FOR PROFESSIONALS

Practice Notes

You should be aware of the following information, and use it in your practice:



The Practices of Architecture and Engineering

The following document, which was reviewed by the MAA, provides clarity about the overlap of practices of engineering and architecture. The Practices of Architecture and Engineering

Withholding Letters of Certification for the Purpose of Procuring Payment

The Investigation Committee has received questions in the past about the appropriateness of withholding a letter of certification for the purpose of procuring payment for the project. With respect to adherence to APEGM's Code of Ethics, there is no ethical obligation for any member to continue to provide services if the contract with the client, or the client's agent, has been properly suspended. To ensure that the cessation of services is conducted properly, APEGM's professional members have a duty to ensure the following:

  1. For the design of buildings, the contract between a member or a holder of a certificate of authorization and its client shall contain a provision for suspension of services, including a prescribed notification period.
  2. Members and holders of certificates of authorization shall take appropriate steps to
    1. determine whether or not the suspension of services presents safety concerns, and
    2. protect the public, including construction site personnel, by notifying them of the safety concerns.
  3. The Authority Having Jurisdiction shall be notified of the suspension of on-site services and of safety concerns that have been identified.

Members and holders of certificates of authorization may suspend their contract as per the contract terms but should continue to provide services during the notification period identified in the contractual agreement, as identified in point 1 above.

The Association understands that there may be contractual issues, including financial issues, between the client and member. Channels for independent assessment of contractual issues exist, including the option for civil action. APEGM professional members should not withhold letters of certification for the purpose of guaranteeing payment from their client.

Failure to adhere to these recommendations may expose the member to a complaint of professional misconduct.

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Errors & Omissions Liability Insurance

The Investigation Committee has become aware that there may be ambiguity with respect to the standard expected of members and holders of certificates of authorization as it pertains to liability insurance. The purpose of this practice note is to establish a common practice for the engineering community in Manitoba. Members and holders of certificates of authorization are expected to follow the recommendations below.

As described in article 16(2)(e) of the Act and By-law 14, one of the requirements for holders of a certificate of authorization is proof of errors and omissions liability insurance. This requirement is in place to protect the public in instances where a holder of a certificate of authorization makes an unintended error and omission. It ensures that financial remediation is available for aggrieved recipients of engineering services.

If a holder of a certificate of authorization, or a member acting on behalf of a holder of a certificate of authorization, takes action that renders their insurance policy null and void, it defeats the purpose of the requirement for insurance. Therefore, the Investigation Committee has determined that:

  • all members and holders of certificates of authorization must understand their insurance policies,
  • all members and holders of certificates must take any and all steps necessary to ensure that the policy remains in effect for any claims, and
  • any action taken by a member or holder of certificates that invalidates their insurance coverage is considered professional misconduct.

Prepared by the APEGM Investigation Committee, May 2013

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City Of Winnipeg Occupancy Certification Requirements

On March 21, 2012 the City of Winnipeg amended the Winnipeg Building By-law and the Winnipeg Electrical By-law. The by-laws no longer prescribe the wording for professional certification required at the time of project completion. However, the by-laws give the authority to the designated employee to develop and require certification wording. To that end, the City of Winnipeg has collaborated with the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Manitoba and the Manitoba Association of Architects to develop wording which is consistent across all disciplines, to the greatest extent possible, and is now required by the City of Winnipeg without modification. The required wording can be found in the Guidelines.

Note that the certification will require a header indicating the permit number, date etc. and must be signed and sealed.

Prepared by Brad Loewen, Administrator of Commercial Plan Examination and Inspections, City of Winnipeg

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Attention to Detail

Recently the Association has received a number of expressions of concern about the care and attention that some professional engineers are exercising in designing and supervising the engineering work for which they are responsible.

One of these cases involved the preparation of documents submitted to the Authority having Jurisdiction in support of Development Applications for a number of buildings. In this case the information and detail on these documents was found to be inadequate for anyone to effectively determine whether the proposed projects would be developed and completed in compliance with the applicable sections of the relevant statutes, regulations, standards, codes, by-laws and rules applicable to the projects.

Another case involved the supervision and inspection of a project to repair and renovate a residential building foundation. In this case inadequate care was exercised to ensure that the repair and renovation work was carried out in compliance with the drawing and specifications which had been prepared and approved for the project, and in compliance with the applicable sections of the relevant building codes and regulations.

The Association's Code of Ethics indicates clearly that the professional practitioner shall:

  1. make responsible provision to comply with statutes, regulations, standards, codes, by-laws and rules applicable to all work; and
  2. employ all reasonably attainable skill and knowledge to perform and satisfy the engineering and geoscientific needs of each client or employer in a professional manner; and
  3. act as a faithful agent and trustee in professional matters for each client or employer.

Each professional engineer is encouraged to examine his or her practices in the light of the above noted clauses of the Code of Ethics, and to act in such a way as to ensure that the engineering needs of each client or employer are satisfied in a professional manner.

Published in December 1995 issue of MPE, modified to conform to the November 1998 revised Code of Ethics

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Communication with Peers

Working Together for Canon 5.6 of the Code of Ethics for the Practice of Professional Engineering and Professional Geoscience stipulates that each practitioner shall "notify a practitioner, as soon as practicable, when giving an opinion on that practitioner's work".

Recently, the Investigation Committee investigated a situation where two professional engineers were involved with the expansion of an existing building. Neither engineer was engaged directly by the owner of the property. Initially, one engineer had been engaged by a drafting service for the structural design of the expansion. Subsequently, the second engineer was engaged by the contractor to redesign the foundation because the owner had decided to incorporate an expanded feature which necessitated a change in the foundation design. The expansion was built by the contractor using the foundation design prepared by the second engineer and the superstructure design prepared by the first engineer, with the exception that one of the support connections in the superstructure was changed on the advice of the second engineer.

When the time came to certify the project for the purpose of obtaining an occupancy permit, a problem arose. The second engineer declined certifying the superstructure as it was not "his" design and he had some concerns about the adequacy of the design. The first engineer was reluctant to certify the superstructure because he had not been advised that the project had "gone ahead" and therefore had not supervised or inspected the project during construction and had not authorized the change to the "support connection". While the permit authority ultimately received the required certification and issued an Occupancy Permit, the owner and the contractor were greatly inconvenienced and put to additional trouble and expense. In the end it was the opinion of the Committee that communication between the two engineers, initiated by the second engineer, would have served the owner better.

Each Professional Engineer is required to notify the other engineer, not only when engaged to undertake an assignment to give an opinion on the other practitioner's work, but also when engaged to undertake work which impinges upon the work of the other practitioner, in order to ensure that the public's interest is served effectively.

Prepared by C.R. Bouskill, P.Eng., June 1999

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Coordination of Engineering on Projects

There continues to be a trend to develop projects on a design/build basis. A number of concerns have been expressed about certain shortcomings arising from the design and inspection procedures associated with this method of project development.

Over the past few months the Investigation Committee has been reviewing a matter of the partial collapse of a one-storey structure which was developed using the design/build process. This review revealed that there were at least three professional engineers involved in various structural aspects of the building, but there was no one professional engineer in overall charge of coordinating the structural design of the building and providing field inspection services for the structure. This lack of coordination of the structural aspects of the building contributed to the conditions which ultimately resulted in the partial failure of the structure.

Each professional engineer who is involved in providing design engineering services for projects for which there is not a prime consultant is strongly reminded that it is the responsibility of each professional engineer to:

  1. identify the design professional who is providing overall coordination of the engineering design services within the applicable area of practice (e.g. structural, mechanical, etc.),
  2. clearly specify the requirements for 'designs to be provided by others' in those situations where his/her design interconnects with that of another designer, and
  3. inform the client of the importance and value-added benefits of inspections and the significance of their being undertaken by the professional engineer responsible for the design.

Prepared by C.R. Bouskill, P.Eng., February 1999

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Design of Residential Buildings Using Engineered Lumber Products

APEGM members involved with design of residential buildings using engineered lumber products; .i.e. Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL), Parallel Strand Lumber (PSL) and Structural Composite Lumber (SCL) should take note of a potential problem associated with the use of standard adjustable steel columns and footings as referenced in Part 9 of the Manitoba Building Code (MBC). This concern was brought to the attention of the Association's Safety Committee by suppliers of pre-fabricated building components and building regulatory authorities.

Background

With the introduction of engineered lumber products LVL, PSL and SCL it is now possible for the designer to provide greater clear spans between structural supports. Consequently, because of the increase in tributary area from larger more open floor areas, the loadings to the structural supports are increased. As such, routinely specified structural elements for residential buildings such as footings and teleposts that are intended for use with dimension lumber could easily become overloaded.

Overloading of Standard Teleposts

The Manitoba Building Code, Subsection 9.17.3, references a standard to which typical adjustable steel columns are to be manufactured. That standard (CAN/CGSB 7.2 - M88) specifies that these columns be designed to support loads up to, but not exceeding 36 kN (8,000 lb). However, as noted above greater loads are now commonly developed.

In considering solutions it is to be noted that the doubling up of two standard teleposts is not good engineering practise and should not be used. Alternative design usually involves a heavy-duty telepost or specialized column design.

Better Footing Design Needed

A further issue arises when increased loads must be supported. The standard footing design as outlined in the Manitoba Building Code may well be under capacity and cannot be used. Once again, an alternative design will be required.

Recommendation

It is strongly recommended that professional engineers providing services for residential building under Part 9 of the MBC take note of whether the structural system is other than the standard system provided for in the MBC. If not, the particular attention should be paid to the capacities required of the column and foundation systems, and if necessary, alternative designs provided. The supporting documentation to demonstrate code compliance should be submitted to the authority having jurisdiction.

Prepared by the APEGM Safety Committee, April 2003

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Fiduciary Responsibility - A Matter of Trust

The Code of Ethics for the Practice of Professional Engineering and Professional Geoscience stipulates in Canon 3.1 that each practitioner shall "act as a faithful agent and trustee in professional matters for each client or employer" and in Canon 5.1 that each practitioner shall "take care that credit for engineering and geoscientific work is given to those to whom credit is properly due."

In a previous practice note, reference was made to the continuing trend to develop projects on a design/build basis, and to concerns arising from this method of project development.

Over a period of months the Investigation Committee was involved in reviewing a matter with implications of copyright infringement. The matter concerned the development of a design/build project for a large structure for a commercial enterprise. The owner, the commercial enterprise, engaged a consulting engineer to assist it in the development of the parameters and the documents for a Request for Proposal, and to assist it in assessing the Proposals that were submitted. After reviewing the proposals the owner "short listed" the proposals of two of the design/build teams and invited each of these two teams to submit ideas to the owner as to how the project might be modified to reduce the cost of the project. A revised Request for Proposal was subsequently prepared and sent to the two "short listed" contractors inviting them to submit revised proposals.

The primary concern investigated by the Committee was whether the owner's consulting engineer had breached his fiduciary responsibility by incorporating the "intellectual property" of one design/build team into the revised Request for Proposal and thereby providing it to the competing team. Based on the evidence provided, the Committee reached the conclusion that there had been no breach. However, the exercise provided some clear insight into the potential for problems.

Each professional engineer, whether employee or employer, whether engaged in consulting or industry or government or university, is reminded of the responsibility to act as a faithful agent and trustee for each client or employer.

When engaged as a consultant, preparing and administering a design/build Request for Proposal, the professional engineer must take care to ensure that the "intellectual property" of one respondent is not intentionally or inadvertently "given" to a competing respondent. If such "intellectual property" is shared, it must be done only with the written permission of the originator of the "intellectual property" and with appropriate reimbursement and/or acknowledgment of the originator. If this regard for "intellectual property" cannot be respected, it is important that it be so stated in the Request for Proposal.

Respondents to requests for design/build proposals are encouraged to clearly identify their "intellectual property" when submitting a proposal and to maintain clear records of all agreements or understandings regarding such "intellectual property" as the bidding process progresses.

Prepared by C.R. Bouskill, P.Eng., June 1999

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Flood Protection Dykes

One of the developments in flood protection that has been introduced as a result of the 1997 Red River flood has been demountable structural dykes - often referred to as "assembly dykes". Typically, they have a structural foundation and some form of seepage control works as permanent features. The remainder of the dyke, vertical members, panels and other components, are to be stored on site for erection when a flood condition is imminent.

Professional Engineers who undertake to provide design services for such flood protection works are cautioned that there are design issues involved that go beyond structural engineering. Addressing the geotechnical requirements of the site and the hydraulic effects of the flood waters on the installation are equally significant. It should be recognized that, typically, an individual practitioner may not be sufficiently qualified to assume responsibility for all three aspects of such a design.

Manitoba Natural Resources has, in response to the trend to use assembly dykes, produced a guideline entitled, "Guidelines for the Design and Construction of Structural Flood Proofing Dykes", dated October 27, 1997. It is recommended that practitioners providing services for such installations carefully consider that guideline.

Given that, with the passage of time, the availability and suitability for assembly of the unassembled components may be problematic, installation and storage instructions for the unassembled components are critical to long term performance. Designers should also make note of the potential for future liability claims associated with the performance of the installation.

The provincial guideline is available from Manitoba Natural Resources, Water Resources Branch, 200 Saulteaux Crescent, Winnipeg, Manitoba, (204) 945-2181.

Prepared by the APEGM Safety Committee, July 1999

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House Inspections

During the past few years there has been an increasing number of complaints before the Investigation Committee arising out of inspections and reports on the structural condition of single family houses. Some of these inspections have been pre-purchase related, while others have been to identify deficiencies and recommend remedial work.

In its desire for understandable and reliable reports, the public has become more interested in knowing the significance or the potential impact of various conditions which it has observed, or which have been noted by the engineer during an inspection. As an example, many lay people do not understand the difference between, or the significance of, a crack in a wall resulting from a structural stress or fault as opposed to a crack which is essentially cosmetic in nature.

It is important for a professional engineer who undertakes house inspections to determine in advance what the client expects from the inspection and report, and for the engineer to ensure, as far as possible, that the client clearly understands what services will be provided.

As the majority of engineers conduct their business with other professionals or business people, house inspections provide the professional engineer with a unique opportunity to interface with the public and demonstrate to it the value of the engineering profession to society. For many people, a house inspection is one of the few opportunities to communicate with an engineer about the professional's area of expertise.

The Investigation Committee recommends that each engineer engaged to undertake a house inspection take care to observe and act on the following suggestions. These suggestions have resulted from complaints that have been directed to the Committee in recent months. As you can see, these suggestions seem to be common sense and good courtesy. They are intended to assist the engineer to uphold and enhance the honour, integrity and dignity of the engineering profession.

  1. Communicate effectively with each client in a timely and effective manner during the course of any investigation and reporting, particularly if the matter relates to a civil action arising out of the construction of a residence.
  2. Exercise prudent and proper care and consideration to provide a standard of service that is at least that which can reasonably be expected of a prudent engineer of average skill and ability in the areas of expertise required, particularly as it relates to foundations.
  3. Take care to explain to each client what engineering services are offered and the fees associated with each of the services.
  4. Treat each client with respect, respond to the client's questions as clearly and concisely as possible, and take care to explain the possible ramifications of abnormal conditions observed during an inspection.
  5. Determine the client's wishes by listening to the client's directions, by asking appropriate questions and by guiding the client responsibly, and then provide the services as agreed upon.
  6. Provide the agreed-upon services in a timely manner.
  7. If it is determined that more extensive work is necessary, after having agreed upon the services to be provided, and the fee for those services, notify the client of the conditions which have given rise to the more extensive work deemed necessary, together with a revised estimate of the fees, and obtain approval before proceeding to undertake the extra work and to bill extra fees.
  8. Prepare and retain adequate notes of the conditions observed during the inspection, particularly abnormal or suspicious conditions.
  9. Report the significant findings of the inspection fully, factually and concisely, and describe the extent of the inspection, indicating any limitations or restrictions which relate to the inspection, all in language that will be understood by the public. For example, state that the inspection is a visual inspection only and does not involve removing wall panels and/or insulation for a more detailed examination of the condition of such things as concrete foundations, electric wiring, water pipes, etc.

Published in August 1994 issue of MPE

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Is Anyone Else Using Your Seal?

In 1993, a Winnipeg heating and air conditioning contractor installed an air handling system in a restaurant according to specifications and drawings that had been prepared and sealed by a professional engineer. In 1994, the contractor attempted to secure work for a second restaurant and had been requested to provide construction drawings. Drawings were submitted by the contractor bearing a "counterfeit seal" copied from the earlier drawing. The professional engineer who sealed the 1993 drawing had no knowledge of the 1994 project. This matter was reported to the member and the Association through the diligence of other members of the Association.

At the request of the Association, this matter was investigated by the Winnipeg Police Service. The employee of the contractor who admitted transferring and altering the date on the 1993 seal was identified and the Department of Justice was notified. The Crown, in a letter to the Association, declined to prosecute the individual and suggested that the person may be in breach of The Engineering Profession Act and advised the APEM that it may wish to commence a prosecution under this Act.

The Act allows for prosecution of the individual if he or she holds himself or herself out to be an engineer - something the individual did not do. The individual did admit to transferring the seal and signature, which would be a basis for a charge of forgery. He was not prosecuted because the Summary Convictions Act specifies a time limitation for the prosecution under the Criminal Code, which had been exceeded.

THIS MATTER IS BEING BROUGHT TO THE ATTENTION OF THE MEMBERSHIP TO CAUTION MEMBERS TO TAKE EXTREME CARE TO ENSURE THAT THEIR SEALS ARE NOT USED FRAUDULENTLY, AND TO NOTIFY THE ASSOCIATION IMMEDIATELY IF THERE IS A CONCERN OF FRAUDULENT USE OF THE SEAL.

Published in April 1996 issue of MPE

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The Professional Engineer as a Contractor

One matter which was recently concluded by the Investigation Committee concerned the potential for a conflict of interest in the practice of professional engineering, specifically where the engineer is also acting as a contractor, or is in the employ of a contractor.

The concern expressed in this matter was that a potential for conflict of interest may exist in that the advice proffered by the engineer/contractor could be deemed to be self-serving in that it might be directed more towards creating business and profit for the contractor than in being in the best interest of the client or employer.

Clause 3.7 of the Association's Code of Ethics states the professional practitioner shall "inform each client or employer of any interests, circumstances or business connections which the client or employer could deem as influencing his or her engineering judgment, or the quality of professional services, before accepting an assignment". Another, somewhat related clause is Clause 3.12 which states, the professional practitioner shall "not receive any gratuity from, or have any financial interest in, the bids of any business in work for which he or she is professionally responsible, without the prior written consent of the client or employer".

Each professional engineer who is acting as, or for a contractor is encouraged to examine his or her practices in the light of the above noted clauses, and to take action to advise each client or employer of any potential for a conflict of interest, in clear unequivocal terms, either before, or at the time of providing an opinion that is, or may be deemed to be a professional engineering opinion.

Published in December 1994 issue of MPE, modified to conform with the November 1998 revised Code of Ethics

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Public Release of Reports

The Association's Code of Ethics, Clause 2.5, states the practitioner:

shall not issue statements on engineering or geoscientific matters, or provide criticism or argument, or allow any publication of reports or any part of them, in a manner which might mislead.

Recently the question has arisen as to how the practitioner can control the publication of reports by the client, or any part of them, once the report has been issued. For example, if a report or statement is made on an Engineering or Geoscientific matter to be given to a public body or requested by an investigative group, how can the practitioner ensure that its release or publication will not be made in a manner which might mislead? Two possibilities come to mind in this connection.

Firstly, the report or statement might be issued with a caveat to the effect that the contents of the statement or report are not to be used or published in whole or in part, in a manner which might mislead.

Secondly, the report or statement might be released with a caveat to the effect that the contents of the statement or report are not to be quoted or published, in whole or in part, without first obtaining the written consent of the practitioner.

In the latter situation, the practitioner could review the manner in which the statement or report would be released and thus have some control over the manner in which the information is to be released.

Every practitioner who issues statements or reports that are for, or are likely to be used to provide information to the public is encouraged to bear in mind this clause of the Code of Ethics, assess whether and how the contents of the statement or report might be used in a manner which might mislead, and to take steps to avoid their use in a misleading manner.

Published in June 1993 issue of MPE, modified to conform to the November 1998 Code of Ethics

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Snow Load Removal from Existing Roofs

Because there have recently been incidents of damage and/or collapse of existing roofs in Manitoba attributable to improper practices in the removal of snow from roofs, the Association's Safety Committee provides the following background information and some considerations to be taken into account when professional engineers are providing services related to the snow load removal from existing roofs.

Background

Building codes prescribe minimum roof design snow loads which are based on a probability of occurrence. In some years, such as the winter of 1996-97, snow accumulations can result in loadings which exceed the code requirements.

Additionally, recent research has shown that large roofs, and roofs adjacent to large roofs, are prone to snow load accumulations greater than previously contemplated in earlier editions of the National Building Code of Canada (NBC). The 1995 edition of the NBC now incorporates increased snow accumulation factors.

Building owners often undertake removal of snow from roofs but do not routinely engage professional engineer services to plan and advise on the removal operations. When the professional engineer is engaged to provide such services there are considerations to be taken into account.

Some considerations to be taken into account

  • When equipment is to be used in the snow removal process, the loading effects of the equipment including workers must be considered.
  • Snow load should be removed in a fashion to prevent overloading supporting members and damaging roof membranes.
  • The capacity of existing roof structure to withstand the current and additionally imposed loads should be investigated.
  • Care must be taken to ensure that the removal process does not result in unacceptable accumulations in other areas of the roof.
  • Depending upon the ability of roof to withstand the accumulated snow load and additional loads imposed during the removal process, a recommendation to limit occupancy may be required. If there is a recommendation to restrict the use of all or part of the building, the Building Authority Having Jurisdiction and Workplace Health and Safety should be notified.
  • In instances, where loading is judged to be excessive, or the capacity of the roof is inadequate, the installation of temporary shoring and/or permanent reinforcing may be required. (The building code states that it is not acceptable to rely on snow load removal to justify the adequacy of a substandard roof.)
  • The professional engineer should ensure that the person in charge of the removal of the snow understands the specified removal procedure. Monitoring of the removal operations may also be appropriate.

Prepared by the APEGM Safety Committee, December 1998

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