Advice is always free, right? Estimates are always free, right?


Our Code of Ethics says that members shall, “uphold the principle of appropriate and adequate compensation for the performance of engineering and geoscience work.”

That simply means that Engineers may not work for free. Preparing estimates and giving advice is engineering work and engineering work requires “adequate compensation.”

What duties does an engineer have that clients may be unaware of?

  • The duty to inspect that which he or she designs. An engineer is required to inspect what he designs. He or she cannot simply seal a set of plans. The engineer must provide a package of services to his or her client which must include both design and field reviews.
  • The Duty to Inform the Client about Insurance. The Engineer must make the client aware of whether or not he carries errors and omissions insurance. Mann Engineering and Planning Corporation carries insurance with liability limits of $250,000 per Claim / $500,000 per Policy Period. A copy of our certificate of insurance is available to clients upon request.
  • File organization and storage. Engineers are required to organize, index and store project files. Although the files must be kept for 10 years, Mann Engineering keeps files indefinitely.
  • Professional Development. Engineers are required to accrue an average of 80 professional development hours per year.

How has engineering for small buildings changed under the 2012 Building Code?

In the 2012 Building Code, the requirement for seismic resistance is, for the first time, included in Part 9. This means that single family residences must be constructed to withstand earthquakes.

As far as structural engineering goes, however, little will change.

Structural engineers have been required to consider earthquake loads since June 2008 when the Council of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia (APEGBC) adopted a new guideline for the provision of structural engineering services for residences and other small buildings. This Guideline provided a practice standard for structural design of housing and small buildings that come under Part 9 of the British Columbia Building Code(BCBC). One reason for adopting the new guideline is to improve public safety by ensuring that small buildings provide adequate resistance to earthquake forces. There were concerns that new homes are being built with nontraditional open concept floor plans, incorporating more and larger windows and door openings, longer spans, higher walls and that consequently, newer homes have less resistance to earthquakes than older homes.

After the adoption of the guidelines in 2008, APEGBC issued a statement that “failure to meet the intent of these Guidelines could be evidence of unprofessional misconduct and lead to disciplinary proceedings.”

The Building and Safety Policy Branch of British Columbia, then, added its voice to that of the Association of Professional Engineers when, in September 2008, they issued their “Information Bulletin” and “Revised Appendix Notes” to Section 9.4 of the 2006 British Columbia Building Code. This reads, in part, not all Part 9 buildings have configurations or details that will provide adequate resistance to lateral loads. For example, newer houses may have few interior partitions and very large openings in the exterior walls. Mercantile buildings might be long and narrow with almost entirely windowed walls on the ends and few structurally attached interior partitions. The Engineering Guide for Wood Frame Construction (the CWC Guide) published by the Canadian Wood Council also identifies situations where the Part 9 prescriptive requirements are considered to be inadequate for resisting lateral loads. The CWC Guide may be used to provide acceptable engineering solutions that are alternative to Part 4.

Section 9.4 of the brand new 2012 Code reads in part, General  (See Appendix A.)

1) Subject to the application limitations defined elsewhere in this Part, structural members and their connections shall

a) conform to requirements provided elsewhere in this Part,

b) be designed according to good engineering practice such as that provided in CWC 2009, Engineering Guide for Wood Frame Construction or

c) be designed according to Part 4 using the loads and deflection and vibration limits specified in

i) Part 9, or

ii) Part 4.

This portion of the 2012 Code is almost identical to the same section in the 2006 Building Code. Prior to the new code, most structural engineers designed according to clauses b) and c) since no engineering is required for building components falling under clause a). This is also the case under the new code.

What is Part 9?

Part 9 is a section of the Building Code dealing with small buildings, specifically with a footprint of 600 m2 or less and a height of 3 stories or less. Most single family residences fall under Part 9 of the BC Building Code. Part 9 is prescriptive. This means that the structural components are chosen from tables or by rules of thumb rather than by structural analysis. If a structural component cannot be found in Part 9 it falls outside of Part 9 and must be designed in accordance with Part 4.

What is the Building Code?

According to the Provincial Government, The BC Building Code is a provincial regulation for new construction and building alterations, establishing minimum standards for safety, health, accessibility, fire and structural protection of buildings, and protection of the building or facility from water and sewer damage. The Building Code also includes requirements for energy and water efficiency. The Code applies throughout the province, except for some Federal lands and the City of Vancouver.

What is a moment frame?

A moment frame is a component intended to reinforce your building against earthquakes. Earthquakes and wind give rise to lateral forces. These lateral forces push sideways where most other forces working on a structure push down. Sideways forces can cause your building to rack and fail. Engineers are required to consider lateral forces in designing your project and, when necessary, incorporate things like moment frames, shearwalls, drag struts and hold-downs into the structure.

Why do I need a structural engineer?

Often when you apply for a building permit, the building official will tell you that you need a structural engineer. She may say something like, you need to submit a Schedule B or we need letters of assurance or we need an engineer’s report or your plans need to be sealed by a structural engineer. Her request for engineering may be based upon whether or not your structure makes use of Part 4 components. Things like girder trusses, LVLs, I-Joists or high foundation walls are Part 4 components. Part 4 components are structural members that can’t be found within Part 9 of the Building Code. (Part 9 is a simplified code within the Building Code of British Columbia meant for small buildings and homes.) You may need a structural engineer for other reasons such as exterior walls dominated by windows or open concept floor plans with few interior walls. Most of our registered home professional builders use our services on every project they build regardless of whether or not the municipality asks for it. They say that it is a small price for peace of mind.