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P. 86

 Member Update
Continued from page 84
Now, you may say, “What about the contractor? What about that really low bid for engineering and construction I can live with?” Forget the contractor until you have a set of well-engineered plans. But most importantly, make sure that engineer works directly for YOU, AND ONLY YOU. Why, you may ask? Because an over-engineered set of plans can be redesigned, taken back to the City, and approved without your knowledge. This may reward an unscrupulous contractor with a lower the project cost at your expense. If an engineer who works for you pulls this kind of stunt, it is considered FRAUD, and they could lose their license. If your agent or contractor asks your engineer to make these kinds of changes to your plans, it is collusion to commit a fraud.
Quite simply, if your engineer is hired by a third party, technically their obligation is to that third party, not to you. Be smart, educate yourself; if you do not, the money you may lose is yours.
Now, on to your project and things to look for. The following is a list of the main elements that go into your soft story project:
If your building’s parking is in the rear alley behind your building, and that alley is not dead level, your building may be sitting on uncompacted fill dirt, particularly if the alley has an up-or-down-hill slope. This may mean that the columns supporting your building may be resting on concrete pads that are many feet below the pavement. This condition occurs because the builder at the time was trying to reach solid ground or bedrock, possibly without proper information.
An example of a potential problem created in this instance occurs due to added costs because your engineer may have assumed that your pad is 12 to 18 inches below the pavement, as is the typical average pad. This condition is not mentioned on most construction contracts or shown on most plans and can increase the cost of your contract in the form of a valid change order. If you suspect this may be the case, ask a bidding contractor to drill down 12 inches out from one of your existing round columns to find the depth of your existing pads. Why spend
the time and money? Because a deep pad could be as far as five feet below the surface in a sloping alley. This condition will cause your new pads to be set deeper and your steel column to be longer than what is showing on your bid set. Can you say, “hidden valid cost overrun?”
“H” or Wide Flange columns and the steel beams they support, are not being installed to add extra support to your building. They form part of your building’s new seismic retrofit system. They are called moment frames and are placed in seismic weak areas of your building, or those areas of your building that are least able to resist lateral (side-to-side) movement. The number and location of these new moment frames, the concrete grade beams which stabilize them, and concrete pads upon which they rest, comprise the major costs of your soft story retrofit budget.
So, when you look at your “S” sheets, or structural sheets on your plans, and as an example, you see “WF8” x “38,” that means wide flange, which is in actuality an H-shaped column. By way of explanation, the first number “8” is the size of the column in inches, and the second number is the weight of the column in lineal feet. So, a “WF8” x “48” means an 8-inch column weighing 48 pounds to the running foot.
Now, you may say to yourself, “What the heck do I care how much the steel weighs?” You should, because all steel is priced by the pound, and by manipulating that weight, an unscrupulous engineer or contractor could significantly change the amount of your incoming bids. So, once again, after a permit is issued, they would then reduce the steel size to a lower weight after your contract is signed, take their calculation to the City and get a detail change, pocketing the extra money for themselves. The same theory applies to the horizontal steel beams that rest on your columns.
Concrete grade steel beams are comprised of
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