“Value Engineering” – Part Deux
I closed last month with the intention of devoting this issue to Building Codes and those who work with them, I just had to
come back for a moment to the subject with which I started the last newsletter.
couple of weeks ago, my betrothed and I were traveling with her daughter, combining a college visit with a high school student
marine biology symposium, staying at a motel in Bourne Massachusetts, on Buzzard’s Bay. I brought my laptop along
so I could get some work done while la cherubina was learning about Great White Sharks and bonding with other adolescents
who thought spending the rest of one’s life getting sand out of one’s clothing would be a small price to pay for
the coolness of working with creatures which, for the most part, are slippery and smell bad. (I don’t understand
how anyone would fail to see that there is nothing so cool as mumbling to one’s peers in abstruse equations, which is
what we engineers substitute for what normal folks call reality.)
guess what happened when I plugged my laptop’s battery charger into the wall outlet? Those of you who said it fell right
out, award yourselves 10,000 points. Those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about need to ask for a copy
of my last issue.
wish I were right a bit less often.
Public Safety, Building Codes, and Plans “Examination”
I write this I’m in the midst of what some might call one of the quixotic disagreements I’ve had with the Department of Buildings of the City of New York over the years regarding the City’s Building Code. Such conflicts are beginning to seem to me to occur more often
than I’d like, and are certainly happening more often than should be necessary.
have lived in New York City and been in the design and construction
industry long enough to remember when the City finally (decades ago) realized it could neither afford the personnel, nor properly
supervise and police those it had, to ensure compliance with its Construction Codes.
realization has deepened in recent years to the City’s understanding that Design Professionals are in fact licensed
by States to protect the public safety, with the plan review/approval process having thus been modified to become largely
an issue of record keeping. Unfortunately, not a few Design Professionals and virtually all Plans Examiners seem not
to have internalized this information.
is, the Department's Directive No. 14 of 1975 put most construction inspection in the hands of Design Professionals, while the Self-Certification program instituted by former Commissioner Miele early in the Giuliani administration did the same for the plan review process.
engineering could be learned like a trade, and if buildings and the systems within them were no more complex than ensuring
teepees were arranged with smoke holes at their peak to allow cooking/heating fires within them, there would be need neither
for design professionals nor for building codes, plans and specifications, and filing such for proposed work.
unless a Plans Examiner is a licensed Design Professional, an Examiner’s direction that a Design Professional make substantive
changes to the latter’s drawings or specifications constitutes the practice of engineering or architecture without a
license, to the same extent as would be the case were a Filing Representative other than a licensed Design Professional to
make such changes, or negotiate their need.
even if such changes were being directed by a Plans Examiner who also happened to be a licensed Design Professional, incorporation
of such changes would demand that the drawings then sport a title block identifying them as creations of the City of New York
rather than of the Design Professional who originally prepared the plans, as the City has, through its employee, become responsible
for the changes.
this is magnified by the fact that the City has abdicated whatever responsibility anyone may have thought it had (try
to sue the City for a building collapse) via implementation of Directive 14 and the Self-Certification of plans.
the end, it is no different in any other jurisdiction. It amazes me when a local Code Official who may have come to
his/her position via prior employment as a supervising mechanic, foreman, or even business owner in the construction trades,
directs Design Professionals to make design package changes, particularly when the Official does so on the basis of what he/she
believes to be the power inherent in the office, without any attempt to cite a Code reference as justification for the change.
Home Inspection for Fun and Profit.
smoking had become a near criminal activity, matchbook covers were adorned with advertisements promising untold wealth after
mere weeks of home study in a hot new field, such as, . . . Home Inspection.
we have societies like NAHI and ASHI , and Quick Start 2000, software which “ . . . generates home inspection reports . . .” and Inspection
Depot with its “Home Guide Report System,” replete with checklists identifying what the inspector has found, and glossaries to explain the terms used in reports
to the prospective purchaser. All of these I suppose contain qualifiers such as exist in the California Real Estate Inspection
Association (CREIA) Standards of Practice, listing what is not required, in a real estate inspection.
in this case, is code for what a Home Inspector is not qualified to do, unless the inspector is (as a few, in fact,
are) is also a licensed Design Professional. That is, the CREIA Standards speak of “items to be identified and
reported” while using words like “examine” and “evaluate” (among others) in describing things
a home inspector is not “required” to do. This is notwithstanding the fact that they start off defining an inspection
as an examination to identify material defects (in this case, their italics).
course, they do refer you to “appropriate persons” for “technically exhaustive” examinations, and
they even define those terms. Gosh, I feel all better about it now.