Vol. 6, Issue 10
  October 9th, 2012
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IN THIS ISSUE
> Florida Statute 627.706 Formal Interpretation
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> Engaging In The Unlicensed Practice Of Engineering
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> Construction Certifications By Way of Misleading Statements
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> Construction Certifications By Way of Improper Engineering
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> Signing And Sealing Of Engineering Documents
   
 
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Special Edition: Engineering Updates on Sinkholes
 

Over the last several months the Florida Board of Professional Engineers (FBPE) has begun providing information and guidance on the roles and responsibilities of engineers engaged in identifying and remediating sinkholes and sinkhole related damage. The following articles are brief summaries on the various activities, rulings and guidance.

 
 
Florida Statute 627.706 Formal Interpretation
William C. Bracken, PE, SI, CFM

Earlier this summer, the FBPE was asked to provide a clarification regarding the question: "Is the determination of sinkhole loss as defined in Florida Statute 627.706 the responsibility of professional engineers?" The following are excerpts from the FBPE’s response:

Sinkhole ; With respect to determining the presence of a "Sinkhole", it is the opinion of the FBPE that in general the activities required to determine the presence of a "Sinkhole" as outlined and required by F.S. 627.706(2)(h) do not solely in and of themselves constitute the practice of engineering. More specifically, it would appear that in general this determination could be made by a licensed geologist.

Sinkhole Loss; With respect to determining "Sinkhole loss", while it is the opinion of the FBPE that in general the activities required to make the determination of "Sinkhole loss" as outlined and required by F.S. 627.706(2)(j) ("Structural Damage" and "Sinkhole Activity") do as previously discussed involve the practice of engineering, making the actual determination of "Sinkhole loss" does not in and of itself solely constitute the practice of engineering..

 

Structural Damage ; With respect to determining "Structural damage", it is the opinion of the FBPE that in general the activities required to determine "Structural damage" as outlined and required by F.S. 627.706(2)(k) do solely in and of themselves constitute the practice of engineering.

Sinkhole Activity ; With respect to determining "Sinkhole activity", it is the opinion of the FBPE that in general the activities required to determine "Sinkhole activity" as outlined and required by F.S. 627.706(2)(i) do not solely in and of themselves constitute the practice of engineering. More specifically, it would appear that in general this determination could be made by a licensed geologist..

FBPE’s response went on to state: With respect to remedial measures associated with "Sinkhole activity" and/or "Structural Damage", it is the opinion of the FBPE that in general the activities required to develop and/or offer opinions on remedial measures associated with "Sinkhole activity" and/or "Structural damage", whether subsurface or structural, do in and of themselves constitute the practice of engineering.


 
 
Engaging In The Unlicensed Practice Of Engineering
William C. Bracken, PE, SI, CFM

In keeping with the clarification provided above, the FBPE in its February 2012 meeting upheld a Cease and Desist Order (FBPE Case No 2011050730) against a Florida geologist for having engaged in the unlicensed practice of engineering by way of offering opinions and providing recommendations on remedial measures that in and of themself constituted the practice of engineering. Specifically, the FBPE found that the geologist engaged in the unlicensed practice of engineering by publishing, in part, the following engineering opinion/recommendation:

"... placing the house foundation on top of piles set 10 feet into competent rock ... [and] These piles need to be placed generally on 5 foot centers throughout the house to provide adequate support for the slab on grade foundation".

 

To view the entire document please review the February 2012 FBPE Exhibit M#3 Part 2 - Additional Item, Page 246 of 276 at: http://www.fbpe.org/agenda-and-minutes-2012.


 
 
Construction Certifications By Way of Misleading Statements
William C. Bracken, PE, SI, CFM

In its June newsletter the FBPE published the first article in a series pertaining to construction certifications titled Construction Certifications By Way of Misleading Statements found at:http://www.fbpe.org/. This article addressed the practice of engineers providing illegitimate construction certifications.

Specifically, certifications that include misleading statements or omissions intended to facilitate a fallacious conclusion on the part of the permitting authority. The scenario discussed addressed the practice of contractors obtaining plans and/or reports prepared by one engineer, using those plans and/or reports to obtain a permit, performing only that portion of the work that the contractor chooses to and then hiring a second engineer to "certify that the work was completed" when in fact the work did not match the permitted plans. The article then concluded with the following:

 

"Simply put, when an engineer is hired, especially after work has been completed, to issue a certification stating that the work outlined within a permitted project has been completed, that engineer has an obligation to clearly state the limits on his or her scope as well as any matters for which the engineer does not intend to accept responsibility. Further, since such a certification is clearly intended to be turned over to the permitting authority, that engineer has an obligation to clearly state whether the work has been installed in accordance with the approved construction documents, (permitted plans). To fail to do so could lead to a fallacious conclusion on the part of the building department thereby resulting in the engineer having committed misconduct in the practice of engineering."


 
 
Construction Certifications By Way of Improper Engineering
William C. Bracken, PE, SI, CFM

In its October newsletter, the FBPE published the second article in its series on construction certifications titled Construction Certifications v. Successor Engineer found at:http://www.fbpe.org/. This article addressed the practice of engineers directing and/or authorizing changes and deviations from the permitted plans and directives (originally developed by others) without complying with the successor engineer requirements.

The scenario discussed within this article covered the case where contractors are obtaining plans and/or reports prepared by one engineer then hiring a second engineer to "oversee and certify construction". This scenario goes on to discuss when the plans and/or reports, used in part or in whole, from the first engineer and merely under a cover letter from the second engineer, with the second engineer then proceeding to deviate from the original engineers work during construction without complying with the successor engineer requirements.

The article serves to go through the scenario and discuss the obligation of the various engineers’ involved then concludes with the following:

"Simply put, when an engineer is hired to "oversee and certify construction" of a project based on the plans and/or reports from another engineer knowing that the contractor intends to or may be forced to deviate from the original engineers work during construction, it is incumbent upon the second engineer to fulfill his or her statutory obligation to become the successor engineer. This would hold true even in cases where the second engineer, never originally planning to, is forced to take over a project from the first engineer.

 

For the second engineer to issue a certification stating that the work outlined within a permit (based on the first engineers' work) has been completed, knowing that deviations had occurred without the first engineer’s knowledge and without the second engineer properly assuming the role of successor engineer, will most likely result in the engineer having committed misconduct in the practice of engineering."

For more information please contact William C. Bracken, PE, SI, CFM at: wbracken@BrackenEngineering.com or to report a violation please contact either Jason Moore (Investigator with FBPE) at (850) 521-0500 Ext: 109 jmoore@fbpe.org or Wendy Anderson (Investigator with FBPE) at (850) 521-0500 Ext: 119 wanderson@fbpe.org.


 
 
Signing And Sealing Of Engineering Documents
William C. Bracken, PE, SI, CFM

In its October newsletter, the FBPE also re-published an article on what is required when signing and sealing documents titled Signing & Sealing Documents found at: http://www.fbpe.org/agenda-and-minutes-2012. This article addresses the requirements that apply to when an engineer is to sign and seal and how they are to sign and seal.

The original article was published in 2010 and was written by FBPE Chairman John Burke, PE. This update serves to highlight some of the key points and to reiterate the importance of engineers signing and sealing documents properly. Among the key points were:

"As provided in Section 471.025(1) all final engineering documents (drawings, specifications, plans, reports and any other documents) that are "prepared or issued" by a PE and are either (1) being filed for public record, or (2) are provided to "the owner or the owner’s representative" must be sealed."

Chairman Burke’s article went on to state:

"This requirement applies to final certifications and as-built/record drawings and reports that are filed with agencies at the conclusion of construction. Under the law, the foregoing are the only documents that must be sealed, signed and dated."

 

So how does this relate to the sinkhole industry? Simply put, when an engineer issues final certifications, as‐built/record drawings and/or reports at the conclusion of construction, the engineer issuing these documents must clearly establish exactly what is being certified and what the engineer is assuming responsibility for. Because, as the article points out:

"… being untruthful, deceptive, or misleading in any professional report, statement, or testimony can be construed as committing misconduct."

For more information please contact William C. Bracken, PE, SI, CFM at: wbracken@BrackenEngineering.com or to report a violation please contact either Jason Moore (Investigator with FBPE) at (850) 521-0500 Ext: 109 jmoore@fbpe.org or Wendy Anderson (Investigator with FBPE) at (850) 521-0500 Ext: 119 wanderson@fbpe.org.


 
 
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Bracken Engineering
2701 W Busch Blvd
Ste 200
Tampa, Florida 33618
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