for engineer to ethically affix his seal, which Engineer A did not do.