Working with Engineers and their Proposals

July 2022

Working with engineers and their proposals can be a challenge.  At times they seem to speak a different language.  Yet they are indispensable when it comes to maintaining high-rise buildings.  Condo boards are expected to review engineering proposals for design, tendering, administration, reserve fund and performance audit services.  Each proposal seems different and fees vary.  There may be exclusions on what work will be done or warrantied.  Finally, assumptions incorporated in each proposal likely differ.

There is good reason for these differences and navigating them is a requirement for any effective condo board.

Engineering Assumptions

“Condo boards prefer a fixed price for a clear scope of work” explains Henry Jansen of Criterium-Jansen Engineers.  “In reality, nothing is firm if it involves working on spaces that are sealed, comprised of uncertain construction and with potential problems that cannot be determined until after work has commenced.  Engineers need to protect themselves against becoming financially responsible for factors beyond their control.  At times the condo board may not be sufficiently clear in what they have requested.  Hence the many assumptions that may be included in any proposal.”

Any project lacking background information or condition assessment reports must contain assumptions.  Repair work cannot be determined until damage is known with certainty.  Assumptions allow engineers to provide a lump sum fee for undertaking work with unknown complications.  Testing may be recommended to clarify information in an outdated assessment or where additional deterioration is anticipated.  Test results may be necessary before project costs can be finalized.

Exclusions are a way to limit scope of a proposal.  They clarify what an engineer will not do, helps avoid misunderstandings once work has commenced, and aids in controlling fees.  Proposals without exclusions are at greater risk of cost overruns.

When seeking an engineering firm:

  • Make available any condition assessment reports and details of prior related work.
  • Provide sufficient time for a proposal to be prepared and submitted allowing for a site visit and consultation.
  • Interview engineering consultant candidates to better understand their approach, pricing and assumptions.

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