PreTek is often asked to help develop specifications and engineering drawings for consultants when they are considering an ECO-SPAN® arch for their project. Since we specialize in small bridges and have standard details and designs, we can offer this service at a price that is sometimes significantly lower than a consultant’s cost to do the work internally. In the process, we can develop budget estimates to help the consultant choose the best option for his client.
Unlike other small bridge suppliers, PreTek is owned and operated by Professional Engineers. As such we fully disclose the fact that we may be involved in the sale of a structure and our relationship with all parties involved. We do our best to avoid any conflict of interest and to help consultants do the same.
We understand that other suppliers may provide stamped drawings to consultants free of charge. The problem is, as they say, there is no free lunch. The supplier naturally expects something in return for the “free” drawings, namely a proprietary specification. Ultimately we believe this is not in the best interest of the owner. After accepting the drawings, the consultant is in a position of loyalty to the supplier which may harm his judgement in protecting his client’s interest.
This is why the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) Code of Ethics states the following: “Engineers shall not accept financial or other considerations, including free engineering designs, from material or equipment suppliers for specifying their product.” (Section III.5.a)
The Indiana Administrative Code 1.1-11-16 states that “The engineer shall not solicit or accept financial or other valuable considerations from material or equipment suppliers for specifying their products.” Similar statements are common in nearly every state’s professional code of conduct around the country.
There is good reason for this stipulation, and we have seen it first-hand over the last two years. The cost of drawing preparation is a small percentage of the price of the structure. When a specification may be perceived as proprietary, we have seen the price of a structure increase by over 50%. On a $2 million structure, for example, the owner could effectively pay $1 million for engineering that should have cost $50,000. This is an extreme example, but the same concept is true for smaller projects.
In the engineering profession, it is important to remember that our job includes acting as a faithful agent for each client. There is no free lunch, or free engineering.