Peer Review in Design and Construction: an Underutilized Tool

Peer review is a useful but underutilized tool for risk management in design and construction. A peer review is an independent evaluation of some aspect of a project by a professional with relevant knowledge and experience. The objective of a peer review might be quality assurance, compliance with applicable codes, standards and best practices, economy, constructability or risk management. Continue reading “Peer Review in Design and Construction: an Underutilized Tool”

Structural Implications of a Construction Shutdown

A construction project may be shut down for a variety of reasons, such as the loss of financing, stop-work orders, labor or supply disruptions or disasters. The duration of the shutdown can vary from days to years, depending on the circumstances. Some of the implications of a shutdown are obvious. There are considerations for security and fire protection. The project cost will increase due to loss of efficiency, escalation and remobilization. The revenue to be generated by the project will be delayed.

Less obvious are the risks associated with the performance of temporary structures and partially-completed permanent structures during an extended shutdown. These risks can lead to hazards to workers when construction resumes, as well as to abutters and the general public. If not managed these risks can greatly increase the cost of the project, increase the liability of project stakeholders and cause injury or property damage.

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Statement on COVID-19

Richard J. Driscoll, Consulting Engineer (RJDCE) is monitoring the ongoing public health crisis associated with the spread of the novel coronavirus and the resulting disease, COVID-19. States of emergency have been declared in much of RJDCE’s service area, including the states of, including the states of Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Virginia, the District of Columbia and New York City.

RJDCE is continuing to provide services to clients and is available to take on new projects. Since it already uses online collaboration tools, RJDCE anticipates maintaining operations throughout the crisis. Travel will be limited and meetings and site visits will be accommodated on a case-by-case basis. RJDCE would be pleased to remotely assist firms that are experiencing disruptions.

If you have questions about a current project or the status RJDCE’ operations generally, or need assistance, please contact RJDCE.

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Five Years of RJDCE

In February 2020, Richard J. Driscoll, Consulting Engineer (RJDCE) celebrates its fifth anniversary as a practice. Like many small businesses, RJDCE emerged from very humble beginnings. In its short history, it has seen slow and mostly steady growth, evolving from a niche practice in a major metropolitan area to more of a general practice with specialty capabilities offered in several states. However, this evolution has taken some twists and turns, requiring the practice to be flexible to the needs of its clients and the markets it serves, to maintain a breadth and depth of capabilities and constantly learn and adjust.

Prologue

After over a decade of professional experience Richard J. Driscoll, PE was looking to make a change. Having obtained, two interdisciplinary graduate degrees, working on the Central Artery/Tunnel program and transit projects in Boston, spending several years with a legacy foundation engineering firm in New York City and a couple of years with a national multi-discipline firm in Washington, DC, he found himself with a broad skill set, but a specialist in below-ground construction in the urban environment. Since few firms had room for such an unusual specialty, this was feeling like a dead end.

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2019 In Review

 

2019 was an eventful year for Richard J. Driscoll, Consulting Engineer (RJDCE). The year saw new practice records for prospective projects, new projects, billings and revenue. In addition, RJDCE observed new milestones and completed new initiatives to propel future growth.

Looking Back to 2019

RJDCE followed a record year in 2018 with another record year in 2019. The number of new projects more than doubled compared to last year, resulting in healthy growth in billing and revenue. Most of this growth occurred in RJDCE’s forensic engineering practice area and included residential and non-residential condition assessments and distress investigations, construction damage claims and the practice’s first expert witness engagements. Even a couple of this year’s design projects either precipitated from forensic investigations or required incidental forensic services.

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New RJDCE Website

Welcome to the new Richard J. Driscoll, Consulting Engineer (RJDCE) website!

Over the past several months, RJDCE has undertaken a reorganization and modernization of the practice’s website. Improvements to the website have included new content, improvements to navigation and a modern new theme. The previous website was derived from a personal website when the practice launched in 2015 and was built out over the next couple of years. This is the first major upgrade to the website since it was launched and built out.

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What Contractors Should Know About Retaining Engineers

Construction contractors sometimes need to retain engineers or other design professionals as consultants. They may require engineering support to design temporary works used as part of the means and methods of construction or portions of the project delegated to the contractor by the design professional of record. In addition, contractors may benefit from professional advice to assist with bidding, to solve field problems or to resolve claims.

While the need for contractors to engage consultants is common, the contractors’ personnel may not be experienced clients personally. This can lead to poor consultant selection, inadequate scopes, unmet expectations, sub-optimal risk allocation and a variety of other problems. These problems can be avoided by being better informed of how the services of engineers and other professional consultants differ from more familiar goods and services and how the relationship between professional and client differs from other business relationships. Continue reading “What Contractors Should Know About Retaining Engineers”

How to Delegate Design the Right Way

“Delegated Design” is the means by which the Design Professional of Record (DPOR) passes design responsibility for certain details or elements of a project to the Contractor. It provides flexibility so that proprietary materials and components can be incorporated into the project without the need to complete multiple, detailed design options in the construction contract documents. In addition, delegated design allows the contractor to modify certain aspects of the design to use their preferred means and methods, thus reducing construction costs.

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What Everyone Should Know About Earthquakes and Structures

Partially collapsed building. 2008 Wells, NV Earthquake (Utah Geological Survey)

Most people understand that earthquakes can produce catastrophic damage to the built environment. However, given that large earthquakes are relatively rare, and that the television news cameras typically move on a few days after any disaster, a lot of people’s understanding of the effects of earthquakes may be shaped more by bad disaster movies than reality.

This is unfortunate because, as with other natural hazards, there are public policy choices regarding earthquake risk and recovery that would benefit from an informed public. Among these choices are building code requirements for earthquake-resistant construction. While it may violate some people’s idea of “common sense”, earthquake-resistant structural design is required by code to some extent in all jurisdictions in the United States. Another controversy is mandatory seismic retrofit requirements in some west coast cities for non-ductile concrete and “soft-story” wood frame buildings. Since news organizations may have little more scientific literacy than the public they must inform, they may have too simple an understanding of earthquakes and may overstate associated risks. This could result in disaster mitigation resources being spread too thin.

Whether you live in the west, the east or the heartland, you are exposed to some earthquake risk. It is therefore important to know certain things about earthquakes and how structures resist them. Continue reading “What Everyone Should Know About Earthquakes and Structures”