Excerpts from the SEAOI  Bulletin
April 2001

Message from the President

"In recent years, the quality of services offered by structural engineers has noticeably diminished." This strong statement appears as the first sentence in an excellent article that appeared in Structural Engineer magazine in May 2000 entitled "Quality Design is Needed". Having worked as not only a structural design engineer, but also as a construction manager and contractor, I found the constructive (pun not intended) criticism provided in this article of particular interest, and would like to highlight some of its major points, as well as reflect on the issue "Quality Construction is Needed".

With the robust economy stretching the resources of many structural engineering firms, many design deadlines are either missed entirely, or only partly met through the issuance of incomplete, inaccurate or poorly coordinated drawings. Closely related to this topic is the apparent lack of design management, causing the production of documents that contain inefficient or incomplete designs, and drawings that are not coordinated within themselves. The sub-par design drawings have caused a proliferation of Requests for Information (RFI's) that, until recently, were the exception rather than the rule. Engineers are not the only ones to blame contractors fill out these requests before consulting with the engineers, and the consequent lack of communication weakens the relationship between the two parties.

The authors of the article continue by stating "entry level engineers rely on computer output more than they should judgment is lacking and the ability to perform hand calculations seems to be lost." Design engineers must be reminded that computers should only be used when the answer has already been formulated.

There is also a lack of understanding of the contractors' mentality by engineers, and vice versa. Many engineers associate contractors with greed and questionable ethics, and many contractors think that engineers are impractical nerds with no understanding or concerns for costs or constructability. The authors suggest more interaction with contractors through workshops and seminars as a solution to this problem.

With the need for quality design comes the need for quality in construction and in the contractors themselves. "Value engineering" is a particular phrase often mis-used by construction managers and general contractors, usually being invoked in an untimely manner, or producing changes to the building or bridge structural systems without sufficiently studying their effects on other systems. "Guaranteed maximum price" is another phrase that I have seen used for contractual agreements between the owner and contractor that leave the engineer 'in the dark' regarding the scope, cost and quantities of materials of the proposed construction. And in today's economy, engineers aren't the only ones missing deadlines contractors set unrealistic deadlines for themselves, putting all parties in jeopardy of litigation due to delays resulting in lost revenue and/or additional expenses for the owners.

Since design and construction go hand in hand, we need to work with the contractors and construction managers, not against them, to improve the quality of the constructed building or bridge that is the subject of our attention. "If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together" I Corinthians 12:26.

William D. Bast


Executive Directors Report

The SEPAC Principals Luncheon will be held at the University Club on April 20. We have invited Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan to be our speaker. Ed Murnane, President of the Illinois Civil Justice League (ICJL), will be in attendance, as will State Representative Anne Zickus. Ed and the ICJL were very helpful to us in the year that the Structural Work Act was repealed; and we continue to rely on ICJL, especially for information on candidates for the legislature. Representative Zickus attends our luncheon each year and is very supportive of SEAOI. She is sponsoring our initiative, House Bill 155, which would extend to 14 years the time of total service a member may serve on the Structural Engineering Board. Also expected at the luncheon are our lobbyists, Alice Phillips and her partner, Loretta Durbin. Invariably, this luncheon provides a unique opportunity to talk to other principals as well as those who influence Illinois politics. (If you don't receive an invitation by the first week of April, but you would like to attend, please call the SEAOI office. There is no fee, but there will be a request that you make a donation to SEPAC.)

We still need items for the Silent Auction, to be held immediately preceding the SEAOI Awards Banquet at the Museum of Contemporary Art on June 9. The donor of a Silent Auction item receives a tax deduction, the successful bidder has something to take home or look forward to, and the proceeds go toward scholarships. What could be more satisfying? The Structural Engineers Foundation will be accepting auction items until the day of the banquet; but earlier donations would be appreciated.

NCSEA Certification Committee Meeting: NCSEA will be holding a Certification Committee meeting at the Holiday Inn, Chicago O'Hare Kennedy, on the afternoon of Friday, April 6, and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 7. Visitors are welcome. Call (312) 372-8035 for more information.

Nominations: Pictures and information on the nominees for SEAOI officer and director positions will be published in the May Bulletin.

Jeanne Vogelzang


Legislative Report


An immense number of bills were filed this session: 3,618 in the House and 1,523 in the Senate. Many of them are duplicate or "shell" bills. Once they are weeded out and consolidated, it should end up a much more reasonable number. In addition, House members have been limited to a total of five bills to be called for a vote of the full House. At the time of the announcement of the limit, many members had already passed bills out of the House. Members having a number of substantive bills that came out of committee have to pick and choose which ones they want to move. Then they will try to find other members, with fewer bills, to pick up the sponsorship of remaining bills.

SEAOI initiative, HB155, sponsored by Representative Anne Zickus (R-Palos Heights) has passed the house and will be carried in the Senate by Senator Brad Burzynski (R-Sycamore).

HB158 which would recreate the Structural Work Act, sponsored by Representative Tom Dart (D-Chicago), passed out of committee and is currently on Third Reading awaiting final passage in the House. SEAOI opposed this legislation.

HB396, sponsored by Representative John Fritchey (D-Chicago) amends the Adjacent Landowner Excavation Protection Act. Comments from SEAOI members and others have indicated that this legislation is unnecessary since customary practices provide this protection. Since the bill is so innocuous, it passed the House on a 112-0 vote and is now in the Senate. SEAOI will continue to oppose this unnecessary legislation.

HB1362 is a vehicle bill on the Structural Engineering Practice Act introduced by House Republican Leader Lee Daniels (R-Elmhurst). It is on second reading, short debate in the House and will be held there to use in the event an issue arises. No position will be taken on this bill unless a substantive amendment is adopted.

SB289 is sponsored by Senator Brad Burzynski (R-Sycamore). It provides that the Department of Professional Regulation publish its annual newsletter on its website. It requires the DPR to describe the most recent changes in the Act and any rules adopted. It also requires publication of any final disciplinary action ordered since the last newsletter. This bill has passed out of committee and is awaiting final action by the entire Senate. SEAOI supports this legislation.

SB833 sponsored by Senator Steven Rauschenberger (R-Elgin) is basically the same as SB289. It has not yet been heard in committee, but will be supported by SEAOI when heard.

March 30 is the deadline for committees to report out Senate Bills. The House deadline was March 16. After both deadlines, the agenda should be a lot cleaner and a lot more manageable. To date, it has been a relatively unexciting session. But it's far from over.

Alice Phillips


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