Archive for August, 2011

How Much Should I Pay for Engineering?

August 18, 2011

I receive a lot of calls inquiring about services and the first question is “How much?”

“I have a house I need engineered. How much?”  “How much to engineer a ……. ?”

There is no way to answer that question without first viewing and evaluating the plans.

A ‘simple house’ to one person is another person’s mansion.  There is no such thing as a ‘basic’ house.

There are many factors that affect the price of engineering,  including, but not limited to:

First:  Commercial or Residential?

Second:  How Large?

Third:  Simple or Elaborate?

Forth:  Location?

Fifth:  Are the architectural plans complete and correct?

1.  Commercial projects are designed using different, more stringent criteria than single residential or small multi-residential structures.  The different design requirements and coordination between different disciplines requires more detailing and time, which translates to higher costs.

2.  Size Matters.  Larger structures mean larger loads, which translates to more calculations and frequently more detailing.

3.  I have engineered fairly simple 2-story homes for less than I’ve engineered elaborate single story homes.  I provided a complete engineering package for a simple, modest sized 2-storey house for under $1500.  One very small (1000 square foot) house cost $3500 for engineering – for a number of reasons.  The biggest being that the design was entirely non-traditional using multiple materials to achieve the desired look.

4.  Location, Location, Location!  In Whatcom County where I provide the vast majority of services, we have coastal conditions with the resulting high winds and mountain conditions which require design for heavy snows and all conditions in between.  Other conditions that affect cost are topographical and soil.  Are you building on a flat site or a steeply sloping site?  Is the foundation going to bear on sand or rock, gravel or clay?  Site and soil conditions play a huge roll in the cost of engineering and ultimately the cost of construction.

The house mentioned in item 3 was designed for a coastal property located on a high bluff and was therefore designed for the worst wind conditions in my region.  Coupled with entire walls of windows to capture the stunning views equated to a very expensive design.

5.  Usually, by the time I see plans, they are complete, or nearly so, unless the design is complicated enough to require engineering consultation during the design phase.

Sometimes they are not.

I have started on what I thought were complete designs only to have the designer make almost daily changes.  Often those changes were not simple and had dramatic affects on the structure, requiring redesign – once, twice and even 3 times.

I once deigned a custom steel stair for an elaborate guesthouse.  I designed and detailed it 3 times before it was finally built.  Final engineering cost for the stair:  $4500.  That’s almost as much as I charged to design the house structure – a steel, glass and heavy timber affair on the coast.

The more times the designers meet to coordinate, the more times the design changes the more money it will cost.  Unless you really want the engineer involved in Design Development (and sometimes you do), it’s best to have the design as complete as possible before involving the engineer.

Best wishes on your design and building project.  Most of all, have fun.